One thing that the Iraqis don't particularly care for is when you kill their relatives--just wanted to mention that to anyone who, you know, makes decisions and whatnot: Senior Iraqi government officials said Saturday that a U.S. Special Forces counterterrorism unit conducted the raid that reportedly killed a relative of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, touching off a high-stakes diplomatic crisis between the United States and Iraq. U.S. military officials in Baghdad had no comment for the second day in a row, an unusual position for a command that typically releases information on combat operations within 24 hours. The raid occurred at dawn Friday in the town of Janaja near Maliki's birthplace in the southern, mostly Shiite Muslim province of Karbala. Ali Abdulhussein Razak al Maliki, who was killed in the raid, was related to the prime minister and had close ties to his personal security detail, according to authorities in Karbala. The incident puts an added strain on U.S.-Iraqi negotiations to draft a Status of Forces Agreement, a long-term security pact that will govern the conduct of U.S. forces in Iraq. Members of the Iraqi government and security forces said the raid only deepened their reluctance to sign any agreement that did not leave Iraqis with the biggest say on when and how combat operations are conducted. The U.S. military handed Iraqi forces control of Karbala security in October 2007. By the end of 2007 the U.S. military had transferred nine of the country's 18 provinces to Iraqi control.
But I'll bet you CAN sue if the green vomit stains don't come out of your suit pants: A divided Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of a former Colleyville church Friday, saying church members who were involved in a traumatic exorcism that ultimately injured a young woman are protected by the First Amendment. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that the Pleasant Glade Assembly of God staff’s efforts to cast out demons from Laura Schubert presents an ecclesiastical dispute over religious conduct that would unconstitutionally entangle the court in church doctrine. Schubert described a wild night in 1996 that involved casting out demons from the church and two attempts to exorcise demons from her. The incident left Schubert physically bruised and so emotionally scarred she later tried to commit suicide. She was 17 at the time.
Folks in Winfield, Missouri are hurting today: A makeshift sandbag levee holding back the Mississippi River failed early Saturday and authorities said part of the town was evacuated. Water began flowing under the 4-foot-high barrier around 4:30 a.m. An alarm sounded and the few residents remaining in the flood plain were ordered to get out. "It was a valiant effort," said Chris Azar of the Winfield-Foley Fire Department. "It's unfortunate that we couldn't do more but Mother Nature won. Now, just give it time for the water to recede." On Friday, the Pin Oak levee that protected part of the town of 720 residents gave way, and within hours the National Guard began constructing the makeshift levee around a cluster of about 100 homes. That new levee had a steel frame with layers of dirt, plastic and sandbags. Hundreds of volunteers had filled sandbags for the effort. The new barrier appeared to be holding well, until Saturday morning.
Pakistan goes after the Taliban--or at least appears to do so: Pakistani forces bombarded suspected militant hideouts with mortar shells Saturday as the government launched a major offensive against Taliban fighters threatening the main city in the country's volatile northwest, officials said. The offensive in the Khyber tribal region marked the first major military action Pakistan's newly-elected government has taken against the militants operating in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. The government had said it preferred to try to defuse tension with the groups through negotiations, but with threats by Islamic militants to the city of Peshawar growing in recent weeks, the military decided to take action. Khyber also is a key route for moving U.S. military supplies into neighboring Afghanistan. By Saturday afternoon, the paramilitary Frontier Corps began shelling suspected militant hideouts in the mountains in Khyber, said local official Muhammad Siddiq Khan.
No fun in Big Sur: Many of the rustic inns, restaurants and art galleries that dot the rugged Central Coast are nearly deserted this weekend at the height of the tourist season as a huge wildfire threatens Big Sur. The blaze had charred nearly 42 square miles as of Friday in the Los Padres National Forest and destroyed 16 homes in the Big Sur area, one week after it was started by a lightning storm that also ignited more than 1,000 wildfires from the Central Coast to the Oregon state line. On Saturday, President George W. Bush issued an emergency declaration for California and ordered federal agencies to assist in firefighting efforts in several counties including Monterey, which includes Big Sur. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked for the declaration on Friday, saying fires had charred more than 400 square miles. Firefighters braced for the possibility of more lightning in Northern California during the weekend. The Big Sur fire was only 3 percent contained. Firefighters concentrated on protecting more than 500 homes and other buildings threatened by the blaze and let the wildfire rage virtually unchecked in remote mountain wildernesses. A roughly 12-mile stretch of coastal Highway 1 was closed in the area, shutting off access to several popular tourist spots. Thick smoke obscured iconic coastal vistas.
When was the last time you thought about saving the planet People accept plastic bags without a thought. You'd accept one to carry a box of cough syrup out of Walgreens, right? Why not? They're free. Not. They cost at both ends. They cost petroleum in the making--enough to drive a car a mile for every fourteen bags you make. And they cost cities when it comes time to dispose of them--up to 17 cents a bag--wasting millions of taxpayer dollars. Of course, they don't all get disposed of properly. Some areas of the ocean have as much as six pounds of plastic bags for every one pound of fish. But cloth bags are such a nuisance. I'll just go with paper instead, you may think. Bad idea. Paper bags are no better. They take just as long to biodegrade in landfills and take up more space while they're doing it. It takes 70 percent more greenhouse gases to make a paper bag and creates 50 times more water pollution. So, be a good doobie and get some cloth bags. If you use one twice a week for a couple of years, you'll save 832 plastic bags. That's enough petroleum to drive a car sixty miles.
Half-hearted wankery is such a sad thing to see in a wingnut: They are now demanding censure of [Congressman] Delahunt under the laughable premise that Al Qaeda is now going to hunt down David Addington. Never mind that John Yoo, who is just as responsible for much of administration policy, has had his face plastered all over everything for years and has been the target of approximately ZERO assassination attempts. At any rate, I think after they punish Delahunt, I think they should go after some other more high profile sources, who have clearly been posting Addington’s likeness in an attempt to have him offed by evil terrrorists.