Friday, July 18, 2008

Iraq news

Kuwait on Thursday named its first ambassador to Iraq since Saddam Hussein's forces invaded the oil-rich country in 1990 and set off the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The announcement came as Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government is reaching out to its Sunni Arab neighbors in a bid to ease tensions and secure investment to rebuild the nation.
U.S. officials also have been encouraging Arab countries to normalize relations with Iraq to offset the influence of neighboring Iran, where many of Iraq's current leaders sought sanctuary under Hussein.
Iraq's Arab neighbors are suspicious of Baghdad's close ties with Tehran and have been worried about the level of violence here. Arab nations have maintained economic links with Iraq, but none has had a full embassy in this country since 2005, when an envoy sent by Egypt with the intention of moving toward full diplomatic relations was kidnapped and killed.

The above is from Alexandra Zavis' "Kuwait names ambassador to Iraq" (Los Angeles Times) and that actually is news -- if you doubt it, you can watch as outlets farm the topic off by running an AP story. By contrast, I-talk-to-generals-about-gossip is never news, even when it's run on the front page as the New York Times did yesterday. The Times does better today with James Risen's "Electrical Risks at Bases in Iraq Worse Than Previously Said." Here's the opening:

Shoddy electrical work by private contractors on United States military bases in Iraq is widespread and dangerous, causing more deaths and injuries from fires and shocks than the Pentagon has acknowledged, according to internal Army documents.
During just one six-month period -- August 2006 through January 2007 -- at least 283 electrical fires destroyed or damaged American military facilities in Iraq, including the military’s largest dining hall in the country, documents obtained by The New York Times show. Two soldiers died in an electrical fire at their base near Tikrit in 2006, the records note, while another was injured while jumping from a burning guard tower in May 2007.
And while the Pentagon has previously reported that 13 Americans have been electrocuted in Iraq, many more have been injured, some seriously, by shocks, according to the documents. A log compiled earlier this year at one building complex in Baghdad disclosed that soldiers complained of receiving electrical shocks in their living quarters on an almost daily basis.

If the Times is still confused, yesterday's front page = gossip; this article by Karen DeYoung = news. Carla notes Dana Hedgpeth's "Investigation of Iraq IG Ends With No Charges" (Washington Post):

The federal government has dropped two investigations into the office of the inspector general overseeing Iraq reconstruction projects, according to a lawyer for the IG.
In a July 3 letter, federal prosecutors said they had closed the criminal investigation of
Stuart W. Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, according to Bowen's attorney Bradford Berenson.
"The U.S. attorney's office informed us that the investigation related to Mr. Bowen had been terminated without any charges being brought," Berenson said yesterday. "Mr. Bowen is gratified that this inquiry has concluded without any finding of wrongdoing on his part."
A grand jury had been looking into charges of whether Bowen improperly accessed employee e-mails, Berenson said. Brian McGinn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said "we can't confirm or deny the existence or termination of any criminal investigation handled by our office." He would not comment further.
Earlier this week, the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency wrote in a letter to the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, known as SIGIR, that it too had "terminated the administrative investigation" on Bowen and his deputy, Ginger Cruz. The council, which investigates allegations of misconduct by inspectors general at federal agencies, said it "has elected to close the file and does not contemplate further action in the matter."

Added, NOW on PBS will focus on "the forgotten war' Afghanistan (begins airing Friday on most PBS stations). Bill Moyers Journal (check your local listings, begins airing on PBS in most markets tonight, it also streams online -- transcript, video, audio) looks at the housing crisis and spotlights the continued decline of a once strong voice who guests on the program to talk about the 'up' of the housing crisis (for Democrats!). Gwen's fronting polls as a 'draw' for viewers of this week's Washington Week which should give everyone pause. Dan Balz is among the scheduled guests and the only one who might be able to penetrate the spin.

Ralph Nader is the independent candidate for president and you can find an archive of audio appearances here. Jonah notes this video from the Ralph Nader - Matt Gonzalez campaign.

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