Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Exclusive: Jimmy Carter headed to North Korea on rescue mission

Posted By Josh Rogin

Jimmy Carter is set to travel to North Korea very soon, according to two sources familiar with the former president's plans, in what they characterized as a private mission to free a U.S. citizen imprisoned there.

Carter has decided to make the trip and is slated to leave for the Hermit Kingdom within days, possibly bringing his wife and daughter along for the journey. His goal is to bring back Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a 30-year-old man from Boston who was sentenced to 8 years in prison in April, about three months after he was arrested crossing into North Korea via China. In July, North Korea's official media organ reported that Gomes had tried to commit suicide. Earlier this month, the State Department secretly sent a four-man team to Pyongyang to visit Gomes, but was unable to secure his release.

There will be no U.S. government officials on the trip and Carter is traveling in his capacity as a private citizen, our sources report -- much like when former President Bill Clinton traveled to Pyongyang last August to bring home Current TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who had wandered across the North Korean border with China and were promptly arrested and threatened with years of hard labor.

A senior administration official would not confirm that Carter has decided to go but told The Cable, "If anyone goes it would be a private humanitarian effort." Carter's office did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

The Obama administration wants desperately to avoid conflating the Carter trip with its current stance toward North Korea, which is to engage Kim Jong Il's regime only if and when North Korea agrees to abide by its previous commitments and agrees to return to the six-party talks over its nuclear program, which Pyongyang abandoned in 2008.

Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, had offered to go to pick up Gomes and has been working on the case for months, but our sources report Carter was selected because he is not a serving U.S. official. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson had also been considered, but it's not clear why he was not chosen.

Carter has personal experience dealing with North Korea. In a dramatic and controversial June 1994 trip, after North Korea threatened to reprocess its spent nuclear fuel and the Clinton administration called for U.N. sanctions, the former president flew to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong Il's father, Kim Il Sung, and successfully persuaded him to negotiate.

This time, leading Korea experts say, Carter's trip should not be seen as a change in U.S. policy toward Pyongyang and will likely not yield any breakthrough in what most see as a diplomatic stalemate between the two sides.

"Obviously, State and the White House had to be involved in the planning of this. But if you're going to try to pitch this as a foreshadowing of a new diplomatic engagement or a breakthrough, it's certainly not going to be that," said L. Gordon Flake, executive director of the Mansfield Foundation, a think tank Focused on Northeast Asia.

When Clinton flew to Pyongyang to free the two Current TV reporters, who received a "special pardon" from the Dear Leader, he was extremely careful not to wade into policy matters.
"I don't anticipate that in any way President Carter will be carrying water for Obama or for any change in policy toward North Korea, because what is required for North Korea to move forward in negotiations with the United States is clear," said Flake.

But although Carter doesn't have official sanctioning to wade into North Korea policymaking, he might just do it anyway. Carter is known for having an independent streak, boldly taking on foreign-policy issues whether invited to do so or not.

Many former officials reference Carter's last trip to North Korea as evidence of this phenomenon. According to several officials who were involved in the policy at that time, Carter's deal with Kim Il Sung went beyond what the Clinton administration had authorized.

After the elder Kim's death the following month, the United States and North Korea entered talks in earnest, resulting in the 1994 Agreed Framework, which represents the most comprehensive cooperation between North Korea and the West to this day.

"As a result of his going slightly off the reservation, we got back to productive negotiations and before long negotiated the most effective agreement we've ever had with the North Koreans," said former ambassador Thomas Hubbard, who was then deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs and deputy to the lead negotiator for the Agreed Framework, Robert Gallucci.

"You can't expect President Carter to take orders and do things the way the president wants it done, but to my mind it's a risk worth taking," Hubbard said. (Clinton himself later told former Joint Chiefs chairman Colin Powell, "I took a chance on him in North Korea, and that didn't turn out too badly," according to an account by the late David Halberstam.)

Not everyone remembers Carter's trip so fondly. Some Clinton administration officials were furious with Carter at the time for coloring outside the lines, and saw him as being deliberately roguish, considering that he brought a CNN camera crew with him and announced his deal before the Clintonites could object. The Clinton White House decided to take his ball and run with it after the fact.

"There are a lot of memories of Jimmy Carter's last trip to North Korea and a lot of people kind of thought he hijacked our diplomacy," said Joel Wit, a former U.S. nuclear negotiator who is now a visiting fellow at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies and the founder of its website about North Korea, 38 North. "The bottom line is he did a good thing and the work he did there helped to pave the way to get the Agreed Framework."

Some experts argue that sending Carter is a bad idea that will only encourage further bad behavior on the part of Pyongyang.

"Sending another ex-president establishes a very bad precedent," said Amb. Charles "Jack" Pritchard, who served as special envoy to North Korea during the George W. Bush administration. "Mr. Carter has a history, an understanding, and a point-of-view where I can't imagine he would not, on his own, engage the North Koreans on substantive issues more than just the return of Mr. Gomes."

"If that's what they want," he said, referring to the Obama administration, "then he's a very appropriate choice."
Obama's tough posture toward Pyongyang, which includes as yet unspecified new financial sanctions and repeated military exercises with U.S. ally South Korea -- all of which are meant to show solidarity and strength after North Korea sunk the South Korea ship the Cheonan -- could be compromised, said Pritchard.
"It sends a signal, whether intended or not, that the United States is trying to get past the Cheonan incident, with the potential that we would be slightly out of step with the South Koreans," Pritchard said.
That's not a universally held view among former Bush administration officials, however.

"In the end, if the priority is to get the American out and that is what's required, then it's worth it, you've got to do it," said Victor Cha, Asia director for the National Security Council during the late Bush era. "If Carter can be helpful in getting some diplomatic dialogue going, that's fine. I hope he doesn't have some package to pull out of his pocket; that wouldn't be helpful."

Yet there are already signs that the Obama team's decision to essentially forgo direct engagement for the time being while concentrating on pressure and coordination with allies is fraying at the top levels.

We're told that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is said to be frustrated with the policy, had her Policy Planning chief Anne Marie Slaughter convene a high-level meeting at the State Department earlier this month to examine fresh options.

No matter what Carter does or how the North Koreans respond, the debate in Washington is likely to ramp up due to this trip, said Wit.

"The minute you send Jimmy Carter to North Korea, you've got to believe the pot is going to be stirred."

Sad, sad anime news: Satoshi Kon has died.

by Ard Vijn,

This is shocking news indeed: mere hours ago people at the Madhouse anime studio confirmed that legendary director Satoshi Kon has died, aged 46.
Satoshi Kon worked on several anime classics under Katsuhiro Otomo and Mamoru Oshii, but is most well-known for his own films released by Madhouse: "Perfect Blue", "Millennium Actress", "Tokyo Godfathers" and of course "Paprika". He also made the brilliant 13-episode series "Paranoia Agent". Currently he was working on his new film "The Dreaming Machine" which was scheduled for release next year.
To say he will be missed is an understatement. I think I will revisit "Paprika" tonight, with the commentary track on...

A man has been arrested at Paris Hilton's home in Los Angeles after she said he was trying to break in while holding two big knives.

Video: News Update: Former Pres. Jimmy Carter arrives in North Korea SmarTrend News

Former President Jimmy Carter arrived in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday.

Exclusive: How to Get Rid of Fannie and Freddie

By Robert Romano
Recently, Americans for Limited Government (ALG) interviewed former chief credit officer of Fannie Mae, Edward Pinto, to get his thoughts on how best to bring an end to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-owned mortgage giants that helped cause the financial crisis, and to see what impact that would have on the housing market.

Pinto recently wrote an oped for the Wall Street Journal outlining his proposal, and also published a new forensic study explaining in indisputable detail how government policies, including those of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) helped to cause the crisis by weakening underwriting standards, lowering down payments, and generally degrading the quality of credit in the U.S.

“We got into this problem over 15 to 20 years through HUD, it’s going to take us time to get out of it because they’ve left us in a terrible mess. We need to back out of it just like one backs out of any alley,” Pinto said, explaining that it must be done “slowly and deliberately.”

Pinto noted that securities sold by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are only selling for a slightly higher rate than treasuries right now. “The spreads are narrow to Treasury because they’ve got the unlimited backing of the federal government. They’re not explicitly guaranteed by the federal government, but there is no limit on the amount of money that the Treasury can give to Fannie and Freddie to back them.”

Get full story here.

Recovery Summer and Stimulus: The Effects State by State

By Adam Bitely
Over the next 10 weeks, we will be examining the impact of the “stimulus” and “Recovery Summer” state by state at So far, the data we have examined indicates that the “stimulus” has been a complete and utter failure. Almost all 50 states have been negatively impacted.

Even further, the claims from the Obama Administration that the recovery would have been worse without the Recovery Act are ridiculous in the face of their own data.

What is clear after over a year and half of “stimulus” is that America is no further ahead, and rather, is further behind than it was. In almost every state that we have examined, unemployment has increased and the labor force has shrunk. This is hardly what Americans expected when the “Recovery Act” was made the law of the land.

For instance, check out California. Since January of 2009, the unemployment rate has increased by 2.6 percent, going from 9.7 percent to 12.3 percent as of June 30, 2010. That is an incredible increase for a state that has had over $23 billion of “stimulus” money spent inside of the state.

Get full story here.

Money Doesn’t Always Mean Success

By Rebekah Rast
“If you build it, he will come.”—The Voice.
Though the voice who spoke this quote intended it for the farmer in Field of Dreams, hoping to inspire him to build a baseball field, it seems some school districts nationwide are taking this quote as their own — applying its message well beyond a baseball field.

Come September, thousands of kindergarten through 12th graders will flood through the doors of the newly built Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles.

The education will be as standard as any other public school education. However, the aesthetics will not.
Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools is known as the “Taj Mahal” of public schools. Built from the former Ambassador Hotel, where the Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, the architects of the school held back no luxuries while staying true to the site’s acclaimed fame.
The complex holds 4,200 students within its art-covered walls and also houses a marble memorial depicting the school’s name sake.

A state-of-the-art swimming pool and public park enhance the complex as well.
Yes. This is a public school.

Get full story here.

9th Circuit Reinstates Evangelist's Defamation Claim Against ABC's 20/20

In Price v. Stossel, (9th Cir., Aug. 24, 2010), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a California district court's early-stage dismissal under California's anti-SLAPP statute of a defamation claim by a prosperity gospel evangelist. Dr. Frederick Price brought an action against ABC television correspondent John Stossel and others involved in producing the show 20/20.  On the show, Stossel showed a clip of a sermon by Price in which Price describes a person with substanital wealth. Out of context the show suggested Price was talking about himself when, in fact, the quote was about a hypothetical wealthy person who was spiritally unfulfilled. The 9th Circuit held that for purposes of an anti-SLAPP motion, the court should determine whether the clip as broadcast materially altered the meaning conveyed by the speaker. The district court had erroneously relied on the conclusion that the statement's meaning, while distorted by ABC, was still substantially true. In remanding to the district court, the 9th Circuit said it was expressing no opinion on whether plaintiff could show the other required elements of a defamation claim. OC Weekly yesterday reported on the opinion.

By My Photo
Howard M. Friedman

Mistake might have cost NJ federal education grant

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Failure to follow directions may have prevented New Jersey from winning a $400 million federal education grant.

Scoring documents from the Race to the Top grant competition show New Jersey received no points on one section. That’s because the state provided budget figures for 2010 and 2011 where the application sought numbers from 2008 and 2009.

Ohio, the lowest-scoring state to be awarded the grant Tuesday, got just three points more than New Jersey.
The gaffe was first reported by the Star-Ledger of Newark

State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver calls it “a stunning mistake that is going to hurt New Jersey’s children.”

Mexico: 72 Bodies Found at a ranch northeast of the country

Mexican authorities found 72 bodies inside a ranch near San Fernando, Tamaulipas, in northeastern Mexico, and presume that may be related to drug trafficking.

As reported, “58 of the victims are male and 14 are women.”

Persons handling the case did not give details about the conditions under which the bodies were found, nor under what circumstances they died.

According to the reports “a teenager who was shot sounded the alarm at a checkpoint that the Navy has close to where the incident happened.”

And “The officers sent to investigate the case were caught in a shootout when they came to the farm. A sailor and three suspected drug traffickers were killed during the shootout. “

Authorities began with the expertise to identify victims, and reported that “in the place seized approximately 21 guns and 6000 rounds of ammunition and four trucks, one with a cloned plate of the Ministry of Defense.”
According to statistics, over the past four months found over 28 thousand people died as a result of drug-related violence in Mexico.

DNA test suggests Hitler may have been Jewish and North African

There goes the Fatherland.
The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph says that saliva samples were collected from 39 Hitler relatives:
A chromosome called Haplogroup E1b1b1 which showed up in their samples is rare in Western Europe and is most commonly found in the Berbers of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, as well as among Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews ...

Haplogroup E1b1b1, which accounts for approximately 18 to 20 per cent of Ashkenazi and 8.6 per cent to 30 per cent of Sephardic Y-chromosomes, appears to be one of the major founding lineages of the Jewish population.


18 Attorneys General call for the shutdown of craigslist’s adult services but one is missing

AGs Call for End of Craigslist Adult Services:

Attorneys general target Craigslist:

Missouri AG Chris Koster joins other attorneys general asking Craigslist to remove adult ads:

Ohio AG: Craigslist should drop adult services:

Tennessee AG joins in call on Craigslist to eliminate adult services section:

AGs demand Craigslist drop adult services section:

Gansler among 17 state AGs calling for Craigslist to drop adult services:

Kansas AG Asks Craigslist To Remove Adult Ads:
In case you couldn’t tell this is big news.

18 U.S. State Attorneys General have called for craigslist to shut down the adult services section. Among those are Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, Chris Koster of Missouri, Richard Cordray of Ohio, Bob Cooper of Tennessee, Dustin McDaniel of Arkansas, Douglas F. Gansler of Maryland, and Steve Six of Kansas. Not mentioned are the AGs from Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
Of course craigslist was quick to pay lip service to the AGs…
Craigslist supports states’ efforts to stop illegal exploitation, spokeswoman Susan MacTavish Best said in a statement that did not indicate whether the website plans to get rid of its adult services section.
Of course they have no intention of getting rid of adult services. Craigslist has a history of flying in the face of common decency.

While this is a big piece of news there’s something missing. It’s easy for these attorneys general to call for craigslist to shut down adult services. There’s only one attorney general who if he put his name behind this movement would have a huge impact. I am of course referring to former governor, former mayor of Oakland, current gubernatorial candidate and current attorney general of California…
Jerry Brown
Attorney General Brown, we may be politically opposed in some of our views but for a man who cares about the environment and opposes the death penalty I would imagine that you would be opposed to the trafficking of women and children that is being facilitated by craigslist.

Craigslist is headquartered in your home state. In my opinion craigslist’s shameful record when it comes to prostitution, child prostitution and human trafficking is a black eye for the Golden State. If I can’t appeal to your heart I will appeal to your aspirations. How much of a huge political coup would it be in your current gubernatorial race if you got the biggest facilitator of human trafficking in the country to get that section of the website shut down?

Mr. Brown, I beg of you to add your name to that of the other state attorney’s general in asking craigslist to shut down the adult services section. Maybe they will listen to you.

Don’t forget, while craigslist is dragging its feet has been human trafficking free since its inception.

by Trench Reynolds

Breaking: Allen Iverson to Sign with Charlotte Bobcats

August 22, 2009 – Dr. Anklesnap
There have been a lot of big names changing locations this summer in the NBA. Shaq to Cleveland, Sheed to Boston, Artest to LA. Aside from possibly Kobe Bryant, is there a more globally recognized name among currently active players than Allen Iverson? The man still hasn’t signed for next season, and it’s all anyone following the sport can talk about. You’re on one side of the fence or the other. You either believe he’s still an all-star caliber talent who needs to play in the right system, or you believe he’s a washed up, has been, scorer with an attitude.

Well, it’s no secret that I agree with my colleague Doc J-Water in believing that Allen Iverson is still a valuable asset to an NBA franchise. He puts butts in seats, and the man is less than a full year off being one of the top offensive talents in this league. The man has a lot left to offer.

Our colleagues over at Dime Magazine are reporting they have an NBA source that has confirmed Allen Iverson has finalized and agreed in principle to contract with the Charlotte Bobcats for next season. The details of the contract have not been released, so we are left to speculate. And speculate we will. The word is that the announcement could come as soon as early next week. But we don’t want to jump the gun, so we won’t give you much analysis of the back story until it is announced officially. Some things racing through my mind initially however….

Allen Iverson reuniting with Larry Brown to possibly put in a final chapter to their roller coaster ride of a HOF Coach/Star Player that has defined their relationship. These two have had some rough times together but they’ve also had some amazing times. NBA Finals, MVPs, COYs, and more.

If this deal does go down. How much sweeter could it be for Allen Iverson than to end his career playing for a boss who was once the man he worked so hard to avoid being measured against. Think about it. Allen Iverson playing for Michael Jordan’s team. Remember the now infamous cross-over by a wet behind the ears budding star in Iverson? How about the statements about ‘not wanting to be like Mike’ early on? Has Allen Iverson finally matured to the point where he can help lead this talented Bobcats roster into the playoffs. Will he accept a diminished role? Does he need to? How will Raymond Felton handle the challenge?

So many questions, so little time. I’m hoping this one gets finalized. I’d love to see it play out. Iverson, Jordan, and Brown in Charlotte. Love it.

The Apple Didn’t Fall Far From The Roulette Table

Central Florida baller Marcus Jordan, son of that one guy who used to play for the Bulls, had himself a nice little visit to Vegas last week with brother Jeffrey and a fellow UCFer, junior point guard A.J. Rompza. Now, the important thing to remember about Vegas is that you have to go in on a budget…unless your dad happens to be Michael Jordan.
Marcus Jordan later posted on his Twitter account about the players’ visits to Haze Nightclub and Liquid Pool Lounge at Aria Hotel and Casino City Center.
“Last night was stupid,” Marcus Jordan wrote on his Twitter account. “… 35k at Haze… Totals 50k something the whole day.. Damn!! Going to the pool again today.. Gotta relax!” –Orlando Sentinel.
Hey, good on him. I’m sure he his dad has the money and that he’s showing his son the ins and outs of losing more money than most people make in a year. That said, I couldn’t spend that kind of money if I was there for a month. And paid rent. Oh, and I forgot the best part–Marcus is only 20 years old. Eh, whatever. It’s not like he was soliciting johns in the parking lot. As far as I know…