Monday, June 9, 2008

Overnight - A roundup of news items that you might have missed

How does 58 bases in Iraq grab ya? Iraqi lawmakers say the United States is demanding 58 bases as part of a proposed "status of forces" agreement that will allow U.S. troops to remain in the country indefinitely. Leading members of the two ruling Shiite parties said in a series of interviews the Iraqi government rejected this proposal along with another U.S. demand that would have effectively handed over to the United States the power to determine if a hostile act from another country is aggression against Iraq. Lawmakers said they fear this power would drag Iraq into a war between the United States and Iran. "The points that were put forth by the Americans were more abominable than the occupation," said Jalal al Din al Saghir, a leading lawmaker from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. "We were occupied by order of the Security Council," he said, referring to the 2004 Resolution mandating a U.S. military occupation in Iraq at the head of an international coalition. "But now we are being asked to sign for our own occupation. That is why we have absolutely refused all that we have seen so far." Other conditions sought by the United States include control over Iraqi air space up to 30,000 feet and immunity from prosecution for U.S. troops and private military contractors. The agreement would run indefinitely but be subject to cancellation with two years notice from either side, lawmakers said.

Climbing Mt McKinley isn't a joke: One hundred people have lost their lives climbing North America's tallest peak, and an astounding number of them have been Japanese. The most recent to perish were Tatsuro Yamada, 27, and Yuto Inoue, 24, who were scheduled to return from Mt. McKinley's Cassin Ridge May 22. Officials at Denali National Park and Preserve called off the search for them May 29, estimating they'd been without food and water for as long as 14 days. Of the 100 climbers who have died on the mountain since 1932, 17 have been from Japan. Japanese climbers perish at an even higher rate when you include fatalities on other Alaska Range peaks, such as Foraker and Hunter. Nine of the 39 climbers who've died on peaks other than McKinley have been from Japan. That means 19 percent of Alaska Range climbers who've gone up but never come down are Japanese. Darryl Miller, a mountaineering ranger at Denali National Park, said many Japanese climbers attempt riskier, more difficult routes than the average climber, most of whom use the traditional West Buttress route to reach the 20,320-foot summit.

Yeah, what is the deal with that truck they sell tacos out of anyway? A philosophical question: When does a taco truck become a restaurant? Mariscos Camino Real opened two months ago with a food wagon and seafood-only menu in an empty lot next to a small car dealership. Owner Ignacio Ochoa went to the Planning Department shortly after with ideas for improvements, including a concrete pad and heavy canopy tent under which patrons can eat. No concrete and no construction, he was told. So Ochoa and his partner, Rudy Yanez, put down brick pavers, planters filled with small palms and ficus trees, a fountain and a 24 foot-by-40 foot collapsible outdoor-event tent. Ten stone tables with custom tile tops were installed. Two speakers were hung high in the tent rafters. The men spent $80,000 and ended up with a polished outdoor eating space on a patch of leased land. City officials weren't exactly charmed. "We went out there for another call and saw it," said Debbie Whitmore, the city's planning director. "The reaction was 'Oh, my God!' It grew beyond how it was described to us." "Our goal was to change perception," Yanez said. "All taco trucks are not the same. It's not filthy. There's space to eat."

FBI tries to sort out the latest crime statistics: "We shouldn't be fooled into thinking our problems are over," said [James Alan]Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University. Fox said that from 2002 to 2006, the rate of murder committed by black male teens rose 52 percent. "Violence is down among whites of all ages and both genders; it's up among black males, not black females," Fox said. "When you blend all the national numbers together you fail to see this divergence. There are many more whites in the population, so their decline can dwarf the increase among young black males." Fox said black males are "feeling the impact of the economic decline and an increase in gangs and illegal gun markets. Gangs and youth crime are a growing problem despite these rosy statistics." FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said, "One preliminary report does not make a trend, but it's going the way we want it to go." Kolko cautioned against putting too much significance on any shift that hasn't lasted at least two years. Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr called the report "very encouraging" though he noted the final report could alter the figures.

Well, duh: Iran's supreme leader told the visiting Iraqi prime minister Monday that the U.S. military presence is the main cause of Iraq's problems, according to Iranian state television, making clear his opposition to a U.S.-Iraqi security pact. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's talks with Iranian leaders during his three-day visit here have focused on the proposed security agreement that Iran fears will keep the American military in neighboring Iraq for years. Al-Maliki has tried to push Iranian leaders to back off their fierce opposition to the proposed pact, promising that Iraq will not be a launching pad for any attack on Iran. But the agreement has become a point of contention as Baghdad tries to balance its close ties to rivals Washington and Tehran. Iran, which has repeatedly said the way to end instability in Iraq is for U.S. forces to withdraw, believes the proposed pact could lead to permanent U.S bases on its doorstep amid fears of an eventual American attack.

Make sure you tell them about the time Rove told you something that wasn't true...wait, that could take weeks: CBS News confirmed today that President Bush’s former spokesman Scott McClellan will accept an invitation to testify on Capitol Hill next week about the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity. McClellan tells CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante, “I have accepted. I am happy to share what I know.” House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich, asked McClellan to testify after he claimed in his new book: “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception” that he was mislead about Scooter Libby’s role in the leak by Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the Bush Administration.

It's tough in Wisconsin and Indiana, too: Floodwater washed away three houses and threatened dams in Wisconsin on Monday as military crews joined desperate sandbagging operations to hold back Indiana streams surging toward record levels. The East Coast simmered through temperatures climbing toward the century mark. Ten deaths were blamed on stormy weekend weather, most in the Midwest. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle declared an emergency for 29 counties and President Bush late Sunday declared a major disaster in 29 Indiana counties. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said nearly a third of his state's 99 counties need federal help. Rivers in several parts of the Midwest swelled with the runoff from heavy weekend rainfall, topped by the 11 inches that fell Saturday in Indiana. Water was pouring over the top of Wisconsin's Dell Creek Dam on Lake Delton in Sauk County, and had swept away three houses, county emergency management director Jeff Jelinek said. He was not sure whether there were any injuries, but said people had been told to evacuate the area, which is about 50 miles north of Madison.

Leave off the tomatoes, please: McDonald's, Wal-Mart and other U.S. chains have halted sales of some raw tomatoes as federal health officials work to trace the source of a multistate salmonella food poisoning outbreak. Burger King, Outback Steakhouse and Taco Bell were among other restaurants voluntarily withdrawing tomatoes from their menus, following federal recommendations that consumers avoid red plum, red Roma or round red tomatoes unless they were grown in certain states and countries. McDonald's Corp., the world's largest hamburger chain, stopped serving sliced tomatoes on its sandwiches as a precaution until the source of the bacterial infection is known, according to a statement Monday from spokeswoman Danya Proud. The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company will continue serving grape tomatoes in its salads because no problems have been linked to that variety, she said.

Watch out for bogus charities: The state is investigating the charitable foundation of Anne Hathaway's boyfriend, a spokesman for the attorney general said Monday. Italian businessman Raffaello Follieri, 29, who dates the "Devil Wears Prada" star, heads the Follieri Foundation, a charity whose work includes vaccinating children in Third World countries. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is heading the probe, Cuomo spokesman Matt Glazer said. He said he could not comment further on the ongoing investigation. The Foundation has not filed IRS tax disclosure forms required from charities, according to a review of records by the Associated Press. The New York Post, which first reported the investigation, said Hathaway was previously on the foundation's board of directors, but it was unclear when or for how long. "There is an investigation going on that does not involve Anne," said Stephen Huvane, Hathaway's publicist, in an e-mail. "She is no longer a board member of the Follieri Foundation. Other than that we will not be commenting."

Oh, really? Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired Air Force Chief of Staff General "Buzz" Moseley after repeatedly accusing the service of being unable to focus on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a fascinating interview with Air Force Times, conducted right after his removal, Moseley said the critiques were dead-on. It's an eye-opening admission. For years, Moseley's generals have been warning about the dangers of China and a resurgent Russia -- and downplaying today's counterinsurgency conflicts. Now, Moseley is saying there is "an almost zero chance we will fight a nation-state" like Russia or China. Which makes you wonder why the Air Force has been so preoccupied with these countries.

Kucinich introduces articles of impeachment, Nancy's desires be damned. The first of the 35 articles introduced involved the creation of the Pentagon Prapaganda unit that was created to sell the war.

Speaking of that Pentagon Propaganda unit...Four Democratic Senators (Kerry, Menendez, Lautenberg and Dorgan) introduced legislation on Monday to prohibit the Defense Department from using money for “propaganda.” The legislation as written also requires the DoD inspector general and the Government Accountability Office to deliver related reports to Congress within 90 days. “[T]he American people should not have to wonder whether the purportedly nonpartisan expert analysis they see on television might have been shaped by a government propaganda campaign,” said Kerry. (For the record, it is already illegal to propagandize the American people.)

Synthetic gravity achieved
Independent verification by peer review is still pending, but it looks like McCain economic adviser and AEI douchebag fellow Kevin Hassett has managed a degree of spin that a gravitational field was temporarily observed. Here's the gyst: The media (they of the McCain Mancrush™) is hyping a recession that doesn't exist to hurt McCain's chances. Really the economy is just fine. Unless you're a middle or working class loser who wouldn't know how to handle your money if it wasn't being transfered to Exxon, anyway, so stop sniveling and get another job or sell a pint of blood or something.