Monday, June 30, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Are the Pakistanis doing everything they can do? Pakistan's fitful military operation against Islamist extremists pushed into its third day Monday, but there was no sign of overt combat — and growing criticism of the army's failure to crack down on the Taliban and al Qaida, which operate out of the country's lawless tribal belt. A senior official in the North West Frontier Province, Afrasiab Khattak, said that despite the election of a civilian government in February, the army — with the support of President Pervez Musharraf — continues to dictate Pakistan's policy toward Afghanistan and to use the tribal belt sanctuaries to undermine the U.S.-backed Afghan government. The military operation has consisted primarily of isolated assaults on buildings used by warlords in Khyber agency in the tribal belt, which have met almost no resistance. The main targets were the compounds of Khyber militant leader Mangal Bagh, whose religious warriors had for months been menacing the outskirts of the provincial capital, Peshawar. The lightly armed Frontier Corps paramilitary was used, rather than the regular army. Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said that it would be "premature" to start an offensive in South Waziristan, a part of the tribal zone known for more hard-core militants, as the government still hoped for a peace deal there. "This operation is to clear the suburbs of Peshawar," Abbas said.

From the Kansas City Star: In this small town south of Warrensburg, directions usually begin with, "From Casey’s, you go …" That would be Casey's General Store, the only gas station in town. It’s where folks fill up while talking about goings-on, politics, weather and who’s got the best-looking tomatoes. These days, they’re also cussing and shaking their heads about the price of that gasoline. People are doing that everywhere, but in small towns such as Leeton, population 619, it's even more of a gut punch because nearly every working adult commutes to jobs elsewhere. These days, there had better be a really good job on the other end of that trip.

This is a good example of "self-defense." Yes, they should shoot suicide bombers in order to save lives. Iraqi guards opened fire on a female suicide bomber on Sunday and triggered her explosives belt before she reached their headquarters, foiling the latest of more than 20 suicide missions by women this year, military officials said. The bomber was targeting the headquarters of an awakening council - Sunni volunteers who have turned against insurgents - about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad. One of the guards was wounded in the blast, the Iraqi military said. The number of female suicide attackers has risen from eight in 2007 to more than 20 so far this year, according to U.S. military figures. Including Sunday's attack, at least nine have occurred in Diyala province, a former al Qaeda stronghold where the extremist group is trying to regroup after setbacks last year. A female suicide bomber struck outside a government complex a week ago in Baqouba, the capital of Diyala province, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 40, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials. The attacks are part of an uptick in violence against Iraqi security forces and local administrations.

Well, no--to answer a previous question--this isn't the America we remember. This guy should have waited for the cops. Killing two men was NOT justified: A suburban Houston homeowner was cleared by a grand jury Monday for shooting to death two men he suspected of burglarizing his neighbor's home. Joe Horn, 62, shot the two men in November after he saw them crawling out the windows of a neighbor's house in the Houston suburb of Pasadena, carrying bags of the neighbor's possessions. Horn, a retired grandfather, called 911 and told the dispatcher he had a shotgun and was going to kill them. The dispatcher pleaded with him not to go outside, but Horn confronted the men with a 12-gauge shotgun and shot both in the back. "The message we're trying to send today is the criminal justice system works," Harris County District Attorney Kenneth Magidson told reporters at the courthouse. Horn's attorney, Tom Lambright, said his client was relieved by the grand jury's decision and never wanted to hurt anyone. "He wasn't trying to take matters into his own hands," Lambright said. "He was scared. He was not playing cowboy." He shot two men in the back over a few bags of possessions--if he wasn't playing cowboy, then what the fuck was he doing? Playing demented old asshole with a gun? You don't kill people over some goods. You can kill them in self-defense, but you don't get to run up to people and kill them by shooting them in the back--when the police dispatcher has already asked you NOT TO DO THAT.

Relief in sight for migraine sufferers? A strange-looking device may be able to stop a migraine in its tracks. That could be good news for the estimated 30 million Americans who suffer from the condition. It’s called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation - or TMS. The patient puts a device on the back of the head, and pushes a button, sending a magnetic pulse into the skull..."It actually generates a very small amount of current that flows through the brain and the assumption is that current is what turns off the migraine attack," said Dr. Richard Lipton of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. About 25 percent of migraine headaches are preceded by what's called an aura, including visual changes like flashing lights, zigzag patterns and blind spots. The idea is to use the device at the first sign of an aura.

Wait a minute, Chris--are you sure this isn't good news for Rudy Guiliani instead? John McCain's campaign is aggressively pushing back against the idea floated by retired Gen. Wesley Clark that the GOP presidential candidate's military credentials are not as impressive as he claims them to be on the campaign trail. Gen. Wesley Clark was on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday. Watch here. "[McCain] hasn't held executive responsibility," Clark said on "Face the Nation" yesterday. "That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded -- that wasn't a wartime squadron. I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president." After putting out a statement condemning Clark's comments yesterday, McCain's campaign organized a conference call to unveil a truth squad aimed at rebutting false claims about his military record during the campaign. That truth squad included former Ross Perot henchman Orson Swindle--and I'm sure that's good news for Rudy's campaign as well. Chris Cillizza, always reliable for exactly the wrong take on an issue. Now, here's a theory for you--the overwhelming, nuclear reaction to this story is because...wait for it...John McCain is sitting on hundreds of pages of unreleased military records that you and I will NEVER see because...wait for it...he's terrified that someone is going to look at his military record.

It has ALWAYS been my contention that this is how Bigfoot got started on a life of crime: Moe, a 42-year-old chimpanzee who grew up in suburbia until being forced to live in an animal sanctuary, was believed to be at large in a Southern California forest Monday after escaping his cage. Animal handlers were combing the San Bernardino National Forest about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. "We think he may be hunkered down near a water source," said Mike McCasland, a friend of Moe's owners, St. James and LaDonna Davis. "We think he's in a contained area a quarter-mile away but he's probably disoriented and the brush is extremely heavy." The hunt started late Friday when Moe somehow let himself out of his cage at Jungle Exotics, a facility that trains animals for the entertainment industry. The chimp wandered into a house next door, surprising construction workers who then saw him head for a nearby mountain. Sorry, dudes. Moe's in a Cadillac, heading East, all the way to Vegas, and there's nothing you can do about it. He's like the wind. He's gone. Whoosh! There he went.

The blind pig found his acorn this week: Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt signed a bill Monday outlawing cyberbullying, just miles from where a 13-year-old girl committed suicide nearly two years ago after being harassed on the Internet. The bill updates state laws against harassment by removing the requirement that the communication be written or over the telephone. Supporters say the bill now covers harassment from computers, text messages and other electronic devices. "Social networking sites and technology have opened a new door for criminals and bullies to prey on their victims, especially children," Blunt said. "This new law will ensure that we have the protections and penalties needed to safeguard Missourians from Internet harassment." Megan Meier killed herself in October 2006, shortly after receiving mean-spirited messages over the Internet. Her suicide prompted the bill. The teenager's mother, wearing a picture of her daughter in a pin on her dress, stood over the governor's shoulder as he signed the bill at a St. Charles County library.

Conspirator in attack against USS Cole faces war crimes charges
and a possible death sentence. The detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi who has long been described by American officials as Al Qaeda’s operations chief in the Persian Gulf and the primary planner of the October 2000 attack on the Cole, is one of the three prisoners the U.S. government admits torturing. He was bounced around the CIA's "black sites" system of clandestine prisons before arriving at Guantanamo in 2006. Lawyers for other detainees said this indicates that the Pentagon intends to press on with the tribunals system even though the Supreme Court has consistently ruled against every aspect of the system that has come before it for a ruling. Neal Katyal, a Georgetown law professor who represents another detainee facing trial, Salim Hamdan, said he would go to federal court in Washington this week to challenge the military commission system as violating many constitutional protections...“The whole system was architected with one assumption in mind, which is that the Constitution does not apply at Guantánamo,” Professor Katyal said. “Now the Supreme Court has said it does.”

Good cholesterol good in more ways than one?
Researchers have found that patients with high levels of "good" HDL Cholesterol have better memories than test subjects with lower HDL levels. The researchers checked the cholesterol levels of more than 3,600 British civil servants and gave them memory tests at an average age of 55 and again at 61. For the tests, volunteers were read a list of 20 words and then asked to write down as many as they could remember within two minutes...Not only did those with higher HDL do better than other people, those whose HDL levels declined between tests also saw a decline in their performance.

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