Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Yes, that's a quote from us at the end of the article--pardon while we toot our horn--we're still a little blog, after all! When former Sen. John Edwards dropped out of the presidential race, the progressive Netroots took their affections to Barack Obama, defending him against attack from Hillary Rodham Clinton and others. But with his support of a government surveillance bill that offers retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies — a bill that he vowed last year to filibuster — the honeymoon has ended. Disappointed over his position on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the online activists feel jilted and betrayed and have taken to questioning his progressive credentials. One prominent blogger, Atrios, has even given him the moniker “Wanker of the Day.”

Really? And who said you knew what the hell you were talking about?Wow, John McCain is really upping the ante in the energy wars today. We think he is, anyway. In a speech he's set to deliver today in Nevada on energy, he'll guarantee "strategic independence" from foreign oil by 2025: In recent days I have set before the American people an energy plan.
And let it begin today with this commitment: In a world of hostile and unstable suppliers of oil, this nation will achieve strategic independence by 2025...Some will say this goal is unattainable within that relatively short span of years -- it's too hard and we need more time. Let me remind them that in the space of half that time -- about eight years -- this nation conceived and carried out a plan to take three Americans to the Moon and bring them safely home.
We could get there a hell of a lot sooner if we make sure you're not in a position to try and stop it.

Of course, you actually have to have a military that isn't broken for it to be sapped:One of the country's top spies came to Capitol Hill today, to warn Congress that global climate change could sap the country's military forces -- while fueling new conflicts around the world. But he warned that responding to global warming might be even more costly than the problem itself. "As climate changes spur more humanitarian emergencies... [t]he United States, in particular will be called upon to respond," National Intelligence Council chairman Thomas Fingar told a joint session of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Intelligence Community Management Subcommittee. And those demands "may significantly tax US military... readiness." "Climate change will have wide-ranging implications for US national security interests over the next 20 years," Fingar noted, as he presented an open summary of a classified National Intelligence Assessment on the effects of global warming. But the biggest impact is likely to be overseas, where "climate change... will worsen existing problems — such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions. [That] could threaten domestic stability in some states, potentially contributing to intra- or, less likely, interstate conflict, particularly over access to increasingly scarce water resources." America will almost invariably have to cope with the consequences.

Is this more of that appeasement we keep hearing about? Sounds like it...The White House said Wednesday that it could move to take North Korea off a terrorism blacklist "quite soon" after -- and if -- the North delivers an accounting of its nuclear programs. Washington hoped the secretive Stalinist nation would provide its long overdue "declaration" as early as Thursday, although a senior US official has already said that an inventory of Pyongyang's atomic arsenal will come later. Asked how quickly a full accounting would trigger removal from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino replied: "We'll have to wait and see. It could be quite soon if that were to happen." "We just don't know if they're actually going to do it," said Perino. Washington also plans to remove North Korea from the Trading with the Enemy Act, a law restricting trade with countries hostile to the United States, leaving Cuba as the only country affected by that legislation. Separately, US President George W. Bush sought to dampen anger from close ally Japan, which says Pyongyang must first come clean on abductions of Japanese nationals, in a telephone call with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

Dammit, why do you keep making me point you that you're appeasing the terrorists when you do things like this? I have a life, you know...Senior US official James Foley on Tuesday held talks in Syria on the growing needs of some 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in the country and praised Damascus for its "generosity." "We salute Syria, the government and its people for its generosity in welcoming" Iraqis who fled the US-led 2003 war, said Foley, the State Department coordinator for Iraqi refugees. "We recognise the considerable burdens that are shouldered here by the Syrian government and its people... (and) are appreciative of the cooperation that we have on this issue," he added.

I'm staying home if this is the case: U.S. border agents are copying and seizing the contents of laptops, cell phones and digital cameras from U.S. and foreign travelers entering the United States, witnesses told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday. The extent of this practice is unknown despite requests to the Department of Homeland Security from the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution and several nonprofit agencies. The department also declined to send a representative to the hearing. Subcommittee Chairman Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said Homeland Security had told him that its "preferred" witness was unavailable Wednesday. Feingold added that he'd submitted written questions about the seizures of electronic data — and of some devices — to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in April. To date, Feingold said, he's gotten no reply. Chertoff's department provided a written statement that said it wasn't its intention to infringe on Americans' privacy but to protect the country from terrorists and criminals, whose electronic devices can reveal incriminating materials. During border searches of laptops, according to the statement, the department's Customs and Border Protection officers have found "jihadist material, information about cyanide and nuclear material, video clips of improvised explosive devices being exploded, pictures of various high-level al Qaida officials and other material associated with people seeking to do harm to U.S. and its citizens."

Jemaah Islamiyah is something we should be paying attention to: The Australian Strategic Policy Institute issued a report on Wednesday which noted that Jemaah Islamiyah continues to pose a "significant threat to both Australian and regional security interests." The report claimed that the group had splintered between a fanatical hardcore and a less extreme wing, but could still muster 900 militants. (Though largely semantics, there are probably thousands of hard-line militants in Indonesia belonging to overt paramilitary groups; it is doubtful that very many of them would claim any affiliation with Jemaah Islamiyah.) The report urged the Australian and Southeast Asian governments to remain vigilant against violent radicalism. It was written by Peter Chalk, a senior policy analyst with the Rand Corporation, and former Australian Labor Party national security advisor and academic Carl Ungerer.

I wanna hear it said every day--obstructionist, obstructionist, obstructionist--and I wanna see EVERY Democratic Senator campaigning in the State of Kentucky AGAINST Mitch McConnellPresident Bush's efforts to broaden a widely respected, bipartisan program to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa have faced roadblocks by seven Republican senators. Bush had hoped that Congress would pass legislation to spend $50 billion to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis primarily in Africa in time for the Group of Eight summit in Japan next month. However, the seven socially conservative senators, led by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., refuse to support the legislation unless spending focuses more heavily on treatment than on prevention. In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the seven senators — Coburn, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana — criticized the bills' increased spending over the next five years from $15 billion to $50 billion, the expansion of AIDS funding to countries such as China and India and the inclusion of funding for agricultural-assistance and poverty-alleviation programs. A veritable who's who of who should go...

Unless of course we've decided to stop making any fucking sense: While the nation's immigration cops have raided job sites and picked up illegal aliens across the country in the past year, hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants sit in jails, already convicted of crimes. Yet they often are released back into the community instead of being deported. This week in Congress, Democrats — with almost no resistance from Republicans — are trying to force the Bush administration to focus more on the criminals and less on the working folk, directing $800 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to make criminal alien deportations its top priority. That means more money to ferret out criminals in jails, for the federal-local 287(g) partnerships that deputize local law enforcement officers as federal immigration cops, and for the fugitive alien teams that pick up wanted suspects.

You're damned right they will--they haven't even begun to play it: Echoing comments by Barack Obama, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius predicted that Republicans would undertake "a major effort to try and frighten people about him" because of his race. "That has been the Republican playbook for the last eight years," said Sebelius, an Obama ally. " 'He’s not qualified, he's somebody who should scare you. He's too liberaI.' " The Kansas Democrat, often mentioned as a possible running mate for Obama, said those were all "code words" to try to make voters "uncomfortable." "I don’t think anybody's going to go directly at the race issue, but that’s going to be an underlying theme," she said in an interview this week. Obama said much the same thing to an audience in Florida last week. "They're going to try to make you afraid of me," the presumptive Democratic nominee said. ‘"He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?" ’ Hate to correct the good Governor, but this has been in their playbook for longer than most of us have been alive...

We've covered this in the past, but here's some new info: It's been called the world's deadliest flower. "Because that flower turns into heroin, which turns into money," said Erik Sherepita. "That money turns into weapons used against us." Sherepita spent a year supervising a small army of private contractors and hundreds of Afghans cutting down fields of poppies all over the country - at a cost of more than $6,800 per acre. But despite their best efforts and more than a billion in taxpayer dollars poured into the war on drugs on all fronts since 2004 - poppy production is up 300 percent in the last six years. It now totals more than 470,000 acres. Former Assistant Secretary of State Robert Charles, who authored the poppy program, now tells CBS News it missed because it never went on the offensive. "What we are looking at in Afghanistan is a colossal missed opportunity," Charles said. "My biggest fear was that we would end up where we are today: with record harvests and just 10 percent of the crop eradicated; one-third of what experts say is needed to make a difference," Charles said. And Charles is hardly alone. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Congress: "I think it's patently obvious we have not been successful in the counter-narcotics effort in Afghanistan." Yeah, well--how's that whole Iraq War thing working out for you?

Even as a youngster, Rollie looked older and wiser than his years. His white mustache sprouted longer by the month, until it flamed from his cheeks like a German Kaiser's. Sometimes, it all but hid his mouth. In the last few years, though, the tribulations of age - not just the appearance of it - have begun catching up with Rollie. It wasn't immediately noticeable on the outside. But his keepers are reminded each time they get a look past the Emperor Tamarin's flowing whiskers, and into his jaws. The tiny monkey, used to crunching away on raw sweet potato and celery, has surrendered all but 6 of his 32 teeth to the toll of time. At 17, Rollie - a resident of Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo - is a senior citizen of his species. In the wilds of the Amazon, his keepers say, he almost certainly would never have made it this long. In captivity, he's got plenty of company. The Golden Years have arrived at the nation's zoos and aquariums, and that is taking veterinarians and keepers, along with their animals, into a zone of unknowns.

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