Friday, April 11, 2008

Plausibly Deniable Snuggling

Tista enjoys his independence. Or at least his aura thereof. Therefore, he would never be caught snuggling or otherwise cozying up to one of his siblings...unless no one could see him because he was undercover. (Literally, of course)

Yep: That's Zora, visible and pleased. The lump just behind her? Tista, pleased at being so snuggly with his sister while being invisible, thereby maintaining plausible snuggle-deniability.

They're weird, but we loves 'em wholeheartedly!!


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Adding Injury to Injury

Simply disgusting
An Egyptian court convicted five men Wednesday on charges of homosexual behavior and sentenced them to three years in prison, officials said.

Defense lawyer, Adel Ramadan, said the judge found the men guilty of the "habitual practice of debauchery" - a term used in the Egyptian legal system to denote consensual homosexual acts.

The convictions were confirmed by a judicial official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to journalists.

Homosexuality is not explicitly referred to in Egypt's legal code, but a wide range of laws covering obscenity, prostitution and debauchery are applied to homosexuals in this conservative country.

The five men were arrested in what human rights groups describe as a crackdown on people with the AIDS virus, using the debauchery charges as a means to prosecute them.


Happy Anniversary

At least six people have been killed in mortar attacks in Baghdad on the fifth anniversary of the city's capture by American forces.


That Sounds About Right

I have no problem believing this:
Anti-war Democrats Wednesday accused the White House of plotting to saddle the next president with a "quagmire" in Iraq, as the top US war general faced a second day of intense scrutiny in Congress.

On the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, General David Petraeus and US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker faced two House of Representatives committees, as political turmoil swirled after their Senate appearance Tuesday.

President George W. Bush's spokeswoman meanwhile left little doubt that he would back the general's call for freezing US troop withdrawals for at least 45 days after July, which sparked outrage from Democrats.

"We are stuck in a twilight zone in Iraq," said Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid.

"When violence is up, the president says we cannot bring our troops home. When violence dips, the president says we cannot bring our troops home.

"President Bush has an exit strategy for just one man -- himself -- on January 20, 2009."



Perhaps those arguing that this is a viable idea should have this device used on them:
The Pentagon will issue hand-held lie detectors this month to U.S. Army soldiers in Afghanistan, pushing to the battlefront a century-old debate over the accuracy of the polygraph.

The Defense Department says the portable device isn't perfect, but is accurate enough to save American lives by screening local police officers, interpreters and allied forces for access to U.S. military bases, and by helping narrow the list of suspects after a roadside bombing. The device has already been tried in Iraq and is expected to be deployed there as well. “We're not promising perfection — we've been very careful in that,” said Donald Krapohl, special assistant to the director at the Defense Academy for Credibility Assessment, the midwife for the new device. “What we are promising is that, if it's properly used, it will improve over what they are currently doing.”

But the lead author of a national study of the polygraph says that American military men and women will be put at risk by an untested technology. "I don't understand how anybody could think that this is ready for deployment," said statistics professor Stephen E. Fienberg, who headed a 2003 study by the National Academy of Sciences that found insufficient scientific evidence to support using polygraphs for national security. "Sending these instruments into the field in Iraq and Afghanistan without serious scientific assessment, and for use by untrained personnel, is a mockery of what we advocated in our report."


Monday, April 07, 2008

Iraqi Opinions Irrelevant

But of course we are there to liberate them, not to occupy:
The State Department on Monday cited the need to protect staff in Iraq as justification for renewing a contract with private security firm Blackwater USA without prior Iraqi government approval.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, interviewed by the US television network CNN, complained that Washington had renewed the contract without his government's approval, adding the issue was still under consideration.

When asked to comment on Maliki's remarks, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters: "First of all, it's fundamentally a decision for us to take, about how we protect our people.

"The authority and responsibility with making those kinds of decisions has to reside with us," McCormack said.


A draft agreement between the United States and Iraq shows that the two countries are including a provision for an open-ended American military commitment to the war-torn country, The Guardian reported Tuesday.

Citing a copy of the draft strategic framework agreement dated March 7 that it obtained, the newspaper said that the document is designed to replace the current United Nations mandate, which expires at the end of the year.

According to The Guardian, the agreement allows the United States to "conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security" without including a time limit.

It also does not put any limits on the number of American forces allowed in Iraq, the weapons they can use, the legal status of US troops in Iraq or the powers they hold over Iraqi citizens.


Hungry Times Ahead

More good news:
Rising food prices, which have caused social unrest in several countries, are not a temporary phenomenon, but are likely to persist for several years, World Bank President Robert Zoellick says.

Strong demand, change in diet and the use of biofuels as an alternative source of energy have reduced world food stocks to a level bordering on an emergency, he says.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Our Gift to Afghanistan

Rampant drug addiction
The first days were so painful that Mina Gul could barely sit upright. Thin and lanky with wide brown eyes, she rubbed the back of her neck ceaselessly with fingers stained reddish black by an opium pipe. She couldn't shake the nausea. The light was almost blinding in the clean, white-walled medical clinic, where she lay crumpled in bed for days.

Before that, opium had been about the only thing keeping Gul afloat. It started four years ago with the headaches. A relative told her to try a bit of opium as a cure. "I tried it once a little -- then the next day more, then more again, and then I was addicted," Gul said.

Since then, her husband has stopped working and the eldest of her four children is more often on the streets than in school. Gul, 36, is spending most of her time in a hospital bed.

Gul is one of 20 women in residential treatment at the Sanga Amaj center in Afghanistan's capital. The small, two-story clinic near Kabul University is one of 40 drug treatment clinics across Afghanistan run by international aid organizations.

More than six years after U.S.-led forces launched a military campaign here against the ruling Taliban movement, drug addiction is fast becoming a major concern for the government. With opium production reaching an all-time high of 6,000 tons last year, according to the United Nations, domestic addiction rates in this nation of nearly 32 million have also soared. A 2005 U.N. report estimated that Afghanistan was home to about 1 million drug abusers.