Friday, August 20, 2010

Iran test fires a new surface-to-surface missile

Iran launched a new surface-to-surface missile called the Qiam 1 on Friday. According to Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, the missile is better able to avoid anti-missile systems because it has no wings.
State television showed images of the sand coloured Qiam (Rising) blasting into the air from a desert terrain, amid chants of "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest).

The words "Ya Mahdi" were written on the side of the missile, referring to Imam Mahdi, one of the 12 imams of Shiite Islam, who disappeared as a boy and whom the faithful believe will return one day to bring redemption to mankind.

Vahidi, whose speech during Friday prayers in Tehran was broadcast on television, did not say when the launch took place nor did he reveal the precise range of the missile.

Fars news agency had in a report earlier this week quoted the minister as saying that Qiam was a short-range missile.

"The missile has new technical aspects and has a unique tactical capacity," he said on Friday, adding that the device was of a "new class."

"Since the surface-to-surface missile has no wings, it has lot of tactical power, which also reduces the chances of it being intercepted," he said.

Iran's ISNA news agency cited Vahidi as saying that Qiam was entirely designed and built domestically and was powered by liquid fuel.

"This missile is capable of hitting the target with high precision," Vahidi said.

On Tuesday, Vahidi had said that Qiam was to be test fired during the annual government week, the period when Tehran touts its achievements in various fields. This year government week begins on Monday.

The third generation Fateh 110 (Conqueror) missile was also to be test fired during this period. Iran has previously paraded a version of Fateh 110 which has a travel range of 150 to 200 kilometres (90 to 125 miles).

Also during government week, the production lines of two missile-carrying speedboats, Seraj (Lamp) and Zolfaqar (named after Shiite Imam Ali's sword) are due to be inaugurated, while a long-range drone, Karar, is expected to be unveiled.

The firing of Qiam comes days after Iran took delivery of four new mini-submarines of the home-produced Ghadir class. Weighing 120 tonnes, the "stealth" submarines are aimed at operations in shallow waters, notably in the Gulf.

Iranian officials regularly boast about Tehran's military capabilities and the latest missile launch coincides with warnings by local officials against any attack on the Islamic republic.
Let's go to the videotape (first of two - sorry but narration in Persian). And let's go to the videotape for Part 2. But where did it land? posted by Carl in Jerusalem

Spine for a Spine: Saudi Judge Seeks Doctors To Paralyze Defendant Under Sharia Law

We have a new outrage produced by the Sharia courts. This one comes from Saudi Arabia where a judge sees no reason why he should stop at “an eye for an eye” when he might be able to order a spine for a spine. “Judge” Saoud bin Suleiman al-Youssef asked hospitals to inform him of whether they can perform an operation to paralyze the man.

The judge in northwestern Tabuk province asked hospitals for assistance in paralyzing a man in an operation as punishment for his paralyzing of a man two years ago.

Abdul-Aziz al-Mutairi, 22, was paralyzed and lost a foot after a fight more than two years ago with the defendant. Notably, the defendant already was sentenced to up to 14 months in prison, but was released after seven months in an amnesty. He is now a professor at a university. The family returned to court to demand the right of “an eye for an eye” as guaranteed under Sharia law.
Source: Yahoo and USA Today

Britain Warns Libya Against Lockerbie Bomber Celebrations

The British government says it has warned Libya against celebrating the anniversary of the prison release of the Lockerbie bomber.
It's one year since Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison, and given a hero's welcome as he landed in Tripoli.

Britain's Foreign Office says a repeat of the celebratory scenes witnessed last year would be "deeply insensitive".

In an interview with the BBC, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has echoed that view. 

"The reason we're against any such thing is it would be inappropriate because it would add to the suffering and anxiety of the relatives of the Lockerbie atrocity - I think that's pretty clear," he said.

Al-Megrahi was jailed by a Scottish court in 2001. He was given a 27-year sentence for his role in the 1988 bombing of the Pan Am flight that killed 270 people.

Last year Scotland freed al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds because doctors said he was dying of cancer and had only three months to live. One-year later, he is still alive. 

His early release has proved deeply controversial, especially in the United States, home to many of those who were killed in the attack. VOA News

Greece and Serbia Get Into Bench Brawl; Krstic Gets Arrested

August 20, 2010 – Dr. Dime
Nenad Krstic Throws Chair Serbia GreeceInternational basketball has long been known to be a bit more physical than the NBA. Well that physicality turned into an out and out melee in an exhibition game this week between Greece and Serbia in preparation for the upcoming World Championships in Turkey (August 28). NBA big man Nenad Krstic has always been a fairly mild mannered player in the NBA, but in this fight he goes nuts. He starts off by punching and choking multiple players in the scrum of the fight, only to eventually back pedal (a-la Carmelo Anthony) as Sofo Schortsanitis from Greece gives chase. Near the end of the brawl, Krstic picks up a courtside chair and throws it into the crowd of Greek and Serbian players. Which as you can imagine, ulimately got the big man arrested. He has since been released:

Russian weapons dealer Viktor Bout to be extradited to US

Douglas Farah
Bout not only supplied the Taliban and the FARC in Colombia, both designated terrorist organizations. He also helped arm some of the most murderous regimes and groups in Africa (Charles Taylor, Mubut Sese Seko the RUF, UNITA etc.) and the genocidal regime in Sudan. These actions are detailed in my book, with Stephen Braun, Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible
Bout will be extradited from Thailand after heavy US pressure. He has ties to Russian intelligence and that country is trying to block the extradition. Bout is an amoral thug willing to sell weapons to anyone and is a very big fish indeed.
[His arrest and extradition occurred] “only because an unusually dedicated, small group of men and women, stretching from the end of the Clinton administration to the Bush and Obama teams, made it happen.”
The DEA, NSC, State Department, intelligence community and Pentagon all have members in that tenacious group that simply refused to let the matter go. A tip of the hat to that cadre, many whom I have had the privilege of knowing, for the commitment it took to make this day happen. It took more than a decade, but in the end it seems one of the really bad actors on the international stage, responsible for escalating the carnage in wars the world over, will finally stand trial thanks to your efforts.

by Bob Morris.

“The Real Housewives of Atlanta” Season 3

"The Real Housewives of Atlanta" is doubling the drama this season by adding two new cast members.

Model Cynthia Bailey and entertainment lawyer Phaedra Parks will join NeNe Leakes, Kim Zolciak, Kandi Burruss and Sheree Whitfield for season three of the Bravos hit series, the network announced. Cast regular Lisa Wu Hartwell is exiting the show.

It's rumored that single mom Bailey will marry during the season, Radar Online reports, while pregnant Parks will battle aspiring singer Zolciak as well as Leakes as she attempts to give them advice about the music business.

Hartwell reportedly left the series over creative differences with show producers, who, according to Radar, were seeking someone more exciting. Judging by the catfight-filled previews of the upcoming season, it looks like they got it.

A show insider told Radar, "The producers are excited by the two new arrivals and only completed filming the new series within the past couple of weeks - they believe they have some strong and colorful material."
Season three of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" premieres October 4 on Bravo. Don't be tardy for the party.

Survey: Adolescent vaccination on the rise

By Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA (Aug. 20) A recent survey out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that adolescent vaccination at the national, state and selected local area levels are all on the rise.

Continued increases — as much as 15% — were made in nationwide coverage for vaccines specifically recommended for pre-teens, according to 2009 National Immunization Survey-Teen estimates released Thursday by the CDC.

The survey of more than 20,000 teens ages 13 to 17 years found that in 2009 there were increases in the percentage of teens in this age group who had received vaccines routinely recommended for 11- and 12-year-olds. Specifically:    
  • For one dose of the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis vaccine, coverage went up about 15 points to about 56%;     
• For one dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine, coverage went up about 12 points to about 54%;
• For girls who received at least one dose of human papillomavirus vaccine, coverage increased 7 points to about 44%.
   However, for girls who received the recommended three doses of HPV vaccine, coverage was only about 27% (a 9% increase);
This year's data are mixed," stated Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "We can see that more parents of adolescents are electing to protect their children from serious diseases such as pertussis, meningitis and cervical cancer, but there is clear room for improvement in our system's ability to reach this age group."

"Pertussis outbreaks in several states and an increase in pertussis-related infant deaths in California highlight how important it is for pre-teens to receive the Tdap booster," Schuchat added. "It is important for teens and adults to get a one-time dose of Tdap to protect themselves and those around them from whooping cough. 

Young infants are most vulnerable to serious complications from pertussis and can be infected by older siblings, parents or other caretakers."

Mastering Places Privacy Can Be Tricky, Facebook Critics Charge

Mastering Places Privacy Can Be Tricky, Facebook Critics Charge
When it rolled out its new Places mobile feature this week, Facebook made a point to focus on the opt-in nature of the new service. While "opt-in" is usually music to the ears of privacy advocates, they're still critical of some of the ways Places shares information. In order to get a handle on the finer points of Places privacy, they charge, users still have to swim through a thick mire of menus screens.

Facebook rolled out its Places feature this week to much fanfare -- so much, in fact, that the official Facebook Blog has an update note posted that users who are unable to access the service should try back soon to see if they can check in. The app, available on the iPhone as part of Facebook for iPhone and available to all other mobile users through the website, allows people to indicate their location in the physical world to all their Facebook friends in the virtual world.
For its part, Facebook has been quick to point out that Places is an opt-in application. One must specifically enable the geolocation tool and then choose to use it. However, privacy experts continue to worry that the privacy controls on Facebook's many tools are difficult to navigate. For example, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has posted specific recommendations about four different settings that users should adjust when choosing to use Places. Tunneling Through Menus Places allows users to "check in" to a specific location, via Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Maps, when they arrive. Examples given by the service include a live show or a meeting place for an event. However, one can also check other people in -- a mark similar to tagging a friend in a photograph or status update. Thus, people who are Facebook friends can indicate their physical location with or without their knowledge. One can imagine a host of scenarios in which this might not be optimal under even the best of circumstances. Under the worst of circumstances, such as situations of stalking and domestic violence, the potential problems could become dangerous.

If a user chooses to use the Places app, EPIC recommends customizing its settings:
"(1) disable "Friends can check me in to Places," (2) customize "Places I Check In," (3) disable "People Here Now," and (4) uncheck "Places I've Visited." The organization is pointing out that, once again, users must make their way through a range of settings before accomplishing the goal of protecting their information in the ways they wish.

Where's the Scare?

Despite the worries, Places seems to have rolled out without a great deal of privacy concern among users. This may be due in part to how the service has positioned the opt-in nature of the service. In his blog post on the subject, Places product manager Michael Sharon was quick to point out that, "with Places, you are in control of what you share and the people you share with. You choose whether or not to share your location when you check in at a place. When you check in, you can tag friends who are with you but only if their settings allow it. When you are tagged, you are always notified."
However, he also notes that users who have their master privacy controls set to "Everyone," are, in essence, allowing anyone who visits that user's Profile page exactly where they are. What many users may not understand about this is that even non-Facebook Web surfers have access to that profile. That is, those who, on purpose or inadvertently, have their Facebook settings on "Everyone" are publishing their information for public access on the Web.

No One's Going Anywhere Over Places

Will any of this diminish the use of Facebook? Probably not, according to Jennifer Golbeck, assistant professor of information studies at the University of Maryland. While individual users may be angered by changes in particular privacy settings, or, in this case, by the need for them to change their own settings to prevent others from publishing their whereabouts, they are unlikely to leave the service. Facebook has become a crucial part of most people's communications structure, Golbeck told TechNewsworld. Thus, leaving the service would mean leaving behind the information shared only there by hundreds of friends and colleagues.

It's an issue about which people need to become educated and aware, Claire Simmers, chair of international business at St. Joseph's University, told TechNewsWorld. While privacy experts debate the legalities and regulation concerns over Facebook's constantly changing settings, the rest of us must still do what we can to protect our information and those of people like our children who perhaps don't understand the import of the choices they may make.

Black Journalists' Group Calls for Forum on 'Talk Show Hate'

Group Says Dr. Laura And Media Companies Must Be Held Accountable

WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement from Kathy Times, President of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) on the recent criticism of conservative talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger for using a racial slur on the talk show:

I will never forget the first time I was called the n-word. In fact, a young white man in Alabama hit me with a double dose of hate and called me a n----- b----. It was 2002. It was my first day on a new job as an investigative reporter. It took a few seconds for the full impact of the slur to hit me. Then, it felt like I'd been sucker punched in the gut.

I can imagine that is how the African-American caller felt when she and other listeners heard Dr. Laura Schlessinger use the n-word 11 times... taken aback, shocked, and speechless.

When will people learn it's never OK to use the n-word, no matter how many times it is uttered in the name of entertainment, sarcasm or disgust?  Instead of helping one of her callers, Dr. Laura chose to go on a tirade that appeared to reveal deep-rooted thoughts on politics and black America.

Dr. Laura apologized for using the offensive language. She does not have the right to use racial slurs on public airwaves. She says she will not do radio anymore, but there are deeper issues that must be addressed by the company that syndicates her show – Premiere Radio Networks. Why wait until the next on-air personality slips up?  

Is it time for the n-word and other racial epithets to be added to the list of seven dirty words (made famous by comedian George Carlin)?

 The use of those words hit broadcasters where it hurts them most – on the bottom line with fines and lost advertising revenue.  But the fear of losing ad dollars should not be the only reason to end this era of hate on the public's airwaves. 

It is past time for a movement to address "Talk Show Hate." As the president of the National Association of Black Journalists, my goal is not to change the inherent mindset of provocateurs and consumers of any controversial media platform, but instead to lead the charge in forums that educate those who dare to think for themselves. I believe most people are open to embracing people of all races based on the content of their character. We invite Dr. Laura and Premiere Radio Networks to join us in a conversation leading to change in the public discourse, which both embraces their right to free speech and our desire to end the use of racial slurs and epithets on the public's airwaves.

By the way, that young white man who called me those terrible names eventually apologized and gave me an interview. I accepted the apology, but I'll never forget the venomous sting that my ancestors must have felt when their slave masters conjured up the n-word.

SOURCE National Association of Black Journalists

Shreveport native wins Miss Black International 2010 By By Devin White

Ebonee Rhodes, winner of Miss Louisiana Black International, took home the crown at the Miss Black International pageant in Atlanta on Saturday.

“I am honored to have been chosen as Miss Black International. It was an experience of a lifetime,” Rhodes said. “I believe that this achievement sends a strong message to our youth. You can achieve anything with hard work, dedication and faith.”

A native of Shreveport, Rhodes, 23, graduated from Caddo Magnet High School. She is pursuing a degree in law at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge.

Rhodes is planning to spread the message of her “True Beauty” platform to young people all over the country.
“I will use my year’s reign to expand my ‘True Beauty’ platform and continue to spread the message of the importance of self-confidence and self-esteem to young women across the nation,” she said.

At the national pageant, Rhodes competed in categories such as swimwear, evening wear, talent and personal interview. She received prizes such as cash, a professional wardrobe and a photo shoot for national pageant and modeling magazines.

Rhodes said after competing in pageants for seven years, this was her final competition.

Israeli Soldiers Accused of Sexual Abuse

A children rights group has accused the Israeli military of abusing Palestinian teenagers who were arrested by Israeli soldiers.

The Palestinian branch of Defense for Children International (DCI) has filed dozens of complaints with both Israeli legal authorities and the UN, Haaretz reported.

Since September 2009, the UN has received details of more than 100 cases in which military authorities allegedly abused minors who were held in detention.'


Lauryn Hill Is Back!!!

Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill’s absence has been felt. The elusive singer reappears on the Billboard charts for the first time as a lead artist in over a decade with a previously unreleased song.

The Grammy winner’s leaked track “Repercussions” enters the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart this week at No. 94. The last time she was on the charts as a lead artist was in November 1999 with “Turn Your Lights Down Low” featuring Bob Marley. In 2006, Method Man’s Hill-assisted song “Say” peaked at No. 66 after 10 weeks.

The former Fugees member hasn’t released a studio album since her solo debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1998, but maybe this is the encouragement she needs to stage a comeback.

Ms. Hill has been traveling the world playing shows, recently performing at Rwanda’s FESPAD Festival. She will headline the Rock the Bells Festival stateside beginning in Los Angeles this weekend.

Lottery Ticket: The AMG Review

Ice Cube has built a successful film career as a producer and actor in large part because he tells stories that he has an emotional connection to, even if the movies themselves don’t seem overly concerned with much more than giving viewers a good time. Lottery Ticket is another example of Cube’s acumen.

The setup is as follows: Hard-working Foot Locker salesman Kevin Carson (Bow Wow) buys a lottery ticket that ends up being worth hundreds of millions of dollars. When he goes with his best friend, fast-talking Benny (Brandon T. Jackson), to collect his winnings at the lottery office, they discover that it’s closed for a long holiday weekend. They plan to lay low for three days, but after Kevin’s grandmother blabs to the neighborhood about his windfall, the two buddies have to stay hidden from loan sharks, religious leaders, and bad guys who will do anything to get their hands on the fortune.
While the script for Lottery Ticket isn’t anything special, the actors give it some life. Bow Wow and Jackson are both eager young performers, and they throw themselves into the material with a commitment that helps sell some of the lame jokes (like Kevin’s persnickety boss), and drives home the two or three great ones (like the high-rolling shopping montage). They can’t quite transcend the material, but they make it play as well as it possibly could.

However, it’s Ice Cube who steals the film as Mr. Washington, a retired boxer living like a hermit in the middle of the projects. The character is full of advice, and Cube’s comic timing is pitch-perfect throughout his too-few scenes. It’s through this character that the movie gets across the big message — the importance of taking care of your neighborhood and your people. Sure it’s a facile feel-good way to try to pin some substance on this otherwise breezy comedy, but it’s welcome — as is the sneaking suspicion that Cube likes getting a chance to take a swipe at all the people who probably started hitting him up for money when the bucks started rolling in from his N.W.A. days.

Lottery Ticket isn’t particularly memorable, but it’s filled with fun little cameos and likable performers. And, if nothing else, it shows yet again that Ice Cube got rich because he’s smart and talented, not because he hit the lottery.

BY Perry Seibert

The Last Fighting Brigade Has Just Left Iraq!

That’s it, it’s over, the last of the fighting men and women in Iraq are on trucks and are officially leaving Iraq at this moment. The numbers are hard to come by at this point because it is undetermined how many were actually still there for military action. But as you read this, there are many men and women giving high fives as they exist Iraq, and leave behind 50,000 non-combatant soldiers for operation “New Dawn.”

The troops left behind will be there for office work and training, not combat mission, although they will be able to defend themselves if needed. The pullout was promised by President Obama and scheduled for the end of this year for the end of all combat missions in the war torn country.

The Iraqi war lasted 7½ years, and is officially ending today, Wednesday, the 18th of August, 2010.

Gov says Miss. will seek federal stimulus funds, APFN

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Republican Gov. Haley Barbour says Mississippi will apply for federal stimulus money for education and won’t have to rearrange the state budget to do so.

Barbour had said earlier that the state may have to shift funds around to meet the requirements in the bill. However, Barbour said Thursday in a letter to legislators, superintendents and school board members that he’s been assured by federal officials that Mississippi meets the requirements allowing states to access the funds.

"Although I would have voted against this legislation were I in Congress, I intend to apply for the approximately $98 million in funding for K-12 education," Barbour wrote to legislators.

"Our taxpayers, and their children and grandchildren are on the hook for the debt resulting from this federal spending, and it does not require us to raise taxes or make other negative policy changes, so I believe Mississippians should receive the extra funds for education purposes."

Sen. Hob Bryan, a Democrat from Amory, said Thursday that when lawmakers crafted the current budget, they included provisions about what to do if Mississippi receives federal stimulus money. The state fiscal year began July 1.

Congress approved the federal money last week.

Bryan said Barbour should have taken a closer look at the issue before saying earlier that the state would not accept the funds.

Barbour, meanwhile, said the 2012 fiscal year "is poised to be the most difficult budgetary year our state has had in recent memory" and urged districts to set aside the money.

General McChrystal, General Petraeus, and General Confusion

 Barack Obama’s Afghanistan commanders are something else. First, they promoted a highly debatable counter-insurgency strategy. Then, despite the numerous and cogent contemporary critiques, they got the president to buy into their particular brand of wishful thinking, and they got from him the additional troops supposedly needed for success. They have since failed to deliver. There are no convincing signs of progress toward their promise of pacification.

You would think they would have enough to do in Afghanistan. They should keep pretty busy managing an international coalition, bucking up the Karzai government, building an Afghan army, and distributing U.S. largesse, not to mention figuring out where the assorted bad guys are and how to put them in their place. But no, they manage to find quality time to spend with the media, unburdening themselves at remarkable length.

Stanley McChrystal and his aides got carried away, and now David Petraeus has caught the media bug, going on a blitz earlier this week. He wants us all to know that he rejects “a graceful exit,” even though that is probably the best to be hoped for. He assures us that he is working hard to “achieve our objectives” (whatever they may be). And in impressively technocratic language he sheds light on the situation on the ground by indicating that he is close to getting “the inputs about right.”

The real general in command seems to be confusion. There is most obviously confusion about what the personalities are up to. Heaven knows what Petraeus has in mind. Has he suddenly recalled that Nixon’s troop withdrawal from Vietnam was a version of “a graceful exit” strategy — and he wants no part of a repeat? Or has settling into McChrystal’s chair convinced him that the situation is far worse than he imagined?

So he turns to the U.S. public and the president with a plea for more time. By doing so, it seems on the basis of the evidence offered in Jonathan Alter’s The Promise that he is double-crossing his commander in chief. Late last year at the end of extended deliberations over Afghan strategy, he joined Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen in making a firm commitment to respect the 2011 deadline for beginning significant U.S. troop withdrawals. Petraeus may well calculate he can get away with this reversal: an inexperienced president with one sacking behind him is not likely to attempt a second, especially if the fresh challenge is mounted adroitly.

Is it possible on the other hand that Obama is at least tacitly behind this backpedaling? There is precedent for a president using his field commander for political ends: Johnson brought his Vietnam commander, William Westmoreland, home in late 1967 to sell a war even as it was going badly in the field. This doesn’t seem Obama’s style, but the gap between promise and performance in Afghanistan and the competing claims of other causes closer to home must be creating intense pressure on the president.

General confusion is also at work in civil-military relations. No question, the era of the political general has arrived. Vietnam taught at least some in the military establishment that generals need to speak their mind forcefully. But where exactly is the line that defines civilian control under the new dispensation where generals freely address the public and negotiate with the president on ultimate strategic goals? Where does civilian control end and insubordination begin? We may be watching in McChrystal and Petraeus some senior Army leaders not just trying to find that line but also to move it.

Finally, in grandest terms, general confusion reigns in the American national understanding of itself. Over the last several decades the country has undergone a militarization notable for its breadth (a point elaborated in Andrew Bacevich’s The New American Militarism). Generals and admirals have fanned out from the Pentagon to populate the upper levels of the decisionmaking apparatus throughout Washington. The society is enamored with military virtues so strikingly missing in the everyday life of most Americans. Politicians and the media heap praise on the sacrifice of servicemen and women while banishing any thought that that sacrifice should be shared, least of all through universal military service. Patriots boast of their country’s prowess on the battlefield — a might far exceeding any imaginable combination of powers — even though U.S. expeditionary forces regularly reveal the limits of brute coercion.

This militarization of America, of which McChrystal and Petraeus are symptoms, would shock the founding fathers. Fortified by a well developed sense of history, the founders identified foreign military adventures as one of the prime dangers to the survival of any republic. They were certain that foreign wars raised up generals, who in turn became celebrated men on horseback and in the bargain a threat to democratic values and institutions. Their America, they warned, was no more immune to a subversive militarism than had been Greece, Rome, and the Italian city states.

Maybe Obama should be reading The Federalist Papers. He could start with Alexander Hamilton’s no. 8:
“The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”
This might be a good time to put a stop to general confusion and to that end assert firm civilian control, order the brass back to the Pentagon, and above all ask if the militarization of our society is consistent with our historic values.

Michael H. Hunt is Everett H. Emerson Professor of History Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His ten books include The American Ascendancy: How the United States Gained and Wielded Global Dominance and A Vietnam War Reader: A Documentary History from American and Vietnamese Perspectives. His comments “on Washington and the world” appear here regularly and can also be found on his website.

Iran: Obama Administration Dampens Down War Chatter (Mazzetti/Sanger)

Posted by Scott Lucas
After weeks of whipped-up talk by commentators of an Israeli airstrike on Tehran, President Obama’s have moved to dampen down thoughts — through a message to West Jerusalem, to the American public, and possibly to the Iranian regime — of military action. Mark Mazzetti and David Sanger of the New York Times are the channel:

The Obama administration, citing evidence of continued troubles inside Iran’s nuclear program, has persuaded Israel that it would take roughly a year — and perhaps longer — for Iran to complete what one senior official called a “dash” for a nuclear weapon, according to American officials.

Administration officials said they believe the assessment has dimmed the prospect that Israel would pre-emptively strike against the country’s nuclear facilities within the next year, as Israeli officials have suggested in thinly veiled threats.

For years, Israeli and American officials have debated whether Iran is on an inexorable drive toward a nuclear bomb and, if so, how long it would take to produce one. A critical question has been the time it would take Tehran to convert existing stocks of low-enriched uranium into weapons-grade material, a process commonly known as “breakout.”

Israeli intelligence officials had argued that Iran could complete such a race for the bomb in months, while American intelligence agencies have come to believe in the past year that the timeline is longer.

“We think that they have roughly a year dash time,” said Gary Samore, President Obama’s top adviser on nuclear issues, referring to how long it would take the Iranians to convert nuclear material into a working weapon. “A year is a very long period of time.”

American officials said the United States believed international inspectors would detect an Iranian move toward breakout within weeks, leaving a considerable amount of time for the United States and Israel to consider military strikes….

Now, American and Israeli officials believe breakout is unlikely anytime soon. For one thing, Iran, which claims it is interested in enriching uranium only for peaceful purposes, would be forced to build nuclear bombs from a limited supply of nuclear material, currently enough for two weapons. Second, such a decision would require kicking out international weapons inspectors, eliminating any ambiguity about Iran’s nuclear plans.

Even if Iran were to choose this path, American officials said it would probably take Iran some time to reconfigure its nuclear facilities to produce weapons-grade uranium and ramp up work on designing a nuclear warhead….

Several officials said they believed the mounting cost of the economic sanctions, especially those affecting Iran’s ability to import gasoline and develop its oil fields, has created fissures among Iran’s political elite and forced a debate about the costs of developing nuclear weapons….
Read full article….

Last of 3 Az. Prison Escapees Nabbed at Campground

John McCluskey/marshal photo
John McCluskey/marshal photo
By Allan Lengel

The hunt for the last of three fugitives who escaped from an Arizona prison is over.

The U.S. Marshals Service said John McCluskey and his accomplice Casslyn Welch were captured Thursday at a campsite in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in eastern Arizona following a tip from a suspicious U.S. Forest Service ranger, the Associated Press reported. Welch is McLulskey’s fiancee and cousin.

Welch and two other inmates escaped from a private prison in northwest Arizona on July 30. The other two had already been captured.

The Associated Press reported that the ranger on Thursday checked an unattended fire and noticed a silver Nissan Sentra had been parked in a wooded area as if someone was trying to hide it.

AP reported that the ranger spoke briefly to McCluskey, who appeared nervous.

A SWAT team later surrounded the camp ground and made the arrest, U.S. Marshal David Gonzales said, according to AP.

Gonzales said Welch reached for a weapon but dropped it after realizing she was outnumbered. McCluskey was lying in a sleeping bag.

“The nightmare that began July 30 is finally over,” Gonzales said, according to the AP.

Liberal Health Care Activists Advised to Avoid Saying That ObamaCare Reduces Costs and Deficit

Uh-oh. This operation isn't working out.
Are liberals backing down from core arguments about cost and deficit reductions in the new health care law? A leaked Powerpoint presentation put together by an alliance of prominent liberal politicians indicate that prominent liberal health care activists are moving away from messaging that focuses on health care costs and deficit reduction.

Politico’s Ben Smith has posted a copy of the presentation, which starts by noting the “challenging” environment for reformer advocates. What’s the challenge? “Straightforward ‘policy’ defenses fail to be moving voters’ opinions of the law,” the presentation explains, and many people “don’t believe that health reform will help the economy.” Not only are voters worried about the rising cost of health care, they “believe costs will continue to rise.” It’s a frank admission that the economic argument in favor of the law has basically failed amongst voters.

So what are activists to do? The presentation suggests that when making the case for ObamaCare, advocates must reassure seniors that Medicare benefits won’t be cut (which isn’t strictly true). And it suggests they focus on the recent decision to force insurers to offer “free preventive care” (never mind they these benefits aren’t really free). But whatever they do, the final slide of the presentation warns, activists should not “say the law will reduce costs and deficit”—which is probably a smart idea given how unlikely the administration's claims about the deficit have always been.

Here’s Smith on the groups behind the message:
The messaging shift was circulated this afternoon on a conference call and PowerPoint presentation organized by FamiliesUSA—one of the central groups in the push for the initial legislation. The call was led by a staffer for the Herndon Alliance, which includes leading labor groups and other health care allies. It was based on polling from three top Democratic pollsters, John Anzalone, Celinda Lake, and Stan Greenberg....The Herndon Alliance, which presented the research, is a low-profile group which coordinated liberal messaging in favor of the public option in health care. Its "partners" include health care legislation's heavyweight supporters: The AARP, AFL-CIO, SEIU, Health Care for America Now, MoveOn, and La Raza, among many others.
Aw, dagnabbit guys...

Is the White House, which spent so much time and energy making the case for the fiscal responsibility of its health care law, going to push back at so many of its close allies for playing down its initial cost and deficit claims? Somehow I doubt it. Not when we’re already seeing evidence that the PPACA will push health insurance premiums higher starting as early as next year.

The best case that liberal health care advocates can make here is that they are simply backing off the cost and deficit claims because those arguments aren’t resonating with voters. No matter what, as Smith's piece notes, this signals a dramatic shift in messaging—one that basically concedes that, in the court of public opinion, critics have won the core economic argument about the law.


Bush more popular than Obama in key districts, according to pollster

He's been bashed and blamed by Barack Obama and the Democrats for the two years since he left office. Now the pendulum is swinging back for former President George W. Bush. If people bad-mouth someone long enough, does it eventually cause a backlash? That seems to be the case with President Bush as he sees his popularity rise in this important election cycle.

The Fox Nation is intrigued as Obama's poll numbers sink and President Bush becomes more visible:
The advice from Democratic consultants and strategists [for Democratic candidates] is almost unanimous: Run away from the president, and fast. A prominent Democratic pollster is circulating a survey that shows George W. Bush is 6 points more popular than President Obama in "Frontline" districts -- seats held by Democrats that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sees as most vulnerable to Republican takeover. That Bush is more popular than Obama in Democratic-held seats is cause for outright fear. [Emphasis added.]
The strong, steady leadership of George W. Bush led this country through the aftermath of the worst attack since Pearl Harbor. When 3,000 people lost their lives on 9/11/01, George W. Bush never backed down and never blamed America but stood up for the troops and promised to do everything within his power to keep the American homeland safe. That mission was, indeed, accomplished. Perhaps now he is beginning to receive the recognition he deserved.

Is the Iraq War Over? by T.R. Donoghue

While the blogosphere is distracted by the latest moronic uttering from Howard Dean the nation has reached a milestone in the Iraq war. MSNBC reports, 2276756503_131c6e0a96_m Is the Iraq War Over?
The last U.S. combat troops crossed the border into Kuwait on Thursday morning, bringing to a close the active combat phase of a 7½-year war that overthrew the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, forever defined the presidency of George W. Bush and left more than 4,400 American service members and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead.
The final convoy of the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., began entering Kuwait about 1:30 a.m. (6:30 p.m. Wednesday ET), carrying the last of the 14,000 U.S. combat forces in Iraq, said NBC’s Richard Engel, who has been traveling with the brigade as it moved out this week.
If the end of the Iraq War seems a bit anti-climactic that’s probably because we’re not really leaving. Besides leaving behind the world’s largest embassy (it is the size of the Vatican) we’re also leaving 50,000 “advise and assist” troops behind through 2011 - maybe. The commander of the Iraqi Army is asking that U.S. troops remain for another decade,
General Babaker Shawkat Zebari, the commander of Iraq’s military, is suggesting that the United States stick around for, oh, another ten years or so. “If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: the U.S. army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020,” he said at a conference in Baghdad.
Still, as the New York Times media blog reports, the American media establishment has dutifully toed the Pentagon line,
The combat mission in Iraq doesn’t officially end until Aug. 31 but viewers and readers could be forgiven for thinking it ended tonight.
In a broadcast that Brian Williams said constituted an “official Pentagon announcement,” NBC showed live pictures Wednesday night as members of the last combat brigade in Iraq drove toward the Kuwait border, symbolizing an end to fighting in the country…
The Associated Press, Fox News, The Los Angeles TimesThe Washington Post, Al Jazeera and other news media outlets also reported Wednesday evening that the last combat troops were crossing into Kuwait. Only NBC broadcast it live, in asymmetrical image to the invasion that captured the nation’s attention on television seven years ago.
The movement of the trucks, televised live on “NBC Nightly News” and simulcast on MSNBC, was a largely symbolic demonstration that the war, as Americans have known it, is in its waning phases.
A fitting “end” to a war which was launched by the Bush administration with a big assist from the media,
[T]he level of mediated public deliberation was so diminished as to make the preponderance of journalism little more than an instrumental extension – a sort of propaganda helper – of the strategic communication goals of the administration. With few notable exceptions, the press took a pass on its fourth estate prerogatives. Posing the hard questions, testing the administrations logic and execution at every point, remaining sceptical – all this was drowned in a sea of waving flags and gung-ho celebrations of military technology.
The true consequences and costs of the war will take decades to calculate.  Over 4,000 U.S. troops dead, untold thousands of Iraqi’s dead and maimed, families destroyed, children orphaned and trillions of dollars spent.
There will be time enough in the future to extract the hard lessons of Operation Iraqi Freedom. For now let us be thankful that the end is now within sight. To those who have served In Iraq - thank you for your service and your sacrifice. To those politicians and propogandists who unleashed this hell on America and Iraq, may God have mercy on your souls.

Haitian President Rene Preval Met With Wyclef Jean For Over 2 Hours Yesterday

Haitian President Rene Preval met with presidential hopeful Wyclef Jean for more than two hours on Thursday, touching off a new round of speculation as to whether the singer will be allowed to run in Nov. 28 elections.

Jean told The Associated Press that he felt the exchange with Preval was positive.

“I feel good,” the hip hop artist and former Fugees frontman said. “I feel that the president that I voted for five years ago is the same person that was sitting in front of me today.”

He said he was hopeful that an electoral council weighing his candidacy will rule that he can run.
“It looks like it’s leaning that way,” he said.

Several hours after the meeting, Jean posted a photo on his Twitter account of him shaking hands with Preval, who is not allowed to run for re-election.

Earlier in the week, Jean said he had received death threats. Jean said Preval expressed concern and offered him security.

The singer and several dozen other presidential hopefuls are scheduled to find out Friday if the country’s electoral council allows them to run for office.

The council, which is known as the CEP, was supposed to release the presidential candidate list on Tuesday, but postponed the decision.

Haitians are watching the election closely; whoever is elected will preside over reconstruction of the earthquake battered, impoverished country.

For several days, Haitians, bloggers and international media have speculated whether Jean will be on the list. He was born in Haiti but moved to New York when he was nine. Under Haitian law, candidates for president must reside in the country for five years prior to taking office. Jean contends he meets the requirements, and has hired lawyers to defend his case.

A spokesman for the CEP, Richardson Dumel, said Thursday evening that the list of candidates “is not yet final” and added that he cannot disclose who has made the cut.

Late Thursday night, about 500 Wyclef supporters gathered at the entrance to the CEP, which is housed in what was once a Gold’s Gym.

“We are here to make sure that the CEP gives out a fair result and for Wyclef to participate in the election,” said protester Jean Renel.

Jean added that Preval told him he wanted to “meet with every possible presidential candidate,” and called for a peaceful campaign ahead of the vote.

A call to Preval’s press office was not returned.

Clemens is Getting Indicted

A mere two and a half years after he obviously perjured himself in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform -- who says the government doesn't move quickly! -- Roger Clemens will be receiving an indictment from the federal government on Thursday. The Fat Texas Con-Man has waged a pointless effort to counter his former trainer Brian McNamee's testimony that Clemens did in fact, for YEARS, use steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs since he first appeared before the congressional committee.

Thursday's news, broken by the New York Times means that Clemens might be in some hot water, considering lying to congress can result in jail time, he'd better get back on the 'roids and get that ol' rage back up before he heads into the pen.
What a fraud.