Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

He's dead, but no one has any proof whatsoever: The legendary leader of Colombia's FARC guerrillas has died, the country's defense minister says, a development that if true would be the latest and most severe blow to Latin America's largest rebel group. Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos told the Colombian weekly Semana in an interview published Saturday that Manuel ''Sure Shot'' Marulanda died March 26. He cited a confidential source "who has never failed us."' Santos said guerrilla sources had reported that Marulanda died from a heart attack. But he added that government forces bombed Marulanda's presumed jungle hideout three times around March 26. "We don't have proof for one version or the other," Santos was quoted as saying.

The Miracle Marine loses his battle: The young Marine came back from the war, with his toughest fight ahead of him. Merlin German waged that battle in the quiet of a Texas hospital, far from the dusty road in Iraq where a bomb exploded, leaving him with burns over 97 percent of his body. No one expected him to survive. But for more than three years, he would not surrender. He endured more than 100 surgeries and procedures. He learned to live with pain, to stare at a stranger's face in the mirror. He learned to smile again, to joke, to make others laugh. He became known as the "Miracle Man." But just when it seemed he would defy impossible odds, Sgt. Merlin German lost his last battle this spring - an unexpected final chapter in a story many imagined would have a happy ending.

Fooled by old technology, until now: A locksmith has managed to open a 159-year-old safe from Oregon that baffled other professional safecrackers and an expert from MIT. In 2 1/2 hours, Tom Gorham of Longview got the safe open by spinning the dial and feeling for grooves to get the combination, a technique called manipulation. "You've got to have a lot of patience, and concentration doesn't hurt," Gorham said. Gorham trekked to Astoria, a town about 40 miles west of Longview and 70 miles northwest of Portland, Ore., to try his luck with the 1-ton safe found during renovation at a cannery there. The cannery's owner, Floyd Holcomb, wanted it opened without damage. Gorham and his wife, Kelly, also a locksmith, asked to try after watching a television report on unsuccessful attempts to open the safe. He said an expert from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had tried, as did another professional locksmith who gave up after 14 hours. Holcomb won't reveal what was inside until he tells the cannery's board next month, Kelly Gorham said. We vote for a perplexed and confused Geraldo Rivera.

You didn't spend good money on that whole "Life Lock" thing did you? Todd Davis has dared criminals for two years to try stealing his identity: Ads for his fraud-prevention company, LifeLock, even offer his Social Security number next to his smiling mug. Now, Lifelock customers in Maryland, New Jersey and West Virginia are suing Davis, claiming his service didn't work as promised and he knew it wouldn't, because the service had failed even him. Attorney David Paris said he found records of other people applying for or receiving driver's licenses at least 20 times using Davis' Social Security number, though some of the applications may have been rejected because data in them didn't match what the Social Security Administration had on file. Davis acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that his stunt has led to at least 87 instances in which people have tried to steal his identity, and one succeeded: a guy in Texas who duped an online payday loan operation last year into giving him $500 using Davis' Social Security number.

Better Democrats, please: Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) is seen in a video that has surfaced on the Web saying that Democrats “sort of stretched the facts” in the 2006 elections about their ability to end the Iraq war.
[It's too late for this cycle, but someone should definitely mount a primary challege to Rep. Kanjorski. Thanks for showing such grandiose cyncicism.]
Was someone holding out for "fabulous?" ...courtesy of The Hill's Sam Youngman, from reporters combing through John McCain's medical records...According to The Washington Post's pool report, a note on one of McCain's medical charts written by Dr. Suzanne Connolly says, "buttocks unremarkable except for some very light tan freckling."

We'll kick in exactly nothing to support this: Rumors are swirling among Libertarians that Tucker Carlson, the former MSNBC talk show host who remains a reporter for the network, is organizing for a run at their party's nomination at their national convention this weekend in Denver. A blogger at Kids Prefer Cheese has posted an account of phone call by a pollster asking about a Carlson candidacy. And Brendan Nyhan notes that Carlson, known for his right-of-center views, has taken positions "heterodox" for a conservative ever since George W. Bush started running for president.

If it sounds half-assed, then it probably is half-assed and not worth doing: A months-long logjam over a new government surveillance bill may be coming to an end, with Republicans offering a compromise that would let people who think they were illegally spied on by the government have their day in court - albeit a secret one. House and Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled their latest proposal aimed at resolving the roughly 40 civil lawsuits filed against telecommunications companies that allegedly cooperated in the so-called warrantless wiretapping program. The Republican proposal makes other concessions. It would:
-Allow an inspector general investigation of the warrantless wiretapping program.
-Allow a secret court to review in advance a government's plan for the surveillance of non-U.S. citizens abroad to make sure the privacy of Americans they may come in contact with is protected.
-Confirm that the new law would be the exclusive authority to conduct electronic surveillance - essentially outlawing a revival of the warrantless wiretapping in the future.

House and Senate staff from both parties said the proposal represents a real shift toward the House Democratic surveillance bill. We vote no--as in, no immunity, and let the bastards swing when finally caught after someone has their day in court.

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