Friday, May 28, 2010

$5.5 million bank robbery in Iraq

Khalid Farhan, Muhanad Mohammed and Michael Taylor (Reuters) report a Najaf bank was robbed today after at least one insider (a security guard) drugged his c-owrkers tea allowing robbers to make off with the US equivalent of $5.5 million. Alsumaria TV reports a Baquba bombing yesterday which left seven people injured. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Thursday Mosul mortar attack which left twelve people wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left three people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which left two people injured and, today, Baghdad home bombings "of two Sahwa members and one policeman" which left three bystanders wounded. Hannah Allem (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

Athab Jabbar, 70, runs a house of worship, so it tugs at his conscience that his gun-toting guards aren't licensed by the Iraqi government and that he isn't properly registered with the central Shiite Muslim religious authorities.
When he's tried to file the paperwork that would bring his small mosque into compliance with Iraqi law, however, the answer is always the same: Only after a new government is formed.
For hundreds of thousands of Iraqis such as Jabbar, the delay in seating a new government, which already has lasted nearly three months, has complicated everyday errands and added bureaucratic frustration to lives that are hard enough thanks to persistent violence and the lack of basic utilities.

[Note: Title originally -- and wrongly -- read "$5.5 billion bank robbery in Iraq" -- it should have been million. My mistake and my apologies.]
In Baghdad, Alsumaira TV reports, ongoing meetings are to take place between State Of Law and Iraqi National Alliance. March 7th, Iraq finished Parliamentary elections. In the time since, Nouri al-Maliki has made clear he will have to be forced out of the prime minister post. This despite the fact that his slate (State Of The Law) came in second, behind Iraqiya (Ayad Allawi's political slate). In the many weeks -- nearly three months worth -- since, al-Maliki has thrown up one roadblock after another while attempting to discredit Iraqiya's win. He's demanded recounts and was granted a Baghdad recount. The recount found the original count to be accurate. Two Iraqiya candidates have been assassinated -- one immediately prior to the election, one earlier this week. Other Iraqiya candidates have been targeted by Nouri's government and had to go into hiding. The alliance between State Of Law and Iraqi National Alliance has whispers of weakness, the Kurdish delegation is due in Baghdad as soon as votes are officially certified and whether they will be one solid bloc or not is only one of the many unanswered questions in the weeks and weeks since the elections.

In England, which held Parliamentary elections at the start of this month and is moving along with selecting their next prime minister, Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) broke the news of a suppressed report:

Highly critical comments by a senior army officer asked to conduct a study of the circumstances surrounding the invasion of Iraq have been suppressed on the orders of the country's top defence officials, the Guardian has learned.

The study, by Lt Gen Chris Brown, was commissioned in the light of mounting evidence of the failure to prepare properly for the invasion and its consequences.

Former senior military officers and defence officials have already described their anger and frustration about the failures in damning testimony to the Chilcot inquiry into the 2003 Iraq invasion. One of the inquiry's key objectives is to spell out the lessons that should be learned from what is widely regarded in Whitehall as an ill-conceived operation of dubious legality and, in foreign policy terms, a disaster comparable to the 1956 Suez crisis.

Thomas Harding (Telegraph of London) adds, "Lt Gen Brown was the last senior British officer in Baghdad in 2009 and was later made the 'Iraq study team leader'."

As noted, the UK held elections this month. It was a big loss for Labour. Gordon Brown's refusal to resign cost the party dearly and, for the first time in years, they will not be in control of Parliament. (The Liberal Democrats and the Tories have formed a coalition sharing agreement.) Various people are competing to lead Labour and one is Diane Abbott. BBC News reports:

Left-wing MP Diane Abbott has promised to fight cuts to the public sector as she officially launched her bid to become leader of the Labour Party.
The backbencher also said Labour had to admit that the Iraq War was a "mistake" before it could move on.

I'm not endorsing anyone -- I won't be voting in that election, there's no reason for me to endorse anyone and I've also known the Milibands for years (David's running and Ed says he is though I don't buy the latter as a serious run -- I could be wrong). But I do find it interesting that, for example, The New Statesman couldn't stop sticking its nose in the US 2008 election (and it was far from alone in England) and kept insisting (as did Gary Younge in numerous UK Socialist publications) that Barack Obama -- a bi-racial male -- must become president to wipe away racial stains (I'd call them crimes because that's what they were and not limited to slavery) of the past is strangely silent today.

Is the US the only country with racial stains? Is England, with all of its colonization and its own participation in the slave trade, somehow immune to racial stains?

Or is it -- most likely, this is it -- that a bigger load of weak ass s**t was never foisted off on the public than that lame nonsense ("Vote for Barry and the past is all wiped away!") and it was deployed exclusively for Barack and, as with everything else about the golden calf, would do nothing to improve the lives of any Black person? Diane Abbott may or may not be qualified for the post. I have no idea, I don't know her personally and knew little of her until this month. But I do know various British papers -- and various Brits -- such as 2008's Baby Cum Pants winner Richard Wolffe -- advanced an argument supposedly about race and they've never used it again to advance the career of any other politician.

Someone needs to try explaining that one.

TV notes, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Melinda Henneberger and Eleanor Holmes Norton on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's bonus is a discussion on the burqa and France's proposed legislation. this week it's Laura Bush's book where she states she pro-choice and pro-same-sex marriage. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers not one but two hours of programming:

  • 60 Minutes Presents: Gotti
    Sunday, May 30, 7 PM ET/PT

    Previously un-broadcast material about his life as the son of a mob boss will be featured in an hour-long interview with John Gotti, Jr. The special hour's new footage includes stories about his father, the late John "Teflon Don" Gotti, feelings about his privacy now and a look at his "Indian Room," a smoking room that doubles as shrine to famous Native Americans.

    Sunday, May 30, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

  • 60 Minutes Special Edition
    Sunday, May 30, 8 PM ET/PT

    The Deadliest Weapon
    Byron Pitts and "60 Minutes" cameras spend two days on the road with a bomb-hunting unit in Afghanistan as they encounter one deadly bomb after another.

    Resurrecting The Extinct
    Scientists believe they can sustain endangered species - maybe even one day resurrect some that have died out - using DNA technology. Lesley Stahl reports.

    Anna Wintour
    The sunglasses come off the high-queen of haute couture in this rare and unprecedented interview, in which the Vogue editor reveals why she always wears them and much more to Morley Safer in her first long-length interview for U.S. television.

    60 Minutes, Sunday, May 30, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio. Today on The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live online beginning at 10:00 am EST), Diane is joined the first hour (domestic news roundup) by Susan Page (USA Today), Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) and Juan Williams (NPR). For the second hour (international news roundup), the guests are Elise Labott (CNN), Michael Hirsh (Newsweek) and David Sanger (New York Times). Also on radio, NPR's Morning Edition features a report on Josh Ritter:

Josh Ritter has spent the past decade writing and playing beautifully constructed folk music. But when it came time to work on his latest album, he says it felt like looking down the barrel of a lost 10 years.

"I had these nightmares about ending up basically singing medleys, which was just a terrifying thing," Ritter says.

There's a darker quality to So Runs the World Away, which covers themes of exploration, but Ritter says he had fun writing the album. For a story to be a story, he says, something has to go wrong.

"I wanted to build these little dollhouses and burn them all down," Ritter says. "I wanted to build something intricate and let them run around and maybe come to untimely ends."

At the link, you can listen to the story, continue reading it and stream Josh's new video "The Curse." Kat reviewed Josh's 2006 release Animal Years here. Click here for Josh's website.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues to highlight the economy and finances in a number of videos this month. Click here to be taken to the DPC video page. And we'll note Senator Debbie Stabenow on unemployment insurance.

And we'll note Bonnie Erbe's "Is the Washington Post's News Sexist?" (US News & World Reports):

Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander had an interesting post on sexism at the institution he writes about. He gave several examples of recent pieces of writing in the paper which drew reader criticisms for gender bias. Most recently he cites a review by TV critic Tom Shales, known for his lavish use of language to take down TV programs with which he is not in love, of a news PBS public affairs program. (Full disclosure: I too host a PBS public affairs program) and an interview it aired with former President Bill Clinton.

Shales later apologized in an online chat for saying that the female co-anchor

looked as though she would have been much more comfortable in Clinton's lap.

Alexander went on to quote other Post references which may be found here.

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