Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

"Nonsense" makes a comeback John Haggee, the radical evangelical preacher whose endorsement John McCain slavered for for over a year, has retracted his retraction. Now he is back to his original position that Hurricane Katrina was god's punishment on the city of New Orleans. I have a question for the preacher-man...If that's the case, why was the French Quarter spared?

A war on "Evil"? In a shameless act of pandering to social conservatives, John McCain on Wednesday had a laundry list of things that he was going to deal with as president, and he added Myanmar, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and China to aWol's cartoonish-sounding "Axis of Evil." Why doesn't this doddering old fool fall off a stage and make with the slipping of the mask already?

This guy didn't get the memo that if you are going to steal from the military, you have to be a gigantic corporation A former member of the Vermont National Guard has admitted to stealing weapons while he served in Iraq and mailing them home with the intent of selling them. He pilfered two RPGs, 119 green-tipped tracer rounds, five magazines for M16s and two laser scopes. He pleaded guilty on Monday to illegal possession of an unregistered firearm and conversion of public property. Additional charges were dismissed in exchange for the plea.

What was it called when Bear Stearns was "bailed out?"The House today approved an ambitious plan to rescue hundreds of thousands of homeowners at risk of foreclosure by helping them trade exotic loans with rapidly rising monthly payments for more affordable mortgages backed by the federal government. Despite a White House veto threat, 39 Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the proposal, the centerpiece of a broader housing bill that represents Washington's most aggressive response to the nation's housing crisis. The measure aims to unfreeze mortgage markets by expanding the reach of the Federal Housing Administration and strengthening mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It also would create a $7,500 tax credit for first-time homebuyers that aims to boost sales and slow plummeting home prices. Republican House leaders blasted the bill as a bailout for speculators and irresponsible borrowers. But the measure gained strong support from rank and file Republican lawmakers. And even the White House left the door open to further negotiation.

Thanks but no thanks--we'll let the bodies pile up without your help: Relief supplies from the United Nations began arriving in Myanmar on Thursday, but U.S. military planes loaded with aid were still denied access by the country's isolationist regime five days after a devastating cyclone. The military junta also continued to stall on visas for U.N. teams seeking entry to ensure the aid is delivered to the victims. The greatest fear is that people who barely survived the cyclone might not be able to hang on much longer for aid to arrive as they battle the possibility of disease and dehydration...The problem for the Burmese generals may well be that accepting outside aid means bringing in outsiders. The Myanmar regime has kept power for decades in part by keeping the country isolated...

This means the war in Iraq is now over, right? The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was arrested in the northern city of Mosul, the Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman said Thursday. Spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said the arrest of al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, was confirmed to him by the Iraqi commander of the province. There was no immediate confirmation or comment from U.S. forces on the arrest. The U.S. military in Baghdad says it is aware of the reported arrest, but has no "operational reports" and is looking into it...

Proof that nothing you read online is true:Tens of thousands of young internet-obsessed South Koreans, whipped into a frenzy by alarmist television programmes, a complex scientific paper on genetics and a hyperactive online rumour-mill, have held candlelit vigils protesting against imports of American beef. Believing that the meat carries a high risk of BSE and that Koreans are genetically predisposed to contracting the linked Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the online masses have taken to the streets, cursing America and demanding that their Government should act to avert catastrophe...Over the past couple of days, virtually every teenager in Seoul has received the same text message on mobile phones, “Schools closed next Thursday”. The information is bogus, but authorities are steeling themselves for street demonstrations on the grandest scale. By the weekend the protesters' numbers are expected to rise tenfold.

Gas prices climbing as we head into summer: Gas prices have jumped nearly three cents since yesterday, reaching a new national record of nearly $3.65 a gallon. That's according to a survey of stations by AAA and the Oil Price Information Service, which also found a nine-tenths-of-a-cent hike in diesel prices. Meanwhile, oil prices have paused after their own record climb. Crude reached a new record near $124 a barrel yesterday. Analysts say there's little in the way of news to drive oil moves today.

The lawlessness south of the border continues: The acting chief of Mexico's federal police was shot to death early Thursday outside his home in the capital. The Public Safety Department said Edgar Millan Gomez was shot 10 times and died hours later in a hospital. Two of his bodyguards were wounded. A police official, who was not authorized to give his name, said Millan had been temporarily heading the federal police since his superior was promoted to a deputy Cabinet position on March 1.

And, finally, here's your Friday newsdump, one day earlier than usual: The Senate Intelligence Committee is about to release a report that sheds new light on "inappropriate" back-channel contacts between Pentagon officials and a group of Iranian informants—including a key figure from the Iran-contra affair. In December 2001, two Pentagon Mideast experts—Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode—secretly traveled to Rome. They met with a group of Iranians who supposedly had information about plans by Iranian-backed terrorists to attack Americans—including U.S. troops who were then closing in on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The meetings were approved by high-level officials at the White House and the Pentagon. The CIA, however, was kept in the dark. When the CIA and the State Department found out about the meetings a few weeks later, they strenuously protested to the White House and demanded that the contacts be terminated immediately. At least officially, the White House complied. Now, years later, the Senate Intelligence Committee is finally producing a report on its investigation of those meetings. The document is part of the panel's "phase two" investigation into the misuse of pre-Iraq War intelligence. The report is not likely to satisfy either the White House or the administration's most vocal critics. While Intelligence Committee officials are keeping details of the report under wraps, several sources familiar with its contents—who asked for anonymity discussing an unpublished report—said that congressional investigators found nothing illegal about the secret contacts. The meetings were brokered by two Iran-contra figures: Michael Ledeen, a Washington academic and prominent neoconservative activist who was close to a number of senior Bush administration officials at the time, and Manucher Ghorbanifar, a Paris-based Iranian businessman who served as a middleman for arms deals in the 1980s and was long ago branded a "fabricator" by the CIA. U.S. intelligence agencies said at the time that Ghorbanifar had a history of offering information that proved unreliable. But in the report, the panel does conclude that senior Bush administration officials (including then deputy Defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz and deputy national-security adviser Stephen Hadley) approved the meetings without informing the CIA or its director at the time, George Tenet, thereby allowing intelligence gathering outside of normal channels. The sources say the report also suggests that Ledeen misled the National Security Council about the meetings--a charge that Ledeen strongly denied this week in an e-mail exchange with NEWSWEEK. And, as we like to say when there's a newsdump of this magnitude...BULLSHIT!

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