Tuesday, August 12, 2008

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

The voter landscape is changing as people are flocking back to the Democratic Party. The gap is apparent in Florida, where Democrats have gained over 250,000 new members since the states primary in late January, compared to republicans who boast less than 100,000 new registered voters. Not only that, but "decline to state" registrants, once the fastest growing segment of the voting population, have fallen off sharply.

Prosecution argues against moving Stevens trial to Alaska In papers filed with the court on Monday, federal prosecutors argued that moving the trial to Alaska while Stevens campaigns for reelection, could taint the jury pool. They also argue that the case against Stevens is based in the nation's capital because Stevens failed to report over a quarter million dollars in gifts and services from an oil services company that he failed to disclose on his annual Senate disclosure forms, filed in D.C. "Simply put, this is a case about a scheme to conceal, largely through the submission of false financial disclosure forms to the United States Senate," wrote Justice Department prosecutors in the filing. The financial disclosure forms were "created, reviewed, signed and filed in the District of Columbia, and a substantial portion of Stevens' scheme to conceal occurred in or around the District of Columbia."

Call 'em what they are: Cash Machines Automated "cop cams" that take pictures of speeders, red-light runners and railroad-crossing-racers are effectively cash machines that don't require vehicles or get donut crumbs in the upholstery. A half-mile stretch of main drag in Chevy Chase, MD used to net six speeders a day. With cop cams, they catch about 300 - and most are paid promptly, not contested. Those who are caught by the cameras can watch their transgression, including a few seconds before and after, from their home computers. Confronted with the evidence, they pay up. Before the cameras, Chevy Chase brought in about eight thousand a month in traffic tickets. Now the municipality rakes in a quarter million every month. But all the largess doesn't go to the cities. The cameras are installed, maintained and monitored by private companies that clean up as well.

Thirteen killed and eleven wounded in bomb attack on bus carrying Pakistani Air Force personnel Taliban forces have claimed responsibility for the attack in Peshawar. It is being seen as retaliation for Pakistani airstrikes in Bajaur, a militant stronghold near the Afghan border.

Another attack in western China Three security officers were killed and one wounded in a stabbing attack at a checkpoint along the ancient Silk Road trading route. It was the third attack against Chinese security officers in far western China in a week and a half.

A refugee crisis in the Philippines At least 130,000 Filipinos have been misplaced from their homes as fighting escalated between government forces and Islamic separatists in the southern part of the country. Officials warned of a potential humanitarian disaster as the fighting between troops and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, previously confined to two provinces, threatened to spill over to other areas. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is a separatist group that has been fighting for an Islamic state in the southern region of Mindanao for decades.

Justice denied An appeals court has refused to reinstate Valerie Plame Wilson's civil suit against members of the bu$h administration for revealing her identity to reporters in 2003. A federal judge dismissed the case last year and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has now upheld that ruling. The appeals court said there was no constitutional basis for the court to step in and it was loathe to either create one or to wade into the national security swamp. Melanie Sloan, Plame's attorney at the watchdog group CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) said Plame is considering an appeal. "It is simply unacceptable for top government officials to be unaccountable for such a gross abuse of their power," Sloan said.

If he is going to classify us as "all Georgians" - shouldn't he be able to pronounce the presidents name? Once is a slip of the tongue - consistently mispronouncing the name as "Sashkavili" might undermine his claim to possess superior foreign policy chops - or it should. But we have a media in the throes of a Mancrush™.

One of our favorite pastimes is mocking Rep. Michelle Bachmann (Deranged Wingnut, MN) but this is a bit over the top even for her. Her latest bit of wingnutty goodness? "[Pelosi] is committed to her global warming fanaticism to the point where she has said that she's just trying to save the planet," Bachmann told the right-wing news site OneNewsNow. "We all know that someone did that over 2,000 years ago, they saved the planet -- we didn't need Nancy Pelosi to do that." Seriously. She said Jesus saved the planet. We know that she is clearly certifiably insane, but we also think the evangelicals who have been pointing out the stewardship passages ever more vocally in recent years might disagree with her on that quite vigorously.

Yes, there is an enthusiasm gap The Democratic nominee is going to make his acceptance speech in front of a packed football stadium. Meanwhile, the republicans can't even get senators in tough reelection races to agree to show up at the convention in St. Paul. We have to admit that it's fun to watch the republicans these days, though. Focus on the Family is in a fallback position. They are praying for rain on the Obama acceptance speech. "Abundant rain," said Stuart Shepard, digital media director for Focus on the Family's Focus Action. "Torrential rain. Urban and small stream flood advisory rain." (Rain of Biblical proportions?)

Proponents of stem cell research doubt McCain's commitment to scientific research Backers of ESCR are concerned that McCain's pandering to the christian whackjobs of the far right are unconvinced that McCain is sincere in his pledge to fund the most promising field in biomedical research since the Salk vaccine.

We keep doing this because blogging matters and it matters because some of us get a bit in our teeth and we don't let go. We have exposed politicization at the Justice Department, saved Social Security and embarrassed a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And now a blogger has forced an apology and an acknowledgment of malfeasance by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Karen Gadbois, a blogger from New Orleans has exposed a federally financed program to gut and repair the storm-damaged homes of the poor and elderly as a sham. When the traditional media first paid heed to her story, Nagin whined like a little bitch, and said the reporter was irresponsible and standing in the way of recovery effort (in New Orleans, thats akin to questioning someones patriotism anywhere else) and decried the "gotcha mode" of journalism, pleading that it had to stop. Now, just days later, he is admitting that the agency was rife with corruption and the paperwork riddled with discrepencies after the FBI raided the offices of the agency that oversaw the supposed "work."