Friday, June 27, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

This is what you call getting "double whammied"
As the economy contracts and consumers rely more and more on the plastic in their wallets for necessities like food and fuel, the companies that issue those credit cards are lowering limits without warning. This act by the credit card companies, in turn lowers credit scores of the affected individuals, making it harder to borrow money in the future when they need to buy a new car, finance a home improvement, etc - and when they do find a lender, they will pay a higher interest rate because they have an entry on their credit report that indicates their limit was lowered...

Lots of people are going to come to regret letting the sexism genie out of the bottle
A hell of a lot of women who have bit holes in their tongues and kept silent about low-grade constant sexist crap, "going along to get along" and picking battles wisely are fed the hell up. We blame Hillary...

Wish Nelson Mandela a happy 90th Birthday--and remember--the US government thought he was a terrorist until they finally got off their butts and did something about it today.

Tunisia accused of sponsoring torture: Rights group Amnesty International has accused Tunisia of carrying out illegal detentions and torture under its anti-terrorism policy. The UK-based group said Tunisia's State Security department used torture with impunity against suspects. The report gives accounts by detainees who say they were beaten, deprived of sleep and had bottles and other items inserted into their bodies.

Yeah, well prison is nasty, brutish and very long: Throughout the Bush presidency, he toiled in secrecy deep within the White House, a mysterious and feared presence who never stepped into the sunlight of public disclosure. Until yesterday. There he sat, hunched and scowling, at the witness table in front of the House Judiciary Committee: the bearded, burly form of the chief of staff and alter ego to the vice president -- Cheney's Cheney, if you will -- and the man most responsible for building President Bush's notion of an imperial presidency. David Addington was there under subpoena. And he wasn't happy about it. Could the president ever be justified in breaking the law? "I'm not going to answer a legal opinion on every imaginable set of facts any human being could think of," Addington growled. Did he consult Congress when interpreting torture laws? "That's irrelevant," he barked. Would it be legal to torture a detainee's child? "I'm not here to render legal advice to your committee," he snarled. "You do have attorneys of your own."

Scruggs sent to jail: Attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, who earned his reputation n the 1990s by winning a $206 billion settlement from tobacco companies, was sentenced to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for trying to bribe a Mississippi district court judge in an insurance case stemming from Hurricane Katrina. In sentencing Scruggs, Judge Neal D. Biggers Jr. called the crime "reprehensible." Before sentencing, Scruggs told the judge, "I could not be more ashamed to be where I am today. I realized I was getting mixed up in it and I will go to my grave wondering why. I have disappointed everyone in my life - my wife, family and friends here to support me today. I deeply regret my conduct. It is a scar and a stain on my soul."

Everyone is hurting: Disaster relief agencies, facing natural disasters that won't quit coming and a challenging economy that's crimping fundraising, need a little relief themselves these days. Take the Salvation Army, for instance. The division covering Kansas and western Missouri just spent $20,000 helping tornado victims in Chapman and Manhattan, Kan. But it didn't have that much in its emergency relief fund, nor did it collect enough to cover that effort. So it had to raid its general fund, which supports all the other assistance to the needy the charity provides. Now it's asking for community support to replenish both funds. "These disasters are one after the other after the other," said Amanda Waters, community relations director for this division.

Australia builds a secret facility--and now everyone knows the address where it is located: Governments love top-secret facilities, and Australia, it seems, is no exception. Australian media is reporting that the government there has built a classified facility designed to house top leaders in the event of a terrorist attack. "Protected by heavy gates, a high-security fence and an array of CCTV cameras, the Symonston facility is discreetly located at 24 Wormald Street next to the Canberra office of the Aristocrat gaming machine company," The Canberra Times reports. "The precise purpose of the new installation is classified." Every top-secret plan needs a cool name (my favorite is Project Greek Island, for the Greenbrier congressional war bunker), and Australia has adopted "Plan Mercator" for its plan to whisk "the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, senior ministers and key advisers in the event of a major terrorist attack on, or threat against, Parliament House or central Canberra." The main purpose of Symonston facility, the media reports, is to provide an alternate communications system for the Australian government (similar to what Site R provides for the Pentagon). Site R is actually not as nifty of a name as Project Mercator, but oh well: SITE R - Welcome to the undisclosed location. Known familiarly to government insiders as the "underground Pentagon," this is where Vice President Dick Cheney set up shop in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and where he sometimes is when his office is being secretive about Cheney's whereabouts. The location is a highly secure complex of buildings inside Raven Rock Mountain near Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., close to the Maryland-Pennsylvania state line and about seven miles north of Camp David. A recent book, "A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies," by James Bamford, was credited with spilling the beans about the supposedly super-secret hideaway.

Make sure you tell them all of your nicknames, too: A former security guard at Andrews Air Force Base has been convicted of failing to include his Muslim name on a background check. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland announced Friday that 38-year-old Darrick Michael Jackson, of Washington, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced in September. Jackson was charged with making a false statement for not listing "Abdul-Jalil Mohammed" as an alias on the federal form he was required to fill out in 2005, and then lying to an investigator by not revealing his alias during an interview. This was the second time jurors heard the case; a mistrial was declared in December.

Everyone, out of the pool! Severe storms with strong winds swept through the Plains on Friday, forcing swimmers practicing for U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha to flee pools and run for cover, killing two people in Iowa, and knocking out power to thousands. Officials at the Qwest Center near downtown Omaha closed the building to examine it after superstar swimmer Michael Phelps and hundreds of other athletes were herded into hallways because of a tornado warning. Water poured into the building, down arena steps and onto the deck of the competition pool during the storm. The storm's winds may have reached 100 mph in some areas, said meteorologist Bryon Miller. An eight-day meet to decide the U.S. Olympic swimming team opens Sunday. Al Berndt, assistant director of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, said the damage appeared to be reparable and probably wouldn't halt the swim trials.

What the? A &$#%! muskrat? Defiant residents of this eastern Missouri community lost one brave struggle against the relentless Mississippi River Friday, but quickly prepared for another. Residents and flood fighters were saddened after a burrowing muskrat brought down the saturated Pin Oak levee shortly before dawn. But within hours, a new defense was in the works - a hurriedly constructed 4-foot-tall sandbag levee to protect the 100 homes in harm's way. "We're not quitting - the Army doesn't quit," said National Guard Col. Michele Melton, who was coordinating the sandbagging effort. "That's why we're here - to try and save these people." The struggle to save the levee has been a round-the-clock effort for the past several days. Many of the 720 residents of Winfield and people from surrounding communities joined the National Guard in patching one trouble spot after another. In the end, all that effort was undone by an animal that weighs no more than 5 pounds. Officials said holes bore by a muskrat that was either seeking food or building a den led to the levee's downfall.

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