Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

This is going to bring McCain a world of pain from his peer group
McSame-as-bu$h continues to use weasel-words in supporting what amounts to a revival of bu$h's failed Social Security privatization scheme. Americas Seniors are likely to call him on it.

How not to mount an investigation
More than six years after the Anthrax attacks of 2001, the investigation is at a stand-still. The only thing known is that the person the government originally zeroed out as a suspect is the one guy we know is absolutely innocent. The federal investigation into the deadly mailings was compromised right off the starting blocks by leaks and a premature fixation on a single suspect. FBI investigators bristled at the obsession with the single suspect as other potential suspects and leads were ignored or given scant notice. Investigators also questioned orders from their bosses to share confidential information with political leaders - something that is a departure from normal procedure. The security of information within the probe was so lax that FBI agents found news helicopters racing them to the scenes of searches. One exasperated agent called the leaks to the media "ridiculous." When suggestions were made to curb the leaks, director Mueller dismissed the ideas out of hand, saying they would be "bad for morale."

Cities nationwide struggle under high gas prices Municipalities, squeezed by soaring energy prices, are changing the way they conduct business. Police cruisers are being parked and deputies are presenting themselves to the community in golf carts. Parklands are not being mowed frequently, trash pick-up routes are being remapped to save fuel - in short, faced with the same dilemma as ordinary people, the ordinary people who make up your local government are making the same decisions for their cities as they are for themselves. In SE Colorado the El Paso County public safety officers have ended car patrols. "I know it's a step backwards," said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, whose deputies will now respond only to calls for help. "But when the dollars aren't there, they aren't there."

Gray wolf sighting in New Mexico
Officials believe that Gray wolves have migrated from the northern rockies and reestablished in New Mexico. One animal has been spotted on multiple occasions and even photographed. Wolves have not been seen in the wild in New Mexico since the early to mid 20th century. Government wildlife biologists have not been able to capture the animal to check it's DNA, so the origin of the animal remains unknown.
"We don't know what it is. It looks like a gray wolf. It looks like a big black gray wolf. Where did it come from? We don't know," Mike Phillips, executive director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund in Bozeman, Mont., said Monday in a telephone interview. "It's not a coyote. It doesn't mean it's not a socialized gray wolf that somebody let go and it just wandered around and ended up in Vermejo. And it doesn't mean it's not a gray wolf that came out of the northern Rockies."

Bush signs new GI Bill into law
and praises the law and Senator McCain - even though both of the republican tools opposed the legislation that had the backing of every single veterans group out there. Unable to stop it, they now cynically pretend they were for it all along. The self-congratulations is pretty disgusting - especially among those who fought against it til the last dog died and now act like they were original sponsors or something.

Things got tense for a C-130 crew in Iraq last Friday The crew of a C-130 had to make an emergency landing last week after the plane experienced mechanical trouble after taking off from the airport at Baghdad.
There were no reports of serious injuries among the crew or passengers, but all were taken to the airport’s Air Force compound, Sather Air Base, for evaluations and treatment. C-130's are some of the safest planes flying - the occurrence was the first reportable incident involving a C-130 since 2005.

The DoD is just wrong on this issue DoD is refusing to comply with an EPA order, and is refusing to clean up hazardous waste at 11 sites.
The DoD has also taken the unusual step of asking the White House and Justice Department to intervene on its behalf. The dispute between the Pentagon and the Environmental Protection Agency has simmered over the last year since the EPA began issuing orders compelling the Air Force and Army to clean up four properties where contamination poses an “imminent and substantial” risk to public health and the environment. To date, the Pentagon has agreed to comply with only one of those orders, at an Air Force missile plant near Tucson, Ariz. In separate letters in May to the White House budget office and the Justice Department, Pentagon officials challenged the EPA’s authority to issue orders under other environmental laws to force Superfund cleanups at Air Force bases in New Jersey and Florida and at the Army’s Fort Meade in Maryland. The Defense Department dismissed the EPA’s claim that soil and groundwater pollution at the three bases was dangerous enough to warrant such action. And now the Senate is involved - Chairwoman of the Environment Committee, Barbara Boxer of California, agreed Monday with a request by Maryland’s two Democratic senators, Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin, to hold a hearing on the Pentagon’s noncompliance with the EPA’s orders.

If we had a State Department, this might rise to the level of "Diplomatic Incident" - but since we don't... A group of Chinese human rights lawyers were detained by authorities to keep them away from a congressional delegation that was visiting the nation last weekend. "The actions show an unhealthy brazenness in regards to human rights," Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview Tuesday. Smith and Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) had invited several dissident lawyers to meet with them Sunday night but then learned that police had taken two lawyers from their homes that afternoon, driven them to a Beijing suburb and barred them from returning to the city. Police blocked another invitee from leaving his apartment complex and either warned off or barred at least six other invited lawyers, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an advocacy group.

It's about damned time!
Service members given a disability rating of 20 percent or lower during their medical evaluation boards since Sept. 11, 2001, may have their cases reviewed by a new Defense Department board. ..The Physical Disability Board of Review was mandated by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after several investigations — including an analysis of five years’ worth of Defense Department budget records by Military Times — showed discrepancies across the services in average amounts of disability benefits awarded. For example, Military Times found enlisted airmen averaged much higher monthly disability payments — $926 — than did enlisted Marines at $770 a month. And all the services tended to award more officers than enlisted personnel ratings of 50 percent or higher...“The purpose of the [board] shall be to reassess the accuracy and fairness of the combined disability ratings assigned service members who were discharged as unfit for continued military service,” wrote David S.C. Chu, undersecretary for personnel and readiness, in a memo dated June 27. “The [board] shall operate in a spirit of transparency and accountability, and shall impartially readjudicate cases upon which review is requested or undertaken on its own motion.”

Deal struck in Montana to preserve 500,000 square miles of forest lands A huge patchwork of privately owned forest in northwest Montana — much of it abutting wilderness, and together almost a third the size of Rhode Island — will be permanently protected from development under an agreement announced Monday by two private conservation groups, the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land...The groups will pay $510 million for about 500 square miles of forest now owned by Plum Creek Timber, a lumber and real estate firm based in Seattle. It is one of the biggest sales of forest land for preservation purposes in United States history, conservation experts said...About half the amount will come from private donations, the conservation buyers said, and about half from the federal government under a new tax-credit bond mechanism that was included in the giant farm bill recently passed by Congress over President Bush’s veto.

Two life sentences for former Chilean intelligence chief for crimes committed against the Chilean people A Chilean judge sentenced the country's former intelligence chief, retired Gen. Manuel Contreras, to two life prison terms Monday for masterminding a double assassination that was one of the most notorious covert operations conducted by this country's military government...The historic court decision, which can be appealed, holds Contreras responsible for the murders of Gen. Carlos Prats, the former army chief, and his wife in a 1974 bombing attack in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires...The sentence is the biggest to be handed out so far in this country's ongoing human rights prosecutions and should help resolve what was long one of the most painful episodes of dictator Augusto Pinochet's rule...Justice Minister Carlos Maldonado applauded the verdict, calling the assassinations "a terrorist attack in another country" and pledging the government's commitment to bringing justice to the regime's victims.

Military Personnel donating more to Obama than McCain Barack Obama is taking in nearly $1.50 fr every dollar McCain is raising from campaign contributors who identify as members of the military. "I don't want anyone to think that because he (Obama) is of the African-American heritage that he automatically has my vote, or that McCain will get it because I was in the military," said retired Sergeant Major Ronald Friday, who happens to be black. When interviewed about the presidential race, Top Kick laughed and predicted "an interesting summer." But for now, leavin him in the "undecided" column.

Our lawyer friends just keep doin' us proud Congress might be full of feckless, spineless, cowardly, craven unworthy whelps, but the country is full of attorneys who do not serve in congress, thereby retaining a shred of moral fiber. And those attorneys are the ones safeguarding liberty for this country. The prospects of curtailing aWol's double-naught spy powers seems to be all but lost in the cowardly congress, attorneys and activists are gearing up for court challenges should lawmakers pass an unacceptable bill. Lawyers for the EFF and ACLU are working on possible legal challenges for the FISA bill that is all but assured of passage with telecom immunity intact. "Assuming that the immunity does pass, which right now we are not assuming, we are certainly preparing for litigation against the application of immunity in our case," said a senior attorney for EFF.

Um, yes, there will be fallout over this The GOP has really stepped on their own genitals with the Medicare reimbursement cuts. The American Medical Association, a longtime Republican ally, has turned on a dime and will begin running television ads on the issue Tuesday. On Friday, the Texas Medical Association withdrew its endorsement of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in retaliation for his vote on the Medicare bill. “We’re going to get killed, and we’ll have no help from the doctors,” lamented one Senate GOP aide, who called the leadership’s position on the bill “unfathomable.” Having begun to hear from doctors back home, he asked, “Why the hell did we fight this as a party? You took a constituency that’s very friendly and just flushed it down the toilet.”

Drat the VLWC! Or maybe the bare-assed nature of the emperor is obvious to all but the preening little Napoleon himself?

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