Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Dustbin of History

That's the present location of the much-vaunted "Coalition of the Willing":
The White House has scrapped its list of Iraq (news - web sites) allies known as the 45-member "coalition of the willing," which Washington used to back its argument that the 2003 invasion was a multilateral action, an official said on Friday.

The senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the White House replaced the coalition list with a smaller roster of 28 countries with troops in Iraq sometime after the June transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government.

The official could not say when or why the administration did away with the list of the coalition of the willing.

The coalition, unveiled on the eve of the invasion, consisted of 30 countries that publicly offered support for the United States and another 15 that did not want to be named as part of the group.


Watering Down Freedom
The FBI is working on it:
The FBI is fighting in court to limit how hard it has to search for government documents requested by the public under the Freedom of Information Act, one of the main laws for ensuring openness in government.

If the bureau prevails, people could have a diminished chance of getting documents from the nation's most famous law enforcement agency, open records experts said.


Friday, January 21, 2005

Free Association

Maybe it's just me, but these words from Bush's Coronation Speech:
Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom.
Called Lovecraft to my mind:
I do not recall distinctly when it began, but it was months ago. The general tension was horrible. To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night. I recall that the people went about with pale and worried faces, and whispered warnings and prophecies which no one dared consciously repeat or acknowledge to himself that he had heard. A sense of monstrous guilt was upon the land, and out of the abysses between the stars swept chill currents that made men shiver in dark and lonely places. There was a demoniac alteration in the sequence of the seasons the autumn heat lingered fearsomely, and everyone felt that the world and perhaps the universe had passed from the control of known gods or forces to that of gods or forces which were unknown.

Reader TheaLogie points out an objective correlative to my association. Cthulhu rising:
Hundreds of dead large squid have been washing up on beaches in Orange County, California, puzzling scientists.

The creatures - which can reach 1.8m long (6 feet) and weigh up to 7.7kg (17lb) - normally inhabit deep waters and only come to the surface at night.

"These things are invading, and we don't know what's going on," an oceanography professor said.

Friday squidblogging?


Idiocy on the March

My homestate, embarrassing me once again, this time by threatening to follow the lead of the state in which I now live. The time has come for the question to be asked: Is rorschach a geographical masochist?
Arkansas is considering following Texas in banning any mention of gay families in school books.

Legislation was introduced in the Legislature Thursday by Rep. Roy Ragland (R-Marshall) that would force the state's school districts to purchase only textbooks which define marriage as between one man and one woman.

The measure was approved by the House Education Committee despite concerns from some committee members that it could limit discussion in social studies and history classes.


Culture of Life?

Man, but these people are creepy:

A Boulder Roman Catholic church's plan to bury the remains of fetuses from a local abortion clinic was assailed Thursday by the clinic's director, who called it "a cynical exploitation of private grief for political purposes" by the Catholic Church and the mortuary that gave the ashes to the parish.

Dr. Warren Hern, director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic, issued a scathing statement in response to Sacred Heart of Mary Church's announcement that it would stage a ceremony Sunday morning to bury the ashes of what Hern describes as surgical tissue from abortions and what the church describes as babies. The event marks the 32nd anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

On Thursday, the reaction split along the expected lines, with abortion-rights supporters calling the burial a devastating invasion of privacy and abortion foes framing it as opportunity for wounded women to grieve.

A state health official said the arrangement between the church and Crist Mortuary doesn't violate state laws.

The mortuary, which says it has an agreement to retrieve the tissue from the abortion clinic and cremate it, has been delivering the ashes to the parish without Hern's knowledge since 2001.

A question for lawyers who read this blog (yes, I'm looking at you, Sorcha): Are there grounds for a civil suit against the mortuary here?


Thursday, January 20, 2005


Today, this site saw its fifty-thousandth visitor.

That's quite a few.




And Another


Yes, Zora Does Have Facial Features

The previous photo isn't quite clear on that particular issue...


Pre-Emptive Catblogging


Not Quite Work-Safe

But completely hilarious. Check out their commercial.

A bit of levity on this dark coronation day.


Catholic Common Sense Is Short-Lived

That didn't take very long, now did it?
A day after saying that it would support the use of condoms to fight the spread of AIDS Spain's Roman Catholic Church has reversed itself.

Wednesday Juan Antonio Martinez Campos, spokesman for the Spanish Bishops Conference, said that "condoms have a place in the global prevention of AIDS.'' (story)

The remark was immediately denounced by the Vatican and sparked a flurry of calls between Rome and Madrid.

Thursday, the conference issued a statement saying that Campos's remarks "must be understood in the context of Catholic doctrine, which holds that use of condoms is immoral sexual conduct."

The statement went on to say that abstinence and fidelity among sexual partners are the best ways to combat the spread of AIDS. It also claimed, in accord with statements previously issued by the Vatican that that scientists agree with this approach.

"In accordance with these principles, it is not possible to recommend the use of condoms, as it is contrary to a person's morals," the statement said.

"The only truly recommendable practice is responsible use of sexuality, in accordance with moral norms," it added.


Police Brutality for Fun and Profit

Who knew that beating a handcuffed sixteen-year-old boy can be the path to riches?

A Los Angeles police officer who was videotaped repeatedly slamming the face of a handcuffed 16-year-old boy onto the bonnet of a car and then punching him in the face has been awarded $US1.6 million ($2.1 million) in damages in a case steeped in racial antagonism.

Another officer who witnessed the bashing was awarded $US811,000. The awards were made after the two white officers sued Los Angeles city for racial discrimination, claiming they had been punished more harshly than a black officer who was also present.


Bush: The Ugliest American

More evidence that Bush's presidency is doing tremendous harm to the world, and to America's standing within the world:
George Bush will be sworn in as president of the United States for a second term today in a lavish Washington ceremony, amid mounting international concern that his new administration will make the world a more dangerous place.

A poll of 21 countries published yesterday - reflecting opinion in Africa, Latin America, North America, Asia and Europe - showed that a clear majority have grave fears about the next four years.

Fifty-eight per cent of the 22,000 who took part in the poll, commissioned by the BBC World Service, said they expected Mr Bush to have a negative impact on peace and security, compared with only 26% who considered him a positive force.

The survey also indicated for the first time that dislike of Mr Bush is translating into a dislike of Americans in general.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair suggests that, like all good rape victims, we should lie back and enjoy it:
Tony Blair, in an interview with the Guardian, expressed hope that Mr
Bush's second term would prove to be more consensual than the first.


No Rights for Detainees

The betrayal of American ideals proceeds apace:
A federal district judge ruled on Wednesday that the foreigners imprisoned at the naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had no legal way to challenge their detentions in federal court.

The judge, Richard J. Leon of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, said the seven prisoners who brought a claim in his court could not be granted what they had asked for, writs of habeas corpus that would have required the federal courts to consider whether they were lawfully detained.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005


For all those who suspected that my tales of a flooded house were a vile hoax simply to get books off my wish list, my Significant Other has posted some pictures of our ongoing trials.

A sample:


Compare and Contrast

In the United States:

A federal judge Wednesday upheld the federal Defense of Marriage Act dismissing a suit brought by a Tampa lesbian couple who were married in Massachusetts.

In Canada:

The Canadian Forces has approved a policy that calls on military chaplains to formally bless same-sex marriages.

The document, obtained by Sun Media, follows draft legislation to be introduced next month in Parliament in not requiring chaplains to perform weddings.

However, those chaplains whose religions do not permit same-sex marriage have the responsibility to find another member of the clergy to conduct the service under the guidelines.



When will those parasitic Republicans learn good Democratic values like self-reliance?
In his inaugural address tomorrow, I'm guessing, George W. Bush will take a moment to reaffirm the "red state" values that returned him and the Republican congressional majority to power. You know, things like self-reliance, free markets, small government and fiscal rectitude.

Funny, that. I have in front of me the latest report from the Tax Foundation showing how much each state gets back in contracts, benefits and subsidies for every dollar of taxes paid. And it shows that, with a few exceptions, the anti-government red states are the net winners in the flow of funds while the pro-government blue states are almost all losers.

Among the biggest winners in 2003, for example, were New Mexico, at $1.99 for every tax dollar paid, followed closely by Alaska, Mississippi, North and South Dakota, Alabama and Montana -- the "red-ink states," as Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group calls them. The biggest loser was New Jersey, at 57 cents per dollar paid, followed by blue states Connecticut, New York, California, Massachusetts and Illinois.


Confirm Me...

Or so help me God, I'll gnaw your legs off at the knee!

(It worked.)


A Case Not Even This Court Can Love

The notion that abortion should be made illegal due to the harm it does to women is beyond absurd, but that's what the original Roe is arguing now:
The woman once known as "Jane Roe" has asked the Supreme Court to overturn its landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion 32 years ago.

Norma McCorvey, whose protest of Texas' abortion ban led to the 1973 ruling, contends in a petition received at the court Tuesday that the case should be heard again in light of evidence that the procedure may harm women.

"Now we know so much more, and I plead with the court to listen for witnesses and re-evaluate Roe v. Wade," said McCorvey, who says she now regrets her role in the case.

The politically charged issue comes before the court as both sides gird for a possible bitter nomination fight over Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's replacement should the ailing justice retire this term. At least three justices, including Rehnquist, have said Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overturned.

Two lower courts last year threw out McCorvey's request to have the ruling reconsidered. But in a strongly worded concurrence, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge Edith H. Jones criticized the abortion ruling and said new medical evidence may well show undue harm to a mother and her fetus.


These Balls Are Making Me Testy

What a grotesque display:
Relishing history as he awaited his second oath-taking, George W. Bush paused amid celebratory galas Wednesday to contemplate America's most treasured historical documents, including George Washington's inaugural speech.
Bush is calling for national healing after last year's bitterly divisive election, while devoting parts of his inauguration week to core Republican supporters — the big donors who helped finance the festivities. From the National Archives, he made a stop at the "Chairman's Luncheon," the latest thank-you appearance, behind closed doors, with the donors who ponied up millions to finance inaugural festivities. Snow blanketed the streets of Washington as his motorcade made its way through the streets.

Later Wednesday, Bush was making a dash through three "candlelight dinners" with the heaviest donors to the inauguration. All were closed to journalists.

Tickets for the candlelight dinners were distributed to those who chipped in $250,000 or $100,000 to the inauguration. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney (news
- web sites) and their wives were attending the candlelight dinners.

Wednesday evening, he was to attend "A Celebration of Freedom," complete with musical performances and fireworks, scheduled for dusk on the Ellipse south of the White House. Bush's schedule was ending late Wednesday night with the first of the week's inaugural galas, the Texas State Society's Black Tie and Boots Ball.
(Points for anyone who gets the reference of this post's title.)


Catholic Common Sense

No, I'm not kidding, and I'm not being sarcastic:
In a substantial shift from traditional policy, the Catholic Church in Spain has said it supports the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS.

``Condoms have a place in the global prevention of AIDS,'' Juan Antonio Martinez Campos, spokesman for the Spanish Bishops Conference, told reporters after a meeting Tuesday with Health Minister Elena Salgado to discuss ways of fighting the disease.

The Catholic Church has repeatedly rebuffed campaigns for it to endorse the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS. The Vatican states that condoms, because it is a form of artificial birth control, cannot be used to help prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Martinez Campos said the church's stance was backed by the scientific world. He cited a recent study by experts in the medical magazine Lancet that supported the so-called ``ABC'' approach of abstinence, being faithful to partners and using condoms.



How much more farcical can this get? Not only do the Iraqi people not know who exactly is running for office, they don't even know where they're supposed to go to vote:
US authorities say Iraqis will vote in the insurgent centres of Fallujah and Ramadi but officials will keep the number and location of polling stations secret until the last minute to prevent attacks.

"We're going to hold that right down to the bitter end to ensure that the enemy does not have much time at all, if in fact they decide to plan against those positions," said Lieutenant General John Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.


Tuesday, January 18, 2005


I mean, are they still maintaining the fiction that the violence in Iraq is all due to the influence of outside agitators?

Iraqi officials say the country's land borders will be shut ahead of national elections on Jan. 30, in an effort to thwart attacks on polling day.


But He's Our Son of a Bitch

It seems that there's been confirmation that our man in Baghdad is, in fact, a murderer, as previously reported:

A former Jordanian government minister has told The New Yorker that an American official confirmed to him that the Iraqi interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, executed six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station last year.

The claim is in an extensive profile of Dr Allawi written for this week's issue of the magazine by an American journalist, Jon Lee Anderson, the author of The Fall of Baghdad and a regular Baghdad correspondent for The New Yorker.

Writing about his research in Jordan in December, Anderson says: "A well-known former government minister told me that an American official had confirmed that the killings took place, saying to him, 'What a mess we're in - we got rid of one son of a bitch only to get another one'."


Too Little, Too Late

What the hell is wrong with Kerry that he is only now beginning to speak out about this, the time when it could have done some good long having passed?

Very frustrating:

The Massachusetts Democrat, Bush's challenger in the November presidential election, spoke at Boston's annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast. He reiterated that he decided not to challenge the election results, but "thousands of people were suppressed in the effort to vote."

"Voting machines were distributed in uneven ways. In Democratic districts, it took people four, five, eleven hours to vote, while Republicans (went) through in 10 minutes -- same voting machines, same process, our America," he said.

In his comments, Kerry also compared the democracy-building efforts in Iraq with voting in the United States, saying that Americans had their names purged from voting lists and were kept from casting ballots.

"In a nation which is willing to spend several hundred million dollars in Iraq to bring them democracy, we cannot tolerate that here in America too many people were denied that democracy," Kerry said.


Late MLK Post

I know this is a day late, but I just wanted to point out that King's legacy is much more than that one speech. His ideas were brilliant and radical, and all too necessary today:
Too often, on Martin Luther King Day, we are not informed that he called the legal victories against segregation “at best surface changes.”

Too often, on Martin Luther King Day, we are not informed that he said, “Something is wrong with the economic system of our nation. . . . Something is wrong with capitalism.”

Too often, on Martin Luther King Day, we do not see his Senate testimony from December 1966, where he denounced Johnson’s anti-poverty program as inadequate. “The war on poverty,” King said, “is not even a battle, it is scarcely a skirmish.”

Nor do we hear him offer a prescription.

“The solution to poverty is to abolish it directly,” he told the Senate, as he endorsed a “guaranteed annual income” to all Americans and called for a system of “equitable income distribution.”


We're Staying

Keep this in mind; Bush's plan involves not leaving Iraq, perhaps ever:
Now comes a report in the New York Sun by Eli Lake revealing that the Pentagon is building a permanent military communications system in Iraq, a necessary foundation for any lasting troop presence. The new network will comprise twelve communications towers throughout Iraq, linking Camp Victory in Baghdad to other existing (and future) bases across the country, eventually connecting with US bases in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan.

"People need to get realistic and think in terms of our presence being in Iraq for a generation or until democratic stability in the region is reached," Dewey Clarridge, the CIA's former chief of Arab operations (and Iran-contra point man), told the Sun.

The fabled "exit strategy" may be not to exit. Thomas Donnelly, a defense specialist at the American Enterprise Institute, said the new communication system resembles those built in West Germany and the Balkans, places where American troops remain today. "The operational advantages of US bases in Iraq should be obvious for other power-projection missions in the region," Donnelly wrote in an AEI policy paper.

Next time the Bush Administration hints at withdrawing troops, keep these grand plans in mind.


Monday, January 17, 2005

Stepping Up the Rhetoric

Depressingly familiar:
President Bush (news - web sites) said on Monday he would not rule out military action against Iran if that country was not more forthcoming about its suspected nuclear weapons program.


Higher Education

Oh, yes, those elite universities are controlled by people with absurdly PC views, right? No wonder the right is so up in arms about the whole situation:

The president of Harvard University prompted criticism for suggesting that innate differences between the sexes could help explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers.
I'm guessing the same could be said of Hispanics, and African-Americans...


Flipping, Flopping

Sometimes, it's almost pathetic, the pirouettes performed by the GOP to satisfy their mindless fundamentalist followers:
The White House sought on Sunday to reassure conservatives that President Bush would work hard on behalf of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, backtracking from remarks Mr. Bush made in an interview suggesting that he would not press the Senate to vote on the amendment this year.


Lest We Forget

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let us hearken back to facts Edwards pointed out to us just before the most recent ill-fated election day:

Edwards responded sharply, reaching back to Cheney's years in the House in the late 1970s through the 1980s and citing a number of his votes, including opposition to a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, a resolution calling for the release of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela in South Africa, the Head Start education program and funding for the Meals on Wheels program for seniors.

"It's amazing to hear him criticize either my record or John Kerry's," Edwards said.


When I See It

That's when I'll believe higher-ups will be prosecuted for Abu Ghraib. Honestly, if we want to get into who set the stage for these atrocities, we'd have to go all the way up to those people who authorized an illegal war based on bullshit reasoning:

The Army reservist accused of being the ringleader of the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison failed to convince a jury he was following orders when he mistreated detainees, but higher-ranked officers still may be prosecuted, military officials and lawyers for the officers say.


Twenty More

Even while handing out contracts to corporations guilty of the torture of Iraqis, the United States is bringing twenty more soldiers to trial.

How can it be more clear for whom this war is being fought? And who are the ones paying the price?
The Pentagon plans to put at least 20 more US troops before military courts for abuse of detainees in the wake of last week's high profile trial of the ringleader in the Abu Ghraib scandal, military spokesmen said yesterday.

The various prosecutions of soldiers accused of mistreating and, in some cases, murdering detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay have been in the works for months, but have been largely overshadowed by the trial of the man who became known as the "primary torturer" of the notorious Baghdad prison.

Charles Graner, 36, was led away in leg irons at the weekend after being sentenced to 10 years for sexually humiliating and beating Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib.

But while the Pentagon had hoped that Graner's conviction would demonstrate its determination to impose harsh punishment on troops who abuse detainees, the verdict provoked two very different reactions yesterday.

Although there was no official response from Iraq's interim government, reaction on the streets of Baghdad was condemnatory. Abdul-Razak Abdul-Fattah, a 65-year-old retired army officer, said he was shocked to see television footage of Graner leaving the court smiling and laughing even though his legs and hands were shackled.

"It showed on his face that he did not regret the shameful acts he and his colleagues committed," he said.


Gay Marriage Bad; Beating Your Girlfriend AOK

More evidence that you can't just deny a certain group of people their civil rights without the deleterious effects of injustice spreading out into society at large:
The amendment to the Ohio Constitution to prevent gay marriage is being used to block the prosecution of people in unmarried heterosexual relationships who abuse their partners.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Cuyahoga County public defender's office has moved to dismiss domestic-violence charges against unmarried defendants since the amendment was passed by voters last November.

Ohio was one of 11 states to pass amendments to block gays from marrying. The wording in the Ohio amendment, known as Issue 1, says the state "and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage."

The public defender's office argues that the amendment does not apply only to same-sex couples and therefore spousal abuse laws do not apply to unmarried heterosexual couples.

"The thing is, you can only get a domestic-violence charge now if you are a wife beater, not a girlfriend beater," Jeff Lazarus, a law clerk for public defender Robert Tobik told the Plain Dealer.


Sunday, January 16, 2005

Don't Trust The Man

Fortunately, the false words of a spoiled brat white-boy Preznit aren't likely to carry much weight with African-Americans.

But, of all the lowdown, dirty, despicable lies Bush has told to the American people, this is, well, it's one of them anyway (so hard to rank them these days):

Of all the lies -- let's call them by their right name -- that the Bush administration is spreading about Social Security, none is as vile as the canard Bush repeated last Tuesday, when he said, "African-American males die sooner than other males do, which means the [Social Security] system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people. And that needs to be fixed." That is an entirely phony assertion; it has been debunked by the Social Security Administration, by the Government Accountability Office and by other experts. Bush and those around him know that. For them to repeat what they know to be a blatant lie is despicable fear-mongering.

Bush didn't make up this phony line on his own; it comes from the Heritage Foundation, which a number of years ago did a study purporting to show that because African-Americans have a shorter life expectancy than whites, they get less in return for the taxes they pay into the Social Security system.

But when the Heritage study was examined by actuaries at the Social Security Administration and by the Government Accountability Office, serious methodological flaws and numerous bad assumptions were uncovered. For example:

• Heritage failed to factor in the progressivity of Social Security benefits; on a taxes-paid to benefits-received ratio, those with lower incomes get more back. Blacks tend to earn less than whites, and thus their Social Security benefits are larger in comparison to taxes they pay.

• Social Security is more than retirement benefits. It also includes survivor and disability benefits. Blacks benefit disproportionately from those programs. While blacks are 11 percent of the workforce, for example, they are 18 percent of those receiving disability benefits. Almost half the blacks receiving Social Security -- 47 percent -- are getting disability benefits or survivor benefits.

The Social Security actuaries found that Heritage had exaggerated substantially the amount blacks pay in Social Security taxes and low-balled the benefits they receive. "In fact," the actuaries said, "results from more careful research reflecting actual work histories for workers by race indicate that the non-white population actually enjoys the same or better expected rates of return from Social Security than for the white population."


Bush to Fundies: Thanks for the Votes, Sod Off Till 2006

When all is said and done, this is hardly surprising. The Bushies view social conservatives as useful idiots, which is quite accurate:
President Bush said Sunday that he will not press the Senate to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Washington Post Bush said that he remains opposed to gay marriage but believes there aren't the votes in the Senate to ensure the amendment would be adopted.

DeLay (R-Texas) has made it clear that he wants the amendment approved. "We will come back and come back until this is passed." (story)

Republicans used same-sex marriage to their advantage in last November's election painting Sen. John Kerry as pro gay. Kerry opposes same-sex marriage but believes in granting rights to same-sex couples - a position that Bush also endorsed in an interview with ABC. (story)

Bush said that he didn't think "we should deny people rights to a civil union [or] a legal arrangement if that's what a state chooses to do."

By dropping his push for a constitutional amendment Bush will likely incur the wrath of social conservatives within the GOP, but avoid a confrontation with Democrats when he needs their support in the Senate to confirm dozens of appointments.


First Steps in Iran

Deeply disturbing. What army are they planning to use for this next war of theirs? And have they even stopped for a single moment to consider what effect military action in Iran might have on their precious fledging Iraqi democracy?
The United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday.

The article, by award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, said the secret missions have been going on at least since last summer with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected sites.

Hersh quotes one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon (news - web sites) as saying, "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible."

One former high-level intelligence official told The New Yorker, "This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq (news - web sites) is just one campaign. The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign."


Abu Ghraib Payback

Graner gets his:
The grinning torture master of Abu Ghraib was sentenced yesterday to a decade in prison, but even that didn't erase the smirk from his face.

Spec. Charles Graner, who whistled, sang and laughed as he brutalized inmates in Iraq last year, was led away from his court-martial in shackles and handcuffs.

But he looked more sheepish than shamed, smiling as reporters peppered him with questions, asking if he had any regrets.

"Maybe you missed that there's a war on," he said. "Bad things happen in war.

CACI and Titan get theirs:

Two US defence contractors being sued over allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison have been awarded valuable new contracts by the Pentagon, despite demands that they should be barred from any new government work.

Three employees of CACI International and Titan - working at Abu Ghraib as civilian contractors - were separately accused of abusive behaviour.

It was also alleged that CACI interrogators used dogs to scare prisoners, placed detainees in unauthorised 'stress positions' and encouraged soldiers to abuse prisoners. Titan employees, it has been alleged, hit detainees and stood by while soldiers physically abused prisoners.

Investigators also discovered systemic problems of management and training - including the fact that a third of CACI International's staff at Abu Ghraib had never received formal military interrogation training.

Despite demands by human rights groups in the US that the two companies be barred from further contracts in Iraq - where CACI alone employed almost half of all interrogators and analysts at Abu Ghraib - CACI International has been awarded a $16 million renewal of its contract. Titan, meanwhile, has been awarded a new contract worth $164m.


Extraterrestial Rivers?

Amazing news from Titan. It's not certain, of course, but this may be the first confirmation of lakes and rivers off of Earth:
It is a desperately cold, forbidding landscape, but scientists said yesterday that Saturn's moon Titan may have one thing found nowhere else in the solar system besides Earth: lakes and rivers.

"I'm just staggered by the level of detail," said European Space Agency science chief David Southwood, examining images of Titan captured by the agency's Huygens space probe on Friday.

Southwood was one of scores of exhausted but exultant scientists who took a first look at the near-flawless data returned by Huygens as it parachuted 789 miles through Titan's smoggy atmosphere and came to rest on a rock-strewn plain bathed in orange twilight, with a spongy surface topped by a thin crust.

"The closest analogues are wet sand or clay," said John Zarnecki, in charge of instruments analyzing Titan's surface.

The imaging team presented its first panoramic view of Titan's surface yesterday, showing a broad expanse of what looked like coastline, crags and glacier-like deposits.

"It's almost impossible to resist the interpretation that this is some kind of drainage channel," imaging-team leader Marty Tomasko told reporters, pointing to a gorge running through the middle of the picture. But, he said, "you have to be careful, because we're biased by the things we see on Earth." The "sea" in the panorama may not be liquid, but instead a mushy hydrocarbon slush.