Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Turkey has deployed 8000 combat troops back to the Anatolian region sparking fears that the Turkish military will once again invade Iraq to counter Kurdish terrorist guerrillas from the PKK that they maintain have found safe haven in the Kurdish area of Iraq.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai escaped yet another assassination attempt Sunday when automatic weapons fire erupted at a celebration commemorating the 16th anniversary of the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Bosyguards whisked him to safety within seconds. He later appeared on television, confirming that he was indeed safe and announcing that several suspects in the attack had been arrested.

IG finds more specious contracts at Nellis AFB The same investigation that revealed a dubious $50 million multimedia promotions contract for the Thunderbirds aerial stunt team awarded to a well connected company has uncovered evidence of additional cases of waste, fraud and abuse. Evidence indicates that work was performed without signed contracts in place, backdating of documents, and elimination of competition for a favored contractor. In February steering that $50 million contract to a favored vendor resulted in reprimands for three Air Force officers, including Major General Stephen Goldfein, the vice director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.

Feith Loses His Gig: The distinguished practitioner in national security policy in the School of Foreign Service will not be returning to teach at Georgetown next semester after the university chose not to renew his two-year contract. “Technically I was appointed for two years and there was no extension of the appointment,” Feith said in an interview. “My understanding is that there were some members of the faculty that didn’t want me on the faculty.” Before coming to Georgetown in 2006, Feith served as the stupidest fucking guy on the planet and under secretary of defense for policy from July 2001 to August 2005 under President Bush, playing a pivotal role in planning the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Good riddance!

Baghdad Sand Storm Provides Cover for Insurgent Attacks on Green Zone: Militants bombarded Baghdad's Green Zone with rockets on Sunday, taking advantage of the cover of a blinding dust storm to launch one of the heaviest strikes in weeks on the fortified compound. The strikes appeared to defy a renewed call for a ceasefire by Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which has seen many of his masked gunmen leave the streets of the Sadr City slum where they hold sway in eastern Baghdad. Reuters correspondents heard the missiles whistling overhead and exploding inside the heavily fortified government and diplomatic compound on the west side of the Tigris River in Baghdad. Sirens wailed, ordering people to take cover. Iraqi police said eight missiles or mortars had hit the Green Zone and another 14 fell in other parts of the Iraqi capital before nightfall in several quick bursts, killing two people and wounding 20.

Knowing DHS, their idea of soothing music is "Night Ranger" Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff heads to BWI-Marshall Airport today to announce changes in airport security checkpoints. The Homeland Security Secretary will demonstrate what is called "Checkpoint Evolution." BWI is giving the new security checkpoint a test run. While spokeswomen for the Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) refused to comment before Monday's news conference, the TSA website features videos to explain the features and goals of the website. According to the website, the checkpoints will feature "soothing music to calm passengers." Officials say there will be signs that are easier to read.

Lasik Isn't For Everyone: In fury and despair, patients harmed by Lasik eye surgery told federal health advisers Friday of severe eye pain, blurred vision and even a son's suicide. The advisers recommended that the government warn more clearly about the risks of the hugely popular operations. About 700,000 Americans a year undergo the elective laser surgery. Like golf star and famed Lasik recipient Tiger Woods, they're hoping to throw away their glasses, just as the ads say. And while the vast majority benefit - most see 20-20 or even better - about one in four people who seeks Lasik is not a good candidate. A small fraction, perhaps 1 percent or fewer, suffer serious, life-changing side effects: worse vision, severe dry eye, glare, inability to drive at night.

Yes, this is a problem: A recent survey by the National League of Cities found that in 33 percent of cities nationwide, vacant homes and blight are a growing problem. "When you have small kids like mine, you really don't sleep at night because everything you hear - you're jumping up to see what it is," said Sacramento resident Elohim Cofield. Local governments try to keep squatters and vandals out - but their rules are often broken. Some of these squatters are even more brazen. they'll clean a place up, get the power hooked up, then they'll change the locks on the door and actually rent it out, collecting money on a place they don't even own. Real estate fraud detective Mike Wood says scammers reel in unsuspecting tenants by posting on sites such as Craigslist.

Don't mess with Hugo: President Hugo Chavez on Sunday threatened to expropriate Venezuela's largest steel maker unless the soon-to-be-nationalized company revises what he called excessive compensation demands.Chavez dismissed a request made by Sidor's parent company, Luxembourg-based Ternium SA, for US$4 billion (euro2.6 billion) in exchange for its 60 percent stake in the steel maker. "I'm not going to pay $4 billion for that company," Chavez said during his weekly radio and television program. "If they don't want to reach an agreement with us, I'll sign an expropriation decree. I'll take immediate control." Company officials could not be reached for comment. Venezuelan Mining Minister Rodolfo Sanz said last week that Venezuela values Ternium's stake at about US$800 million (euro513 million), but plans to pay even less after subtracting the company's outstanding debts.

Syria returns artifacts to Iraqi people: Iraq's National Museum on Sunday recovered 701 artifacts stolen in the wake of Saddam Hussein's ouster, raising hopes of restoring the nation's rich cultural heritage after five years of war. Syrian authorities, who seized the looted treasures smuggled across the border, turned them over to the Iraqis, who carefully packed them in 17 boxes and flew them back to Baghdad on Saturday, said Muna Hassan, head of an Iraqi committee working to restore the artifacts. The golden necklaces, daggers, pots and other artifacts were displayed for journalists during a ceremony attended by Syrian and Iraqi officials at the museum, which remains closed to the public, in central Baghdad.

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