The State Department announced this week that starting next October all U.S. passports will be implanted with computer chips. Sweeping new regulations say that passports issued after that time will have radio frequency ID chips that can transmit personal information including the name, nationality, sex, date of birth, place of birth and digitized photograph of the passport holder. Eventually, the government may add digitized data such as fingerprints or iris scans. Out of the more than 2,000 comments on the plan that were received by the State Department this year, more than 98 percent were negative.
Meanwhile, a federal judge this week upheld the conviction of human rights attorney Lynne Stewart on terror-related charges. In their latest appeal, Stewart's lawyers allege that a juror on the case feared for her life and had been coerced into voting to convict. In a separate opinion upholding the convictions of Stewart and two co-defendants, the judge also ruled separately that they were not protected by the First Amendment. Stewart was convicted February 10 of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorism by releasing a statement by her imprisoned client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. Stewart is scheduled to be sentenced on December 22.
As the US military death toll in Iraq surpassed 2,000 dead this week, Atlanta Journal Constitution editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich marked the tragic milestone by hand-writing the name of each one in his Wednesday editorial cartoon. Together, their names spell out the question: WHY? The Pulitzer Prize-winning Luckovich told Editor and Publisher, "I was trying to think of a way to make the point that this whole war is such a waste. But I also wanted to honor the troops I believe our government wrongly sent to Iraq." Luckovich says he spent 12 or 13 hours this past weekend writing in most of the names -- roughly in the order of when the soldiers died. The paper's publisher and various editors were also involved in the effort. When it looked like the names might not be readable, the editors gave permission for the cartoon to be published much larger than Luckovich's drawings usually appear in the Journal-Constitution.
Iraq's political parties have finalized their coalition lists for the December 15 elections. The lists were due today. Three of Iraq's most powerful Shiite Muslim religious parties have formed a reshuffled alliance. In a surprising move, the political groups of the young cleric Moqtada al Sadr have joined with the two parties that control Iraq's transitional government -- Dawa, led by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Sadr has historically resisted participating in a political process he has denounced as a US-created sham and his forces reportedly joined on the condition that the coalition oppose a normalization of relations with Israel. Meanwhile, the two main Kurdish parties have formed their own coalition, while Sunni Arab leaders formed an alliance. This comes days after fierce Sunni opposition narrowly failed to veto the new, U.S.-backed constitution in a referendum. The new group, called Iraqi Accord Front called on all Iraqis to participate in elections and not to boycott. But what has gotten little attention is the fact that the group says it opposes the US occupation. A prominent Sunni leader, Hussein al Falluji, told Reuters "Our political program will focus more on getting the Americans out of Iraq. Our message to the American administration is clear: get out of Iraq or set a timetable for withdrawal or the resistance will keep slaughtering your soldiers until Judgment Day."
- All Eyes on 'Scooter' Libby
- Top Bush Fundraiser Indicted in Ohio
- Iraq: Sunnis Form New Coalition, as al Sadr Reenters Politics
- Attack on Palestine Hotel Aimed at Private Security Firm?
- Cartoonist Writes Names of All 2,000 Soldiers Killed in Iraq
- Almost 70% of Iraq Deaths Under Age of 30
- Padilla Files New Appeal to Supreme Court
- Lynne Stewart Appeal Rejected
- Castro Blasts US Aid Offer
Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination Thursday to be a Supreme Court justice. She had come under intense criticism from the Christian Right and many Republican senators. We have a roundtable discussion on Miers withdrawal and the political implications, and what may lie ahead in the next nomination. [includes rush transcript]
Suspense is high and the nation is abuzz with speculations about who may be indicted today in the CIA leak case. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is expected to announce the results of the 22-month investigation about midday. Rampant speculations that VP Chief of Staff "Scooter" Libby will be indicted leads some to ask questions about VP Dick Cheneys role in the case.
On Thursday, the independent inquiry investigating the United Nations Oil for Food program in Iraq issued its fifth and final report, charging the Hussein regime with collecting billions of dollars in kickbacks from oil sales to over 2,000 companies. We speak with Denis Halliday, former head of the UN Humanitarian Program in Iraq, about the details of the case and questions about U.S. complicity in illicit sales.
Iraqi-American doctor Rafil Dhafir is sentenced to 22 years in prison for violating the Iraqi sanctions through his charity Help the Needy. We speak with Barrie Gewanter of the NY Civil Liberties Union about the case, who has publicly questioned the fairness of the trial.
The big news with regard to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the apparent effort by the Bush-Cheney administration to punish former Ambassador Joe Wilson for revealing how the White House deceived the American people about the threat posed by Iraq is not the anticipated indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.
Make no mistake, it is exceptionally significant that Cheney's closest aide and political confidante over the past two decades, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has been charged with two counts of making false statements to federal agents, two counts of perjury and obstruction of justice for misleading and deceiving the grand jury about how he learned that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a Central Intelligence Agency operative. But if a Libby indictment is all that came out of Fitzgerald's two-year-long investigation into a case that touches on fundamental questions of government accountability, abuse of power and the dubious "case" that was made for going to war in Iraq, then this whole matter will be no more that a footnote to the sorry history of the Bush-Cheney era.
What matters is that the Libby indictment is not all that will come of this investigation.
Fitzgerald met for close to an hour on Wednesday with U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The chief judge has overseen the inquiry into the leaking of the name of Wilson's wife to journalists in an effort to discredit the former ambassador. It is Hogan who has the power to extend the term of the grand jury, which was to expire Friday, or to give Fitzgerald a new grand jury with which to continue the investigation.
We'll note this editorial from The Nation, "Culture of Collusion:"
The Democrats and the media colluded in this awesome deception. Not only did most Democratic leaders vote to support the war; even at this late hour many of them--including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Charles Schumer--refuse to come out clearly against it or to call for an end to the occupation. Echoing John Kerry's disastrous comment during the 2004 campaign, Senator Schumer said recently on Meet the Press that even if he knew then what he knows now, he still would have voted for the war. And the major media joined in the post-9/11 culture of collusion. The New York Times--relying heavily on the inflamed dispatches of Judith Miller, now embroiled in the Plame investigation--was so irresponsible in the run-up to the war that it had to print an apology.
Deceit and misinformation is poison to an open society. We need a much tougher investigation of how the American people were misled on the purpose of this war. We need much tougher, more skeptical media. And we need the Democrats to act like an opposition party. Because without a genuine opposition, the disease of corruption and criminality threatens democracy itself.
Elite journalism is at the center of Weaponsgate, and it can't extricate itself from the scandal. Because, at its core, Weaponsgate (or, if you're in a hurry, "Wargate") is about how the White House and media institutions jointly sold a war based on deception -- and how the White House turned to these media institutions to neutralize a war critic who challenged the deception.
When the Nixon White House went after war critic Dan Ellsberg, it turned to former CIA guys, specialists in break-ins. When the Bush White House went after war critic Joe Wilson (and his wife), it turned to journalists like Bob Novak and Judy Miller.
Today, elite journalists can't pretend to be on the outside looking in at a scandal that doesn't involve them. This scandal is about them -- it's about White House-media cronyism, about journalists on the top rung of the phone trees of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, two of the dirtiest smear artists in Washington history. It's no accident Rove and Libby didn't turn to Helen Thomas or Seymour Hersh about Joe Wilson. They turned to journalists they could count on -- at news outlets that had dutifully promoted so many pre-war lies
Like Lynda, I read the column and think of Matthew Cooper.
I went down to Dharamsala, India, earlier this month to interview the Dalai Lama and ended up meeting a number of interesting people in the process.
Dharamsala, as you may know, is the town in the foothills of the Himalayas where the Dalai Lama lives. And in case youre interested in visiting there, you have to endure a long bus ride from New Delhi, or take a train-taxi combination, such as I did. Flights to a nearby airport are infrequent, seasonal and quite expensive.
The Tibetan government in exile set up interviews for me. The wonderfully friendly and helpful Jigmey Tsultrim was my escort.
He introduced me to Ngawang Woebar, a monk who was a political prisoner in China and now heads the Gu-Chu Sum Movement (the Tibetan ex-political prisoners association). The Chinese imprisoned Woebar for four months in 1987 for taking part in a peaceful protest and subjected him to constant interrogation. He escaped to India through Nepal in 1991 after his monastery was pressured to expel him the previous year. Woebar narrated to me, through a translator, his travails in a very matter-of-fact way without any bitterness or rancor. In fact, he even smiled a number of times, in spite of the grim political conditions he described for people living in Tibet. (His organization estimates that there are currently more than 1,200 political prisoners in Tibet.) Woebar ended our conversation by appealing to Americans, including American athletes, to boycott the Beijing Olympics in 2008 unless theres dramatic improvement on the Tibetan front.
Couple days after the Hurricane hit. Lot like 9/11, lot like Hurricane Katrina, lot like everything else he does. Not the brightest even in his own family. He's the kind of guy who's always handing out belated birthday cards.
Power? We've got the generator. That means standing in the gas lines.
But he was all over the radio yesterday telling us how good we got it.
We got it so good that over 1/2 of us without power when the hurricane hit still don't have power.
We got it so good that "good news" is P&L thinks everyone will have electricity by . . . Thanksgiving.
Bully Boy said something like "Soon more and more houmes will have power. Their life will get back to normal."
But he doesn't seem overly concerned. Hear he got some nice photo ops out of it.
Meanwhile, people stand in line for ice and water.
Guess he has other things on his mind with the whole Harriet thing blowing up in his face and rumors that Patrick Fitzgerald will indict someone today?
He came. He spun. He left.
I think the third thing's the only thing to cheer about.
How many of us welcomed the start of the new seasons of Lost, Veronica Mars, The Gilmore Girls, or Six Feet Under by reviewing old episodes of each series on DVD? It seems that many of us were engaging in these pre-season watching warm-ups, if we're like the viewers Stephanie Rosenbloom describes in her article in the Fashion & Style section of today's New York Times.
Rosenbloom investigates the phenomenon of marathon TV-on-DVD viewing sessions, and considers how these viewing practices are changing the way we watch our favorite series. She suggests that:
Marathon viewing of series is creating a new breed of television aficionados, some say, people with a sharper eye for narrative twists, suspense techniques and character development. Like film buffs they become familiar with the names of the directors and writers of a series, pick up on nuances others may have missed and acquire a deeper appreciation of plotlines.
Rosenbloom posits that the practice of squeezing a season's-worth of episodes into a weekend can lead viewers to ignore or skip out on "sit-down dinners, party invitations and all manner of social obligations as they revisit a favorite series like 'Lost' or 'Six Feet Under,' or catch up on what all the fuss was about."
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