Saturday, November 20, 2004

Making Things Worse

That appears to be our role in Iraq:
Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.

After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from "wasting," a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.


More Violence in Iraq

Unsurprisingly, it appears that the assault on Fallujah has done nothing to defeat the insurgents:
Violence surged through central and northern Iraq on Saturday as a tenacious insurgency led by Sunni Arabs kept up relentless assaults in a string of major cities, from Ramadi to Falluja to Baghdad.

At dawn, insurgents armed with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades tried storming a police station in the northwestern Baghdad neighborhood of Amariya, where American and Iraqi soldiers had engaged in a bloody mosque shootout on Friday. The gun battle at the station left three Iraqi policemen dead and two others injured, Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said.

Hours later, a car bomb exploded in downtown Baghdad, at the eastern end of the bridge over the Tigris River leading to the fortified compound housing the American embassy and interim Iraqi government headquarters. The bomb was aimed at a convoy of vehicles from a Western security contractor, and at least one Iraqi was killed and another injured, witnesses said.

Four employees of the public works ministry were gunned down in a drive-by ambush, and three Iraqi National Guardsmen died in explosions in western Baghdad during gun battles with insurgents, Iraqi officials said.

An ambush on an American military convoy in central Baghdad ended with the death of one soldier, the military said. Nine others were wounded in what appeared to be a highly coordinated attack, with insurgents using explosives, automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Fighting raged in the rubble of Falluja, a city largely decimated by American troops during a week-long offensive. Two Marines were killed and four wounded in a guerilla ambush, military officials said. The offensive smashed a safe haven for the insurgents, but guerillas still roam the devastated streets, sniping at American troops and scaring away military engineers brought in to try to reconstruct the city.

At least 1,216 American troops have died since the start of the war.


God Is Poisonous

They've proven it:
The air you breathe inside a church could be doing you more harm than the air beside a major congested road, say researchers. Church air seems to have alarming levels of polycyclic hydrocarbons, these are carcinogenic. In fact levels of polycyclic hydrocarbons in churches were found to be higher than busy roads (roads with more than 45,000 cars going through per day).

This Dutch study also found very high levels of PM10s (very small solid pollutants) in church air. The levels were almost twenty times higher than the limits set by the European Union environmental agencies.


Creeping Anti-Choice

They are already starting to test the waters:
House and Senate negotiators have tucked a potentially far-reaching anti-abortion provision into a $388 billion must-pass spending bill, complicating plans for Congress to wrap up its business and adjourn for the year.

The provision may be an early indication of the growing political muscle of social conservatives who provided crucial support for Republican candidates, including President Bush, in the election.

House officials said Saturday morning that the final details of the spending measure were worked out before midnight and that the bill was filed for the House vote on Saturday.

The abortion language would bar federal, state and local agencies from withholding taxpayer money from health care providers that refuse to provide or pay for abortions or refuse to offer abortion counseling or referrals. Current federal law, aimed at protecting Roman Catholic doctors, provides such "conscience protection'' to doctors who do not want to undergo abortion training. The new language would expand that protection to all health care providers, including hospitals, doctors, clinics and insurers.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

And yet this may only be the beginning...

A teenage couple in Michigan - a state with parental consent laws - managed to induce an abortion by beating the woman's abdomen with a baseball bat over a period of three weeks. They did not seek a medical abortion because they were afraid their parents would find out.

Two comments. First of all, parental consent laws are a very bad idea.

Second, this reminds me of something a friend told me over a decade ago. She went through a portion of a nurse training program that included training in providing abortions. She had no desire to become a nurse, but, she said, "If abortion is illegalized, we'll need this training more than ever." This is no longer as unlikely as it seemed to me in 1993. It seems to me that we should see to it that people who do not have access to safe medical abortions at least have access to accurate information on methods and dangers of self-induced abortion so they don't go around beating each other with baseball bats, for cryin' out loud.

Via This Is Not Over.


Pessimism in Fallujah

Also known as "realism." I've heard victory declared every day for a while now; it's good to see some truth being told:
Senior Marine intelligence officers in Iraq are warning that if American troop levels in the Falluja area are significantly reduced during reconstruction there, as has been planned, insurgents in the region will rebound from their defeat. The rebels could thwart the retraining of Iraqi security forces, intimidate the local population and derail elections set for January, the officers say.

They have further advised that despite taking heavy casualties in the weeklong battle, the insurgents will continue to grow in number, wage guerrilla attacks and try to foment unrest among Falluja's returning residents, emphasizing that expectations for improved conditions have not been met.

The pessimistic analysis is contained in a seven-page classified report prepared by intelligence officers in the First Marine Expeditionary Force, or I MEF, last weekend as the offensive in Falluja was winding down. The assessment was distributed to senior Marine and Army officers in Iraq, where one officer called it "brutally honest."

That's right. After all this, the insurgents will continue to grow in number. So, why did we do this, again?


More Debt

From those "fiscal conservatives":
Faced with the prospect of a government unable to pay its bills, the Senate voted on Wednesday to raise the federal debt limit by $800 billion.

Though an increase in the debt ceiling was never in doubt, Republican leaders in both houses of Congress postponed action on it last month, until after the elections, to deprive Democrats of a chance to accuse them of fiscal irresponsibility.


High on Democracy

Great news from our success story in Asia:
Afghanistan is on its way to becoming a "narco-state" and U.S. and NATO-led forces in the country should get involved in fighting the drug trade as well as terrorists, according to a U.N. report released Thursday.

"It would be an historical error to abandon Afghanistan to opium, right after we reclaimed it from the Taliban and al-Qaida," said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

The agency found that this year's cultivation of opium - the raw material for heroin - was up by nearly two-thirds. Bad weather and disease kept production from setting a new record, although it still accounted for 87 percent of world supply, up from 76 percent in 2003.

The illegal trade is booming despite political progress in the country, including the first presidential election, and local drug control efforts directed by British military advisers.

Opium is now the "main engine of economic growth and the strongest bond among previously quarrelsome peoples," according to the report. It valued the trade at $2.8 billion, or more than 60 percent of Afghanistan's 2003 gross domestic product.


Native Rights

Indians in the United States should be so lucky. What is this, reason 2,349 why Canada is better than the U.S.?
Canadian governments must consult with native bands before awarding rights to natural resources on disputed public land, the Supreme Court ruled in a case involving Weyerhaeuser Co.

The 7-0 decision partly upholds a British Columbia Court of Appeal ruling. The lower court in February 2002 said the provincial government and
Weyerhaeuser Co. should have consulted with the Haida tribe over a license to log parts of the Queen Charlotte Islands.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Problem: Too Little Money
Solution: No Money at All!

Perfect Bush logic, which, as usual, will lead to more death:
The Bush administration says that because too little money is coming into the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and too little is being disbursed and spent, that the three-year-old program ought to take a break from issuing grants.

A decision on the postponement will be made later this week in Arusha, Tanzania, where the Global Fund's board is meeting. Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services and the current chairman of the fund, is pushing for a delay in giving a fifth round of grants.


Global Simplification

Think of it as Bush's way of making the world easier to understand:
Nearly 16,000 of the world's plant and animal species face extinction
largely because of the destructive behaviour of mankind, according to a major
new environmental report.


A Feel-Good Story

Far too few of those these days, but here's a great one.

And from Oklahoma, of all places!

You have to read the whole thing.



How bad is that video of the Marine executing a wounded Iraqi man in a mosque?

Ask Baghdad Burning:
I'm feeling sick- literally. I can't get the video Al-Jazeera played out of my head:

The mosque strewn with bodies of Iraqis- not still with prayer or meditation, but prostrate with death- Some seemingly bloated… an old man with a younger one leaning upon him… legs, feet, hands, blood everywhere… The dusty sun filtering in through the windows… the stillness of the horrid place. Then the stillness is broken- in walk some marines, guns pointed at the bodies... the mosque resonates with harsh American voices arguing over a body- was he dead, was he alive? I watched, tense, wondering what they would do- I expected the usual Marines treatment- that a heavy, booted foot would kick the man perhaps to see if he groaned. But it didn't work that way- the crack of gunfire suddenly explodes in the mosque as the Marine fires at the seemingly dead man and then come the words, "He's dead now."

"He's dead now." He said it calmly, matter-of-factly, in a sort of sing-song voice that made my blood run cold… and the Marines around him didn't care. They just roamed around the mosque and began to drag around the corpses because, apparently, this was nothing to them. This was probably a commonplace incident.

We sat, horrified, stunned with the horror of the scene that unfolded in front of our eyes. It's the third day of Eid and we were finally able to gather as a family- a cousin, his wife and their two daughters, two aunts, and an elderly uncle. E. and my cousin had been standing in line for two days to get fuel so we could go visit the elderly uncle on the final day of a very desolate Eid. The room was silent at the end of the scene, with only the voice of the news anchor and the sobs of my aunt. My little cousin flinched and dropped her spoon, face frozen with shock, eyes wide with disbelief, glued to the television screen, "Is he dead? Did they kill him?" I swallowed hard, trying to gulp away the lump lodged in my throat and watched as my cousin buried his face in his hands, ashamed to look at his daughter.


The Fight Goes On

Fighting for gay right in Washington:
The Supreme Court of Washington will take up the issue of same-sex marriage on March 8.

Lower court judges in King and Thurston counties earlier this year struck down the state's ban on gay marriage.

King County Superior Court Judge William Downing said that the state Constitution guarantees basic rights to lesbian and gay people - and that those rights are violated by a state law prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying. (story)

And in Kentucky:

A court challenge seeks to nullify the approval of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages and civil-unions by Kentucky voters this month.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Frankfort, claims the measure that passed by a 3-to-1 margin was flawed because it dealt with two separate issues - the first part pertained to marriage, the rest civil unions.

"This amendment did not allow voters to vote on the two proposals separately," said John Davis, interim executive director of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, which is supporting the legal challenge filed by three plaintiffs. "That violates the constitutional provisions about how amendments are to be put on the ballot."


Soldiers, Not Queers

This is simply ridiculous. Not to mention disgusting:
A homecoming tradition in which boys dress like girls and vice-versa in a tiny Texas school district won't be held today after a parent complained about what she regarded as the event's gay overtones.

As a substitute for TWIRP Day, the schools ranging from elementary to senior high decided to hold Camo Day - with black boots and army camouflage to be worn by everyone who wants to participate.

TWIRP, which stands for The Woman Is Requested to Pay, was hosted by Spurger schools for years during Homecoming Week - to give boys and girls a chance to reverse social roles and let older girls invite boys on dates, open doors and pay for sodas.

We can't have people crossing God's Gender Lines, now can we? Better to have everyone role play in preparation for being shipped off to kill and die in Iraq or someplace.




We really cannot afford this sort of muddled thinking in charge of the CIA these days:
Porter J. Goss, the new intelligence chief, has told Central Intelligence Agency employees that their job is to "support the administration and its policies in our work,'' a copy of an internal memorandum shows.

"As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies," Mr. Goss said in the memorandum, which was circulated late on Monday. He said in the document that he was seeking "to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road."

While his words could be construed as urging analysts to conform with administration policies, Mr. Goss also wrote, "We provide the intelligence as we see it - and let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.''


So, what if "the facts alone" show that the administration's policies are completely idiotic? What then, Mr. Goss?


Cops to Ashcroft: Good Riddance

The police officers of America aren't buying Ashcroft's line that Bush has made the nation safer, but then, they are in a position to know better:
A day after Attorney General John Ashcroft (news - web sites) told the nation's largest association of law enforcement executives that the Bush administration had made the nation more secure from terrorist attacks and violent criminals, the group lashed back at the White House on Tuesday.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) said that cuts by the administration in federal aid to local police agencies have left the nation more vulnerable than ever to public safety threats. The 20,000-member group also said in a statement that new anti-terrorism duties for local cops - which have come as state and local budgets have declined and historically low crime rates have crept upward - have pushed police agencies to "the breaking point."


Only in Texas

Online hunting.

You heard me right. You will soon be able to kill things while sitting comfortably at your computer:
Hunters soon may be able to sit at their computers and blast away at animals on a Texas ranch via the Internet, a prospect that has state wildlife officials up in arms.

A controversial Web site,, already offers target practice with a .22 caliber rifle and could soon let hunters shoot at deer, antelope and wild pigs, site creator John Underwood said on Tuesday.

Texas officials are not quite sure what to make of Underwood's Web site, but may tweak existing laws to make sure Internet hunting does not get out of hand.

"This is the first one I've seen," said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife director Mike Berger. "The current state statutes don't cover this sort of thing."

Underwood, an estimator for a San Antonio, Texas auto body shop, has invested $10,000 to build a platform for a rifle and camera that can be remotely aimed on his 330-acre southwest Texas ranch by anyone on the Internet anywhere in the world.


Chirac Is on a Roll

The man just cannot stop telling the truth lately. No wonder he's so unpopular in America:
Last year's U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and ousting of President Saddam Hussein has, if anything, made the world more dangerous, French President Jacques Chirac said on the eve of a state visit to key U.S. ally Britain.

The French leader's interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, excerpts of which were aired Wednesday, indicate little chance of success for British Prime Minister Tony Blair's efforts to mend Franco-American ties damaged by the Iraq war.

"I'm not at all sure that one can say the world is safer," Chirac said. "There is no doubt there has been an increase in terrorism."

"To a certain extent Saddam Hussein's departure was a positive thing but it also provoked reaction such as the mobilization in a number of countries of men and women of Islam which has made the world more dangerous."


The Militarization of the U.S.

The checkpoints are back, as bad as ever, apparently:
Police have reinstated checkpoints around the U.S. Capitol, drawing a protest from Washington's representative to Congress, who called them inadequate protection against attacks.

"Primitive security that has become a joke in the region does not make us feel more secure," Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city's non-voting delegate, wrote in a letter to the U.S. Capitol Police. "The effect is at best cosmetic, at worst illusory."
The checkpoints were set up to inspect cars and trucks and avert any possible car bomb attack. They have clogged traffic and angered Washington residents, who were relieved when they were lifted and angered again when they came back less than a week later.

A Capitol Police spokeswoman defended the checkpoints and said their return should not have come as a surprise.

"Although there is no specific threat to Capitol Hill... we still feel the Capitol remains a potential target. So our security posture is a random deployment of the checkpoints right now," Sgt. Contricia Sellers-Ford said in a telephone interview.

Norton said she feared the "military-type checkpoint security" around the Capitol might be "creeping permanently into place."


Arms Race, Cont'd

I thought this sort of thing went out with the Iron Curtain. But then, all thought of a missile defense system should have been put aside as well, and we know that didn't happen:
President Vladimir Putin (news - web sites) said Wednesday that Russia is developing a new form of nuclear missile unlike those held by other countries, news agencies reported.

Speaking at a meeting of the Armed Forces' leadership, Putin reportedly said that Russia is researching and successfully testing new nuclear missile systems.

"I am sure that ... they will be put in service within the next few years and, what is more, they will be developments of the kind that other nuclear powers do not and will not have," Putin was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Earlier this year, a senior Defense Ministry official was quoted as telling news agencies that Russia had developed a weapon that could make the United States' proposed missile-defense system useless. Details were not given, but military analysts said the claimed new weapon could be a hypersonic cruise missile or maneuverable ballistic missile warheads.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Powell v. Clinton?

Here's an interesting little twist on Powell's generally unsurprising resignation:

Hillary Rodham Clinton vs Colin Powell? That's the political heavyweight matchup envisioned by a Republican congressman who is urging the outgoing secretary of state to return to New York and challenge the first-term senator.

Representative Vito Fossella of New York said he spoke to Powell today and made the case for the retired four-star general to enlist in the Republican Party's effort to defeat Clinton, a standard-bearer for the Democrats.

"His roots and heart have always been in New York. I think he'd make a great representative and I urge him strongly to consider running," Fossella said.

Not that it'll happen, but interesting that Fossella is trying to make it happen.


"Strategic Corporal"

Of all the reports of the Marine who executed an unarmed prisoner in Iraq, I think this one is the best so far, getting at the causes of such an action--beyond the simple Vietnam-movie style explanation of explosive retaliation in the midst of constant battle.

Wars like the one we are fighting in Iraq rely upon each and every soldier to have nearly flawless insight and judgment on a constant basis.

And that just isn't, well, reality-based.


Texas Smackdown

It's about time. The Supreme Court (except, of course, Scalia and Thomas) seems to be serious about calling Texas on the criminally sloppy way it hands out the death penalty:
The Supreme Court overturned a Texas death sentence on Monday while delivering its latest rebuke to the way the death penalty is being handled by judges in the state, which has executed far more people than any other in the modern era of capital punishment.

The errors committed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in upholding the death sentence of LaRoyce L. Smith were so clear to a majority of the Supreme Court that the justices decided the case in the inmate's favor on the basis of the briefs, without hearing arguments.

Only Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented from the unsigned 12-page opinion. They did not write an opinion of their own.
The justices said Monday that the Texas appeals court ignored problems the Supreme Court had already identified and that it should have known, when it affirmed the sentence last April, that the jury instructions made the death sentence unconstitutional.The state court "erroneously relied on a test we never countenanced and now have unequivocally rejected," the justices said.

In the last few years, the Supreme Court has overturned a number of death sentences in Texas while making evident its frustration with both the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the federal court that hears habeas corpus petitions from Texas inmates.

With Texas having the second-biggest death row in the country, the Supreme Court's increasingly careful monitoring of death sentences in that state could have a significant effect on the overall death penalty picture.


Leader? Criminal? Both!

This is just the most ridiculously blatant payback I've heard of in a while, all for love of DeLay:
House Republicans plan to change their rules in order to allow members indicted by state prosecutors to remain in a leadership post, a move designed to benefit Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in case he is charged by a Texas grand jury that has indicted three of his political associates, GOP leaders said today.

The rules change, which leaders said is likely to be adopted Wednesday, comes as House Republicans return to Washington indebted to DeLay for the enhanced majority they won in this month's elections. DeLay led an aggressive redistricting effort in Texas last year that resulted in five Democratic House members retiring or losing reelection. It also triggered the grand jury inquiry into fundraising efforts related to the state legislature's redistricting actions.


Lean Winter

Food and energy prices are through the roof:
U.S. producer prices shot up 1.7 percent last month, the biggest gain in nearly 15 years and well above expectations, as energy costs skyrocketed and food prices surged, a government report showed on Tuesday.

The increase in the producer price index, a gauge of prices received by farms, factories and refineries, was the largest since January 1990 and easily outstripped expectations on Wall Street for a 0.5 percent gain.

Even outside of food and energy, the Labor Department (news - web sites) said producer prices climbed 0.3 percent in October, well ahead of the 0.1 percent rise economists had looked for on average.

The report fanned inflation fears and pushed both U.S. bond and stock prices down. The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI - news) was down over 50 points in late morning.


The Creeping Draft

It's amazing, the sorts of things this administration will try to pull to maintain its various invasions. I'm sure thousands of untrained soldiers would just do wonders for the situation abroad:
The Army has encountered resistance from more than 2,000 former soldiers it has ordered back to military work, complicating its efforts to fill gaps in the regular troops.

Many of these former soldiers - some of whom say they have not trained, held a gun, worn a uniform or even gone for a jog in years - object to being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan now, after they thought they were through with life on active duty.

They are seeking exemptions, filing court cases or simply failing to report for duty, moves that will be watched closely by approximately 110,000 other members of the Individual Ready Reserve, a corps of soldiers who are no longer on active duty but still are eligible for call-up.

In the last few months, the Army has sent notices to more than 4,000 former soldiers informing them that they must return to active duty, but more than 1,800 of them have already requested exemptions or delays, many of which are still being considered.


Sweet "Sovereignty"

Somehow, it just doesn't seem as though Iraq is a sovereign nation. I am not quite sure why I say that, just a feeling I get:
US troops arrested the deputy head of Iraq's interim parliament Nassir Ayef in a dawn operation at his Baghdad home on Tuesday, a spokesman from his party said.

"We are in contact with the government and the national council (parliament) to obtain his release as Ayef enjoys immunity because of his position," Iyad al-Samarrai, a spokesman for his Iraqi Islamic Party, told foreign news.

Samarrai also appealed to Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and national council president Fouad Maasum to intervene.


Monday, November 15, 2004

This Could Come in Handy

Just FYI:

And don't miss the list of reasons to move to Canada that puts the United States to shame.


Chirac Speaks the Truth

And Blair really should listen:
Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac clashed openly last night over the future course of Europe's relationship with the United States as the prime minister insisted they must work together for world peace and the French president suggested it is increasingly pointless.

Mr Chirac, speaking ahead of his state visit to London, said that Britain had gained nothing in return for supporting the US over Iraq and that he did not think "it is in the nature of our American friends today" to pay back favours.

"I'm not sure, the US being what it is today, whether it is possible for anyone, even the British, to play the role of the friendly go-between," he said.


Freedom Fighters

Juan Cole reminds us of the historic and symbolic importance of Fallujah, lest we forget (the Iraqis certainly won't):
Most Americans do not realize that Fallujah is celebrated in Iraqi history and poetry for its defiance of the British in the Great Rebellion of 1920. The 1920 revolution against the British is key to modern Iraqi history. One of the guerrilla groups taking hostages named itself the "1920 Revolution Brigades." Western journalists who don't know Iraqi history have routinely mistranslated the name of this group.

For the history of Fallujah in anti-colonialism, see Rashid Khalidi's article in In These Times.

Such loci for powerful emotions of pride and defiance can alter the course of any war. Especially when disregarded by the aggressor.


Homophobes in California

They're not just attacking human rights, they're attacking the judges who enforce them. This time, it's personal:
A conservative Christian law group that lost a bid to overturn California's domestic partner law is preparing to appeal and has announced a recall effort aimed at throwing the judge who made the ruling off the bench.


Shades of Vietnam

A couple of weeks ago, I reported on the man who shot himself in the head at ground zero in New York City because he was so distraught that Bush won the election.

Today, there is this:

A man set himself afire Monday just outside a White House gate and repeatedly yelled "Allah Allah" as a Secret Service officer held him facedown on the sidewalk.

Alan Etter, spokesman for the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services, said the man suffered burns to about 30 percent of his body.

The man had burns to his head, back, arms and face but was conscious when medics took him to Washington Hospital Center, Etter said.

This administration reeks of death.

UPDATE: The story of the man who tried to set himself on fire, thanks to reader TheaLogie:
A Middle Eastern man who set himself on fire outside the White House on
Monday is a disgruntled FBI informer, the Washington Post newspaper has said.

The daily said the man had threatened to kill himself because the FBI
had broken promises involving money, citizenship and identity protection.


Fleeing Goss's CIA

Two top men in the clandestine service have taken to their heels:
The two top officials running the CIA's clandestine service resigned this morning, following a series of clashes with Director Porter J. Goss's chief of staff.

Stephen R. Kappes, the deputy director of operations, and his deputy, Michael Sulick, announced their resignations at a senior staff meeting, according to former CIA officials.
Kappes's and Sulick's resignations follow a series of confrontations with Goss's new chief of staff, Patrick Murray, the former intelligence committee staff director and a Justice Department official. Sulick complained vigorously to Murray on Nov. 5 about the way he was treating other CIA officials. Murray demanded that Kappes fire Sulick, and Kappes refused.



Powell to be followed by Rice? Ach:
Senior administration officials said Monday that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) was most likely to succeed Powell.


Their New Leader

Earlier today I wrote about the Pope's threats to withdraw from ecumenism if those darn Prots don't stop condoning gayness.

In a nice counterpoint to the Pope's chastisement, the American Catholic bishops have chosen a very representative leader:
U.S. Catholic bishops, dealing with a pervasive priest sexual abuse scandal, on Monday elected as their new president Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Washington, whose diocese faces dozens of lawsuits from alleged victims.

Skylstad succeeds Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Illinois, who is completing a three-year term as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Skylstad's diocese announced last week that it planned to file for bankruptcy protection from lawsuits by abuse victims seeking a total of tens of millions of dollars.
One victims group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, accused him before the vote of helping to cover up cases of priest pedophilia. Charges of abuse have swept through the U.S. Catholic church in the last two years.


So Long, Safire

I'd say I'm sorry to see him go, but it just wouldn't be true:
William Safire, the conservative voice on the New York Times Op-Ed page for
more than three decades, will end his regular column in early 2005, a Times
spokeswoman said Monday."

He's written it for a long time and has been talking to [Times Publisher]
Arthur [Sulzberger Jr.] about this for a year and a half," said spokeswoman
Catherine Mathis. "His last column will be Jan. 24."


Don't Let the Door Hit You on Your Papal Ass

The nerve of some people. I say let the Church retreat into the medieval ages and be done with them:
Pope John Paul on Saturday warned Protestant churches that liberal views toward homosexuality would result in the Vatican withdrawing from ecumenism.

The Pope's remarks came during a service to mark the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council which led the Catholic Church into a period of ecumenism with other Christian Churches.


Did He Finally Just Get Tired of Shilling?

Who knows. But, whatever his motivations, Powell is resigning:
Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) and three other Cabinet members have submitted their resignations to President Bush (news - web sites), a senior administration official said Monday, escalating a personnel shake up that forces a major facelifting for this top-level tier of advisers for Bush's second term.


Torture by Proxy

It's still going on, at an appalling rate:

AN executive jet is being used by the American intelligence agencies to fly terrorist suspects to countries that routinely use torture in their prisons.

The movements of the Gulfstream 5 leased by agents from the United States defence department and the CIA are detailed in confidential logs obtained by The Sunday Times which cover more than 300 flights.

Countries with poor human rights records to which the Americans have delivered prisoners include Egypt, Syria and Uzbekistan, according to the files. The logs have prompted allegations from critics that the agency is using such regimes to carry out “torture by proxy” — a charge denied by the American government.

Right, American intelligence operatives just really think Uzbekistan is lovely this time of year.


Sunday, November 14, 2004

Still No Aid for Fallujah

Apparently, no aid is needed, because there are no more civilians in the city. Or perhaps it's because the troops are providing for them.

Can't quite get their story straight on that one, can they?

No help has reached civilians in Falluja since the assault began on Monday and U.S. forces kept a Red Crescent aid convoy of seven trucks and ambulances waiting at the main hospital near a bridge over the Euphrates River on the edge of the city.

A Reuters correspondent who drove through the city saw bloated and decomposing bodies in the streets, smashed homes, ruined mosques, power and telephone lines hanging uselessly.

U.S. Marines swept through a last rebel redoubt in a southern quarter of Falluja that they see as a bastion for foreign fighters loyal to al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"These are pretty diehard. These people down there are not sniping or firing, but waiting in their defenses for the Marines coming to their buildings. That's when they open fire," Marine Colonel Mike Shupp told Reuters at the hospital.

Shupp said he had not heard of any Iraqi civilians being trapped inside the city and did not think there were any, so the Red Crescent did not need to deliver aid to civilians there.

"There is no need to bring supplies in because we have supplies of our own for the people. Now that the bridge is open, I will bring out casualties and all aid work can be done here."

Baghdad Burning describes the situation in stark terms:
People in Falloojeh are being murdered. The stories coming back are horrifying. People being shot in cold blood in the streets and being buried under tons of concrete and iron... where is the world? Bury Arafat and hurry up and pay attention to what's happening in Iraq.

They say the people have nothing to eat. No produce is going into the city and the water has been cut off for days and days. Do you know what it's like to have no clean water??? People are drinking contaminated water and coming down with diarrhoea and other diseases. There are corpses in the street because no one can risk leaving their home to bury people. Families are burying children and parents in the gardens of their homes. WHERE IS EVERYONE???

Furthermore, where is Sistani? Why isn't he saying anything about the situation? When the South was being attacked, Sunni clerics everywhere decried the attacks. Where is Sistani now, when people are looking to him for some reaction? The silence is deafening.

We're not leaving the house lately. There was a total of 8 hours of electricity today and we've been using the generator sparingly because there is a mysterious fuel shortage... several explosions were heard in different places.

Things are deteriorating swiftly.

More on Falloojeh crisis here:

Aid agencies say Falluja "big disaster"...

Eyewitness: Smoke and Corpses...

Iraqis will never forgive this- never. It's outrageous- it's genocide and America, with the help and support of Allawi, is responsible. May whoever contributes to this see the sorrow, terror and misery of the people suffering in Falloojeh.


Anti-Choicers in Power

And Frist is already telling pro-choice Republican Specter that he'd better toe the line:
A Republican senator who has questioned whether an abortion opponent could win approval to the U.S. Supreme Court must agree to back President Bush's nominees if he is to head the committee acting on those nominations, the Senate's Republican leader said.

Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, in line to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has yet to make a persuasive case that he should head the panel, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said on "Fox News Sunday."

The committee's actions in considering nominees for anticipated vacancies during Bush's second term will help shape the court's balance of power.

"I would expect Chairman Specter ... if it's Chairman Specter ... to have a strong predisposition to supporting that nominee sent over by President Bush," Frist said.


Poison for the Poor

This study seems rather less than ethical, I have to say. The EPA, of all organizations, using poor babies as lab rats:
Environmentalists are calling for the immediate halt to an EPA study that raises serious environmental justice and racism concerns by enticing low-income families to expose infants and toddlers to harmful pesticides.

The study entitled CHEERS (Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study) pays participants in Duval County, Florida, up to $970 and offers them a free camcorder, free VCR, as well as t-shirts, calendars, bibs, and a framed Certificate of Appreciation. Participants are asked to “maintain” their normal pesticide applications throughout their home for two years. The EPA will monitor developmental changes in babies, from birth to 3 years, who are exposed to pesticides in their home. The study looks at 60 children, with less than 10% representing a control group, which consists of children that have low pesticide exposure, rather than no exposure at all.

The widespread use of toxic pesticides in homes is a serious threat to our children’s health. Many commonly used products contain ingredients that can affect the nervous system, cause birth defects, increase asthma rates and are suspected to cause cancer. “The EPA’s role is to protect infants and children from harmful pesticides, not encourage exposure!” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE). “CCE believes this study is unethical and dangerous to infants and children. We are sickened by the fact that the EPA views infants and children as acceptable test subjects. Frankly, we are appalled and horrified by the whole study ” Esposito added.

UPDATE: It has, at least, been suspended, for now.


Purging the Disloyal

Let the witch-hunts begin!
The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.

"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda."


He Doesn't Speak for Me

Americablog intoduces the new Democratic spokesman, and it is depressing:
a teetotaling Mormon (one of the most anti-gay groups in the country). A former Capitol Hill cop. A staunch opponent of abortion. A co-sponsor of the constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning.

Who is it? A rising star of the "traditional values" Republican Party? Some new young turk who came into office on the coattails of George Bush?

Nope! It's Harry Reid of Nevada, the new face of the Democratic Party and the Senate minority leader! That's right: an anti-choice, anti-free speech, anti-gay, heck even anti-beer Senator is the spokesman for the Democratic Party. Write it down. Because with his record, that might be hard to remember.

P.S. By the way, don't expect him to deliver. Reid couldn't even deliver Nevada, even though Bush broke his promise to the state and tried to dump radioactive waste in their backyard.


The Truth about Fallujah

Our military is, of course, presenting a rosy picture:
Military officials said Sunday the ground and air assaults of Fallujah has gone quicker than expected. They said the six-day attack was a "flawless execution of the plan we drew up."
However, as the situation becomes more clear, it doesn't look all that pretty after all:
The full cost of the battle of Falluja emerged last night as large numbers of wounded civilians were evacuated to hospitals in Baghdad, as insurgents stepped up retaliatory attacks in other cities.

As the first Red Crescent aid convoy was allowed into Falluja, Iraq's Health Minister, Alaa Alwan, said ambulances had begun transferring a 'significant number' of injured civilians out of the battle zone, although he did not specify how many.

The evacuation of the wounded from Falluja came as insurgents consolidated their grip on large areas of Iraq's third largest city, Mosul, setting up checkpoints and conducting their own patrols, and as fresh Iraqi and US troops were rushed north to counter the new threat.

The moves came amid renewed warnings from aid groups that Iraq's civilian population was facing a 'humanitarian catastrophe'.

Although many of Falluja's 200,000 to 300,000 residents fled the city before the assault, between 30,000 and 50,000 are believed to have remained during the fighting.

The horrific conditions for those who remained in the city have begun to emerge in the last 24 hours as it became clear that US military claims of 'precision' targeting of insurgent positions were false.

According to one Iraqi journalist who left Falluja on Friday, some of the civilian injuries were caused by the massive firepower directed on to city neighbourhoods during the battle.

'If the fighters fire a mortar, US forces respond with huge force,' said the journalist, who asked not to be named.

At the main hospital, cut off from the rest of the city, doctors have reportedly been treating the injured with nothing but bandages, while the Red Crescent says people have been bleeding to death for lack of medical attention.

The claims came as an Iraqi Red Crescent convoy entered Falluja yesterday with the first aid supplies to reach the city since US-led forces began to blast their way in five days ago.

Prior to that the city had been surrounded by a US military cordon and subjected to heavy daily bombardment.

Red Crescent spokeswoman Firdoos al-Abadi - who had described the situation inside the city as 'catastrophic' - said 30 volunteers with five trucks and three ambulances had driven into the city west of Baghdad.

The aid convoy reached Falluja's main hospital, on the west bank of the Euphrates, but US forces stopped it crossing the river into the city centre, saying bridges were insecure.

The fears of large numbers of civilian injured have raised fresh warnings that the suffering in Falluja will be used to rally insurgents across northern Iraq.



It's bad enough that Monsanto has been running roughshod over American farmers for years, but this is quite simply murderous:
When the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) celebrated biodiversity on World Food Day on October 16, Iraqi farmers were mourning its loss.

A new report [1] by GRAIN and Focus on the Global South has found that new legislation in Iraq has been carefully put in place by the US that prevents farmers from saving their seeds and effectively hands over the seed market to transnational corporations. This is a disastrous turn of events for Iraqi farmers, biodiversity and the country's food security. While political sovereignty remains an illusion, food sovereignty for the Iraqi people has been made near impossible by these new regulations.

"The US has been imposing patents on life around the world through trade deals. In this case, they invaded the country first, then imposed their patents. This is both immoral and unacceptable", said Shalini Bhutani, one of the report's authors.

The new law in question [2] heralds the entry into Iraqi law of patents on life forms - this first one affecting plants and seeds. This law fits in neatly into the US vision of Iraqi agriculture in the future - that of an industrial agricultural system dependent on large corporations providing inputs and seeds.

In 2002, FAO estimated that 97 percent of Iraqi farmers used saved seed from their own stocks from last year's harvest or purchased from local markets. When the new law - on plant variety protection (PVP) - is put into effect, seed saving will be illegal and the market will only offer proprietary "PVP-protected" planting material "invented" by transnational agribusiness corporations. The new law totally ignores all the contributions Iraqi farmers have made to development of important crops like wheat, barley, date and pulses. Its consequences are the loss of farmers' freedoms and a grave threat to food sovereignty in Iraq. In this way, the US has declared a new war against the Iraqi farmer.