Tuesday, November 29, 2005

More bribery in Washington

In a scandal completely unrelated to the one reported here yesterday, U.S. Representative Randy Cunningham (R-CA) yesterday pleaded guilty to bribery charges and resigned his seat in Congress.

Cunningham scored at least $2.4 million “in the form of cash, home payments, furnishings, cars and vacations, from four co-conspirators, including two defense contractors”.

Monday, November 28, 2005

76-year-old woman killed by dogs

Six pit bull/Rottweiler mixed-breed dogs escaped their pen and
fatally mauled a 76-year-old woman Saturday. The dogs are in police custody. It's not yet clear whether any charges will be brought against their owner.

Bribery in Washington

Last week, lobbyist Michael Scanlon pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit fraud and bribery.

Surprised? The occasional quid pro quo in Washington is a dog-bites-man story; such arrangements tend to skirt the legal definition of bribery. But as the Morning Call explains, “The Abscam case fit this definition because members of Congress were filmed stuffing cash into their pockets.”

Four Republican congressmen are under investigation in the case, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Death Before Dishonor

Col. Ted Westhusing was a philosopher-warrior in the classical tradition. By all accounts, his life was dedicated to understanding what it was to fight honorable wars. To this end, he wrote a doctoral disseration on the subject, mastered ancient Greek and Italian, and taught philosophy at West Point. When American forces rolled into Iraq, he volunteered to go with them. His task was to oversee one of the shadowy private security companies running around in Iraq.

What Col. Westhusing found: rampant corruption and conditions that stood in stark contrast to everything he believed about his country. As weeks of dismissed reports began to pile up, Westhusing's life began to fall apart. He lost weight, stopped sleeping, and started drifiting off. Finally, he shot himself with his sidearm.

I cannot support a msn [mission] that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars. I am sullied. . . I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored. . .Death before being dishonored any more.

When things are so dark that even your moral compass despairs, you've got problems.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Enhanced interrogation revealed

The CIA has ways of making you talk—dousing your naked body with cold water, covering your head with cellophane and mock drowning you (“water boarding”), even forcing you to listen to “Slim Shady”. It's called “enhanced interrogation”, and it was used to gather WMD evidence in the run-up to the Iraq war.
According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. Sources say Al Libbi had been subjected to each of the progressively harsher techniques in turn and finally broke after being water boarded and then left to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons. Sources tell ABC that it was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.
Credit: Andrew Sullivan

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Which is more disturbing: the comprehensive evidence (free registration required) U.S. intelligence has uncovered of Iran's nuclear weapons program, or the widespread suspicion, even among U.S. allies, that it was faked?

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Wheels of Justice Move Slowly

When they move at all. Adel X is someone you've never heard of. If a secret military tribunal is to be believed, he is not a terrorist. If his lawyer is to be believed, he's still rotting in a US prison, eight months later.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Japanese robot exoskeletons

Given that older drivers can be deadly as it is, we wonder: is it really wise to start fitting seniors with powerful robotic exoskeletons?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rome in Autumn

Everyone knows that the US is spending money at insane levels. Some, but surprisingly few, people are talking vocally about this elephant in the room. One of those people is the nation's comptroller general, David Walker. According to Uncle Sam's personal accountant, we are not worrying enough. He assures us that the truth "is worse than advertised."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Blogs will waste 2.3 million years of work in 2005

No joke. AdAge.com reports (free registration required):
U.S. workers this year will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years (based on a 24-hour day) or 2.3 million work years (based on a typical nearly 40-hour work week) reading blogs unrelated to the job.
Credit: Power Line.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Escaped murderer at large

A convicted murderer changed into civilian clothes and walked out of a Houston jail yesterday.

He is still at large.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Paris riots worsening

The ongoing riots we reported yesterday got much worse last night. BBC News:
Rioting youths opened fire on police and set dozens of vehicles ablaze in a seventh night of violence in Paris.

In escalating scenes of unrest, four shots were fired while gangs besieged a police station, set fire to a car showroom and threw petrol bombs.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


We've been covering Iran pretty heavily here, so I thought it was important to point out that not all threats are nuclear. Some are more natural and primal, like vampire bats. Rabid vampire bats, to be precise. Don't laugh too hard: In Brazil, 23 people have died after over 1,300 vampire bat attacks in the last two months alone.

Secret CIA prisons revealed

It's illegal for the government to hold anyone incommunicado in secret prisons in the United States. So the CIA holds suspected terrorists (and whomever else it chooses) in “black sites” scattered around the world, according to the Washington Post. Some are run by the CIA. Others are run by host nations with records of chronic prisoner abuse.

This shadow prison system was authorized by a single document signed by the president days after September 11, 2001, granting the CIA sweeping authority to “disrupt terrorist activity”. It is so classified that most members of Congress, which is nominally responsible for oversight in such cases, know nothing about it.

Iran continues shift to hard-line stance

Ten thousand protesters today chanted “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” and burned flags in front of the former U.S. embassy in Tehran.

In the same article, the AP reports that Iran is removing 40 ambassadors from their posts, including moderates that favored closer relations with the West. And according to a diplomatic leak from Vienna, Iran agreed to open a secret military nuclear facility to inspectors, while at the same time announcing its intention to “process a new batch of uranium that could be used to make atomic weapons”.

Paris riots spreading

Nightly riots continue to spread in the suburbs of Paris. Hundreds of young people have taken to the streets, setting cars on fire and throwing rocks at police.

According to CNN, “The rioting began with the accidental deaths of two teenagers, who ran from police after a tear gas grenade went off in a neighborhood mosque during prayers. . . . Clichy, northeast of Paris, is crowded and impoverished and with a large Muslim population. Local officials claim the suburb is one of the poorest in France.”

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Iran to USA : "Bring it On"

Iran's nuclear weapons program continues at a rapid clip, despite international objections. In fact, according to Iran's top nuclear diplomat, "Such an attitude will only persuade us more to have nuclear technology." I'm sure this stance has nothing to do with Iran's public declaration that "Israel must be wiped of the map."

Iran clearly sees American threats of force as they paper tiger they are, blithely commenting that "[Americans] do not have the means to go to war on two fronts." Even sanctions " will only increase the price of oil [for everybody]."

Iraqi civilian casualties rising, U.S. admits

The U.S. military has consistently denied that it tracks Iraqi civilian deaths. So a Pentagon report that includes a graph of exactly that statistic (see page 23) is raising eyebrows.

Nor are the numbers particularly encouraging. As the New York Times reports, the graph appears to show that
Iraqi civilians and security forces were killed and wounded by insurgents at a rate of about 26 a day early in 2004, and at a rate of about 40 a day later that year. The rate increased in 2005 to about 51 a day, and by the end of August had jumped to about 63 a day.