Monday, August 11, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap - a roundup of news you might have missed

Thousands of travelers in Alaska stranded by ash plume after wind shift 6000 travelers were stranded in the airport in Anchorage after a shift in the wind blew a gigantic ash plume from the Kasatochi volcano into flight routes. The ash plume, 325 miles wide, was released from Aleutian volcano Kasatochi on Thursday, and is floating at between 30,000 and 40,000 feet. Monday morning it was above northwestern Canada. It is likely to affect air traffic for days as it floats across the north American continent said a U.S. Geological Survey geologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Particles of volcanic ash are extremely abrasive and can cause severe damage to aircraft, including engine failure.

U.N. Helicopter fired on in Darfur A clearly marked United Nations helicopter came under small-arms fire today. The rear of the aircraft was damaged by gunshots, as was the radio system, but there were no casualties reported.

The Perseid Meteor Shower is expected to peak in the predawn hours If you are reading this and you look out your window and see darkness - get up off your duff and go outside and look up. The chances are really good that if you gaze upward for a few minutes, you will see a shooting star. The annual Perseid meteor shower started in mid-July, and will continue to spark a handful of shooting stars throughout August - but tonight is the best night for meteor spotting. The Perseids are bits of debris left by comet Swift-Tuttle. The debris is like a river of small particles in space, and each year, Earth passes through it. This year, we will pass through the densest part of the debris stream that spawns the showers on Aug. 12 at around 7 a.m. ET (1100 GMT). The moon will set around 1:30 a.m. local time (regardless of your location), leaving the sky dark for a few hours of optimal meteor watching across much of North America.

Just imagine the outcry if it was Obama... But since it's St. John, the object of the Media Mancrush™...***crickets*** It sure looks like the McCain camp cribbed heavily from flat-out plagiarized the Wikipedia page on Georgia for his speech today on the crisis brewing in the Caucasus region. I have problems with this on more than one level - of course I have problems with a candidate who plagiarizes sources for speeches. Plagiarism is fraud. I also have problems with the source of the plagiarism. Wikipedia? I think I would prefer it if presidential candidates at least stole their plagiarized from academic databases and .edu sites!

Why does this administration want to suppress the votes of Veterans? On May 5, James B. Peake, Secretary of Veteran's Affairs, issued a department directive that bans nonpartisan voter registration drives at federally financed nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and shelters for homeless veterans. There are Thousands of veterans of WW II, as well as conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan are sequestered in V.A. hospitals, veterans homes, and nursing throughout the land. They have earned the right to vote and paid with their most precious coin. It is our obligation to assure every single veteran has the opportunity to cast a ballot.

The FBI promises that they are really, realy sorry and they will never do it again! Honest! Phone records for New York Times and Washington Post Indonesian bureau reporters were wrongly obtained by the FBI during a terrorism investigation in 2004. FBI Director Robert (how does this clown still have a job) Mueller has contacted Bill Keller at the Times and Leonard Downie Jr. at the Post to apologize for the abuse of power on behalf of the agency.

Dr. Ivins peers, those who knew him best, doubt the official story being peddled by the FBI on the anthrax investigation.

Of holidays, priorities and the absolute worst Secretary of State ever... Like the State Department under her inept leadership would have any sway any way.

Whatever you do, don't let John McCain hear this Experts in COIN think that a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq would actually strengthen and preserve the security gains that were realized during the so-called Surge™.

And you thought these people were honestly going to do what they said they were going to do? The United States Monday insisted North Korea would remain on its terrorism blacklist until it fully complied with a deal on disclosing its nuclear program, sidestepping the first chance to remove the hardline communist state from its watch list. Under US law, Washington can from Monday begin considering removing Pyongyang from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, 45 days after Pyongyang submitted a long awaited declaration of its nuclear program. But the State Department said it would not delist North Korea in exchange for the disclosure unless Pyongyang accepted a comprehensive mechanism to verify the North's complex atomic program. "The important point is they haven't produced for us that verification regime that we need to go forward on that issue," department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters when asked about the delisting prospects.

No, it's not a joke: The United States has made available 250,000 dollars in aid for ally Georgia aimed at providing emergency supplies for thousands of people affected by the Georgia-Russia conflict, the State Department said Monday. The United States began bringing the urgently needed humanitarian aid to Georgia, but "it is expected that supplies (distributed by the US embassy in Tbilisi) will be exhausted by the end of the day" Monday, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said. The embassy issued a disaster declaration Sunday "releasing 250,000 dollars in initial funding that can provide emergency relief supplies that can assist up to 10,000 people," Wood told reporters. We call bullshit on that--these people have seen their cities destroyed. We can piss billions down the Iraqi rathole but the people who sent 2,000 troops to Iraq to help us get $250,000? It probably cost five times that to send their troops home. What a joke. And, yes, we're on the side of the innocent people caught in the middle, thank you very much.

Yeah, all of those "no-bid" contracts have really paid off, haven't they? US aerospace giant Boeing is considering not entering a bid in the next round of competition for the US Air Force refueling tanker contract, Aviation Week said Monday. "Company officials are strongly considering the option of not submitting a proposal as the company's Integrated Defense Systems sector tries to respond to the draft RFP within the government's speedy timeline," the aerospace industry magazine said, citing "multiple" sources familiar with Boeing's internal discussion. The Defense Department last Wednesday presented Boeing and Northrop Grumman with revised terms for a request for proposal (RFP) for a 35-billion dollar contract to produce a new generation of aerial refueling tankers. The contract is for 179 aircraft, the initial phase of a fleet replacement project worth some 100 billion dollars over the next 30 years. Yep, 100 billion for Boeing, $250K for Georgia. I can totally see where that makes sense.

If so, then everyone "surprised" by it should be fired:The US military was surprised by the timing and swiftness of the Russian military's move into South Ossetia and is still trying to sort out what happened, a US defense official said Monday. Russian forces surged into the breakaway region last week after weeks of clashes, threats and warnings between Tblisi and Moscow which culminated August 6 in a two-day Georgian offensive into South Ossetia. That the two countries were on a collision course was no surprise to anyone, but the devastating Russian response was not expected, officials said. How fucking hard is it? If they put their tanks on railcars, and ship them to a contested area, war is possible. Give me a break...