Saturday, July 02, 2005

Cold-Blooded Murderers

This is very bad:
Iraq's U.N. ambassador accused U.S. Marines on Friday of firing at and killing his cousin in cold blood during a house raid near the western town of Haditha on June 25.

Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie, a supporter of the United States, said Mohammed al-Sumaidaie, the son of his first cousin, was shot by Marines during a raid at his father's house in the village of Al-Shaikh Hadid, near a U.S. military base at the Haditha Dam.

"All indications point to a killing of an unarmed innocent civilian -- a cold blooded murder," Sumaidaie said.



But then, he is employed by the Heritage Foundation:
It began as a shouting match on a busy Capitol Hill street corner during the frenetic morning commute, a bike-vs.-car incident not uncommon in a big city.

But then the silver-haired, retired Navy lieutenant got out of his car, approached the red-headed ballet dancer riding a bike and allegedly shoved her to the ground, authorities said. He got back into his car and, as bystanders followed him, drove down the block to his nearby office, the bicyclist said.

The man was identified as Ted E. Schelenski, 64, vice president for finance and operations at the Heritage Foundation, a think tank that promotes conservative policies. He pleaded not guilty this week to a charge of simple assault.
There were several bystanders. One helped Hall up; someone took down the license plate number of the car and watched it go just a block past the scene to the foundation's office. Someone else summoned a nearby U.S. Capitol Police officer, she said.
About 10 minutes later, Schelenski returned to the scene, Hall said, and tried to apologize. "He said he lost his temper," she said. "And then he told the officer that all he did was try to shake my bike. He said I was the one who fell over."


Friday, July 01, 2005



I'm Still Pissed Off

About the Supreme Court decision permitting the big granite Ten Commandments monument to remain on the grounds of the Texas capitol.

And all the more so now that I've read the opinion of Justice Breyer, the swing vote. His assertion is that this display "conveys a predominantly secular message."

Let me just quote the "predominantly secular" monument in question, which is a five minute walk from my workplace. I just went there, and this is what it says:

the Ten Commandments
I AM the LORD thy God
Thou shalt have no other gods before me
Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven images

I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound all that secular to me...


Friday Sheepblogging Lammikinblogging!


They Learned from the Masters

Who could be surprised that Iraqi forces have been torturing people?
A senior American military official -- apparently for the first time -- is publicly confirming the abuse of detainees and prisoners at the hands of Iraqi security forces.

Major General David Rodriguez, the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in the area around Mosul, says that in the "last six to eight weeks" there have been approximately "40 or so" cases of abuse.


O'Connor Retiring

Why couldn't she have waited a few years? How have we come to the point that the retirement of a conservative, Reagan-appointed justice is bad news? How shall we endure the insanity that is sure to ensue as Bush tries to put a neocon madman on the bench?
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court and a key swing vote on issues such as abortion and the death penalty, said Friday she is retiring.

O'Connor, 75, said she expects to leave before the start of the court's next term in October, or whenever the Senate confirms her successor. There was no immediate word from the White House on who might be nominated to replace O'Connor.


Another Step Toward Justice

It's about bloody time, too. DeLay fully deserves to go down in flames:
Leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives ethics committee on Thursday cleared the way for a long-anticipated investigation of Majority Leader Tom DeLay by resolving a partisan staffing dispute.

DeLay, a Texas Republican, has denied any wrongdoing and has said for months that he is eager for the panel to review questions about his ties to lobbyists and foreign trips.

But the ethics panel has been shut down most of this year, with Democrats and Republicans accusing each other of trying to gain political leverage and causing the staffing impasse.

Consequently the panel had been unable to examine cases involving DeLay or any other member because of the staffing dispute and a now-resolved earlier impasse over House ethics rules.

The new accord will clear the way for the hiring of a nonpartisan staff, including investigators and a chief counsel, which could take a couple of months.


Welcome to the Desert of the Real

It's not the narrative, it's the reality that's putting people off from being pawns in a moronic neocolonial adventure:
Several Senate Republicans denounced other lawmakers and the news media on Thursday for unfavorable depictions of the Iraq war and the Pentagon urged members of Congress to talk up military service to help ease a recruiting shortfall.

Families are discouraging young men and women from enlisting "because of all the negative media that's out there," Sen. James Inhofe (news, bio, voting record), an Oklahoma Republican, said at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Inhofe also said that other senators' criticism of the war contributed to the propaganda of U.S. enemies. He did not name the senators.


Thursday, June 30, 2005

Fundamentalist Madness

Fuck these people:
Jerusalem's gay pride parade was temporarily halted on Thursday evening after a religious Jewish man stabbed three participants.

The assilant ran into the crowd, stabbed one man, moved on to a young woman stabbing her hand, and then lightly wounded a third man. Police arrested the assailant and 13 other religious protesters were arrested after disrupting the order.

Some 200 religious protesters faced 2,000 participants, according to police estimates.


Turning Stupidity into Profit

I yearn for the days when I was young enough to be shocked by this:
For owners who don't want it to look like they're driving an unnecessary gas-guzzler, a little splash signals that the vehicle spends time tackling the back country.
''Spray-On Mud is an urban camouflage designed to give the impression that you are a serious off-roader,'' he said.

Dowse, a Web designer, came up with the idea about a year ago while sharing a few pints with friends at a local pub. It's genuine local dirt -- strained to remove stones and other debris -- mixed with water and a secret ingredient that Dowse says helps it stick to a vehicle's bodywork.


Military State

An interesting fact: Funds for education are now tied to schools' willingness to hand information over to the military:
The Defense Department has crossed the privacy line. At your local high school, buried under emergency cards and red tape, is a little-known requirement. Under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, unless school districts want to lose much-needed federal funds, they must release student data to military recruiters.
Concerned parents can go to the Web site to learn how to opt their children out of the Pentagon's databank.


Capitalism: Eat Shit and Like It

Yet more evidence that Asia has surpassed the West in innovation:
It may take a strong stomach to eat curry or chocolate ice cream out of a toilet bowl, but a commode-themed restaurant in Taiwan does booming business serving up just that.

The Martun, or toilet in Chinese, restaurant in the southern port city of Kaohsiung boasts lengthy queues on weekends as diners wait for a toilet seat in its brightly colored tile interior. Food arrives in bowls shaped like Western-style toilets or Asian-style "squat pots."
But no matter how delicious, a few customers still find the combination a little hard to swallow.

"The taste is good, but I still feel disgusted when I look at it," said diner Lin Yu-may.


Hurray for Spain

They did the right thing:
Parliament legalized gay marriage Thursday, defying conservatives and clergy who opposed making traditionally Roman Catholic Spain the third country in the world to officially recognize same-sex unions.

The measure passed the 350-seat Congress of Deputies by a vote of 187-147 with four abstentions. The bill, part of the ruling Socialists' aggressive agenda for social reform, also lets gay couples adopt children and inherit each others' property.


Torturing Children

As if the notion that the US government is torturing people weren't bad enough, now it seems that we may be torturing children:
Under international law, the line between childhood and maturity is 18. In communications with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the Pentagon has lowered the cutoff to 16. For this reason among others, we don't know exactly how many Iraqi children are in American custody.

But before the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government a year ago, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported registering 107 detainees under 18 during visits to six prisons controlled by coalition troops. Some detainees were as young as 8. Since that time, Human Rights Watch reports that the number has risen.

The figures from Afghanistan are still more alarming: the journalist Seymour Hersh wrote last month in the British newspaper The Guardian that a memo addressed to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shortly after the 2001 invasion reported "800-900 Pakistani boys 13-15 years of age in custody."

Juvenile detainees in American facilities like Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Base have been subject to the same mistreatment as adults. The International Red Cross, Amnesty International and the Pentagon itself have gathered substantial testimony of torture of children, bolstered by accounts from soldiers who witnessed or participated in the abuse.

According to Amnesty International, Muhammad Ismail Agha, 13, was arrested in Afghanistan in late 2002 and detained without charge or trial for over a year, first at Bagram and then at Guantánamo. He was held in solitary confinement and subjected to sleep deprivation.

"Whenever I started to fall asleep, they would kick at my door and yell at me to wake up," he told an Amnesty researcher. "They made me stand partway, with my knees bent, for one or two hours."

A Canadian, Omar Khadr, was 15 in 2002 when he was captured in Afghanistan and interned at Guantánamo. For two and a half years, he was allowed no contact with a lawyer or with his family.

Akhtar Muhammad, 17, told Amnesty that he was kept in solitary confinement in a shipping container for eight days in Afghanistan in January 2002.

A Pentagon investigation last year by Major General George Fay reported that in January 2004, a leashed but unmuzzled guard dog was allowed into a cell holding two children. The intention was for the dog to "'go nuts on the kids,' barking and scaring them."

Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, formerly in charge of Abu Ghraib, told Fay about visiting a weeping 11-year-old in the prison's notorious Cellblock 1B, which housed prisoners designated high risk. "He told me he was almost 12," Karpinski recalled, and that "he really wanted to see his mother, could he please call his mother."


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Wallace Trivial Chocolate

Because I'm bored and feel the need to liven up the day, it's time for more Authentic Indian Names, courtesy of Dead Dog Cafe...


Mystery Solved!

This is hilarious:
Perplexed by the vitriol of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's attacks on Iran, one Tehran lawmaker believes he has uncovered the secret of her enmity - that she was spurned by an Iranian boyfriend at university.

"The reason that the US secretary of state attacks Iran is because she had her heart broken by a young man from Qazvin while they were students," a confident Shokrollah Attarzadeh was quoted by the ISNA agency as saying.

Somewhat mysteriously, he added: "This is the result of an investigation by a woman MP, who cannot be named."


A Small Step

While Canada moves forward, we here in the boondocks must content ourselves with little victories:
In the closing hours of the 2005 session, the New York State Legislature passed a bill that provides domestic partners, both same-sex and opposite-sex, the ability to make decisions about the funerals of partners.

It allows New Yorkers to designate a person to carry out their wishes for the disposition of their body after they die. Additionally, the legislation extends domestic partners the same priority status in decision making as surviving spouses, creating historic significance for New York's LGBT community.


Idiocy Lives!

Hardly news, I know. But to have one of our own congressmen still spouting this bullshit? Unacceptable:
A Republican congressman from North Carolina told CNN on Wednesday that the "evidence is clear" that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.

"Saddam Hussein and people like him were very much involved in 9/11," Rep. Robin Hayes said.

Told no investigation had ever found evidence to link Saddam and 9/11, Hayes responded, "I'm sorry, but you must have looked in the wrong places."


Cock Wagging: The New American Foreign Policy

Somehow, I find this disheartening:
A U.S. military commander on Wednesday said the United States and South Korea could repel any attack by North Korea, even if the secretive country has one or two nuclear bombs.


Blissful Afghanistan

Well, we haven't given them much, other than ordnance. But we've enabled this! God bless America!
The number of people taking illegal drugs worldwide rose last year by about
15 million to 200 million, the UN annual drugs report says.

The value of the global drugs trade, which the report says is about
$320bn, is higher than the gross domestic product of 90% of the world's nations.

It also says Afghanistan produced 87% of the world's illegal supplies
of opium last year.

Just in case you were wondering A) Why we invaded Afghanistan and B) Why Bush looked so glazed and disconnected from reality last night.


Men Without Countries

Sadly, the notion that our government has its own littlle gulag flotilla comes as no surprise to me:
The United Nations says it has learned of serious allegations that the US is secretly detaining terrorism suspects, notably on American military ships.


Blame Canada

As if the 100-degree weather here in Austin weren't enough to make me want to move north:
Supported by most members of the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP, the legislation passed easily, making Canada only the third country in the world, after the Netherlands and Belgium, to officially recognize same-sex marriage.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Spying on the Families of the Dead

Three decades after aggressive military spying on Americans created a national furor, California's National Guard has quietly set up a special intelligence unit that has been given ''broad authority'' to monitor, analyze and distribute information on potential terrorist threats, the Mercury News has learned.

Known as the Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion program, the project is part of an expanding nationwide effort to better integrate military intelligence into global anti-terrorism initiatives.

Although Guard officials said the new unit would not collect information on American citizens, top National Guard officials have already been involved in tracking at least one recent Mother's Day anti-war rally organized by families of slain American soldiers, according to e-mails obtained by the Mercury News.


Instant Karma

Well, Souter voted that the government can take away one's home and hand the land over to private developers in the interest of greater tax revenue for the local government, so fair is fair:

For Release Monday, June 27 to New Hampshire media

For Release Tuesday, June 28 to all other media

Weare, New Hampshire (PRWEB) Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself itself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter's land.

Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.

"This is not a prank" said Clements, "The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development."

Clements' plan is to raise investment capital from wealthy pro-liberty investors and draw up architectural plans. These plans would then be used to raise investment capital for the project. Clements hopes that regular customers of the hotel might include supporters of the Institute For Justice and participants in the Free State Project among others.

# # #Logan Darrow Clements

Freestar Media, LLC
Phone 310-593-4843


Fast-Food Catholicism

Interestingly, Pope John Paul II abolished the office of the "devil's advocate," the priest who argues against sainthood for any given person. Funny how that works:
Less than three months after his death, the Vatican today began the process that could see John Paul II, the former pope, move swiftly to the rank of saint.

Canonisation can take several centuries as theologians debate the holiness of a person's life and the posthumous miracles credited to them, but, as with Mother Theresa, the Roman Catholic church is prepared to speed things up for its former leader.

Stanislaw Dziwisz, the late pope's personal secretary and next Archbishop of Krakow, said the world had already canonised John Paul and was "now only waiting for the final confirmation of this fact".
When Pope Benedict - then Cardinal Ratzinger - held mass at John Paul's funeral, chants of "santo subito" (sainthood immediately) erupted from the crowd. The Vatican has since waived the traditional five-year waiting period before the process of canonisation can begin.
John Paul's decision to scrap the office of the devil's advocate drew criticism from some for removing the checks and balances from the system, but Rev D'Alonzo insisted he would play the same role. "I ask questions about weak points that I have to try to clarify for the cause so it can proceed."
When the material is gathered, the Vatican appoints a commission to review the case and make a final report to the Pope for him to decide if John Paul led a life of "heroic virtue".

If he does, and the Vatican then confirms a miracle has occurred after John Paul's death thanks to his intercession, he can be beatified. A second miracle is needed for him to be made a saint.

Monsignour Oder said last week he had already received "interesting" reports of a possible miracle that warranted further investigation.

These just seem to me to be some rather silly games for grown men to be playing... but, if it distracts them from their altar boys, more power to them.


Rapists Re-Arrested

A good first step in Mukhtar Mai's fight for justice:
[Mai's lawyer] urged the court to review the village council system - Ms Mai was raped allegedly on the direction of such a council, or panchayat.

"In this case the role of the rapists and the panchayat are the same. It is all about dastardly rule," he said.

The court listened to the arguments and ordered her rapists be rearrested pending a new trial.
As the short order was read out, Ms Mai began to smile - the smile widening as the order began to register.

She stood, hugging her friend Naseem and the activists around her.

"I am happy and satisfied. I hope I will get justice from this court," she told reporters.


Still Sounds Like Emotional Abuse to Me

Tennessee has wrapped up its investigation into the re-education camp for gay kids, concluding that no child abuse is going on there. I would still argue that this sort of "therapy" is abusive on its face:
The state of Tennessee said Monday it has found no evidence to support child abuse allegations against a Christian group that tries to "convert" gay teens to heterosexuality.
"DCS dispatched its special investigations unit to the facility, and after conducting a full investigation, determined that the child abuse allegations were unfounded," said Rob Johnson, an agency spokesman.
Earlier this month, a Web logger going by the name of "Zach" said his parents were sending him to a religious organization that would try to convert him to heterosexuality.

The teen identified himself as a 16-year-old from Bartlett, Tenn., and said his parents "tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me. ... I'm a big screwup to them, who isn't on the path God wants me to be on. So I'm sitting here in tears ... and I can't help it."
Love In Action is one of several so-called ex-gay organizations throughout the country.

The American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association both have said such therapy can be emotionally harmful, leading to depression and self-destructive behavior.


The Numbers Don't Lie

Here's just a taste of the statistics of the War on Iraq, specifically in the past year, since "sovereignty" was ostensibly transferred back to the Iraqis; go to the full story for more:
- 890 - American military personnel killed (June 28, 2004-June 27, 2005).

- 1,740 - Total U.S. Military deaths since March 20, 2003, when the war began.

- 74 - Non-U.S. coalition troop fatalities (June 28, 2004-June 27, 2005).

- 187 - Total non-U.S. coalition troop fatalities since March 20, 2003.

- 12,000 - Iraqi civilians killed (March 20, 2003-June 2, 2005), according to Iraqi Interior Minister.

- 16,000 - Estimated number of insurgents as of May 2005.

- 484 - Car bombings (June 28, 2004-June 27, 2005).
- 45 - Average daily attacks by insurgents in June 2004.

- 70 - Average daily attacks by insurgents as of May 2005.
- 10 - Average hours of electricity per day nationwide in June 2004.

- 9.4 - Average hours of electricity per day nationwide as of June 23, 2005.



Again, the Bushies are seen to be all shrill, strident talk, and no substantive action. One might almost get the impression that they would not so much mind another attack in the United States, given the mileage they've gotten out of the first one:
Four years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress are showing signs of complacency about the threat of a terrorist nuclear attack that could cripple a major city and shatter the economy, nuclear security experts said on Monday.
"We said on the 9/11 commission that there needed to be maximum effort and a sense of urgency. The sense of urgency is more a mood of complacency today," said former commissioner Timothy Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana.

"Rather than a brisk pace of activity, we are more seeing a business-as-usual approach," he said.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Re-Animator Lives!

Zombie dogs are real. I'm not kidding:

SCIENTISTS have created eerie zombie dogs, reanimating the canines after several hours of clinical death in attempts to develop suspended animation for humans.

US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years.

Pittsburgh's Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which subject's veins are drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution.

The animals are considered scientifically dead, as they stop breathing and have no heartbeat or brain activity.

But three hours later, their blood is replaced and the zombie dogs are brought back to life with an electric shock.

Plans to test the technique on humans should be realised within a year, according to the Safar Centre.

Although the animals are clinically dead, their tissues and organs are perfectly preserved.

Damaged blood vessels and tissues can then be repaired via surgery. The dogs are brought back to life by returning the blood to their bodies,giving them 100 per cent oxygen and applying electric shocks to restart their hearts.

Tests show they are perfectly normal, with no brain damage.

Perfectly normal, except that they have no soul! (If B-grade horror movies have taught us anything, that is.)


Take the Test. Take Control.

That pretty much sums it up:
Experts at the CDC estimate that up to 280,000 Americans are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, but do not know it -- potentially threatening their own health while encouraging the spread of infection to others.

That's why every year the agency joins hands with the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) to sponsor National HIV Testing Day, slated this year for Monday, June 27.

As part of the event, thousands of testing sites across the nation will hold special health fairs, engage in community outreach and work under extended hours, all so that individuals -- particularly those in high-risk populations -- can find out their status. The NAPWA slogan, "Take the test. Take control," reminds individuals that knowing one's status allows them to make treatment decisions early and protect others from getting HIV.

To find out more about National HIV Testing Day, and testing centers near you, head to


A Piece of the Lesbian Past

Researchers in Germany have located a previously unknown poem by Sappho, from some 2600 years ago!

Well, I think it's cool, anyway:
A lesbian love poem written 2600 years ago by Sappho has finally been published.

The poem was discovered by researchers at Germany's Cologne University written on papyrus and used as wrapping around an Egyptian mummy.

Sappho is considered the greatest female poet of ancient Greece. She lived on the Island of Lesbos - in what researchers suggest was the first lesbian colony.
The papyrus had gone unnoticed for years, until the researchers happened to notice that some of the phrases matched verse fragments already identified as Sappho's.

By comparing all the known fragments with the papyrus the researchers were able to reconstruct missing words and come up with the original poem.

The 12-line verse is only the fourth to have been recovered. It was translated into English by Oxford University professor Martin West and published on the weekend in the London Times Literary Supplement.

It was written late in Sappho's life and begins as a lament about growing old while watching the younger women of the colony.

"You for the fragrant-bosomed Muses' lovely gifts,
Be zealous, girls, and the clear melodious lyre:
But my once tender body old age now
Has seized; my hair's turned white instead of dark."


CIA: Common Criminals

Italy is considering treating kidnappers as kidnappers:
Italy plans to seek the extradition of 13 CIA-led agents for the abduction of a radical Muslim cleric who was flown to Egypt and said he was tortured in prison there, a judicial source said on Monday.

The source, who declined to be named, said Italian prosecutors were considering treating the suspects as common fugitives and issuing an international request for their extradition to Italy.

"(Italian prosecutors) are evaluating procedures to expand the search for the fugitives internationally ... with the goal of their capture and extradition," the source told Reuters, without giving further details.


America's Heartland Is a Rush

Red-state values shining through:
A decade after meth took hold in the heartland, the inexpensive, highly addictive home-brewed stimulant is straining rural law enforcement resources to the breaking point.

The Polk County Jail in central Iowa is so packed with addicts that the sheriff sends the overflow out of state, at a cost of $5 million a year. Indiana's state crime lab has such a huge backlog of meth cases that the governor has appealed for help from chemistry graduate students.

In central Missouri, nearly every case of child abuse involves meth. Social workers in Franklin County keep a log of parents under investigation and the circumstances involved; this spring, it read: Cocaine. Meth. Medical and physical neglect. Meth. Sexual abuse. Meth. Meth. Manufacturing meth.

"It becomes the only work you can do," said Cpl. Jason Grellner of the Franklin County Sheriff's Department.

But the Bush administration is ready to leap into action!
Though the White House acknowledges that meth presents "a unique problem" for law enforcement, President Bush has proposed cutting the two main grant programs for rural narcotics teams — one by 56% and the other by 62%, according to John Horton, associate deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.


Plame Reporters Headed for Jail?

After all the long weeks and months of appeals, the Supreme Court has weighed in, and the reporters who played along with the administration in outing Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, in retribution against her husband, are facing convictions for contempt:
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear the appeals of reporters Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper, their cases will go back to the U.S. District judge who first held them in contempt for refusing to reveal their sources in the Valerie Plame case. He will have to decide if they should still be jailed, for how long, and under what circumstances.

Judge Thomas Hogan held Miller -- a New York Times reporter -- and Cooper, who writes for Time magazine, in contempt last fall, ordering them jailed for failing to disclose who leaked the identity of CIA Agent Valerie Plame.


Mukhtar Mai Still Seeking Justice

That five of the six men who were convicted for gang-raping her have been freed is a travesty. Here's hoping (against hope) that the Supreme Court will reverse this vile decision and reinstate the convictions:
A Pakistani woman who was gang-raped on the orders of a traditional village council has appealed the ruling that acquitted five of her alleged attackers.

Mukhtar Mai, 33, travelled 560 kilometres to Islamabad to attend Monday's hearing before Pakistan's Supreme Court.

"I am expecting the Supreme Court to give the same kind of ruling that was given by the special court," Mai said outside the courtroom, referring to the original conviction of the men.

In June 2002, a council of elders ordered Mai to be gang-raped as punishment because her 12-year-old brother had allegedly been involved in an affair with a woman, offending members of her powerful clan. Mai claims that allegation was fabricated to cover up a sexual assault against the boy by men from the woman's clan.

Mai spoke out against her rape, leading six men to be convicted and sentenced to death. Eight others were acquitted.

But in March 2005, a Pakistani high court overturned the death sentences of all six men and ordered five of them freed. The sixth man's death sentence was commuted to a life sentence.

Mai's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, said he believed that there was "substantial evidence" to corroborate the crime against the accused.

Previous stories related to her long and courageous fight for justice are here and here and here.


The Return of Strangelove

The Bush administration seems to have a renewed love of plutonium, but it won't say exactly why:
The Bush Administration has announced that the U.S. government will resume the production of the highly deadly material plutonium 238 for the first time since the end of the cold war. Plutonium 238 is so radioactive that even a tiny speck can cause cancer in humans.

The program will be based at the Idaho National Laboratory located outside of Idaho Falls and would produce a total of 330 pounds of plutonium 238 over the next 30 years. The estimated cost of the program is $1.5 billion and it will create approximately 50,000 drums of radioactive waste.

Government officials refused to say what the plutonium would be used for other than to say it was for 'secret missions.' Traditionally, plutonium 238 has been used in espionage devices.

Timothy Frazier, the head of radioisotope power systems at the Energy Department, told the 'New York Times' 'The real reason we're starting production is for national security.'


A Good Walk Still Ruined

Ever since I began working downtown in Austin, I have enjoyed walking around the capitol grounds during breaks.

But every time, there's a moment of irritation when I have to walk past the Ten Commandments monument, right there next to the capitol, in flagrant and offensive violation of the separation of church and state.

And there it shall remain, unfortunately:
Government officials can post the Ten Commandments on public property in some contexts, the U.S. Supreme Court said in a pair of high-stakes church-state rulings.

The court, voting 5-4, today approved a Ten Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds, rejecting arguments that the state was unconstitutionally favoring religion.

Kentucky's more lucky:
In a second case, the court ruled 5-4 that two Kentucky counties were too focused on promoting religion when they posted framed copies of the commandments in courthouses.

I don't see much of a distinction, myself, I have to say...


The Gulag Expands

Not only are they spending millions to build another prison at Guantanamo Bay, they're expanding the prisons in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib. This is not what victory looks like:

Faced with unremitting violence, the United States is building new detention areas at Iraqi prisons including the notorious Abu Ghraib.

President George Bush had declared that Abu Ghraib would be torn down in a symbolic gesture after shocking pictures emerged of Iraqi inmates being abused and tortured by American forces.

But the continuing insurgency and rising death toll has meant that not only can the US not hand over Abu Ghraib to the new Iraqi government, according to a planned timetable, but other prisons including Camp Bucca in the British-controlled south of the country are being expanded.The numbers of prisoners being held by the US in Iraq has reached record levels this month, with 10,783 in custody, up from 7,837 in January and 5,435 in June last year.


The Longest Throe

These people just cannot seem to get their story straight. It's as though they've utterly lost track of which one's the bait and which one's the switch:
Defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Sunday it may take as long as 12 years to defeat Iraqi insurgents and that Iraqi security forces will finish the job because US and foreign troops will have left the country.

Rumsfeld, addressing a question about whether US troops levels are adequate to vanquish the increasingly violent resistance, said, "We're not going to win against the insurgency. The Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency. That insurgency could go on for any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years.

"Coalition forces, foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency," the Pentagon chief told "Fox News Sunday."
At the same time, Rumsfeld defended Vice President Dick Cheney's description of the insurgency as being in its "last throes." Rumsfeld said the US commander in the Middle East did not contradict Cheney when he told the Senate last week that the insurgency was as strong as it was six months ago.

"If you look up 'last throes,' it can mean a violent last throe," Rumsfeld said on ABC's This Week.

Ah. Well. That clarifies things.