Monday, July 14, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Suspect at Fort Bragg is caught: The husband of an Army nurse who worked in the maternity ward at Fort Bragg's hospital was charged Monday with murder in her death, a day after her body was discovered by authorities. Marine Cpl. John Wimunc, 23, was also charged with first-degree arson and conspiracy to commit arson in the death of his wife, Army 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc, of Dubuque, Iowa. Her body was found Sunday, three days after a suspicious fire at her Fayetteville apartment. In May, Wimunc secured a temporary restraining order against her husband. She told authorities he got drunk and held a loaded handgun to her head and his. At the time of her death, the couple was going through a divorce. "You start with people who are closest to the spouse and you work your way out from that," Fayetteville Detective Jeff Locklear said of the investigation. Authorities also charged Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle Alden, 22, with first-degree arson, conspiracy to commit arson and accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. Both were arrested at Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps base about 130 miles southeast of Fayetteville where they are stationed as combat engineers.

Darwinism on the dance floor: A laser show at a music festival injured more than 30 people, Russian news reports said Monday. Some concertgoers lost up to 80 percent of their vision after attending the Aquamarine Music Festival on Jul. 5, the newspaper Kommersant reported. Twenty people are undergoing treatment in Moscow hospitals, said Elena Grishina, the head doctor at the Moscow Ophthalmological Hospital, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported Monday. "It is just a deterioration in the sharpness of the eyesight, not a burn," she was quoted as saying, and said she could not confirm the injuries came from lasers. "The treatment is not very pleasant. It involves a lot of needles," Grishina said. "But all the patients are in optimistic spirits, and we are hoping for a good result."

The iPhone is the end-all and be-all, except that it isn't: The new Apple 3G iPhone has received a lot of attention, but the more important story isn't the new hardware, but Apple's application store and the many programs that run on the new phone. Thanks to a few of those programs there's an even larger story - the iPhone may fundamentally change the way people listen to the radio when they're in their cars or otherwise on the go. Two free applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and another program that costs only $4.99, make it possible to listen to live radio on the iPhone from anywhere, including a moving car. Unlike those pre-TV days when families sat around a big radio console in the living room, a lot of people now listen to radio mainly when they're on the move. Internet radio has been around for more than a decade, car radios were introduced in the 1930's and portable transistor radios became available in the 1950s. Until now, live radio pretty much meant listening to a broadcast station with transmitters relatively nearby. But with the iPhone you can listen to stations from around the world, including some that broadcast only on the Internet and don't even have transmitters. How is this news? If the thing is connected to the Internet, then why wouldn't it stream live radio? Bandwidth? Hope it has plenty for quality audio.

There are more problems in Northern Virginia at the Islamic Saudi Academy: A Saudi-funded academy in Fairfax County used textbooks as recently as 2006 that compared Jews and Christians to apes and pigs, told eighth-graders that these groups are "the enemies of the believers" and diagrammed for high school students where to cut off the hands and feet of thieves, a Washington Post review of the books has found. Saudi officials acknowledged that the textbooks used at the Islamic Saudi Academy had contained inflammatory material since at least the mid-1990s but said they ordered revisions in 2006. School administrators said that they have been scrambling to change the texts and that all potentially offensive passages will be gone by the coming academic year. But, they said, teachers have always been told to avoid inflammatory material in the classroom. A sampling of 2006-07 Islamic studies textbooks showed that much of the controversial material had been removed. At least one book still contained passages that extolled jihad and martyrdom, called for victory over one's enemies and said the killing of adulterers and apostates was "justified." The academy, founded in 1984, has about 1,000 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 and is separated into boys' and girls' schools. It is the only Saudi-funded school in the United States. About 70 percent of the academy's students are U.S. citizens drawn from the region's Muslim communities. About a quarter are Saudi.

Franken does get a Democrat to challenge him: An attorney from well-known family in Minnesota legal circles says she will challenge Senate candidate Al Franken in a Democratic primary. Priscilla Lord Faris says she will file the paperwork to run in the September primary. Lord Faris is the daughter of retired federal judge Miles Lord, who remains active in Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) politics. She is managing partner of a personal injury law firm. Lord Faris says she has given money to Franken but isn't persuaded he can take the seat away from the incumbent, Republican Norm Coleman. She says a primary campaign will sharpen the Democratic candidates and give Coleman a tougher challenge in November. She says she will draw on personal and family networks and expects to need $1 million to $2 million for the primary.

As the LA Times spins out of control, perhaps firing Jonah Goldberg can get back on their radar, yes? The Los Angeles Times says publisher David Hiller has resigned after 21 months at the helm of Tribune Co.'s largest paper.
The news comes the same day Chicago Tribune editor Ann Marie Lipinski resigned from Tribune's flagship paper, continuing a string of executive defections amid a broad cost-cutting effort at the company's papers nationwide. Hiller was the third publisher to lead the Times since Tribune Co. bought the paper in 2000. Predecessor Jeffrey Johnson was ousted in late 2006 when he balked at trimming newsroom staff to cut costs. The Times said two weeks ago it will cut 250 positions, including 150 in the newsroom. The paper did not immediately name a successor.

Colonel Nathan Sassman, your fifteen minutes was up before you got started: The tale of a renegade soldier ignoring a direct order from a higher-ranking officer didn't come to light during a Pentagon investigation or congressional probe. It was relayed in a new book by Col. Sassaman, "Warrior King."
The book -- personal, strident and angry -- is the first by a retired officer to explicitly blame other commanders, many of whom remain on active duty, for errors in judgment and leadership. That crosses a line many in military circles consider sacrosanct. The book, written with free-lance writer Joe Layden, also hints at a broader debate that continues to rage within the military about the Iraq war's early stumbles and what that means for the military's future. The school of thought led by Gen. David Petraeus, with its focus on counterinsurgency tactics, economic development and political reconciliation, is currently ascendant. But there is a small number of officers who think that the military has moved too far from its core competency -- fighting wars -- and that the U.S. erred by not taking a hard enough approach in Iraq. "The simple, somewhat barbaric truth is that we had to convince the Iraqi people that they should fear us more than they feared the insurgents," Col. Sassaman writes. He says the military should have responded to insurgent attacks with heavy artillery and should have destroyed any building, including private homes, used by insurgents. As you can see, Colonel Sassman's ideas actually were implemented in a place called Fallujah, and that worked out swimmingly for us, didn't it?

Incompetence, incompetence, incompetence: The government is taking too long to secure radioactive materials across the country that could get into terrorists' hands, according to a government report. Radioactive material used for legitimate purposes in medical equipment and food, for instance, could be used to create an explosive device known as a dirty bomb. Experts believe such an attack would be contained to a small area but could have significant psychological impact and have serious economic consequences because of cleanup problems. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks prompted the government to do a better job of securing nuclear and radiological materials. And nearly seven years later, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says these materials are much more secure. But congressional investigators say it's not enough. According to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday, new requirements to ensure that a person purchasing or carrying radioactive materials has a reason to do so is more than three years behind schedule. In a probe last year that set up a bogus company, investigators said they were able to obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that allowed them to buy enough radioactive material for a small dirty bomb. Officials hope the licensing requirements will prevent this from happening again.

Good Ford, what do you have to do to end the freakin' Man Crush? If Obama had said this, the chortling would be cacophonous: At a press conference in Phoenix today, for example, McCain referenced Czechoslovakia. Again. “I was concerned about a couple of steps that the Russian government took in the last several days. One was reducing the energy supplies to Czechoslovakia. Apparently that is in reaction to the Czech’s agreement with us concerning missile defense, and again some of the Russian now announcement they are now retargeting new targets, something they abandoned at the end of the Cold War, is also a concern. So we see the tensions between Russia and their neighbors, as well as Russia and the United States are somewhat increasing.” On first blush, this sounds like more antagonistic rhetoric towards Russia — which McCain wants to kick out of the G8 — which isn’t especially helpful. But more importantly, Russia can’t “reduce energy supplies to Czechoslovakia.” Czechoslovakia, of course, doesn’t exist. It split into two countries more than 15 years ago. McCain has actually been to the Czech Republic and Slovakia since they became independent countries, and he’s met with their leaders. Steve Benen, a mighty tip of the hat goes to you.

McCaskill decries the sale of Anheuser-Busch: A US senator said Monday the weak dollar was to blame for the takeover by Belgian-Brazilian brewer InBev of rival Anheuser-Busch for 52 billion dollars (33 billion euros). "I'm disappointed," Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said after the deal was announced creating the world's biggest brewer. McCaskill and others from the home state of Anheuser-Busch had opposed the sale to the Belgian-based firm, claiming the 150-year-old American icon and maker of Budweiser would be lost to foreign investors. "Anheuser-Busch's Missouri workforce will continue to make the company one of the best in the world, and I am going to do everything I can to make this new arrangement work for Missouri and the millions of Americans who love Budweiser," said McCaskill. "We need to remember that InBev could afford this All-American company because of the weak dollar created by the economic policies of the last seven years. It's time for a change in our nation's economic priorities." We also need to remember that Claire doesn't act on anyone's behalf until the lobbyist money rolls in.

Something is fishy about the bailout of Fannie and Freddie:From Deborah Solomon and Sudeep Reddy at the WSJ: The WSJ reports that about two weeks ago Paulson ordered his staff to draw up contingency plans in case Freddie or Fannie faltered. When that planning was leaked in a WSJ article last Thursday, equity investors realized that any bailout plan would seriously dilute their holdings, and this led to more selling of Fannie and Freddie. Apparently Paulson believed this selling forced his hand. There really are no specifics to the plan. The increase in the Fannie and Freddie lines of credit with the Treasury will be "increased to an unspecified level to be determined by the government later". And any possible equity investment is unclear. The WSJ quotes Brian Bethune, Chief U.S. Financial Economist for research firm Global Insight as saying the equity investment could be as high as $20 billion. That would seriously dilute existing shareholders. How about letting the marketplace decide? Remember when we believed in that in this country?

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