Monday, June 2, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

We know what to do, but showing a little fortitude and actually doing it is another matter entirely If you want to save money and gasoline, drive 55. We have known for 35 years that reducing our highway speed to 55 mph saves both gas and money (and lives, but that is a separate rant). But there is just no political will for bold strokes, so legislative fiat won't be responsible for what would amount to a lifestyle change. If it happens, it is going to happen because fleet managers install governors on their cars and trucks that limit speeds to 60 mph, and if enough people feel the pinch that they start using their cruise controls and taking their time in the slow lane, and sneering at people who go zipping by like they are the most selfish pricks in the world. You know, that "sorry about your penis/eating disorder" look we give people in Hummers and Escalades already, we will have a lasting social impact.

Syria to allow IAEA inspectors?
Dr. Mohamed Elbaradei announced earlier today that Syria would allow a team of U.N. inspectors into the country from June 22-24 investigate the bombing of a suspected nuclear facility that was bombed by Israeli war planes last September. It was unclear if investigators would have access to the site itself, but Syria has vigorously protested the accusations that it was a nuclear weapons facility. Few details were released, but if the visit goes forward as planned it will be the first time since the September incident that Syria has opened up to inspections. “It has now been agreed that an agency team will visit Syria during the period 22-24 June,” Dr. ElBaradei said in a statement released on the agency’s Web site. “I look forward to Syria’s full cooperation in this matter.”

If you plan to spend your stimulus check on ammo, get ready to bite the bullet
as ammo prices head toward 200% price increases in the last year. You may think this doesn't affect you if you don't engage in those activities, but you would be mistaken in that. It affects the amount of money the military has to spend on ammo, and it affects your local police department and the amount of firing range and live ammo training they get to do.

New Democracies are unsteady things, that's for sure
and Thailand is finding that out first hand right now. A mere five months after emerging from military rule, a week of street protests is threatening the fledgling coalition government. What has sent them to the streets is the same thing that has paralyzed government for two years: They want to see the former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown in a 2006 coup, returned to the country in February as an ally of the current government, put on trial for corruption. The protesters also support the aging king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, from what they see as attacks on the institution of the monarchy, and they are distrustful of a government that received the core of its support from the countryside. Thailand is just about the most liberal and pluralistic of the Asian nations, and street protests are quite familiar, and garner wide support as a general rule, but this time there is concern as well. This time the protests are directed at a democratically elected government rather than at bringing down a military dictatorship. “It’s a dangerous trend,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University. “I’m not a fan of the PPP,” he said of the governing party, “but you have an elected government, and you have 10,000 people taking to the streets who want to overthrow it.”

This is something that readers of this blog won't consider "news"
because Blue Girl has been saying for at least a year that public transit ridership is way up, and the American Public Transportation Association has quantified the increase. Americans took 2.6 billion trips on public transportation in the first three months of 2008, almost 85 million more trips than last year for the same time period, a 3.3 percent increase. "There's no doubt that the high gas prices are motivating people to change their travel behavior," APTA President William W. Millar said in a statement. (Kansas City readers take note: Light rail had the greatest increases in ridership, increasing 10.3 percent for the first quarter over the same period last year, with some cities showing increases that outstripped the national average. Baltimore's saw an increase of 16.8 percent, Minneapolis rose 16.4 percent, St. Louis increased 15.6 percent and San Francisco increased 12.2 percent.)

They are so cute when they pretend to be relevant!
The 38th annual General Assembly of the (much derided, and deservedly so) Organization of American States convened in Medellin, Colombia on Sunday night, with the most pressing issue before the stymied alliance the rift between Ecuador and Colombia. Tho post-cold war world has left deep divisions among the Latin American states, with Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador breaking left; Colombia, Peru and El Salvador breaking right - and Brazil caught in the middle. Prediction: Three days of chest beating will ensue, but absolutely nothing will be accomplished. But the potentates sure look nice all dressed up and wearing their most serious expressions...

No AIPAC whack-jopbs are going to vote for Obama anyway
so the correct response to McSame's chest-thumping in front of those slavering, war-mongering fuckheads is mockery and derision. In a conference call organized by the Obama campaign, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., dismissed McCain's speech as "nothing different" from the foreign policy of the Bush administration. "Why should anyone expect (McCain) will have better results than this president has?" Schiff asked. "He continues to cling to a foreign policy that has not made the United States or Israel safer."

Ted Kennedy surgery successful
Senator Kennedy underwent a three and a half hour procedure today to remove the main body of the malignant glioblastoma that was diagnosed just days ago. The surgery was performed at Duke University by Dr. Allan Friedman, who is probably the preeminent neurosurgeon in the nation, if not the world.

Six dead and 30 injured in car bomb attack on Danish embassy in Islamabad
The bomb was massive, and if the carnage matched the wreckage, a hell of a lot more people would be dead. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the leading Pakistani Taliban militant, Baitullah Mehsud, is in peace talks with the government and has declared a cease fire. The BBC's Barbara Plett, reporting from Islamabad, said that suspicion for the attack has fallen on al-Qaeda, as the network's number two Ayman al-Zawahri denounced the Danish cartoons (yet again) in a recently distributed video. Pakistan is about to get very, very volatile...and they already have nukes. (How's about we think about putting out the fire in the garage (Pakistan) before we start another one in the kitchen (Iran)?)

Discovery successfully docks with space station and delivers the $1 Billion JPM (Japanese Pressurized Module) to the station. The JPM joins two other modules that have already been secured to the platform. The shuttle also delivered a toilet pump to unclog the facilities...facilities.

Missionary Marine reassigned
The military confirmed late last week that the Marine who passed out coins with a bible verse to Sunni Muslims at a checkpoint into Fallujah has been reassigned. The coins angered the residents of the city who said they felt that the occupying American forces were also acting as Christian missionaries in a predominantly Muslim nation. "It did happen," said Mike Isho, a spokesman for Multi National Forces West. "It's one guy and we're investigating." The Marine was passing out silver coins to residents of the Sunni Anbar province with Arabic translations of a Bible verse on them. On one side, the coin read, "Where will you spend eternity?" and on the other, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16."

It's like the RNC outsourced their hiring to us!
This November, the republican GOTV effort will be run by a whole bunch of former Giuiliani staffers. We remember the brilliance of that campaign and say a heartfelt "Thank You!" to them for the unintended assist.

What Michael Ware said
when asked about McCain's feeble attempt to hammer Obama for having better things to do than go shopping in Baghdad four times a year: "I’ll issue a word of caution, too. I mean Senator McCain has been here, what, more than half a dozen times. And we’ve seen him get assessments of Iraq terribly wrong. So I wouldn’t be hanging my hat on the fact that your opponent has only been here once."

The Chinese wrote a book on sensitivity for the Olympics--and boy, is it sensitive:
The 200-page volunteer manual offers guidance for volunteers in areas ranging from serving the disabled to basic rules. About 70,000 volunteers will work on the Aug. 8-24 Olympics and 30,000 more will serve during the Paralympic Games on Sept. 6-17. A section dedicated to the disabled said that "paralympic athletes and disabled spectators are a special group. They have unique personalities and ways of thinking." To handle the "Optically Disabled," the guide said: "Often the optically disabled are introverted. They have deep and implicit feelings and seldom show strong emotions. ... Remember, when you communicate with optically disabled people, try not to use the world `blind' when you meet for the first time." On the "Physically Disabled," the guide said: "Physically disabled people are often mentally healthy. They show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorization and thinking mechanisms from other people, but they might have unusual personalities because of disfigurement and disability. "For example, some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial and introspective; they usually do not volunteer to contact people. They can be stubborn and controlling; they may be sensitive and struggle with trust issues. Sometimes they are overly protective of themselves, especially when they are called `crippled' or `paralyzed."' The guide said volunteers should "not fuss or show unusual curiosity, and never stare at their disfigurement." It also advised volunteer to steer away from words like "cripple or lame, even if you are just joking."

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