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Cardinal calls Gaza ‘concentration camp’ — lit up by white phosphorus, observers say

Al Jazeera report on white phosphorus in Gaza.

As Chico Marx said, “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

That’s easy when it comes to Gaza. The Jewish state’s brutal use of white phosphorus — alleged over the weekend by observers on the ground dispatched by NYC-based Human Rights Watch — is lighting up the landscape.

However, most of the U.S. press (a notable recent exception is Newsweek) has its usual blind spot when it comes to Israel’s war on Gaza. As the Daily News noted late last week in “‘Concentration camp’ Gaza stirs fire”:

Relations between the Holy Land and the Holy See were tense Thursday night after a leading Vatican cardinal compared the besieged Gaza Strip to a concentration camp.

“Defenseless populations are always the ones who pay,” Renato Cardinal Martino told the Italian daily Il Sussidiario. “Conditions in Gaza increasingly resemble a big concentration camp.”

That drew a furious denunciation from Israeli officials, who said the comment was “based on Hamas propaganda.”

Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, the son of Holocaust survivors, called on the Pope to apologize to Israel.

Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, defended his comments.

“They can say what they want, but the situation in Gaza is horrible,” he told the newspaper La Repubblica.

Confirming that is Human Rights Watch, whose observers belie Hikind’s claim that the brutality in Gaza is propaganda.

In fact, it’s even worse than the cardinal says, according to HRW.

You question the watchdog group’s credibility? HRW broke several major stories of U.S. atrocities in Iraq — including the horrific tale of the American soldiers in Fallujah who proudly called themselves the “Murderous Maniacs” and admitted to kicking the shit out of Iraqis just for the fun of it. (See my September 2005 item “U.S. Soldiers Reveal New Torture Tales.”)

Now, here’s what HRW says about what’s going on:

On January 9 and 10, 2009, Human Rights Watch researchers in Israel observed multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over what appeared to be the Gaza City/Jabaliya area.

Israel appeared to be using white phosphorus as an “obscurant” (a chemical used to hide military operations), a permissible use in principle under international humanitarian law (the laws of war). However, white phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza’s high population density, among the highest in the world.

“White phosphorous can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch.

If the Nazis had had white phosphorus — the 21st century version of napalm — they would have used it against the Jews.

Now for less bad news…

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Times: ‘Adding to Recession’s Pain, Thousands to Lose Jobless Benefits’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Retail Bankruptcy Wave Expected’

N.Y. Times: ‘Storm Sinks Indonesian Ferry, 250 Feared Dead’

Bloomberg: ‘U.S. Consumers Keep Autos Longer, Shun Showrooms as Cuts in Payrolls Mount’

Drivers rattled by the worst U.S. labor market since World War II are hanging on to old autos longer instead of buying new models, threatening to crimp sales again in 2009 after demand plummeted to a 16-year low.

N.Y. Post: ‘INFANT DUMPED IN B’KLYN’

N.Y. Post: ‘Sex, Drugs & Death at Luxe Hotel’

A Long Island banana mogul at the center of a deadly sex romp at a tony Midtown hotel lives a double life – married suburban dad and…

Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama Plans To Keep Estate Tax’

Obama and congressional leaders plan to move soon to block the estate tax from disappearing in 2010.

N.Y. Times: ‘Obama Signals His Reluctance to Look Into Bush Policies’

Barack Obama indicated that he was unlikely to authorize a broad inquiry into Bush administration programs like domestic eavesdropping.

N.Y. Times: ‘Democrats Look for Ways to Undo Late Bush Administration Rules’

Harper’s: ‘The $10 trillion hangover:
Paying the price for eight years of Bush’ (Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes)

N.Y. Post: ‘ISRAEL VS. B’KLYN IN FAKE-AND-BAKE MATZO WAR’

Wall Street Journal: ‘New Playing Field In Electric Car Push’

Fewer barriers in electric-car production have leveled the playing field for newcomers hoping to compete against established car makers.

N.Y. Post: ‘PLACARD BLITZ NAILS DA COPS: PARKING-PERK ABUSERS’

Mayor Bloomberg’s crackdown on motorists who abuse official parking placards has snared a slew of detectives and investigators who work for the city’s prosecutors, the Post has learned…

N.Y. Times: ‘In Emphasis on Economy, Obama Looks to History’

Harper’s: ‘A Farewell to Dick Cheney’

Dick Cheney is the man that James Madison was warning us about.

Harper’s: ‘Harper’s Index: A retrospective of the Bush era’

Bloomberg: Paulson Bailout Fails to Give Taxpayers Buffett’s Terms With Goldman Sachs

Henry Paulson‘s bank bailouts, done under “great stress” during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, failed to win for U.S. taxpayers what Warren Buffett received for his shareholders by investing in Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The Treasury secretary made 174 purchases of banks’ preferred shares that include warrants to buy stock at a later date. While he invested $10 billion in Goldman Sachs in October, twice as much as Buffett did the month before, Paulson gained certificates worth one-fourth as much as the billionaire, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Goldman Sachs terms were repeated in most of the other bank bailouts.

Salon: ‘Bill Moyers on Israel/Gaza’ (Glenn Greenwald)

N.Y. Times: ‘Citi Is Urged to Replace Chairman’

Regulators are pressing Citigroup to shake up its board and replace its chairman in an effort to restore confidence in the beleaguered bank.

Newsweek: ‘If Obama is Serious: He should get tough with Israel’ (Aaron David Miller)

N.Y. Post: ‘PATERSON JOINS ISRAEL SUPPORTERS IN MIDTOWN’

Gov. Paterson joined an estimated 10,000 Israel supporters in Midtown yesterday to proclaim the Gaza offensive an act of self-defense. “We recognize the right of the state of Israel to…

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Eyeless in Israel’

N.Y. Times: ‘Few in U.S. See Jazeera’s Coverage of Gaza War’

Tel Aviv-based journalist Lisa Goldman takes the Israeli press to task over its coverage of the Gaza campaign. “For the most part, Gaza as a place inhabited by human beings has been ignored,” she writes of Israeli media coverage.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Timeline: The Gaza Strip, From Disengagement to Operation Cast Lead’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Israel hints at end of Gaza operations’

Israeli leaders hinted Sunday the Gaza assault might soon wind down, even as thousands of fresh reservists joined the battle and infantry units pushed toward the crowded heart of Gaza City.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Analysis: Ceasefire hinges on Egypt closing smuggling routes’

The Nation: ‘Can Labor Revive the American Dream?’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘If at First You Don’t Succeed: Hasidic Singer, Subject of Rabbinic Ban, Tries Again’

Hasidic singing sensation Lipa Schmeltzer was set to perform last March before a crowd of thousands at Madison Square Garden’s WaMu Theater in New York. The concert, a charity fundraiser, was billed as “The Big Event.”

Then, less than three weeks before the concert date, 33 ultra-Orthodox rabbis — including some of the community’s most prominent figures — issued an edict banning attendance. The event, they warned, was likely to cause “ribaldry and lightheadedness.”

Deferring to the rabbis, organizers promptly canceled the concert. The ban, however, roiled the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, world, sparking an unusual public outcry in a community known for its scrupulous obedience to rabbinic authority.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘What Happens to Gaza When the Fighting Stops?’

Nation: ‘Moral Blindness on Gaza’ (Robert Scheer)

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Fact or Fiction?: The Story of the Fake Holocaust Memoir’

A children’s book based on Herman Rosenblat‘s Holocaust love story, which was recently exposed as a hoax, was pulled from bookstores. The East Village Mamele explains the scandal to her daughter.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘ABC’s hidden cameras unveil anti-immigrant prejudice’

Investment News: ‘Morgan Stanley, Citi in retail merger talks’

Nation: ‘Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction’ (Naomi Klein)

To end the bloody occupation, Israel must be the target of the same kind of global movement that finally ended apartheid in South Africa.

Nation: ‘Toward Peace in Gaza’

Investment News: ‘Rubin retires from Citi’

Nation: ‘Caroline and Me’ (Katha Pollitt)

Caroline Kennedy would like to be a senator. I don’t blame her. So would I!

Especially if Governor Paterson could just waft me into office, and I didn’t have to, um, you know, campaign. I’ll bet some parts of the job are really fun, and it’s public service, which is so uplifting. You think I’m joking, but every argument that has been advanced for Kennedy is just as true for me. She’s a mother, a writer, a person with no electoral experience or, so far as we know, longstanding interest in acquiring any–me too! She has more kids; I’ve written more books–I’d say it averages out.

Nation: ‘Obama Anoints Kaine, Praises (And Snubs?) Dean’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Big shakeup at fatal psych ward’


Fox News: ‘”Victims” of Madoff Scandal Do Math, Realize They Profited’

From Fox News: “Hundreds and maybe thousands of investors in Madoff’s funds have been withdrawing money from their accounts for many years. In many cases, those investors have withdrawn far more than their principal investment.” And more:

“I had a call yesterday from a guy who said, ‘I’ve taken out more money then I originally put in, but I still had $1 million left with Madoff. Should I file a $1 million claim?'” said Steven Caruso, a New York attorney specializing in securities and investment fraud.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Madoff vics: Let him rot in jail’

Madoff’s victims say it’s outrageous that he has been allowed to serve house arrest in his cushy East Side pad.

N.Y. Times: ‘Eight Years of Madoffs’ (Frank Rich)

Wall Street Journal: ‘Madoff Prosecutors Push Back Deadline’

Federal prosecutors bought more time to focus on their investigation of Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion fraud scheme after they reached a deal with Mr. Madoff’s lawyers to delay the deadline to bring an indictment in the criminal case against him.

Prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan had faced a deadline Monday to convince a grand jury to indict the New York money manager on fraud charges or show at a public court hearing that there was “probable cause” to arrest him, but Mr. Madoff’s lawyers agreed Friday to give the government until mid-February to do so.

Delaying any indictment gives prosecutors time to investigate Mr. Madoff and others without having to prepare for trial, or negotiate a deal in which he agrees to plead guilty to certain charges in exchange for a lower prison sentence, says Anthony Barkow, a former federal prosecutor.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘AJCongress Crippled by Madoff Scandal’

Telegraph: ‘”Hellishly hot” sauce dedicated to Bernard Madoff’

Wall Street Journal: ‘New Ponzi Case Pursued’

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission brought civil charges against a Pennsylvania man accused of running a $50 million Ponzi scheme since at least February 1995.

Gothamist: ‘Bernie’s Weekend at Home, Before Judge’s Decision’

N.Y. Times: ‘GMAC Chairman With Ties to Madoff Steps Down’

Gawker: ‘Marc Rich Lost “Insignificant” Millions to Madoff’

N.Y. Times: ‘New Description of Timing on Madoff’s Confession’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Madoff Brother, at Arm’s Length?: Peter Was No. 2 and Close to Bernard; Investigators Now Scrutinizing Role’

Crain’s New York Business: ‘Bernie Madoff’s bagman had everything to lose’

J. Ezra Merkin, former chairman of national lender GMAC, crashes to earth as the second biggest conduit for Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Funds of Funds & Madoff: “Like Presiding Over the Long-Term Funeral”‘

Advanced Trading: ‘Fund-of-Hedge Funds Lacked Technology to Avoid Madoff Losses’

Investment News: ‘Madoff scam hurts Mackenzie Financial’

HedgeFund.net: ‘Activist Gunning For Yeshiva Board’

A hedge fund is campaigning to fire the board of Yeshiva University because of its investment with Bernard Madoff.

HedgeFund.net: ‘Commentary From Our Publisher: Bernie, We Hardly Knew Ya’

HedgeFund.net: ‘Merkin Liquidation Stymied By NYU’

HedgeFund.net: ‘Woman Tied to Madoff in Hiding’

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Brett Favre just the last bailout to fail New York City. Next star in East? Caroline Kennedy.

Well, just another bailout that didn’t work. Brett Favre was supposed to save the New York Jets, which would have made the city’s sports fans happy, though not as happy as those Wall Streeters in their stadium skyboxes.

But in the middle of a boom — the Jets were 8-3 and seemed a cinch for the NFL playoffs — Favre imploded and the team collapsed.

Hubris pays off. And then it doesn’t.

Take it from me, America, you know you’re headed for a major depression when even the usual distractions stop working.

But as the late Albert Ellis used to say to us neurotics hurtling toward a great depression: Separate your irrational thoughts from your rational ones. It’s not your fault, America, that the games that took your mind off real-world or self-induced worries no longer keep you from sliding into full-blown anhedonia.

Play the following Ellis tape, instead of the one currently in your brain:

As the blunt Ellis would have pointed out, “Fuck what other people think! Get rational about it! Get over it! Stop your whining! Work at it!” (And yes, he used such language, even at age 90, in his memorable Friday night cheapo public sessions on the Upper East Side.)

Speaking of depression and games: Greed — not the usual greed but the excessive type — did in the Jets the way excessive greed did in Wall Street. The Jets suddenly collapsed and their already-shaky hopes for the playoffs dissolved.

Both NYC teams in the NFL playoffs? No joy.

Who’s the next candidate to save the city? Caroline Kennedy. Big news this weekend, at least according to the Daily News, which snagged an interview with the princess. Ooooh, a scoop.

The headline? “Caroline Kennedy tells Daily News: I wouldn’t be beholden to anybody.”

True, she wouldn’t be beholden to her strong supporter Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The story?:

“I’m really coming into this as somebody who isn’t, you know, part of the system, who obviously, you know, stands for the values of, you know, the Democratic Party,” Kennedy told the Daily News Saturday during a wide-ranging interview.

True, she’s not part of the system. In fact, she’s a dilettante who would be getting a high office solely because of her name.

Further proof that Caroline Kennedy is telling the truth when she says she “isn’t, you know, part of the system”: As the Daily News reported December 19, she doesn’t even vote:

Caroline Kennedy wants to be the next senator from New York, but her voting record is already spotty, the Daily News has found.

City Board of Elections records show Kennedy has failed to vote in many elections since she registered in the city in 1988 – including votes for the Senate seat she hopes to fill and numerous Democratic faceoffs for mayor.

“It doesn’t speak to a deep-felt commitment to the electoral process,” Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio said when told of Kennedy’s ballot breakdowns.

JFK’s legacy? Caroline is a legacy, the way a rich, disinterested playboy like George W. Bush got into Yale not on his own merits but because his politician daddy, George H.W. Bush, went to Yale and Junior was what the school considered a “legacy.”

And people like the Bushes are opposed to affirmative action? What do think the collegiate system of “legacies” is? It’s affirmative action for rich white people.

Here’s a real legacy: After thousands of years of fighting over land, the death dance between Arabs and Jews has come to what media outlets are calling the “bloodiest hit” by Israel in 60 years: “HELL FIRE RAINS ON GAZA.”

At least you’re just fighting for your job, not your survival. You think things are bad? Think about those little girls in Kurdistan who are being routinely circumcised.

That’s an old story in much of the world. More bad news that’s more immediate …

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

The Age (Australia): ‘Israel: We will not stop’ [VIDEO]

Bloomberg: ‘Virginity Pledges Fail to Trump Teen Lust in Look at Older Data’

Register (U.K.): ‘Walmart’s Jesus Phone no better, no worse: Save two bucks!’

N.Y. Post: ‘Dump ’em: Losers Mangini, Favre must go’

The Age (Australia): ‘More children reported dead in latest Gaza strikes’

Register (U.K.): ‘Crash survivor Twitters from burning plane (false): Geek micro-blogged from safety’

N.Y. Daily News: ’15-year-old girl arrested in brutal Bronx stabbing’

N.Y. Post: ‘HAMAS-CIDE: ISRAEL SET FOR GROUND RAID’

N.Y. Times: ‘Suicide Bombs Kill 20 in Afghanistan’

ABC: ‘Many Questions Left in Bush Scandals’

Register (U.K.): ‘Giant US air travel data suck fails own privacy tests, but gets cleared anyway’

Reuters: ‘SCENARIOS: Assessing risks of India, Pakistan confrontation’

Washington Post: ‘Blagojevich on the Way Out, Says Illinois’ No. 2′

Wall Street Journal: ‘Latin American Investors Quiet on Madoff Losses’

Wealthy investors in Latin America appear to be among big losers in the Ponzi scheme allegedly orchestrated by Bernard Madoff.

N.Y. Times: ‘Veterans of ’90s Bailout Hope for Profits in New One’

Register (U.K.): ‘101 uses for a former merchant banker’

N.Y. Times: ‘Murders by Black Teenagers Rise, Bucking a Trend’

Wall Street Journal: ‘The Weekend That
Wall Street Died’

The financial crisis that began with the collapse of Lehman Brothers marked sharp change by Wall Street bosses from banding together to every man for himself.

N.Y. Times: ‘Romance and Recovery in Quake-Devastated Area’

Washington Post: ‘An Experiment in Mastering Risk’

System created to lock in profits and operate in regulation gaps eventually reduces AIG to ruins.

 

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A Thousand and One Arabian Nightmares

Saudi King Abdullah’s message of peace in NYC leaves his subjects back home in pieces.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia played New York City for a sucker yesterday with his homily about peace and mercy.

Even in a city that thrives on chutzpah, Abdullah’s lovefest publicity stunt has no equal.

The king was so polite right from the start of his speech yesterday at the U.N. Peace Through Dialogue meeting:

“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, Your Majesties, Highnesses, Excellencies, His Excellency the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Your Excellency the Secretary-General of the United Nations:

“Peace and the mercy and blessings of God be with you.”

And now a word from the U.S. State Department’s March 11, 2008, human-rights report on the peace and mercy during 2007 in the Saudi Arabia of King Abdullah:

• Violence against women and discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, sect, and ethnicity were common. Limitations on the rights of foreign workers remained a severe problem.

• [Ministry of Interior] officials were responsible for most alleged incidents of physical abuse and torture of prisoners, including beatings, lashings, and suspension from bars by handcuffs.

• During the year according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the press reported 153 beheadings of individuals who were convicted of murder, narcotics-related offenses, and armed robbery, as well as of rape, sorcery and adultery.

Sorry, King Abdullah, were you saying something about “instruments to cause misery”?

“In the presence of this gathering of international leaders and representatives and members of the General Assembly — the conscience of the United Nations — and in front of the whole world, we state with a unified voice that religions through which Almighty God sought to bring happiness to mankind should not be turned into instruments to cause misery.

“Human beings were created as equals and partners on this planet; either they live together in peace and harmony, or they will inevitably be consumed by the flames of misunderstanding, malice and hatred.”

No wonder it’s so hot in Saudi Arabia. All those flames of misunderstanding. According to the State Department report on 2007 events:

• On May 23, religious police allegedly beat to death 28-year-old Suleiman al-Huraisi who was detained for the possession and sale of alcohol. After a three-month investigation, MOI officials charged two members of the religious police. On November 28, a court citing lack of evidence acquitted them.

• On June 1, a member of the religious police reportedly arrested Ahmad al-Bulawi in Tabuk on suspicion of being in “illegal seclusion” with an unrelated woman. An autopsy revealed he had been beaten on his face before dying at the religious police center. On July 30, the Tabuk General Investigation and Prosecution Authority ruled that the arresting authorities, members of the religious police and a security guard, were not guilty of any wrongdoing.

• During the week of August 5, a Bangladeshi man died in Medina while in the custody of the religious police. They arrested him for allegedly washing a car while he should have been attending prayers. The head of the religious police, Ibrahim al-Gaith, claimed that the man had fainted and that there were no signs of assault. At year’s end the case was pending with the Shari’a court of Medina.

If washing your car is a sin punishable by death then I’ll live forever. But that’s another story. Sorry, King, I was preoccupied. What were you saying?

“Dear Friends: Throughout history, preoccupation with differences between the followers of religions and cultures has engendered intolerance, causing devastating wars and considerable bloodshed without any sound logical or ideological justification.

“It is high time for us to learn from the harsh lessons of the past and concur on the ethics and ideals in which we all believe. Matters on which we differ will be decided by our Omniscient Creator on the Day of Judgment.

“Every tragedy suffered in today’s world is ultimately a result of the abandonment of the paramount principle enunciated by all religions and cultures: The roots of all global crises can be found in human denial of the eternal principle of justice.”

If there is an Allah, he’ll remember for eternity this episode cited in the State Department report:

In March 2006 in Qatif, seven men found a woman and her male companion together in a car and gang-raped them both.

The perpetrators were sentenced to between eight months and five years in prison and between 80 and 1,000 lashes. The same court also sentenced the woman and her ex-boyfriend to 90 lashes for being unmarried and alone in a car with an unmarried person of the opposite sex at the time of the incident.

On November 14, after her lawyer requested a review of the case, the Higher Court of Justice sent the case back to the Qatif General Court which increased the woman’s sentence from 90 lashes to 200 lashes and six months in prison and increased the perpetrators sentences to between two and nine years each.

The court also suspended her lawyer, Abdulrahman al-Lahem, for “insulting the Supreme Judicial Council and disobeying the rules and regulations,” reportedly for his efforts to publicize the woman’s case. The court confiscated al-Lahem’s license and asked him to appear before a disciplinary session at the Judicial Investigation Department of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

On November 24, the MOJ issued a statement “clarifying” the role of the two victims who “exposed” themselves to the crime because of their behavior. The statement stated that because the victims were alone in the car, they had violated Shari’a and were thus liable for punishment. On December 17, King Abdullah pardoned both victims, citing his authority to overrule judgments not specifically prescribed by Islamic legal code.

Now that’s what I call tolerance, King. Fill me in:

“Terrorism and criminality are the enemies of every religion and every civilization. They would not have appeared except for the absence of the principle of tolerance. The alienation and the sense of loss which affects the lives of many of or young, leading them to drugs and crime, became widespread due to the dissolution of family bonds that Almighty God intended to be firm and strong.

“Our dialogue, conducted in a constructive manner, should, by the grace of God, revive and reinstate these lofty ideals among peoples and nations. No doubt, God willing, this will constitute a glorious triumph of what is most noble over what is most evil in human beings and will grant mankind hope of a future in which justice, security and a decent life will prevail over injustice, fear and poverty.”

The State Department report does agree, King Abdullah, that your minions are constantly searching for evil:

During [2007], the religious police harassed and detained citizens and foreigners of both sexes.

[In 2006, Saudi officials] received numerous complaints of beatings, humiliation, confiscation of personal property and unnecessary body searches and the use of coercion to sign confessions. . . .

The government and/or its agents did not commit any politically motivated killings; however, several individuals died after beatings that took place while in the custody of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), also known as the religious police or Mutawwa’in. . . .

The government also punished persons for various offenses with amputations for theft, and lashings, including for alcohol-related offenses or for being alone in the company of an unrelated person of the opposite sex. In contrast to previous years, there were no reports of lashings in the women’s prisons.

I cut you off, King Abdullah. Were you saying something about a hand?

“We will continue what we have commenced, extending our hand to all those advocating peace, justice and tolerance.

“In conclusion, I would like to remind all of you, and myself, of the words of the Holy Qur’an:

” ‘O Mankind! We have created you from a single pair of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that ye may know each other. Very, the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you.’ “

Or, self-righteous. Whatever.

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Torturing despot Obiang, a U.S. pal, reportedly dies

One of the planet’s most despotic despots, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, ruler of tiny but oil-rich Equatorial Guinea and a star figure in the Riggs Bank scandal in 2004, may be dead. At last.

Unlike some of his prisoners, death didn’t occur through torture by stinging ants.

Afrol News is reporting the ailing Obiang’s “possible death or irreversible coma.” That’s the situation also of his little country.

The Bush regime has helped out Obiang in numerous ways (here’s Condi Rice with him in April 2006), and Obiang repaid the favors, at one time stashing some of his loot at Riggs National Bank in D.C., a former institution formerly owned by Bush family crony Joe Allbritton with a taste given to Dubya’s uncle Jonathan Bush.

For details of Obiang and Riggs, see my August 4, 2004 item “Yes, Protect the U.S. Treasury! Please!,” in which I noted:

The dangling thread that just this year [2004] doomed Allbritton’s control of the bank was its link to Teodoro Obiang, dictator of Equatorial Guinea. He stashed millions of no-questions-asked dollars he got from — who else — U.S. oil companies in good ol’ Joe Allbritton’s friendly downtown D.C. bank, according to Senate investigators and others. When that was publicized in Senate hearings, thanks in large part to [Michigan senator Carl] Levin, the fabric of those expensive suits and ties inhabiting snooty Riggs Bank crumbled to dust.

As for Equatorial Guinea, well, people there are tortured by “stinging ants,” according to our own State Department. Let’s put that in context by quoting the entire sentence from the U.S. government’s 1998 report: “Police reportedly urinated on prisoners, kicked them in the ribs, sliced their ears with knives, and smeared oil over their naked bodies in order to attract stinging ants.”

The document continues, “According to credible reports, this torture was approved at the highest levels of the [Equatorial Guinea] Government and was directed by the chief of presidential security, Armengol Ondo Nguema, who is also President Obiang’s brother. Ondo Nguema allegedly taunted prisoners by describing the suffering that they were about to endure.”

For other greatest hits of Obiang, see my September 7, 2004, item, “Tales from the Vault,” and this April 2005 item.

U.S. oil companies have danced the tango with Obiang for years, as noted in the Washington Post‘s 2004 piece “U.S. Oil Firms Entwined in Equatorial Guinea Deals: Riggs Probe Led to SEC Inquiry on Corruption, Profiteering.”

But even those scandals didn’t stop our government from continuing to give Obiang a hand. Check out Ken Silverstein‘s August 9, 2006, Harper’s piece, “Obiang’s Banking Again: State Department and Washington insiders help a dictator get what he wants.”  [via guinea-ecuatorial.net]

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Shock and awe: Pentagon rejects ‘Bush Doctrine’

Under the media radar, an amazing but true development: “Preventive war” will now be prevented.

Six years too late, the neocons’ grip on U.S. foreign policy has finally been broken — by the Pentagon itself.

A new U.S. Army field manual has officially put the kibosh on the Bush-Cheney regime’s self-proclaimed “preventive war” doctrine that it used to justify the Iraq invasion.

As a major new guide for U.S. military officials, FM 3-07: “Stability Operations specifically changes policy by calling for embracing “joint effort” with the rest of the world.

FM 3-07 repudiates the Bush Doctrine of unilateral war-making.

This drastic change in policy — because that’s what this new document represents — has been practically ignored by the press. Even if there were no Wall Street war, its import would probably have been ignored.

Remember all that White House/Pentagon prattle about “regime change”? Here’s what the new manual says:

Repeating an Afghanistan or an Iraq —forced regime change followed by nation-building
under fire — probably is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Of course, this new, gentler Pentagon doesn’t go so far as to announce the manual as a repudiation of the Bush Doctrine. But that’s exactly what it is. (See the manual (PDF) and the Pentagon’s press release.)

Here’s a key passage in FM 3-07:

America’s future abroad is unlikely to resemble Afghanistan or Iraq, where we grapple with the burden of nation-building under fire. Instead, we will work through and with the community of nations to defeat insurgency, assist fragile states, and provide vital humanitarian aid to the suffering.

So, now we’re going to “work through and with the community of nations”? That doesn’t sound familiar. And we’re officially not looking to do any more Afghanistans or Iraqs?

Next thing you know, we’re going to start following the Geneva Conventions.

Officially, at least — and that really does mean something — the U.S. is rejecting bluster and embracing “soft power”:

Achieving victory will assume new dimensions as we strengthen our ability to generate “soft” power to promote participation in government, spur economic development, and address the root causes of conflict among the disenfranchised populations of the world. At the heart of this effort is a comprehensive approach to stability operations that integrates the tools of statecraft with our military forces, international partners, humanitarian organizations, and the private sector.

Stop to consider the Army’s even talking in one of its key guides for generals about trying to “address the root causes of conflict among the disenfranchised populations of the world.” They’re putting flowers in their own howitzers (OK, so maybe they’re not quite doing that).

Another big shift: FM 3-07 gives “stability operations” equal rank with “offense” and “defense.”

Such a rejection of the Bush regime’s rigidly held preventive-war doctrine is an astonishing occurrence while Dick Cheney is still vice president. But these days, he’s no doubt out of the loop. And as for the Wall Street war, it’s doubtful that Cheney is even trying to whisper commands in Henry Paulson‘s ear. (Of course, maybe Cheney’s busy trying to connive a McCain victory.)

The new field manual would have never happened while such hawks as Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Doug Feith roamed the Pentagon hallways.

It even strongly implies that the government has learned something from its disastrous Iraq venture and increasingly scary Afghan war:

Field Manual 3-07, Stability Operations, represents a milestone in Army doctrine. It is a roadmap from conflict to peace, a practical guidebook for adaptive, creative leadership at a critical time in our history. It institutionalizes the hard-won lessons of the past while charting a path for tomorrow.

Hard-won lessons, yes. That not to say that we have won either war. But this document should help rein in future White Houses from attempting invasions of future Iraqs.

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Daily Flog: Poland to the rescue, homicidal geezer school-bus driver, China imports gold, Georgia imports Rice, more abuse (ho-hum) of Iraqis

Running down the press:

Times: ‘U.S. and Poland Set Missile Deal’

Refusing to take off their Cold War monocles, Thom Shanker and Nicholas Kulish ignore the hilarity of Condi Rice going to Georgia to simmer things down. Instead, they try to get poetic on our asses:

The deal reflected growing alarm in countries like Poland, once a conquered Soviet client state, about a newly rich and powerful Russia’s intentions in its former cold war sphere of power. In fact, negotiations dragged on for 18 months — but were completed only as old memories and new fears surfaced in recent days.

The funniest line in this super-self-consciously serious piece:

Polish officials said the agreement would strengthen the mutual commitment of the United States to defend Poland, and vice versa.

Vice versa . . . Poland defending the U.S. . . . let’s see . . . oh, yeah, maybe we could get Poland to step in on behalf of Williamsburg’s Poles to try to stop Manhattan developers from wrecking the Brooklyn enclave’s waterfront.

Solidarność with the hipsters!

See FAIR’s fresh dissection of media blubber: “Georgia/Russia Conflict Forced Into Cold War Frame.”


McClatchy: ‘U.S. ‘no’ to intervention leaves Russia in control of Georgia’

One of the best U.S. sources of world news — and probably the liveliest — the McClatchy D.C. Bureau (the old Knight-Ridder operation) is a solid site. For the full flavor of the good reporting and breezy writing, try this from Nancy A. Youssef, Tom Lasseter, and Dave Montgomery:

American officials on Thursday ended speculation that the U.S. military might come to the rescue of Georgia’s beleaguered government, confirming Russia’s virtual takeover of the former Soviet republic and heralding Moscow’s reemergence as the dominant power in eastern Europe.

“I don’t see any prospect for the use of military force by the United States in this situation. Is that clear enough?” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters in his first public comments since the crisis began Aug. 7.

“The empire strikes back,” said Ariel Cohen, a Russia expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Gates’ comments came just 24 hours after President Bush dramatically announced in a televised White House appearance that American military aircraft and ships would be dispatched to carry humanitarian aid to Georgia and that the U.S. was expecting unfettered access to Georgia’ ports and airports.

But Bush apparently had spoken out of turn, before Turkey, which by treaty controls access to the Black Sea, had agreed, and on Thursday, Pentagon officials said they doubted that U.S. naval vessels would be dispatched.


Slate: ‘Conventional Nonsense: Making the case for a press boycott of the national political conventions’

Jack Shafer notes the foregone conclusions of these non-events. Amen.


Post: ‘HILLARY PUSHES WAY ONTO STAGE’

The tab’s institutional contempt for Hillary pays off in this case, because she really did push her way onto the DNC stage. Not that this is big news. But how many more shots at Hillary does the Post have left? And she is such an easy target.


Christian Science Monitor: ‘Mexican citizens asked to fight crime’

Sara Miller Llana‘s story notes:

[I]f Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has his way, a new corps of 300,000 residents will become watchdogs of sorts — monitoring and turning in police officials who operate outside the law.

The Times reports on the same story — citizens outraged that corrupt cops are even aiding and abetting kidnappings of children — but of course it takes the establishment side, not even noting Ebrard’s call for a citizen corps.

Can you imagine a crew of 300,000 New Yorkers regularly keeping tabs on the NYPD? The Times sniffs, Don’t even mention it. And its story sez:

Given the involvement of some wayward officers in the kidnapping trade, it is easy to see why victims’ relatives look outside police forces in trying to bring such nightmares to an end.

But Luis Cárdenas Palomino, director of intelligence for the federal police, says that private negotiators do not have the same experience as his veteran agents, who he says have been catching more kidnappers and freeing more victims in recent years.

No wonder that, here in NYC, the Times, with its institutionalized obeisance to authority, doesn’t hold the NYPD’s feet to the fire.


Post: ‘TRAGIC MOM’S BABY IS SAVED’

A runaway school bus crushes pregnant NYPD traffic agent Donnette Sanz, “but a superhuman effort by 30 strangers who lifted the vehicle off her body miraculously saved her baby before she died.”

Word pictures of the bus driver with his head in his hands — “”The light turned red, and I couldn’t stop . . . I tried to miss her. I tried to go behind her, but she stopped and moved back, and I hit her.”

Oh, by the way, we find out only at the end of this weeper that the 72-year-old driver hasn’t had a license in 40 years and that his record includes “a gun bust and arrests for driving on a suspended license, grand larceny, menacing and aggravated harassment.”

And he was driving a school bus — a school bus!

Most absurd quote of the day:

Mayor Bloomberg, who went to St. Barnabas to comfort [her] relatives, said, “I hope that as this child grows up, he comes to understand that his mother gave her life in service to our city, and we are forever grateful.”

The Daily News account is lamer, but it does include this quote from Bloomberg:

“It is a terrible poignancy that Donnette’s son’s birthday will now coincide with the day his mother died.”

Give Bloomberg a break. George W. Bush couldn’t have connected those dots.


Post: ‘ “WRONG MAN” FREED AFTER 14 YRS.: BAILED OUT ON “BAD RAP” IN QNS. SLAY’

Great quote garnered by Ikimulisa Livingston:

Kareem Bellamy stepped out of Queens Supreme Court to the open arms of relatives and cheers from his relentless law team, which spent nearly four years working to get him freed.

“I hope I don’t get struck by lightning,” he joked in the midst of a thunderstorm. “I can’t believe I’m really walking out.”


Times: ‘Bomber Kills 18 on Shiite Pilgrimage in Iraq’

Obsessed with Georgia, the Times editors are now consigning Iraq news to a roundup — you know, like those small-town-newspaper city council stories that always include “in other business” items.

Today’s example is yet another suicide bombing. In other business, the Times adds:

And at Camp Bucca, an American military base in southern Iraq, six sailors who were working as prison guards in Iraq are facing courts-martial on charges of abusing detainees, the United States Navy said in a statement on Thursday.

Only two other brief grafs, both far down the story, about this abuse. No mention of exactly what kind of abuse is alleged or that Camp Bucca is the largest U.S. prison in Iraq, housing a staggering 18,000 Iraqis, probably none of whom have been to trial.

At least the BBC saw fit to present a separate story on this.

But the U.S. establishment press has consistently underplayed jail abuse, except when it reaches the high embarrassment level of Abu Ghraib. Remember the proud “Murderous Maniacs” at Camp Mercury near Fallujah, the U.S. soldiers who beat up prisoners for sport? If you don’t, see yesterday’s Daily Flog.


Post: ‘TRAP PLAY TARGETS GIANTS; “SEX-TORTION PLOT” VS. COACH COUGHLIN’

Feds yesterday busted a birdbrained Philadelphia man for allegedly trying to blackmail Giants Coach Tom Coughlin with false allegations of extramarital flings with two women.

Stop right there, unless you want to walk around all day with images swirling in your brain of this aging coach naked and having sex.


Post: ‘DEM’S KILLER WENT “POST-IT” ‘

Hed of the day, lovingly applied to a wire story:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The man who fatally shot the chairman of the state Democratic Party after he lost his job had a Post-it note at home with the victim’s last name and phone number along with 14 guns, antidepressants and a last will and testament, according to court documents.

Wall Street Journal: ‘World Economy Shows New Strain’

If you can tear yourself away from Olympic water polo for a second, remember that China is losing the gold-medal battle but is raking in the gold anyway.

The WSJ reports, in other business:

The global economy — which had long remained resilient despite U.S. weakness — is now slowing significantly, with Europe offering the latest evidence of trouble. . . .

With the European growth report, four of the world’s five biggest economies — the U.S., the euro zone, Japan and the U.K. — are now flirting with recession.

China, the world’s fourth-largest economy, is still expanding strongly, as are India and other large developing economies. . . .

The global weakness marks a sharp reversal of expectations for many corporations and investors, who at the year’s outset had predicted that major economies would remain largely insulated from America’s woes.

The Journal almost always leavens its dense reporting with a human touch (not on its inhumane editorial pages, but in news stories), and even this piece has a good morsel:

British consumers are hunkering down. “The cost of living has rocketed,” says Gareth Lucas, 34 years old. He works part time at a hospital in Swansea, south Wales. With fuel costs so high, Mr. Lucas tries to fit more tasks into each car trip and no longer treats himself to cappuccino at a nearby café.

At night, to make extra cash, Mr. Lucas does gigs as a stand-up comedian — but increasingly he performs to smaller audiences. “People just aren’t going out anymore,” he says.


Wall Street Journal: ‘Data Raise Questions On Role of Speculators’

Suspicions confirmed: The oil market is being driven by scumbag speculators, not the “free market.” The WSJ puts it into perspective:

Data emerging on players in the commodities markets show that speculators are a larger piece of the oil market than previously known, a development enlivening an already tense election-year debate about traders’ influence.

Last month, the main U.S. regulator of commodities trading, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, reclassified a large unidentified oil trader as a “noncommercial” speculator.

The move changed many analysts’ perceptions of the oil market from a more diversified marketplace to one with a heavier-than-thought concentration of financial players who punt on big bets.

This is a fascinating developing story — let alone a probable explanation of why gas costs so much — if only the rest of the press would take the topic seriously.

Here’s the politics of it:

The . . . questions about the reliability and transparency of data in this market are feeding into efforts by Congress to impose restrictions on energy trading. Four Democratic senators on Thursday called for an internal CFTC inspector-general investigation into the timing of a July 22 release of a report led by the agency. That report concluded speculators weren’t “systematically” driving oil prices. Oil prices soared until mid-July before beginning a decline.

In recent months, legislators in Congress have demanded insight about the distinction as they try to answer concerns of constituents, from companies to consumers, about what has contributed to the high price of gasoline and other fuels.

 

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Daily Flog: Warning to whitey, desired streetcars, soiled Lennon, two Georgias, Target practice

Running down the press:

Daily News: ‘First look at wife of John Lennon slayer in decades – she says let me be’

Jesus Christ! I’d forgotten that Mark David Chapman was such a sicko/twisted Lennon wannabe that he had also married a woman of Japanese descent.


Post: ‘ARK. ASSASSIN GUNS DOWN TOP CLINTON ALLY’

Congratulations to the Post for not only mentioning in the second paragraph that the shooter had just been fired from a Target store but also for showing the maturity not to hammer into readers that grim irony, as I am immaturely doing right now.


Post: ‘COLOR BY NUMBERS: MAC GAINS MORE WHITES VS. OBAMA’

Good story, better head. The fourth graf is key:

McCain has closed the gap by padding his lead among whites, Southerners and white evangelical Christians.

At least that should make the rest of us whites feel better — that we’re not quite as bad at acting on our institutionalized, internalized racist impulses.

Being upfront about race is something that much of the media is not doing. Witness this CNN story:

“McCain, Obama to address ‘values voters’ “

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama plan to appear together Saturday at a minister-moderated forum held in a church as thousands of evangelicals plan to gather in the nation’s capital to pressure both men move further to the right on social issues.

“Values voters” my shiny metal ass. The rest of us also vote our “values.” These are white conservative Christians (99 percent of them), so call them that in the headlines. Christ, there are even political parties in Europe that use “Christian” in their names.


Newsday: ‘Revealed: Julia Child was a U.S. spy in World War II’

This AP story is old news, but it does remind us why she seemed to have such mixed feelings about turkey.


Post: ‘BRETT FEELIN’ UP THE CREAK’

Clever hed on this:

The 38-year-old Favre – who turns 39 in October – had his fifth practice yesterday morning for the New York Jets, but he admitted his arm wasn’t exactly feeling lively.

Brett Favre is one pro athlete who talks like a real person, unlike the platitudinous Derek Jeter, for example, or the former Giant blowhard Jeremy Shockey or the guarded-beyond-all-reason, high-paid choker Alex Rodriguez. Favre sez:

“I didn’t throw the ball very well this morning, underthrew some throws. No pain, but I’m 38 years old. It’s got to be fatigued a little bit. . . . I felt 38 today, I’m not going to lie to you.”

In his case, he probably won’t. A rare celebrity.


Times: ‘In a Generation, Minorities May Be the U.S. Majority’

Warning to whitey: Your reign as The Man will end sooner than predicted. Sam Roberts reports:

The census calculates that by 2042, Americans who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander will together outnumber non-Hispanic whites. Four years ago, officials had projected the shift would come in 2050.

The British press doesn’t whitewash this news with P.C. tentativeness. The BBC’s lede, for example:

White people of European descent will no longer make up a majority of the US population by the year 2042 – eight years sooner than previous estimates.

The big change is among Hispanics and Asians whose share of the population is set to double to 30% and 9%.

The Times more subtly emits a red-alert tone:

“No other country has experienced such rapid racial and ethnic change,” said Mark Mather, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a research organization in Washington.

Unless you’re talking about the Cherokee Nation. In that previous monumental conflict in Georgia (even before Sherman’s march), Andrew Jackson ethnically cleansed the Cherokees, herding them to the Ozarks along the Trail of Tears and replacing them with slaves and ballcap-wearing, NASCAR-loving rednecks.

Anyway, the Times just loves trend stories, and here’s a trend in the Times itself: Just last week (as I noted on August 7), the paper blared “‘Minorities Often a Majority of the Population Under 20’ “

Next topic for the Times: How do we protect the Upper West Side from these Visigoths?


Human Rights Watch: ‘High Toll from Attacks on Populated Areas’

Yes, NYC-based Human Rights Watch has an open bias as a Goody Two-Shoes, but also does some great reporting — unlike its better-known but stodgy fellow NGO Amnesty International — so why not include it in “the press”?

Mainstream international papers, like the Guardian (U.K.), have no problem giving HRW full credit when it breaks news stories. This morning the Guardian‘s Mark Tran notes:

Human Rights Watch provides the first independent confirmation that Georgian villages in South Ossetia have been looted and burned.

HRW is somewhat schizoid as a news source, because it always follows its great nuggets of news with predictable appeals to officials to stop the madness. For example, today it reports:

Forces on both sides in the conflict between Georgia and Russia appear to have killed and injured civilians through indiscriminate attacks, respectively, on the towns of Gori and Tskhinvali, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch expressed its deep concern over the apparently indiscriminate nature of the attacks that have taken such a toll on civilians.

Memo to HRW: Lose the second sentence, please, because your news reporting speaks for itself and you’re clouding the impact of that reporting with that squishy, predictable statement of “deep concern.” (I guess HRW feels it has to do that, but I ignore such statements of concern — who could disagree with such sentiments? — and take its reporting seriously. Keep reading this item and you’ll see why.)

U.S. papers refuse to include HRW and like groups in their press club, but the Internet dissolves that separation because HRW’s reports are as freely and directly available as news from other sources.

You may have forgotten — and the mainstream press has done nothing to help you remember — that HRW broke one of the most grim and explosive stories (so far) from the Iraq War.

Back in September 2005, HRW revealed that U.S. troops at Camp Mercury, outside Fallujah, proudly called themselves “Murderous Maniacs” as they tortured and beat up hapless Iraqi prisoners merely for sport — and in a highly sexualized way that was worse than at Abu Ghraib. As I wrote back then:

In a shocking new report, soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne reveal that they or their fellow soldiers routinely beat, tortured, stripped, humiliated, and starved Iraqi prisoners in 2003 and 2004 at a base near Fallujah, often breaking bones, either at the request of superiors or just to let off steam.

HRW wasn’t guessing, nor was it chiding from its Fifth Avenue offices. It waded right in and talked to U.S. troops about it. From its own report, “Leadership Failure: Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division”:

The accounts here suggest that the mistreatment of prisoners by the U.S. military is even more widespread than has been acknowledged to date, including among troops belonging to some of the best trained, most decorated, and highly respected units in the U.S. Army. They describe in vivid terms abusive interrogation techniques ordered by Military Intelligence personnel and known to superior officers. . . .

The torture of detainees reportedly was so widespread and accepted that it became a means of stress relief for soldiers.

Soldiers said they felt welcome to come to the PUC [Prisoner Under Control] tent on their off-hours to “Fuck a PUC” or “Smoke a PUC.” “Fucking a PUC” referred to beating a detainee, while “Smoking a PUC” referred to forced physical exertion sometimes to the point of unconsciousness.

Three years later, HRW has made its own march into Georgia. So keep tabs on its reporting. For that matter, keep checking the Guardian‘s Georgia page.


NY Observer: ‘Penguin Group Wins Rights to Steinbeck Novels’

Minor note on a major author, especially compared with Tony Ortega‘s unique yarn about Steinbeck and Mexican-American farmworkers in today’s Voice: “John Steinbeck’s Ghosts.”


Times: ‘Ruling Is a Victory for Supporters of Free Software’

John Markoff‘s piece about a court ruling in favor of open-source software is a little confusing, but the upshot is that a major pothole has been patched on our major transportation artery, the information highway.


Times: ‘Conflict Narrows Oil Options for West’

In other transportation news: Good piece by Jad Mouawad about our latest loss in the centuries-old Great Game in Central Asia, and bad news for us SUV owners:

[E]nergy experts say that the hostilities between Russia and Georgia could threaten American plans to gain access to more of Central Asia’s energy resources at a time when booming demand in Asia and tight supplies helped push the price of oil to record highs.

Times: ‘Downtowns Across the U.S. See Streetcars in Their Future’

Yet another transportation story.

Unfortunately, the Times blows this story by just briefly noting that cities and even small towns across the country had functioning streetcar lines until the mid 1950s, and not mentioning at all that it was the automobile lobby that killed them as it pressured pols to build the Interstate Highway System.

I don’t blanch at this new development because when I was a kid in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, I depended on the kindness of streetcars. Public transit is a blessing, no matter how much my fellow straphangers grouse about the MTA and Long Island Rail Road.


Post: ‘BIZMAN HAD A “LOT” OF NERVE’

Carolyn Salazar‘s lede is right to the point:

An enterprising squatter transformed a vacant Brooklyn lot into a thriving million-dollar business — an illegal parking lot and chop shop, prosecutors said yesterday.

Whereas powerful pol Shelly Silver is squatting like Jabba the Hutt on a vacant lot on the Lower East Side, as the Voice‘s Tom Robbins reports.


Daily News: ‘Gloomy Gotti trip to Sunshine State’

The latest installment of news about the fading Italian-American Gangster Era. John Marzulli reports:

Junior is on the move.

John A. (Junior) Gotti, aka Bureau of Prisons inmate 00632-748, began his journey to Tampa Wednesday to be arraigned on racketeering and murder charges.

Who gives a shit?


Daily News: ‘Elizabeth Edwards stayed with cheating husband John for children’s sake’

A perfect example of how the Daily News almost always lags behind the Post in tabloidian terms. The lede:

An anguished Elizabeth Edwards decided to stay with her cheating husband because she is dying and worried about their two young children, her closest friend says.

Only five tabloidian buzzers: “anguished,” “cheating,” “dying, “worried,” and “closest friend.” Yesterday, I noted eight in a Post Edwards lede.

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Daily Flog 8/7/08: Hamdan acquitted but papers dance around it; the best anthrax stories; Mary-Kate isn’t talking; there’s a war in Afghanistan

Running down the press:

Times: ‘Panel Convicts Bin Laden Driver in Split Verdict’

William Glaberson‘s story is particularly lame, failing to note until way down on the jump that Salim Hamdan, one of several drivers for Osama bin Laden, was not a war criminal in the first place:

The two-week trial included references by both sides to the Nuremberg trials.

Prosecutors, eager to shore up the image of the commissions here, presented a video that included graphic images of Qaeda terror attacks and their victims that they titled “The Al Qaeda Plan,” in reference to “The Nazi Plan,” a film shown at Nuremberg to document the Holocaust.

The defense noted that Hitler’s driver, Erich Kempka, was not prosecuted as a war criminal at Nuremberg.

In fact, Hamdan was acquitted on the only charges that amounted to “war crimes.” A stunning defeat for the Bush regime.

You’ll have a hard time finding the best coverage of the Hamdan trial. That’s because it was an oral report yesterday by veteran newsman Fred Graham on Court TV. Graham was one of the few U.S. newspeople who actually covered the trial at Guantánamo.

Solidly in the mainstream, Graham rose above it, describing Hamdan throughout his thoughtful, articulate coverage as a “very low-level driver” and emphasizing that he was hardly a figure whose alleged acts rose to the level of “war crimes.”

Even the Washington Post — consistently more reliable than the Times for national and international coverage — didn’t rise to Graham’s level, fouling up its headline and story:

‘Hamdan Guilty of Terror Support: Former Bin Laden Driver Acquitted Of Aiding Attacks’

A military jury on Wednesday found a former driver for Osama bin Laden guilty of supporting terrorism but not of conspiring in terrorist attacks, handing the Bush administration a partial victory in the first U.S. war crimes trial in a half a century.

The hed should have been turned around, leading with the acquittal, and the story’s no better. But you’re still better off reading the WashPost‘s version, which includes this pretty high:

Deputy defense counsel Michael Berrigan called the trial a “travesty” but said the defense team “is not at all unhappy with the results.”

Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who attended the trial as one of several human rights observers, ridiculed the administration for inaugurating the military system on “a marginal figure.”

As for the tabs’ coverage of Hamdan, well, just count on them (as I noted earlier this morning) for news about the other guy known for his drives: Brett Favre.


Times: ‘In E-Mail, Hints of Delusions’

Bruce E. Ivins went to work each day in a high-security federal laboratory where he handled some of the world’s deadliest substances. But more than a year before the 2001 anthrax attacks, the scientist admitted to himself that he was losing his grasp on reality.

“Paranoid man works with deadly anthrax!!!” he wrote in one e-mail message in July 2000, predicting what a National Enquirer headline might read if he agreed to participate in a study on his work.

“I wish I could control the thoughts in my mind,” he added a month later in another message to a colleague. “It’s hard enough sometimes controlling my behavior. When I am being eaten alive inside, I always try to put on a good front here at work and at home, so I don’t spread the pestilence.”

Well, the guy was self-aware. As for delusional e-mails, I’ve received a ton of them and have even written a few. It’s unfortunate, of course, that Ivins didn’t stick to just writing e-mails, at least if the FBI is to be believed.


Post: ‘FEDS BARE CHILLING CASE AGAINST MAD SCIENTIST TO PROVE HE ACTED ALONE IN REIGN OF BIOTERROR’

Now this is the way to promo the anthrax story:

Twisted scientist Bruce Ivins was the sole person responsible for killing five people with a rash of anthrax mailings that terrorized Americans after the 9/11 attacks, federal authorities declared yesterday, as they released hundreds of pages of . . .

Wall Street Journal: ‘FBI Paints Chilling Portrait Of Anthrax-Attack Suspect’

Today’s most complete collection of anthrax coverage, starting with the start of the main piece, which is hands-down the most concise and soberly best-written handling of all the main angles:

In a series of court documents that were at turns chilling and bizarre, federal investigators said U.S. Army microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins misled government agents investigating the 2001 anthrax mailings, sent emails with language closely matching the handwritten letters sent to victims and had access to the strain of anthrax used in the crime.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation says the evidence, including hundreds of pages of unsealed documents, proves that Dr. Ivins was the sole person responsible for the 2001 anthrax mailings. Many of the documents contain previously unknown details and shed fresh light on the seven-year investigation, one of the most complex and controversial undertaken by federal law enforcement.

Much of the evidence is circumstantial and was criticized sharply by some scientists and former colleagues, suggesting that this long-running saga is far from over. Dr. Ivins’s lawyer denies the charges.

Dr. Ivins, one of the world’s foremost anthrax experts, emerged as the central figure in the anthrax probe last week. He committed suicide on July 29 after federal prosecutors informed him they intended to charge him in the attacks that killed five people and injured 17. Investigators haven’t found a suicide note.

See Ivins’s e-mails here.


Daily News: ‘Heath Ledger probe closed, Mary-Kate Olsen doesn’t have to talk’

And we don’t have to listen to her.


Post: ‘FEDS TURN UP HEAT ON GOTTI-CASE “DIRTY COP” ‘

A former NYPD detective is under investigation by the FBI for his alleged role in a mob hit ordered by John “Junior” Gotti and is expected to face federal charges, the Post has learned.

Besides ratting out his boyhood pal Gotti, mob turncoat John Alite fingered retired cop Phil Baroni, 56 for being in a getaway car and helping dispose of the body of coke pusher George Grosso, a source said. Grosso was shot in the back of the head on Dec. 20, 1988. At the time, Baroni was getting a generous disability pension from the NYPD.

“[They] just took him out of the car and dumped him on the side of the road” in Flushing Meadow Park, the source said.

Can’t wait for the movie? Read the story.


Daily News: ‘The Scattered Dutchman’

David Krajicek‘s story is a few days old, but that doesn’t matter because it zooms in on an event that’s 100 years old. It’s the kind of piece that daily papers don’t usually do, let alone write so well. Krajicek starts it out:

It was the summer of 1897, and pieces of Willie Guldensuppe began bobbing up in the East River.

His upper torso and arms were found by boys playing on the E. 11th St. docks. The lower torso was fished from the water in Harlem. The legs found their way to the backwaters of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Each section was neatly wrapped in distinctive oilcloth – a flower design of red and gold, like a homemaker might use for a tablecloth – and bound with window-shade cord.

Coroners unwrapped the packages and pieced together the body, lacking only a head and a 4-inch square of skin cut from the chest.

The human jigsaw puzzle was soon identified as Guldensuppe, a German – stout as an anvil – who worked as a masseur at the Murray Hill Turkish Baths on E. 42nd St.

Makes you want to keep reading.


Times: ‘500: Deadly U.S. Milestone in Afghan War’

Back to the grim future of 2008: This death story contains the paper’s “Quotation of the Day” (for God‘s sake, loosen up and call it a “quote” instead of “quotation”):

“People have forgotten. There’s a real war going on. People are dying all the time in Afghanistan.”
DAVID ROUGLE, whose brother, Staff Sgt. Larry I. Rougle, was killed in a
Taliban attack.

That “quotation,” or at least the idea behind it, should have been worked into the paper’s Hamdan story — while the U.S. is conducting a show trial (yes, kinda fair, and yes, the Bush regime lost it), there’s a war going on.

And speaking of war crimes, the U.S. committed a crime of war years ago by shifting its focus away from Afghanistan so it could unjustifiably invade Iraq.


Times: ‘Iraqis Fail to Agree on Provincial Election Law’

Touted electronically by the paper as its top “World” story, it’s not.


Times: ‘China’s Leaders Are Resilient in Face of Change’

Skip the first few grafs and see this:

But if the Olympics have presented unmistakable challenges and crises, the Communist Party has proved resilient. Public appetite for reform has not waned, but the short-term byproduct of the Olympics has been a surge in Chinese patriotism that bolstered the party against international criticism after its crackdown on Tibetan protesters in March and the controversy over the international Olympic torch relay.

Economic and social change is so rapid in China that the Communist Party is sometimes depicted as an overwhelmed caretaker. But in the seven years since Beijing was awarded the Games, the party has adapted and navigated its way forward, loosening its grip on elements of society even as it crushes or co-opts threats to its hold on political power.

The party has absorbed entrepreneurs, urban professionals and university students into an elite class that is invested in the political status quo, if not necessarily enthralled with it. Private capitalists may be symbols of a changing China. But the party has also clung tenaciously to the most profitable pillar industries and the financial system, and it is not always easy to distinguish the biggest private companies from their state-run counterparts in China’s hybrid economy.

“Unmistakable challenges”? That’s a dull understatement.

“Not always easy to distinguish the biggest private companies from their state-run counterparts”? You can’t.

Think Halliburton as the profit-making arm of the Pentagon in the early days of the Iraq Debacle, and you get the picture.


Times: ‘Little Pieces of Politics, Some Obscure, Lure Collectors’

Really? I did not know that.


Times: ‘Minorities Often a Majority of the Population Under 20’

Sam Roberts‘s lede, relying on the hackneyed phrase “tipping point”:

Foreshadowing the nation’s changing makeup, one in four American counties have passed or are approaching the tipping point where black, Hispanic and Asian children constitute a majority of the under-20 population, according to analyses of census figures released Thursday.

Racial and ethnic minorities now account for 43 percent of Americans under 20. Among people of all ages, minorities make up at least 40 percent of the population in more than one in six of the nation’s 3,141 counties.

The latest population changes by race, ethnicity and age, as of July 1, 2007, were generally marginal compared with the year before. But they confirm the breadth of the nation’s diversity, and suggest that minorities — now about a third of the population — might constitute a majority of all Americans even sooner than projected by census demographers, in 2050.

A colored country. It’s a good thing for Jesse Helms that he finally died.


Times: ‘Bush to Urge China to Improve Human Rights’

On the eve of the Olympic Games in Beijing, President Bush said that he had “deep concerns” about basic freedoms in China and criticized the detention of dissidents and believers, even as he praised the extraordinary gains China has made since he first visited more than three decades ago, according to remarks released by the White House on Wednesday.

That, and $5 million, will buy you a cup of coffee in Zimbabwe (where inflation is over 1 million percent).

Bush has “deep concerns” about basic freedoms. Please. Do us a favor and just add this phrase: “constantly criticized at home by human-rights organizations.”

That wouldn’t be editorializing but simply adding context or perspective, and it would be fair to Bush.


Wall Street Journal: ‘Bush Conveys Concerns
About Fate of China Dissidents’

Much better and more rational angle about Bush than the Times‘s less-specific, buy-into-Bush-bullshit version. James Hookway‘s lede:

U.S. President George W. Bush expressed his concern about the fate of political dissidents in China and his determination to bring an end to the “tyranny” of the military regime in Myanmar a day before he is expected to attend the opening of the Olympic Games in China.

Times: ‘Freddie Mac’s Big Loss Dims Hopes of Turnaround’

The gloom over the nation’s housing market deepened on Wednesday as Freddie Mac, the big mortgage finance company, reported a gaping quarterly loss and predicted that home prices would fall further than previously projected.

The announcement disappointed those hoping that the housing market might be bottoming out and heightened worries that the government could be forced to rescue Freddie Mac and the other mortgage finance giant, Fannie Mae. The news also signaled that mortgage rates were likely to rise.

For some background on Freddie Mac that you’re unlikely to see anywhere else, take a look at my colleague Wayne Barrett‘s new piece, “How Andrew Cuomo Gave Birth to the Crisis at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

At last, detailed reporting on a New York politician who’s fucking us instead of fucking hookers.


Times: ‘State Board Lets Ciprianis Keep Their Liquor Licenses’

Continuing its hard-hitting coverage of NYC’s rich snoots (see yesterday’s Daily Flog), the paper sez:

The verdict is in: Patrons of the Cipriani family’s empire of opulent restaurants and catering halls across Manhattan will not have do without their favorite cocktail when they order the calamari risotto or Venetian calf’s liver.

Huzzah, my good man! Muffy won’t have to bring her 40s wid her.


Times: ‘China’s Gold Rush’

Matthew Forney‘s lame op-ed piece contrasting what China and U.S. do with their athletes is promo’ed this way:

In China, sports schools now train thousands of professional athletes with Olympic gold as the ultimate goal.

Yes, unlike in the U.S., where colleges train thousands of professional football and basketball players (while giving them free rides and other perks) with just gold as the ultimate goal.


Post: ‘Mess for Success’

Danica Lo chides fashion-faux-pas New Yorkers with her “pet peeve don’ts,” introducing it this way:

Summer is steaming up offices all over the city – and we’re not talking temperatures.

Lately, exposed cleavage, pastel bra straps, the odd half-moon and plenty of toes have been popping up for air all over town. Dressing professionally in 85-degree-plus weather is never easy, and with heat and humidity a daily battle now for weeks on end, so much of the city’s office populace has thrown in the towel – as well as the jacket, the cardigan, the pump and, well, any office-appropriate apparel you can name.

Since reinterpreting dress code is a major no-no in many corporate offices, it’s the business-casual class that is committing the most serious faux pas this season.

Reinterpret this. I haven’t worn socks since May. Danica, you put a sock on it.

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Justice is Duck-Blind

Yee-haw! Led by Scalia, Supreme Court overturns gun ban.

That sound of gunfire you hear isn’t coming from Iraq, for a change. It’s from right here in the U.S. of A., celebrating the Supreme Court’s monumental decision overturning a D.C. handgun ban.

Used to peppering our backsides with buckshot, Dick Cheney‘s hunting partner, Justice Antonin Scalia, aimed his pistol at us and issued this opinion:

“That dang ol’ gun law is his-tor-ee, I tell you what. They cain’t be tellin’ us that we cain’t shoot nothin’. Shee-it. We got our rights. These dogs will hunt. And nobody better come to my house to tell me I cain’t.

“Hey, Bubba, gimme that bottle of Jack over there. Y’all, we’ll finish this shit off, fire up the pickup, and go get us some duck. I bet them birds never seen a pistol before. Joe Bob, tell Cheney to get his ass out of the crapper. We need to git goin’!

“Damn it, Bubba, I tol’ you to gimme that bottle of Jack! Give it here!”

His actual opinion on behalf of the majority went like this:

“We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the many amici who believe that prohibition of handgun ownership is a solution. The Constitution leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns. . . .

“But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.

“Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.

Hey, somebody’s knockin’ at the door — Jimbo, throw me my pistol. I’ll go see who it is.

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Good News (Bad News): Iraq War Money Runs Out. (More is on the Way.)

Good news!

The U.S. Army has run out of money and won’t be able to run the Vietraq War past mid-June.

Bad news!

It’s just a piece of budget trickery by the DOD. Taxpayer.net calls it “the Pentagon’s latest sob story,” explaining:

The Pentagon’s latest sob story about having to borrow from its main budget in order to pay for the Iraq war may sound dramatic. But this Chicken Little approach to war budgeting is less about congressional gridlock than it is about an archaic Pentagon accounting system in dire need of reform.

The Defense Department (DOD) wants Congress to approve $10 billion in transfers from the Navy, Air Force, and other accounts, to the Army, or else, officials claim, the Army won’t be able to run war operations past mid-June. The extra money will allow operations to continue until July, by which time Congress should have passed the next $165 billion installment to pay for our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. That bill is currently awaiting action by the House of Representatives, but has been tied up in a fight over unemployment benefits and other domestic spending add-ons.

These budgetary maneuvers further obscure how much of DOD’s budget goes toward war spending.


Good news!

The Southern Baptist Convention has refused to officially condemn a California law that clamps down on gay-bashing by public school teachers. Frustrated extremists in the nation’s largest single denomination (and the country’s lowest common denominator) vow to pull their kids out of California’s public schools.

Bad news!

They haven’t pulled their kids out yet.


Good news!

The days are numbered for the Bush-Cheney regime’s unconstitutional Guantanamo Bay prison. Especially after the Supreme Court ruled that its inmates actually have habeas corpus rights.

Bad news!

We’re building a new Gitmo in Afghanistan.

From the Institute for War & Peace Reporting’s Hafizullah Gardesh and Jean MacKenzie in Kabul:

In mid-May, the Pentagon announced plans to build a 40-acre, 60 million US dollar detention centre to replace the deteriorating facility at Bagram airfield, a base originally built and used by the Soviet Union during its war in Afghanistan in 1979-89.

Just an upgrade, huh? The IWPR report continues:

The news has made many Afghans uneasy. For many, Bagram conjures up images of arrest, torture and humiliation.

In 2002, two men died in US custody at Bagram. One of them, who went by the name Dilawar, became the subject of a widely acclaimed documentary called Taxi to the Dark Side.

Arrested on a tip-off from a man later proved to be a Taliban supporter, he was repeatedly beaten and died after two days in detention.

Since then, dozens, if not hundreds, of prisoners have passed through Bagram on their way to Guantanamo Bay. According to many of them, Bagram is worse than the prison in Cuba.

A researcher who has conducted numerous interviews with prisoners released from Bagram told IWPR that they claimed to have been humiliated, beaten, stripped naked, and thrown down stairs during initial interrogations.

“The guards told the prisoners, ‘Now you are no longer in Afghanistan. We can do anything we want,’” said the researcher.

None of the detainees interviewed were ever charged with any criminal activity.


Good news!

The average U.S. worker made just over $29,000 last year, while ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson made $50,000, according to SEC records. That seems like a reasonable gap.

Bad news!

Tillerson’s pay was actually $50,000 a day.