Unashamably stolen from Brainshrub.com
(courtesy link) Plus, the link has a link to Wikipedia where they explain the infinite monkey theorem.
Rojak posts, mostly political.
"A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." -- Thomas Mann
If so, I must be a writer.
Top US military commanders in Iraq have decided to recommend a "surge" of fresh American combat forces, eliminating one of the last remaining hurdles to proposals being considered by President George W. Bush, The Los Angeles Times has reported.
Citing an unnamed defence official, the newspaper said the approval of a troop increase plan by top Iraq commanders, including General George Casey and Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, comes days before Bush unveils a new course for Iraq.
The recommendation by the commanders in Iraq is significant because Bush has placed prime importance on their advice, the report said.
The US command in Iraq decided to recommend an increase of troops several days ago, prior to meetings in Baghdad this week with Defence Secretary Robert Gates, according to The Times.
Commanders have been sceptical of the value of increasing troops, and the decision represents a reversal for Casey, the highest ranking officer in Iraq, the paper said.
A senior Taliban military commander described as a close associate of Osama bin Laden has been killed in an air strike close to the border with Pakistan, the US military has said.
However, a purported Taliban spokesman denied the claim.
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani was killed on Tuesday by a US air strike while travelling by vehicle in a remote part of the southern province of Helmand, the US military said. Two of his associates also were killed.
Is al-Qaeda connected to other terrorist organizations?
Yes. Among them:
* Egyptian Islamic Jihad
* The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
* Islamic Army of Aden (Yemen)
* Jama'at al-Tawhid wal Jihad (Iraq)
* Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad (Kashmir)
* Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
* Salafist Group for Call and Combat and the Armed Islamic Group (Algeria)
* Abu Sayyaf Group (Malaysia, Philippines)
* Jemaah Islamiya (Southeast Asia)
U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to appoint TV producer Warren Bell to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting board has met with strong opposition.
The Los Angeles Times said public broadcasting advocates complain the outspokenly conservative Bell might politicize the board, which determines funding for U.S. public radio and TV stations.
At one point, "We said to him, 'How would you change CPB?' " Hodes said in an interview. "He said, 'I would dismantle it.' "
A makeshift shelter of cardboard boxes sprang up near a United Airlines ticket counter as hundreds of holiday travelers found ways to cope after being stranded at the Denver airport by a blizzard.
Denver International Airport - the nation's fifth-busiest - was expected to begin limited operations at noon Friday, almost two days after a blizzard forced it to close runways.
More than 2,000 flights have been canceled, according to airline officials, creating a ripple effect that disrupted air travel around the country as the holiday crush began to build.
The UN Security Council is poised to order sanctions against Iran today, placing an embargo on sensitive nuclear exports in the international drive to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear bomb. With the diplomatic pressure set to increase after months of negotiations, the US and Britain are moving extra warships and strike aircraft to the Persian Gulf.
Much of the military focus is on countering any attempts by the Iranians to block oil shipments by mining sea lanes in retaliation against a UN resolution which British diplomats hope will be adopted unanimously by the 15-nation security council.
The draft resolution provides for bans on the import and export of material and technology relating to uranium enrichment, reprocessing and heavy-water reactors, as well as ballistic missile systems. It also calls for a travel ban and freezes funds and financial assets owned or controlled by entities or people associated with sensitive areas of Iran's nuclear or missile programme. Eleven organisations and 12 individuals are named as targets of the measures.
Bush sought to use the 52-minute session, held in the ornate Indian Treaty Room in a building adjacent to the White House, to sum up what he called "a difficult year for our troops and the Iraqi people" and reassure the American public that "we enter this new year clear-eyed about the challenges in Iraq." [emphasis mine]
Eight Marines were charged Thursday in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians last year during a bloody, door-to-door sweep in the town of Haditha that came after one of their comrades was killed by a roadside bomb.
In the biggest U.S. criminal case involving civilian deaths to come out of the Iraq war, four of the Marines — all enlisted men — were charged with unpremeditated murder.
The other four were officers who were not there during the killings but were accused of failures in investigating and reporting the deaths.
The most serious charges were brought against Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, a 26-year-old squad leader accused of murdering 12 civilians and ordering the murders of six more inside a house cleared by his squad. He was accused of telling his men to "shoot first and ask questions later," according to court papers released by his attorney.
The highest-ranking defendant was Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, 42. He was accused of failing to obey an order or regulation, encompassing dereliction of duty.
President George W. Bush on Wednesday installed self-described conservative writer and producer Warren Bell on the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports U.S. public television and radio.
Bell, who was nominated in June, writes for the conservative magazine The National Review and was previously a writer and producer for "Coach" and "Ellen," two popular TV series in the 1990s.
The Senate Commerce Committee had been scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for him in September but he was dropped from the agenda because of concerns by both Republicans and Democrats.
The Los Angeles Times reported that some of Bell's fellow writers said he had made negative comments about funding public broadcasting, a charge he denied. No action on his nomination was taken by the Senate before it adjourned earlier this month.
Bush's recess appointment allows Bell to hold the board position until Congress adjourns next year, the White House said. Such appointments may be made by the president when Congress is not in session.
Texas would join two other states that mandate access to employee-only restrooms for anyone with a pressing medical condition, including pregnancy, under a legislative proposal.
State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, said he agreed to sponsor the bill after meeting with a support group for people with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, autoimmune diseases that can cause intestinal cramping and diarrhea.
"We should all be inspired by their example to have the courage to speak out about difficult issues and to advocate for others who silently endure difficult chronic illnesses," Strama said.
A suicide bomber has killed 13 Iraqis arriving at a police recruitment centre in central Baghdad, a medic said, in the latest attack to strike security forces in the war-torn capital.
Separately two civilian women were killed in a mortar trike (sic) on a marketplace in southwest Baghdad, and a bomb targeting a police patrol in the north of the city injured a bystander, police said Thursday.
The bomber, wearing an explosive vest, struck at sunrise in a street outside a police academy in the heart of the Iraqi capital that has been barred to vehicular traffic, security officials said.
Ten police recruits were killed instantly and another three died of their injuries after being rushed to the al-Kindi hospital, a medical source said.
Brigadier General Abdul Karim Khalaf, director of operations at the Iraqi interior ministry, confirmed the details of the attack but said that according to his information only 11 people had been killed.
Since 2004, before the traffic ban was put in place, the police academy near Palestine Street in the Rusafa district came under attack three times -- by car bomb, mortar and a suicide bomber.
Yeah, and Americans 'can do better' than Bush.
A U.S. Navy veteran from Chicago sued former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in federal court Monday, accusing U.S. forces of detaining and torturing him for 97 days at a maximum security military prison in Baghdad.
Donald Vance, 29, worked in Iraq as a private security contractor when he was kidnapped by his own employer in April, rescued by U.S. forces, and then held without ever being charged with a crime, according to the lawsuit.
At the U.S. Embassy, Vance told military officials that he was an FBI informant who regularly relayed information via cell phone and e-mail to a federal agent in Chicago about his employer's possible involvement in illegally selling weapons.
"Within five minutes of my first interrogations I explained to them the relationship [with FBI agent Travis Carlisle] and I was imploring them to do their research," he said. An FBI spokesman confirmed Carlisle is an agent but declined to comment further.
Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command and military chief of the Iraq fiasco, will retire in March. Though officials say Abizaid tendered his retirement before Rumsfeld was pushed out, his departure will allow Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Bush more flexibility in their Iraq makeover, as Abizaid has been a dogged opponent of increasing troop levels.
This Christmas, let's not forget about this striking character of Greek Mythology. Let me first make it clear that Mithras significantly predates the story of Jesus.
* Mithra was born of a virgin on December 25th in a cave, and his birth was attended by shepherds.
* He was considered a great traveling teacher and master.
* He had 12 companions or disciples.
* Mithra's followers were promised immortality.
* He performed miracles.
* As the "great bull of the Sun," Mithra sacrificed himself for world peace.
* He was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again.
* His resurrection was celebrated every year.
* He was called "the Good Shepherd" and identified with both the Lamb and the Lion.
* He was considered the "Way, the Truth and the Light," and the "Logos," "Redeemer," "Savior" and "Messiah."
* His sacred day was Sunday.
* Mithra had his principal festival of what was later to become Easter.
* His religion had a eucharist or "Lord's Supper," at which Mithra said, "He who shall not eat of my body nor drink of my blood so that he may be one with me and I with him, shall not be saved."
Prepare to be shocked.
The US is insolvent. There is simply no way for our national bills to be paid under current levels of taxation and promised benefits. Our federal deficits alone now total more than 400% of GDP.
That is the conclusion of a recent Treasury/OMB report entitled Financial Report of the United States Government that was quietly slipped out on a Friday (12/15/06), deep in the holiday season, with little fanfare. Sometimes I wonder why the Treasury Department doesn’t just pay somebody to come in at 4:30 am Christmas morning to release the report. Additionally, I’ve yet to read a single account of this report in any of the major news media outlets but that is another matter.
But, hey, I understand. A report this bad requires all the muffling it can get.
In his accompanying statement to the report, David Walker, Comptroller of the US, warmed up his audience by stating that the GAO had found so many significant material deficiencies in the government’s accounting systems that the GAO was “unable to express an opinion” on the financial statements. Ha ha! He really knows how to play an audience!
In accounting parlance, that’s the same as telling your spouse “Our checkbook is such an out of control mess I can’t tell if we’re broke or rich!” The next time you have an unexplained rash of checking withdrawals from that fishing trip with your buddies, just tell her that you are “unable to express an opinion” and see how that flies. Let us know how it goes!
Then Walker went on to deliver the really bad news:Despite improvement in both the fiscal year 2006 reported net operating cost and the cash-based budget deficit, the U.S. government’s total reported liabilities, net social insurance commitments, and other fiscal exposures continue to grow and now total approximately $50 trillion, representing approximately four times the Nation’s total output (GDP) in fiscal year 2006, up from about $20 trillion, or two times GDP in fiscal year 2000.
As this long-term fiscal imbalance continues to grow, the retirement of the “baby boom” generation is closer to becoming a reality with the first wave of boomers eligible for early retirement under Social Security in 2008.
Given these and other factors, it seems clear that the nation’s current fiscal path is unsustainable and that tough choices by the President and the Congress are necessary in order to address the nation’s large and growing long-term fiscal imbalance.
Wow! I know David Walker’s been vocal lately about his concern over our economic future but it seems almost impossible to ignore the implications of his statements above. From $20 trillion in fiscal exposures in 2000 to over $50 trillion in only six years? What shall we do for an encore…shoot for $100 trillion?
And how about the fact that boomers begin retiring in 2008…that always seemed to be waaaay out in the future. However, beginning January 1st we can start referring to 2008 as ‘next year’ instead of ‘some point in the future too distant to get concerned about now’. Our economic problems need to be classified as growing, imminent, and unsustainable.
A highly sympathetic crowd of a few hundred people gave Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada standing ovations before, during and after a speech at the Church of the Crossroads in Moiliili.
Watada, a Honolulu native, faces court-martial in Fort Lewis, Wash., next month on six counts for refusing to deploy to Iraq and for conduct unbecoming an officer, charges that carry a maximum six years' imprisonment. He was back in Honolulu to meet with his attorney and visit with family.
Watada acknowledged that his actions have divided the community. "That was not my intent," he said. But upon learning the facts of the war, he said he was in turmoil.
He called the war in Iraq an illegal war of aggression.
Ever since Republicans were routed last month in what was widely seen as a repudiation of his Iraq strategy, President Bush has been busily listing how his policies there will not be changing.
There will be no timetable for removing American troops, no high-level dialogue with Iran and Syria, and no slackening of support for the widely criticized government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Meanwhile, White House aides are reported to be pushing a major "surge" of troops to Baghdad while preparing a fresh infusion of tens of billions of dollars for the war effort.
Yesterday, in an interview with The Washington Post, while acknowledging that the United States is not winning in Iraq, Bush bluntly dismissed the suggestion that the midterm elections meant voters want to bring the mission in that country to closure. He said he interpreted the election results "as people not satisfied with the progress" in Iraq.
"A lot of people understand that if we leave Iraq, there will be dire consequences," Bush said in the Oval Office. "They expect this administration to listen with people, to work with Democrats, to work with the military, to work with the Iraqis to put a plan in place that achieves the objective. There's not a lot of people saying, 'Get out now.' Most Americans are saying, 'We want to achieve the objective.' "
This undergarment will remind anyone who is tempted to fornicate to not forsake the Baby Jesus... He is watching, always watching.
Searching the BBC's vast website for articles about Colonel Gadafy recently, I found just three mentions of his name.
As far as the BBC is concerned, this may be three times too many, since its approved spelling of the Libyan leader's name is "Gaddafi".
Here at the Guardian, on the other hand, our policy is to call him Gadafy - something we have succeeded in doing 325 times on our website.
For good measure, we have also managed to write Gaddafi 42 times, Gadafi eight times, and Gaddafy and Qadhafi twice each.
A White House laboring to find a new approach in Iraq said Tuesday it is considering sending more U.S. troops, an option that worries top generals because of its questionable payoff and potential backlash. President Bush said he is ready to boost the overall size of an American military overstretched by its efforts against worldwide terrorism.
The military's caution on shipping thousands of additional troops temporarily to Iraq is based on a fear that the move could be ineffective without bold new political and economic steps.
Commanders also worry that the already stretched Army and Marine Corps would be even thinner once the short-term surge ended. Bush's newly expressed interest in making the military larger would have little impact on that worry because it will take much longer to add substantially to the size of the military.
Generals also question whether sending more troops to Iraq would feed a perception that the strife in Iraq is mainly a military problem; in their view it is largely political, fed by economic distress.
Rep. Ike Skelton (news, bio, voting record), the Missouri Democrat who will become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee next month, echoed those sentiments Tuesday. "I'm convinced the Army and the Marines are near the breaking point," Skelton said, while expressing skepticism that a big troop surge would be worth the trouble.
With Iraq's burgeoning chaos leaving the Bush administration with few attractive choices, it is studying a possible short-term troop increase there. That proposal is the favorite option of some, including potential 2008 presidential contender Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., and analysts at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which has strong ties to the administration.
A Commack School District bus driver says he nearly lost his job because he refused to take off his Santa Claus cap while driving his route.
With his long white beard and generous midriff, 65-year-old Kenneth Mott bears more than a passing resemblance to St. Nick. The Bayport resident says he has been wearing his furry red-and-white hat every December since he started working for the Baumann and Sons bus company, which transports students in the Commack School District, five years ago.
The Pentagon is considering a buildup of Navy forces in the Persian Gulf as a show of force against Iran, a senior defense official said Tuesday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because the idea has not been approved, the official said one proposal is to send a second aircraft carrier to the region amid increasing tensions with Iran, blamed for encouraging sectarian violence in neighboring Iraq as well as allegedly pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
The United States and its European allies are seeking sanctions against Iran because of its refusal to stop uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce nuclear fuel for civilian purposes or fuel for a nuclear bomb.
In Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that U.N. sanctions would not stop Iran from pursuing its uranium enrichment program, which he has said is for peaceful development of energy.
A Palestinian doctor and five Bulgarian nurses will learn tomorrow whether they must die by firing squad for deliberately infecting more than 400 Libyan children with HIV.
Fifty-two of the children have since died of Aids. The surviving 374 are being treated at hospitals in France and Italy, at the expense of the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Ramadan Faitori, a spokesman for the childrens' families, said, "We are confident that the accused group is criminal and will be convicted."
The foreign medical staff were first convicted of the crime and sentenced to die in 2004, but Libya's Supreme Court ordered a retrial. Official media in Libya are declaring that the guilt of the accused is a foregone conclusion. They have been held in jail in Libya since March 1999.
The case has become a focus of tension between Libya and the West, where experts are united in believing that the six have been made scapegoats for a crime they did not commit. Reports by top Aids experts, including one by Professor Luc Montagnier, one of the discoverers of Aids, have exonerated them. Professor Montagnier said the epidemic was probably caused by poor hygiene in the hospital, and pointed out that it had begun before the six started working there, and continued after their arrest.
A court convicted five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor Tuesday of deliberately infecting 400 children with HIV and sentenced them to death, despite scientific evidence the youngsters had the virus before the medical workers came to Libya.
The United States and Europe reacted with outrage to the verdict, which prolongs a case that has hurt Libya's ties to the West. The six co-defendants have already served seven years in jail.
The sentence brought cheers in Libya, where there is widespread public anger over the infections. The Libyan press has long depicted the medical workers as guilty.
After the sentence was pronounced, dozens of relatives outside the Tripoli court chanted "Execution! Execution!" Ibrahim Mohammed al-Aurabi, the father of an infected child, shouted, "God is great! Long live the Libyan judiciary!"
But the ruling stunned the defendants. They were convicted and sentenced to death a year ago, but the Libyan Supreme Court ordered a retrial after an international outcry that the first trial was unfair. The case now returns to the Supreme Court for an automatic appeal.
It was the first day of school, and distance not withstanding, 9-year-old Baylee Smith wanted to take a picture with her father, Mark, who is stationed with a National Guard unit in Afghanistan. Real daddy was not available, but Sergeant Smith’s doppelgänger was.
“Where’s Flat Daddy?” an excited Baylee asked as her stepmother, Jennifer Smith, pulled a large cardboard picture of Sergeant Smith, in his uniform, out of her Chevy Blazer and propped him on the bumper. The two, along with Ms. Smith’s young sons, Alec and Derek, posed for a picture with their Flat Daddy, who promptly fell down.
“Stop it Dad, that’s not funny. It’s not a joke,” Baylee said with a laugh.
The Maine National Guard is giving life-size from-the-waist-up pictures of soldiers to the families of deployed guard members. Guard officials and families say the cutouts, known as Flat Daddies or Flat Soldiers, connect families with a relative who is thousands of miles away. The Flat Daddies are toted everywhere from soccer practice to coffee shops to weddings.
“The response has been unbelievable,” said Sgt. First Class Barbara Claudel, director of the Maine National Guard’s family unit. “The families just miss people so much when they’re gone that they try to bring their soldier everywhere.”
Something I ordered off the web a week or so ago arrived today. It's called a buff.
It's actually the third I've bought. The first is still knocking around somewhere, but I forgot to take it with me on a camping holiday a while back, and missed having it enough to buy a second to tide me over.
They seem to have evolved a bit since my first one. . .
When I bought the first one, it was just a tubular, seam-free bit of fabric that could be folded up in a few interesting ways: Neck scarf and sweatband being the obvious ones, balaclava and skull-cap being the more elaborate ones.
Now, though, they've evolved further: My second one was made out of "Coolmax" microfibre - still cunningly woven so there were no seams and yet no fraying; but now it was fast-wicking, windproof, and 95% UV-resistant!
You could also get ones specifically for colder conditions, with Polartec added at the end. Polartec, as I know from lots of dry technical reading about scuba diving undersuits, is the fastest-wicking material known to man (I have an undersuit made out of it. . .)
Anyway: They're very good & versatile things to have. They fit easily in a pocket, and in summer they keep off the sun and wick away sweat; in the winter they keep in the warmth and keep off the rain/snow.
I suppose I should be flattered. In a speech to fellow airline bosses a few days ago, Martin Broughton, the chief executive of British Airways, announced that the primary challenge for the industry is to “isolate the George Monbiots of this world”(1). That shouldn’t be difficult. For a terrifying spectre, I’m feeling pretty lonely. Almost everyone in politics appears to want to forget about aviation’s impact on the environment.
On Wednesday the secretary of state for communities launched a bold plan to make new homes more energy efficient. She claims it will save 7 million tonnes of carbon(2). On Thursday Douglas Alexander, the transport secretary, announced that he would allow airports to keep growing: by 2030 the number of passengers will increase from 228 million to 465 million(3). As a result, according to a report commissioned by the department for environment, carbon emissions will rise by between 22 and 36 million tonnes(4). So much for joined-up government.
The government says it will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 60% between 1990 and 2050. Last month it promised to introduce a climate change bill, which will make this target legally binding. Douglas Alexander’s decision ensures that the new law will be broken.
As the world’s greatest chess player, Garry Kasparov employed his formidable intellect to outwit rivals before seizing on a weakness to crush them.
The Russian grandmaster is now applying those skills to a new game of strategy aimed at defeating his toughest opponent of all — President Putin. At stake, he argues, is the fate of Russian democracy.
Mr Kasparov has devoted himself to politics since retiring from professional chess last year. He regards Mr Putin as a dictator whose authoritarian rule threatens to return Russia to a dark past.
With the baby boomers’ retirement fast approaching, these past several years would have been a good time for federal policymakers to put the government’s fiscal house in order by reducing the national debt. Instead, they expanded it.
At the end of fiscal year 2006, the national debt stood at roughly $4.8 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that $2.3 trillion, or nearly half of the debt, was the result of tax cuts and spending increases approved by Congress and the Administration since January 2001.
Sad to say, but the nation would be in much better shape today if Congress had left the budget on automatic pilot for the past six years.
Where did that $2.3 trillion go? A bit over half of it went to tax cuts, and another third went to increased spending for defense, homeland security, and international affairs (primarily the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), according to CBO data. Only 6 percent of the $2.3 trillion represents increases in domestic discretionary programs, the part of the budget some have mistakenly claimed is “exploding.”
Moreover, since the bulk of the tax cuts went to households with higher incomes, the tax cuts not only worsened the nation’s budgetary situation but also widened the growing gulf between the best-off households and all other Americans. This Center report provides the details. [emphasis miine]
The Chatham House report found that, despite military, political and financial sacrifices by the UK, Mr Blair had been unable to influence the Bush administration in "any significant way".
Over the past six months, Baghdad has been all but isolated electrically, Iraqi officials say, as insurgents have effectively won their battle to bring down critical high-voltage lines and cut off the capital from the major power plants to the north, south and west.
The battle has been waged in the remotest parts of the open desert, where the great towers that support thousands of miles of exposed lines are frequently felled with explosive charges in increasingly determined and sophisticated attacks, generally at night. Crews that arrive to repair the damage are often attacked and sometimes killed, ensuring that the government falls further and further behind as it attempts to repair the lines.
And in a measure of the deep disunity and dysfunction of this nation, when the repair crews and security forces are slow to respond, skilled looters often arrive with heavy trucks that pull down more of the towers to steal as much of the valuable aluminum conducting material in the lines as possible. The aluminum is melted into ingots and sold.
What amounts to an electrical siege of Baghdad is reflected in constant power failures and disastrously poor service in the capital, with severe consequences for security, governance, health care and the mood of an already weary and angry populace.
“Now Baghdad is almost isolated,” Karim Wahid, the Iraqi electricity minister, said in an interview last week. “We almost don’t have any power coming from outside.”
Mr. Wahid said he has appealed both to American and Iraqi security forces for help in protecting the lines, but has had little response; Electricity Ministry officials said they could think of no case in which saboteurs had been caught. Payments made to local tribes in exchange for security have been ineffective, electricity officials said.
Neither the Defense Ministry nor the American military responded to requests for comment on the security of the lines.
As President George W. Bush weighs options for changing course in Iraq, his administration is split over the concept of sending in more troops, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
White House officials are aggressively promoting a short-term increase in U.S. troop levels in Iraq over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the newspaper reported, citing officials familiar with the debate.
The chiefs of the military services think the White House still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the idea of a surge of troops in Iraq, in part, because of limited alternatives, the report said, citing the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Joint Chiefs have warned that a short-term mission could give an edge to the armed factions in Iraq without providing a lasting boost to the U.S. military mission or to the Iraqi army, the report said.
Sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops to Iraq for six to eight months is one proposal under consideration as the White House looks for ways to halt the worsening situation in Iraq, the officials told the Post.
The officials were quoted as saying that the idea of a much larger deployment for a longer mission was virtually off the table, mainly for logistics reasons. [emphasis mine]
The Republican Party's evangelical Christian radicalization and manipulation scheme worked to enviable electoral perfection. That is, it was working to perfection until the internet came along and ruined everything.
Corporations are growing increasingly uncomfortable and worried about the power and influence of the internet. In all other socio-political communication paradigms, controlling the message and the media has been a pretty simple process. Corporations could quite easily leverage their sponsorship dollars into media coverage that was least damaging to their interests or, more often than not, as a means of limiting and preventing negative reporting altogether. The internet, however, has taken power away from the traditional corporate-sponsored media and placed it directly into the hands of average citizens. This is a condition that the Republican Party's constituency -- corporations and the ultra-wealthy -- cannot long tolerate.
There is no doubt that corporations are pressuring Republicans to figure out a way to curtail the internet's influence. That is where Newt Gingrich's latest resurrection finds its meaning.
Fifty years to the day after Ike put his pen to the Highway Act [creating the 41,000 mile interstate highway system], another Republican signed off on another historic highway project. On June 29, 2006, Mitch Daniels, the former Bush administration official turned governor of Indiana, was greeted with a round of applause as he stepped into a conference room packed with reporters and state lawmakers. The last of eight wire transfers had landed in the state's account, making it official: Indiana had received $3.8 billion from a foreign consortium made up of the Spanish construction firm Cintra and the Macquarie Infrastructure Group (mig) of Australia, and in exchange the state would hand over operation of the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road for the next 75 years. The arrangement would yield hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks for the consortium, which also received immunity from most local and state taxes in its contract with Indiana. And, of course, the consortium would collect all the tolls, which it was allowed to raise to levels far beyond what Hoosiers had been used to. By one calculation, the Toll Road would generate more than $11 billion over the 75-year life of the contract, a nice return on mig-Cintra's $3.8 billion investment.
The deal to privatize the Toll Road had been almost a year in the making. Proponents celebrated it as a no-pain, all-gain way to off-load maintenance expenses and mobilize new highway-building funds without raising taxes. Opponents lambasted it as a major turn toward handing the nation's common property over to private firms, and at fire-sale prices to boot.
Across the nation, there is now talk of privatizing everything from the New York Thruway to the Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey turnpikes, as well as of inviting the private sector to build and operate highways and bridges from Alabama to Alaska. More than 20 states have enacted legislation allowing public-private partnerships, or P3s, to run highways. Robert Poole, the founder of the libertarian Reason Foundation and a longtime privatization advocate, estimates that some $25 billion in public-private highway deals are in the works—a remarkable figure given that as of 1991, the total cost of the interstate highway system was estimated at $128.9 billion.
A British officer, Major Summerford, while fighting in the fields of Flanders in February 1918 was knocked off his horse by a flash of lightning and paralyzed from the waist down. Summerford retired and moved to Vancouver. One day in 1924, as he fished alongside a river, lightning hit the tree he was sitting under and paralyzed his right side. Two years later Summerford was sufficiently recovered that he was able to take walks in a local park. He was walking there one summer day in 1930 when a lightning bolt smashed into him, permanently paralyzing him. He died two years later. But lightning sought him out one last time. Four years later, during a storm, lightning struck a cemetery and destroyed a tombstone. The deceased buried here? Major Summerford.
Just in time for Christmas, they’re selling reindeer hot dogs in suburban Chicago.
With grilled onions and mustard, it will cost you eight dollars at Fred Markoff’s hot dog stand in Glenview.
The reindeer dogs are made in Alaska and actually contain a bit of beef and pork because reindeer meat is so lean and dry.
Attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops and Iraqi civilians jumped sharply in recent months to the highest level since Iraq regained its sovereignty in June 2004, the Pentagon told Congress on Monday in the latest indication of that country's spiraling violence.
In a report issued the same day Robert Gates took over as defense secretary, the Pentagon said that from mid-August to mid-November, the weekly average number of attacks increased 22 percent from the previous three months. The worst violence was in Baghdad and in the western province of Anbar, long the focus of activity by Sunni insurgents.
At a ceremonial swearing-in attended by President Bush, Gates warned that failure in Iraq would be a "calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility and endanger Americans for decades to come." He said he intended to go to Iraq soon to get the "unvarnished" advice of U.S. commanders on how to stabilize the country.
A bar chart in the Pentagon's report to Congress gave no exact numbers but indicated the weekly average had approached 1,000 in the latest period, compared to about 800 per week from the May-to-August period. Statistics provided separately by the Pentagon said weekly attacks had averaged 959 in the latest period. [emphasis mine]
[Antonia Juhasz, author of The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time]: You know, in the report that you [Amy Goodman] were quoting in the beginning of the hour, which said that the reconstruction failed because of poor planning, it’s a myth that there was not a post-war planning done by the Bush administration. The reason why it failed was because the interests it was serving were U.S. multinationals, not reconstruction in Iraq.
That plan was ready two months before the invasion. It was written by BearingPoint, Inc., a company based in Virginia that received a $250 million contract to rewrite the entire economy of Iraq. It drafted that new economy. That new economy was put into place systematically by L. Paul Bremer, the head of the occupation government of Iraq for 14 months, who implemented exactly one hundred orders, basically all of which are still in place today. And everyone who is watching who is familiar with the policies of the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the World Bank, the I.M.F., will understand the orders.
They implement some of the most radical corporate globalization ideas, such as free investment rules for multinational corporations. That means corporations can enter Iraq, and they essentially don't have to contribute at all to the economy of Iraq. The most harmful provision thus far has been the national treatment provision, which meant that the Iraqis could not give preference to Iraqi companies or workers in the reconstruction, and therefore, U.S. companies received preference in the reconstruction. They hired workers who weren't even from Iraq, in most cases, and utterly bungled the reconstruction.
And the most important company, in my mind, to receive blame is the Bechtel Corporation of San Francisco. They have received $2.8 billion to rebuild water, electricity and sewage systems, the most important systems in the life of an Iraqi. After the first Gulf War, the Iraqis rebuilt these systems in three months' time. It’s been three years, and, as you said, those services are still below pre-war levels.
In the immediate cleanup and restoration of infrastructure [in NOLA], big outside contractors were getting most of the work and local/small businesses were getting the crumbs.
After the North Korean nuclear-weapon test of October 9, the leading countries of the six-party talks have initiated a blame game to point out who is in a position to receive the greatest profit from Pyongyang's action.
Conservatives in China argue that the Japanese will likely gain most from the test: a long-awaited excuse to develop Japan's nuclear capabilities and forfeit the country's pacifist constitution.
Conservatives in Japan, on the other hand, blame China for still cozying up to Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, and for having been tardy in applying strong economic sanctions against defiant Pyongyang.
In South Korea, opposition rises against President Roh Moo-hyun, holding him responsible for being too lenient with the North, and for having failed to accomplish anything substantial with the Pyongyang regime, putting the country in greater jeopardy, as now the South is also under the threat of North Korea's nuclear bombs.
The American masses divide the blame among all the other countries.
Only Russia among the members of the six-party talks remains silent, being some kind of observer.
The United Nations says around 20 percent of domestic animal breeds are at risk of extinction, with a breed lost each month, because of globalization.
The reason, the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said, is livestock markets favor high-output breeds over a multiple gene pool that could be vital for future food security.
"Maintaining animal genetic diversity will allow future generations to select stocks or develop new breeds to cope with emerging issues, such as climate change, diseases and changing socio-economic factors," said the secretary of FAO's Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Jose Esquinas-Alcazar.
But, of more than 7,600 breeds in the FAO global database of farm animal genetic resources, 190 have become extinct in the past 15 years and 1,500 more are deemed at risk of extinction according to a draft report. The final version is expected in September.
Some 60 breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry have been lost over the last five years, according to the draft presented to FAO headquarters last week.
The Iraqi Red Crescent today closed all of its Baghdad branches, a day after gunmen staged a brazen mass kidnapping.
About 30 employees and visitors were kidnapped yesterday, and 16 of those were released unharmed the same day, a Red Crescent spokesman said today.
“We gave orders to our Baghdad staff to stop working until further notice. We renew our calls for the release of the kidnapped persons,” said Mazin Abdellah, the Iraqi Red Crescent’s secretary-general.
He added that the group’s offices in other Iraqi provinces were fully operational.
The State Department announced a $1 million emergency fund Thursday to help cover such expenses as legal fees and medical bills for human rights activists.
The fund is meant to pay short-term bills for people who take great risks by defending human rights "in countries where tyranny persists," the department said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also redefined U.S. goals and expectations for international treatment of independent groups that promote democracy and human rights.
People should be able to freely join such groups, which the State Department calls non-governmental organizations or NGOs, and the groups should be free to act within international law, the department said.
"Whenever NGOs and other human rights defenders are under siege, freedom and democracy are undermined. The world's democracies must push back," Rice said in commemorating national human rights week. "We must defend the defenders." [emphasis mine]
During the mutual-admiration hearing before the Senate Committee on Armed Services—which led to the unanimous confirmation of former CIA chief Robert Gates to be Donald Rumsfeld's successor—no senator asked Gates if he approves of the Pentagon's "extreme . . . emergency" insistence on a $125 million appropriation to construct a permanent compound for a war-crimes court at Guantánamo. There, in 2007, war-crimes trials will be held for dozens of Guantánamo "detainees." The facilities will accommodate simultaneous proceedings.
Unlike the Nuremberg war-crimes trials of the Nazis, there will be no government officials in the dock, but rather—as detailed in my last column—prisoners against whom the United States has itself committed war crimes under the Geneva Conventions and our own War Crimes act. These crimes include their conditions of confinement and a total lack of the due process that the Supreme Court ordered in Rasul v. Bush (2004) and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006).
As of Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006, at least 2,946 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,359 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.
The AP count is 11 higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. EST.
The British military has reported 126 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 18; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, six; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Romania, one death each.
It is no surpise that Maliki returned to Iraq and is making a desperate bid to align himself now with Hakim and the "moderates" in the current government and is signaling he will abandon al Sadr. Bush, in his zeal for a deal in Iraq, is either ignorant or oblivious to the fact the al Hakim (a recent visitor to the White House) is closely aligned with Iran; in contrast to al Sadr who is more independent. Notwithstanding these facts the "Decider"-in-Chief" has rolled the dice and will try to rub out Sadr's JAM. He also is betting he can do so without provoking a full scale revolt among the Shia.
Ah, but here's the rub. When you attack al Sadr you elevate his status. He becomes the face of the Iraqi opposition. Unlike the Jordanian Zarqawi, who met his end in June, a martyred al Sadr becomes more powerful in life than in death. It is not a question of "will the Shia retaliate"? They will. And in the process U.S. forces will once again "make" news destroying neighborhoods and civilians in Sadr City as the insurgent forces melt away; just as we did and they did in Fallujah.
But unlike Fallujah, the Shia can hurt us and hurt us bad. The vast majority of the supplies--the food, water, bullets, and bandages--sustaining our troops in Iraq flow from Kuwait in the south along the highway the (sic) runs through the middle of Shia-controlled territory in Iraq. If the Shia retaliate, as they have in the past, our lines of communication will be in jeopardy, at least over the short term.
Mr. Cheney’s declaration that “Don Rumsfeld is the finest secretary of defense the nation has ever had,” was more in keeping with the tone of the event.
U.S. Special Forces teams sent overseas on secret spying missions have clashed with the CIA and carried out operations in countries that are staunch U.S. allies, prompting a new effort by the agency and the Pentagon to tighten the rules for military units engaged in espionage, according to senior U.S. intelligence and military officials.
The spy missions are part of a highly classified program that officials say has better positioned the United States to track terrorist networks and capture or kill enemy operatives in regions such as the Horn of Africa, where weak governments are unable to respond to emerging threats.
But the initiative has also led to several embarrassing incidents for the United States, including a shootout in Paraguay and the exposure of a sensitive intelligence operation in East Africa, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter. And to date, the Special Forces espionage effort has not led to the capture of a significant terrorism suspect.
The program was approved in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, and is expected to get close scrutiny by his successor, Robert M. Gates, who takes over Monday and has been critical of the expansion of the military's intelligence operations.
The stakes are high. A war between Muslim Somalia and Christian-ruled Ethiopia could rapidly engulf the entire Horn of Africa, sucking in neighbouring Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan and even Yemen. It would give Islamic jihadists the chance to establish a new front in Africa after Iraq and Afghanistan, and to wage another proxy war between East and West. For ordinary Somalis, war would shatter the first six months of peace they have enjoyed in 15 years, the result of the council’s banishment of the warlords who had turned Somalia into one of the world’s most dangerous and lawless countries.
The chances of a last-minute compromise have been seriously undermined by a deepening rift between the US and governments in Europe over the nature of the problem and how to address it. “The Americans are simply not prepared to listen to anyone else’s point of view,” one diplomat complained angrily. “They have made their mind up.”
Katrina's victims face a second Christmas without hope
About 2,500 Russians rallied in central Moscow to protest recent electoral law changes that the demonstrators said is enlarging Kremlin's growing authoritarianism.
The protesters were met on Saturday by thousands of helmeted riot police, soldiers, attack dogs and a circling helicopter.
Opposition leaders said the show of force revealed the Kremlin's fear of dissent.
Gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms staged a mass kidnapping on Sunday at the office of the Iraqi Red Crescent in downtown Baghdad, police said.
An official of the Iraqi aid group said the assailants abducted 20 to 30 employees and visitors, but left women behind. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.
Police, however, said they did not know how many people were kidnapped at the office in Andalus square. They said the gunmen arrived at the office in five pickup trucks.
The top US and North Korean negotiators on Pyongyang's nuclear program were due to meet one-on-one in the Chinese capital on Sunday, ahead of the resumption of six-way talks stalled since last year.
US envoy Christopher Hill was due to meet with his counterpart Kim Kye-Gwan after arriving in Beijing amid North Korean calls for Washington to end its "hostile policy" toward the isolated state.
"What the DPRK (North Korea) needs to do is to get serious with denuclearization," Hill said upon arriving in Beijing.
"If they get serious with denuclearization, a lot of good things can happen ... if they do not get serious about denuclearization such things will go away."
Unlike all the previous wars Korea fought, a next war will be better called the American War or the DPRK-US War because the main theater will be the continental US, with major cities transformed into towering infernos. The DPRK is now the fourth-most powerful nuclear weapons state just after the US, Russia, and China.
The DPRK has all types of nuclear bombs and warheads, atomic, hydrogen and neutron, and the means of delivery, short-range, medium-range and long-range, putting the whole of the continental US within effective range. The Korean People's Army also is capable of knocking hostile satellites out of action.
At least 1,000 orang-utans have been killed in fierce forest fires in Indonesia, hastening the species' headlong rush to extinction within the next decade.
The fires, the worst in a decade and which reached their peak last month, sent a thick pall of smoke across the region, closing airports and forcing drivers to use headlights at noon. Conservationists believe that many were deliberately lit to make room for plantations to grow palm oil - much of it, ironically, to meet the world's growing demand for environmentally friendly fuel.
Their greatest victim is the orang-utan - Asia's only great ape - which is so endangered that many experts believe that it will become extinct in the wild over the next 10 years. Some 50,000 of them, at most, still survive, and about 5,000 are thought to perish every year as the rainforests on which they depend are felled.
Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?
The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you. [emphasis mine]
Federal agents continue to eavesdrop on Americans' electronic communications without warrants a year after President Bush confirmed the practice, and experts say a new Congress' efforts to limit the program could trigger a constitutional showdown.
High-ranking Democrats set to take control of both chambers are mulling ways to curb the program Bush secretly authorized a month after the Sept. 11 attacks. The White House argues the Constitution gives the president wartime powers to eavesdrop that he wouldn't have during times of peace.
The next move falls to the Democrats who take control in January and are considering a proposal to demands (sic) Bush get warrants and others lengthening the time between surveillance and when a warrant must be obtained.
And the war isn't over-- North and South Korea are still technically at war.
Toddler pointing out window: Fuck, fuck.
Mother: No, that's 'truck.' Tuh-tuh-tuh-truck.
Mother: Oh, man.
--Dean & Deluca
"And one of the chief aims, as we've just pointed out, is to get rid of the violence that is claiming lives unnecessarily and to allow that democracy to move forward peacefully."
-- Tony Snow
White House media liar