Monday, August 11, 2008

John McCain gets go ahead

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Countdown: Nothing About The FBI's Anthrax Story Adds Up

Keith interviewed investigative journalist Gerald Posner last night, who did a great job of shattering all of the inconsistencies and improbabilities in the FBI's official case against alleged anthrax killer Bruce Ivins.

The strongest evidence they have going for them is also their Achilles' heel and that he's psychological profile.  That fact that he's very unstable, that he was someone who was an alcoholic, that he might wanted to have the vaccine continue to go along, but that's also the fact that he could have been set up as a cutout or puppet or used by a group of people who wanted the anthrax out there.

They also knew about his weak psychological profile.  How was he employed with the most secret biological warfare lab in the United States with this type of background that we now hear about?  That they should have known about from day one.  The Defense Department should hang its head in shame.

http://crooksandliars.com/2008/08/07/countdown-nothing-about-the-fbis-anthrax-story-adds-up/#more-31659

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Drink it or Drive it: The Promise of Agave for Ethanol

 by Sarah Lozanova

Corn has given ethanol a bad name and scientists are searching far and wide for alternative feedstock. Agave has been getting attention lately and looks very promising, although tequila connoisseurs may not be cheering. Here's why agave is so much appealing:

High Yield Per Acre

Soybeans generate a measly 60 gallons of biodiesel annually from an acre of land and has an energy balance of 2.5. Corn generates about 300-400 gallons of ethanol per acre and has an energy balance of 1.3. Sugar cane can generate 600-800 gallons of ethanol per acre annually and has an energy balance of 8. Sugar cane unfortunately is very labor intensive to cultivate and could contribute to deforestation.

Agave however can yield an impressive 2,000 gallons of distilled ethanol per acre each year annually. Cellulosic ethanol from agave has 6 to 9 times the yield per acre. This would significantly reduce the quantity of land needed to produce the same quantity of transportations fuels.

Thrives in Wastelands

Agave fixes nitrogen in the soil and actually improves the soil quality where it is grown. 95% of the Agavacea family calls Mexico home and 50% of the country is ideally suited for agave cultivation. Dry, arid, and steep terrain typically have fewer economic opportunities and greater poverty. Ethanol from agave would open up new markets in marginalized lands.

Few other ethanol feedstocks grow well on marginalized lands. Sugar cane, which is used widely in Brazil for ethanol production, is grown in tropical regions and can drive deforestation.

http://cleantechnica.com/2008/08/08/drink-it-or-drive-it-the-promise-of-agave-for-ethanol/

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Worst President Ever

The Folk Brothers, David Massengill and Jack Hardy, perform Jack's song "Worst President Ever" on the Main Stage of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival 2008
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Is Anyone Ready?

by Susan Estrich

The knives are out for my friend Bill Clinton. Again.

There he is in Rwanda, not one of the top spots for August vacations, trying to do something to stop a few million Africans from dying of curable diseases. Far as I can tell, no one wanted to discuss that, or at least report what he had to say about it.

No, it was his refusal to simply say "yes" when asked whether he thinks Barack Obama is ready to be president that resulted in one of the most viewed stories this week.

In fact, if you look at what he did say, it was almost certainly true. "You can argue that nobody is ready to be president," the former president told ABC News.

"You can argue that even if you've been vice president for eight years, that no one can be fully ready for the pressures of the office," Clinton said Monday from Rwanda.

You can argue it, for sure, and you'd be right, looking at history. But if you're Bill Clinton, apparently you're not supposed to say it. News reports quoted Clinton "backers" as saying the president couldn't give the politically correct answer because he's still smarting from his wife's loss. And that's what Clinton backers were saying. My e-mails from Obama backers cannot be printed.

What was Clinton doing?

Maybe he was just being honest.

http://www.creators.com/opinion/susan-estrich/is-anyone-ready.html

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The coming Republican fall

by Larry Meacham
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Tear down that wall

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Springtime for Hitler

 

You may recall that George W. Bush promised, among other things, to change the tone in Washington. He made good on that promise: the tone has certainly changed.

As far as I know, in the past it wasn't considered appropriate for the occupant of the White House to declare that members of the opposition party weren't interested in the nation's security. And it certainly wasn't usual to compare anyone who wants to tax the rich -- or even anyone who estimates the share of last year's tax cut that went to the wealthy -- to Adolf Hitler.

O.K., maybe we should discount remarks by Senator Phil Gramm. When Mr. Gramm declared that a proposal to impose a one-time capital gains levy on people who renounce U.S. citizenship in order to avoid paying taxes was ''right out of Nazi Germany,'' even the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Charles Grassley, objected to the comparison.

But Mr. Grassley must have thought better of his objection, since just a few weeks later he decided to use the Hitler analogy himself: ''I am sure voters will get their fill of statistics claiming that the Bush tax cut hands out 40 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent of taxpayers. This is not merely misleading, it is outright false. Some folks must be under the impression that as long as something is repeated often enough, it will become true. That was how Adolf Hitler got to the top.''

For the record, Robert McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice -- the original source of that 40 percent estimate -- is no Adolf Hitler. The amazing thing is that Mr. Grassley is sometimes described as a moderate. His remarks are just one more indicator that we have entered an era of extreme partisanship -- one that leaves no room for the acknowledgment of politically inconvenient facts. For the claim that Mr. Grassley describes as ''outright false'' is, in fact, almost certainly true; in a rational world it wouldn't even be a matter for argument.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9a0defde133df93ba25753c1a9649c8b63

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Wash Post: "Obama Hits Back, Too Softly For Some"

Interesting article in today's Washington Post. It encapsulates the angst many Democrats are starting to feel about the election, McCain's increasingly negative attacks, and the Obama campaign's responses to those attacks. Democrats we talk to are worried. They're not just the chattering class on TV. It's Democrats across the board. They're worried because they want Obama to win, but more generally, they want our party to win. This election is about far more than Barack Obama. It's about Democrats taking back the White House, taking back our country. All Democrats share ownership of that goal.

Here are a few of the key points in the article, and my thoughts:

1. "We are not going to base our campaign on the concerns of so-called campaign strategists on cable TV," spokesman Bill Burton said.

In fact, lots of Democrats are expressing concern, including senior Hill staff, senior consultants, senior activists, and more.

2. "The price [McCain] paid for his party's nomination has been to reverse himself on position after position," Obama told a crowd of more than 1,000 at a high school gym in Elkhart. "That doesn't meet my definition of a maverick. You can't be a maverick when politically it's important for you but not a maverick when it doesn't work for you."


This is great, seriously. Hit McCain on his strength, his "maverick" status. Guaranteed to tick him off.

3. [Y]ou have to counterattack. You don't want to look like a whiner. You want to look tough."

This is a point I've raised several times. I think John Kerry and Al Gore paid a high price for being intellectual pretty-boys who didn't show enough of a tough-guy side (interestingly, I think Wesley Clark has the same PR problem - way too nice of a guy on TV, and never shows his inner general). The public knows Obama is smart and good looking, now they need to know that he can be an asshole too.
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U.S. guns arm Mexican drug cartels

Licensed weapons dealers are abundant near the border. 'Straw buyers' assist the traffickers.
By Richard A. Serrano
SIERRA VISTA, ARIZ. -- High-powered automatic weapons and ammunition are flowing virtually unchecked from border states into Mexico, fueling a war among drug traffickers, the army and police that has left thousands dead, according to U.S. and Mexican officials.

The munitions are hidden under trucks and stashed in the trunks of cars, or concealed under the clothing of people who brazenly walk across the international bridges. They are showing up in seizures and in the aftermath of shootouts between the cartels and police in Mexico.
 
More than 90% of guns seized at the border or after raids and shootings in Mexico have been traced to the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Last year, 2,455 weapons traces requested by Mexico showed that guns had been purchased in the United States, according to the ATF. Texas, Arizona and California accounted for 1,805 of those traced weapons.

No one is sure how many U.S.-purchased guns have made their way into Mexico, but U.S. authorities estimate the number in the thousands.
 
http://www.latimes.com/news/la-na-guns10-2008aug10,0,6985616.story?page=1&track=ntothtml
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A Nation of Whiners? Perhaps

by Froma Harrop

You won't hear me straining to defend Phil Gramm, the Texas Republican whose penchant for grating commentary sunk his 1996 bid for the presidency before the New Hampshire primary. It was really just a matter of time before the former senator, serving as John McCain's economic advisor, put his foot in it: Gramm opined that Americans complaining about the economy were "whiners."

It's not good politics to call any voter a whiner, and Gramm had to leave the campaign. But honesty impels one to grant him this: The point about America being "a nation of whiners" is not without merit.

Yes, losing one's job or home is traumatic, and having both taken away more so. But the average citizens facing $4-a-gallon gas and learning that their hacienda isn't the money factory they thought it was haven't exactly been thrown into the Dust Bowl. Some Europeans pay twice as much for gas and live in half the space, and no one is passing around the hat for them.

I spent last week replaying Ken Burns' searing series on World War II. "The War" follows several American families ranging from working class to upper-middle class. None of them, not even the fancy folks in Mobile, Ala., lived as large as today's typical McMansion family.

These people also had to endure the war's horrific sacrifice, made more unbearable by the youth of the dead. Nearly 7,000 Americans perished on the tiny island of Iwo Jima alone, with several times that number injured, many grievously. It was a hideous battle in a long parade of gruesome campaigns. Over 400,000 Americans died in that war.

One of the documentary's running themes was that of servicemen pining for their loved ones back home. And their homes were modest triple-deckers in Connecticut, farmhouses in Minnesota or bungalows in California.

When the war ended, Americans soon resumed their historic quest for bigger and better.But even then, the returning soldier's idea of palatial living was a 750-square-foot house in Levittown, one-third the average size of a new home in 2006. The accommodations in Americans, by the way, were the envy of ruined Europe.

So the recent economic downturn hasn't made Americans poor by any sane measurement.

http://www.creators.com/opinion/froma-harrop/a-nation-of-whiners-perhaps.html

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No respect

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7 worrisome signs for Obama

by Glenn Thrush

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., campaigns under the

A few weeks back, Time magazine was musing that John McCain was in danger of sliding from "a long shot" to a "no-shot." Around the same time, a hard-nosed former Hillary Clinton insider declared the race "effectively over" thanks to the McCain campaign's ineptitude, the tanking U.S. economy and Obama's advantages in cash, charisma and hope. And Obama, up by three to six points nationally, was about to leverage a much-anticipated trip to Iraq, Afghanistan and Europe into a pre-convention poll surge.

Instead, his supporters are now suffering a pre-Denver panic attack, watching as John McCain draws incrementally closer in state and national polls – with Rasmussen's most recent daily national tracker showing a statistical dead heat.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has been privately enumerating her doubts about Obama to supporters, according to people who have spoken with her. Clinton's pollster Mark Penn recently unveiled a PowerPoint presentation red-flagging Obama's lukewarm leads among white female voters and Hispanics – while predicting a five-point swing could turn a presumed Obama win into a McCain landslide.

"It's not that people think McCain will win – it's that they are realizing that McCain could win," says Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown, whose surveys show tight races in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. "This election is about Barack Obama — not John McCain — it's about whether Barack Obama passes muster. Every poll shows that people want a Democratic president, the problem is they're not sure they want Barack Obama."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20080811/pl_politico/12433

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Who Framed George Lakoff?

The Chronicle Review

A noted linguist reflects on his tumultuous foray into politics

 
By EVAN R. GOLDSTEIN

For years he's been at the center of some of the biggest intellectual disagreements in linguistics (most famously with Noam Chomsky) and has helped create an important interdisciplinary field of study, cognitive linguistics, that is reshaping our understanding of the complex relationship between language and thought. More recently he has been vying for respect among people notoriously hard to persuade about anything — politicians and their financial backers. So this summer he has been on the road promoting his new book, The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics With an 18th-Century Brain (Viking), which argues that liberals have clung to the false belief that people think in a conscious, logical, and unemotional manner and that this belief has doomed Democrats' chances with voters.

But transferring scholarly ideas into political practice can be tricky. After a heady few years when he seemed the person Democratic policy makers wanted on the other end of the telephone, Lakoff is finding that what they're asking for — and are willing to put money behind — is not always what he can provide. Lakoff's foray into politics is a story marked by intellectual breakthroughs, the allure of influence, and a fall from great heights. Yet his lifetime work permeates several disciplines and continues to spur cognitive researchers to go off in new directions.

http://chronicle.com/free/v54/i49/49b00601.htm

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Oil execs for McCain

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Should a president be computer literate?

 

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How to Blow It

It's the most winnable presidential election in American history - but the Democrats are old hands at losing. Michael Moore offers some helpful hints on how they might gift it all to the Republicans.

"Let's snatch defeat from the jaws of victory."
"We never met an election we'd like to win."
"Why get elected when you can be defeated!"

These have been the mantras of the Democratic Party. Beginning with their stunning inability to defeat the most detested politician in American history, Richard Nixon, and continuing through their stunning inability to defeat the most detested politician in the world, George II, the Democrats are the masters of blowing it. And they don't just simply "blow it" - they blow it especially when the electorate seems desperate to give it to them.

After eight years of Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office, the public had seen enough. The Democrats chose Michael Dukakis as their nominee. Two months before the election, he was ahead of Bush I in the polls. Then he went to an army tank factory in Michigan, put on some kind of stupid-fitting helmet and rode around in a tank with a goofy smile on his face. Weeks later, when asked what kind of punishment he would like to see given to someone who might rape his wife, he started mumbling some sort of bleeding-heart gibberish instead of just saying what anyone would say: "I'd like to tear the bastard limb from limb!" The voters were so put off by his wimpiness, they elected an actual wimp over him, George H W Bush.

For years now, nearly every poll has shown that the American people are right in sync with the platform of the Democratic Party. They are pro-environment, pro-women's rights, pro-choice, they don't like war, they want the minimum wage raised, and they want a single-payer universal healthcare system. The American public agrees with the Republican Party on only one major issue: they support the death penalty.

So you would think, with more than 200 million eligible voters, the Dems would be cleaning up, election after election. Obviously not. The Democrats appear to be professional losers. They are so pathetic in their ability to win elections, they even lose when they win! Al Gore won the 2000 election, but for some strange reason he didn't become the president of the United States.

If you are unable as a party to get the landlord to turn over the keys to a house that is yours, what the hell good are you?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/09/michael.moore.us.elections.barack.obama

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Tear down that wall

 

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Top 9 best new drugs

Notes and Errata

By Mark Morford

One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small. Take one, take them all!

Researchers are reporting that an experimental drug can mimic the results of an exercise regimen — with no exercise required. [Called "the couch potato experiment,"] after four weeks of taking the pill, mice who hadn't worked out displayed a 44 percent increase in their running endurance. Wired


  1. Scientists at the Ronald Reagan School for Pschyoeconomic Paroxysms have reportedly developed a new drug that, after just a few weeks, induces random bouts of forgetfulness combined with the ability to reverse ideological direction in an instant, most notably when large amounts of cash are placed directly in front of the face.

    Code-named "the McCain," users report random outbreaks of very bad jokes coupled with an extremely combative nature, acute desire to detonate large explosive devices across multiple desert nations and a general feeling that the real problem with the world today is all the gul-dang gay young peacenik whippersnapper environmentalists who like to rub their iPods all over their Googles. Common prescription: "Take two McCains and call me in 1957."

  2. Following research at Harvard and McGill universities where scientists have been testing new drugs that "delete" bad memories, researchers in Washington, D.C., have found a new compound that tricks the brain into believing great progressive accomplishments are being made and tremendous strides have been taken to reverse all sorts of previous damage, when in fact very little has been done and mostly what's happening is a lot of general whimpering wrapped in a great many false gestures, all while promising even more super-positive changes ahead, but if only someone really good steps in as leader and tells everyone what to do.

    Introduced to great excitement and fanfare when it first hit the market in November of 2006, "the congressional Democrat" has only proven moderately effective as a radical stimulant, and is currently considered a big, fat disappointment.

  3. Drug researchers in Gnowangerup, Australia, are reporting successful Stage II testing of a rather sour new pill known as "The Gawker" (also known as "PWND," "OMG," "Get a Life," "Perez Hilton"). A neural inhibitor that blocks cognitive maturation, this new drug reportedly affects speech patterns and triggers an alarming increase in jackassianic peptides in the brain, the chemical most associated with extreme self-absorption, chronic masturbation, general mean-spiritedness and excessive use of the word "whatEVs."

    Time-released. Effects reportedly last approximately six years, roughly from ages 19-25, at which time serious users suddenly awaken to fact of own adorable irrelevance, write vacuous memoir, take job as assistant manager of American Apparel outlet in south Jersey shopping mall.

  4. Ironically, just a few years ago, this global toxin was thought to be generally harmless, albeit a huge irritant. Now "the Bush," secretly developed by teams of starved eunuchs in the dungeons of the GOP research labs between the years 1950 to 1998 and whose real toxicity only became known on Sept. 12, 2001, is widely regarded as "the bitterest pill we've ever had to swallow."

    Set to expire in January 2009, notable side effects include retching, fatalism, monosyllabism, spiritual coagulation, complete intellectual stasis, and a strange, painful condition known only as "squinty face." Believed to be on track to replace "the Nixon" as worst drug ever invented.

    WARNING: Contraindicated by a highly volatile ointment — "the Cheney" — containing shards of glass and the blood of insane Amazonian scorpions, which induces instant shriveling of any living tissue with which it come into contact.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2008/08/08/notes080808.DTL

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Nine out of ten oil execs

 

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Dead Monster Washes Ashore in Montauk

by disinfogreg

No, Lizzie Grubman's still alive. This is an actual monster, some sort of rodent-like creature with a dinosaur beak. A tipster says that there is "a government animal testing facility very close by in Long Island," but unless the government is trying to design horrible Montauk monsters that will eat IEDs and fart fire at bad Iraqis, we're not sure why they would create such an unthinkable beast. Our guess is that it's viral marketing for something. Ali Lohan's new album perhaps.

 

http://www.disinfo.com/content/story.php?title=Dead-Monster-Washes-Ashore-in-Montauk

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Election Shocker! Senator John McCain may be the Antichrist.

 The Dreyfuss Report

by Robert Dreyfuss

Biblical scholars in Colorado Springs have uncovered startling evidence that Senator John McCain may be the Antichrist. Their conclusions, while highly controversial, may have a dramatic impact on the 2008 elections, since many Bible-believing Christians have already expressed doubts about McCain's fealty to Christianity.

The analysis was conducted by the respected True Bible Society, and it will be published next month in the End Times Journal.

The analysis was especially ironic, given that it came out just one day after McCain was accused of subtly hinting that Barack Obama could be the Antichrist. McCain ran a commercial depicting Obama as "The One," giving rise to charges that he was sending a subliminal messages to anti-Obama Christians.

"What started us looking at this issue is the fact that Senator McCain has declared his intention to maintain US forces in Iraq for a hundred years," said David Jenkins, a leading Biblical scholar. "That means that McCain wants to control Babylon for at least a century." According to many scholars of the Book of Revelation, the Antichrist will try to rebuild the ancient city of Babylon in order to use it as a springboard for an international effort at world domination. Ultimately, the Antichrist will marshal forces from Babylon to spark a showdown with Christian and Jewish-led forces in the battle of Armageddon.

http://www.thenation.com/blogs/dreyfuss/343356

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Starve The Beast: Appetite For Distortion

 

by Mark @ 3:24 pm

Media Blindness

Almost exactly one year ago I published a comprehensive examination of the futility of appearances on Fox News by Democrats and progressives: Starve The Beast. The thrust of the article argued that…

"Every time one of our representatives appears on Fox, they are setting back our agenda. They are not just wasting a little time trying to confront the enemy in its lair. They are literally causing harm to the efforts of the rest of us who are fervently struggling to repair and improve our country."

The case was supported by studies that showed that Fox News audiences supported Republicans by overwhelming margins and that they were significantly more likely to have misperceptions about current news events. I also provided evidence that the centerpiece in Rupert Murdoch's empire was a far less ominous presence in the mediasphere than they liked to imagine themselves.

It's all still true. Rasmussen conducted a new study that affirms the previous studies. Their survey shows that Fox News viewers are still a species apart from the rest of the television population.

When nine out of ten Fox viewers say that they will vote for John McCain, you have an audience that may be more accurately described as a cult (as I described it in The Cult Of Foxonality). And while viewers at both CNN and MSNBC express a solid two to one majority for Barack Obama, that is a far cry from the near unanimous, block mentality of Fox viewers. The fact that the CNN and MSNBC audience compositions agree with one another suggests that they may be a better reflection of the population as a whole. They certainly come much closer to public opinion polling on the presidential race. Another indication of the disparity between Fox and its competitors is that 43% of CNN viewers and 38% of MSNBC viewers have a favorable opinion of McCain. However, only 14% of Fox viewers have a favorable opinion of Obama.

http://www.newscorpse.com/ncWP/

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Where have all the real men gone?

Times Online 

Top American columnist Kathleen Parker is causing a furore with her new book Save the Males, in which she argues that feminism has neutered men and deprived them of their noble, protective role in society

I know. Saving the males is an unlikely vocation for a 21st-century woman. Most men don't know they need saving; most women consider the idea absurd. When I tell my women friends that I want to save the males, they look at me as if noticing for the first time that I am insane. Then they say something like: "Are you out of your mind? This is still a male-dominated world. It's women who need saving. Screw the men!"

Actually, that's a direct quote. The reality is that men already have been screwed – and not in the way they prefer. For the past 30 years or so, males have been under siege by a culture that too often embraces the notion that men are to blame for all of life's ills. Males as a group – not random men – are bad by virtue of their DNA.

While women have been cast as victims, martyrs, mystics or saints, men have quietly retreated into their caves, the better to muffle emotions that fluctuate between hilarity (are these bitches crazy or what?) and rage (yes, they are and they've got our kids).

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/book_extracts/article4448371.ece

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human rights

 

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After rape victim used cell phone to call for help, KBR bans use of personal phones in Iraq

This weekend, defense contracting giant KBR announced it would ban the use of personal cell phones by its employees in Iraq, citing no specific reason. Though KBR has not indicated the ban is related to the numerous allegations of rape by female KBR employees by their male coworkers, the ban could endanger future victims. Jamie Leigh Jones, the first victim to come forward publicly, explained that after she was gang-raped by coworkers and held in a shipping container for days, "she convinced a sympathetic guard to loan her a cell phone so she could call her father in Texas."

http://thinkprogress.org/2008/08/04/after-rape-victim-used-cell-phone-to-call-for-help-kbr-bans-personal-phones-in-iraq/

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a war on terror update

 

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One Nation, Under a New Obama Salute


George Bush had his three-fingered W salute that supporters flashed when greeting him at presidential campaign events in 2000. And now, if a Los Angeles creative agency gets its way, Sen. Barack Obama will see fans meet him with his own salute like the one above. "Our goal is to see a crowd of 75,000 people at Obama's nomination speech holding their hands above their heads, fingers laced together in support of a new direction for this country, a renewed hope, and acceptance of responsibility for our future," says Rick Husong, owner of The Loyalty Inc. Husong tells me that he got the idea after seeing the famous Obama-Progress poster by artist Shepherd Fairey. "We wanted to get involved some way," he says. So, the agency came up with their own a symbol of hope and progress that also plays off Obama's name. "We thought, 'Let's try and start a movement where even while walking down the street, people would hold up the O and you would know that they were for Obama,' " says Husong. Much thought went into the relatively simple idea. "You interlace your hands in a circle, the interlacing being a symbol of different types of people coming together and the circle a symbol of unity," he says. Their design, unlike Fairey's, is free, and Husong is urging people to download it and print it on posters and T-shirts. "We want to see it everywhere, but more importantly we want this sign to take the world by storm."

http://www.usnews.com/blogs/washington-whispers/2008/8/7/one-nation-under-a-new-obama-salute.html

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New evidence suggests Ron Suskind is right

What was an Iraqi politician doing at CIA headquarters just days before he distributed a fake memo incriminating Saddam Hussein in 9/11?

By Joe Conason

Aug. 08, 2008 | If Ron Suskind's sensational charge that the White House and CIA colluded in forging evidence to justify the Iraq invasion isn't proved conclusively in his new book, "The Way of the World," then the sorry record of the Bush administration offers no basis to dismiss his allegation. Setting aside the relative credibility of the author and the government, the relevant question is whether the available facts demand a full investigation by a congressional committee, with testimony under oath.

When we look back at the events surrounding the emergence of the faked letter that is at the center of this controversy, a strong circumstantial case certainly can be made in support of Suskind's story.

That story begins during the final weeks of 2003, when everyone in the White House was suffering severe embarrassment over both the origins and the consequences of the invasion of Iraq. No weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq. No evidence of significant connections between Saddam Hussein's regime and the al-Qaida terrorist organization had been discovered there either. Nothing in this costly misadventure was turning out as advertised by the Bush administration.

According to Suskind, the administration's highest officials -- presumably meaning President Bush and Vice President Cheney -- solved this problem by ordering the CIA to manufacture a document "proving" that Saddam had indeed been trying to build nuclear weapons and that he was also working with al-Qaida. The reported product of that order was a fake memorandum from Tahir Jalil Habbush, then chief of Saddam's intelligence service, to the dictator himself, dated July 1, 2001. The memo not only explicitly confirmed that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had received training in Baghdad for "attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy" but also carefully noted the arrival of a "shipment" from Niger via Libya, presumably of uranium yellowcake, the sole export of that impoverished African country.

Very incriminating, very convenient and not very believable. Indeed, it may be hard to imagine that even the CIA at its bumbling worst would concoct such a blatant counterfeit. But there are a few reasons to believe that, too.

On Dec. 14, 2003, the Sunday Telegraph hyped the phony Habbush memo as a front-page exclusive over the byline of Con Coughlin, the paper's foreign editor and chief Mideast correspondent, who has earned a reputation for promoting neoconservative claptrap. As I explained in a Salon blog post on Dec. 18, the story's sudden appearance in London was the harbinger of a disinformation campaign that quickly blew back to the United States -- where it was cited by William Safire on the New York Times Op-Ed page. Ignoring the bizarre Niger yellowcake reference, which practically screamed bullshit, Safire seized on Coughlin's story as proof of his own cherished theory about Saddam's sponsorship of 9/11.

Soon enough, however, the Habbush memo was discredited in Newsweek and elsewhere as a forgery for many reasons, notably including its contradiction of established facts concerning Atta's travels during 2001.

But the credulous Telegraph coverage is still significant now, because Coughlin identified the source of his amazing scoop as Ayad Allawi. For those who have forgotten the ambitious Allawi, he is a former Baathist who rebelled against Saddam, formed the Iraqi National Accord movement to fight the dictator, and was appointed to Iraq's interim Governing Council by the U.S. occupation authorities after the invasion.

Although Coughlin quoted Allawi at some length, neither he nor his source revealed how the Habbush memo had fallen into the hands of the Iraqi politician. But the Safire column made an allusion that now seems crucial, describing Allawi as "an Iraqi leader long considered reliable by intelligence agencies."

Specifically, Allawi was a longtime asset of the Central Intelligence Agency, which had funded his struggle against Saddam for years prior to the invasion. His CIA sponsorship is noted in nearly every news article about Allawi, usually contrasted with the Pentagon sponsorship of his political rival, Ahmed Chalabi, the infamous fabricator of WMD intelligence (and suspected double agent for Iran).

Obviously, Allawi's relationship with the CIA is worth reconsidering today in light of the charges in Suskind's book, even though by itself that relationship proves nothing. There is more, however.

On Dec. 11, 2003 -- three days before the Telegraph launched its "exclusive" on the Habbush memo -- the Washington Post published an article by Dana Priest and Robin Wright headlined "Iraq Spy Service Planned by U.S. to Stem Attacks." Buried inside on Page A41, their story outlined the CIA's efforts to create a new Iraqi intelligence agency:

"The new service will be trained, financed and equipped largely by the CIA with help from Jordan. Initially the agency will be headed by Iraqi Interior Minister Nouri Badran, a secular Shiite and activist in the Jordan-based Iraqi National Accord, a former exile group that includes former Baath Party military and intelligence officials.

"Badran and Ayad Allawi, leader of the INA, are spending much of this week at CIA headquarters in Langley to work out the details of the new program. Both men have worked closely with the CIA over the past decade in unsuccessful efforts to incite coups against Saddam Hussein." (The Web link to the full story is broken but it can be found on Nexis.)

So Allawi was at the CIA during the week before Coughlin got that wonderful scoop. That may not be proof of anything, either, but a picture is beginning to form.

That picture becomes sharper in the months that followed Allawi's release of the Habbush forgery, when he suddenly returned to favor in Baghdad and eclipsed Chalabi, at least for a while. Five months later, in May 2004, the Iraqi Governing Council elected Allawi as his country's interim prime minister, reportedly under pressure from the American authorities. Combining subservience to the occupiers with iron-fisted tactics, he quickly squandered any popularity he might have enjoyed, and his INA party placed a humiliating third in the 2005 national elections.

That was the end of Allawi as a politician, yet perhaps he had already served his purpose. And it might be very interesting to hear what he would say today about the Habbush forgery -- and his broader relationship to the CIA and the Bush White House -- especially if he were to tell his story in a congressional hearing.

Until then there is much more to learn from Suskind's reporting, including new evidence that Bush and other officials knew there were no WMD in Iraq. Read an excerpt from "The Way of the World" here (where you can also sign up to receive a copy for $1 from Progressive Book Club, which happens to be run by my wife, Elizabeth Wagley).

http://www.salon.com/opinion/conason/2008/08/08/suskind/print.html

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