Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

McCain's speech was the worst. speech. ever. Did you watch it?

Uh, Bob? Make that "used to" be able to listen to everything he says.The Bush administration has conducted an extensive spying operation of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, his staff and others in the Iraqi government, according to a new book by Washington Post editor and author Bob Woodward. "We know everything he says," according to one of multiple sources Woodward cites about the practice in "The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008," scheduled for publication by Simon & Schuster on Monday, Sept. 8. The book also says that the U.S. troop surge of 2007, in which President Bush sent nearly 30,000 additional U.S. combat forces and support troops to Iraq, was not the primary factor behind the steep drop in violence there during the past 16 months. Rather, Woodward reports, "groundbreaking" new covert techniques, beginning in 2007, had enabled U.S. military and intelligence officials to locate, target and kill insurgent leaders and key individuals in extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq. Methods which, of course, Woodward just destroyed with his book.

Hello, Hanna Tropical Storm Hanna roared along the edge of the Bahamas on Thursday ahead of a possible hurricane hit on the Carolinas, leaving behind at least 137 dead in Haiti. Hurricane Ike, a still-more-dangerous Category 4 storm, was advancing from the east. Hanna was forecast to pass east of the Atlantic archipelago late Thursday before reaching the coast of North or South Carolina by Saturday, but the National Hurricane Center said Hanna's sprawling bands of outer winds are likely to hit the U.S. far sooner. Tropical storm force winds extended outward as far as 315 miles from the center.

Angry in Pakistan: Pakistan's presidential front-runner said in a newspaper column Thursday he stands with the U.S. against international terrorism, comments that appeared amid growing furor over an American-led cross-border attack in Pakistani territory. The raid in the South Waziristan tribal region was the first known foreign ground assault in Pakistan against a Taliban haven. The Pakistani government summoned the U.S. ambassador to protest the incursion, which officials said killed at least 15 people, including civilians.

No suprises here: Vice President Dick Cheney insisted that Georgia will join NATO and backed its attempts to rebuild from its war with Russia on Thursday, using a trip to former Soviet republics as a show of U.S. support for their pro-Western leaders. Cheney flew to Kiev from Georgia, where he denounced Russia's "illegitimate, unilateral attempt" to redraw the U.S. ally's borders by force. "Georgia will be in our alliance," Cheney told reporters while standing alongside Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, whose pro-Western government has sought to join NATO despite Russian opposition.

And the reason we're not doing more to prevent this is..?Soldier suicides this year could surpass the record rate of last year, Army officials said Thursday, urging military leaders at all levels to redouble prevention efforts for a force strained by two wars. As of the end of August, there were 62 confirmed suicides among active duty soldiers and Guard and Reserve troops called to active duty, officials said. Another 31 deaths appear to be suicides but are still being investigated. If all are confirmed, that means that the number for 2008 could eclipse the 115 of last year - and the rate per 100,000 could surpass that of the civilian population, Col. Eddie Stephens, deputy director of human resources policy, said at a Pentagon news conference.

The end of Kwame Kilpatrick: Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to felony charges Thursday in a sex scandal and will step down after months of defiantly holding onto his job leading the nation's 11th-largest city. He was ordered jailed for four months and fined $1 million. The plea deal brings to an end a seven-months-long ordeal that led to felony charges against Kilpatrick and plunged the city, region and state into political chaos. "I lied under oath," Kilpatrick said in court. As part of the deal, the 38-year-old Democrat is to serve four months in jail and five years of probation. He also would pay the $1 million in restitution over the five-year probationary period.

Ultimatum in Zimbabwe: President Robert Mugabe will name his own Cabinet if his opposition does not sign onto a power-sharing deal Thursday, a state-owned newspaper reported. The opposition expressed concern Mugabe was turning his back on talks. "We are a government, and we are a government that is empowered by elections," The Herald, a governing party mouthpiece, quoted Mugabe as telling reporters Wednesday when he was in Zambia for the funeral of Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa. "So we should form a Cabinet. We will not allow a situation where we will not have a Cabinet forever. "If after tomorrow (opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai) does not want to sign, we will certainly put together a Cabinet. We feel frozen at the moment."

A disgrace: Police arrested an estimated 200 anti-war protesters Thursday night after using tear gas and percussion grenades to disperse a crowd near the State Capitol, about a mile from the Republican National Convention. Police used the gas when dozens of marchers -- most in their 20s, some chanting "F--- the police! F--- the police! F--- 'em!" -- tried to cross a bridge leading to the Xcel Center convention site after being warned not to. Minnesota State Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion estimates 200 arrests at the interstate overpass near on Marion Street in St. Paul, where police used chemical agents and flash grenades to disperse the crowd.

Damn! Only four years? Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years in federal prison Thursday for his corrupt lobbying activities, which led to the downfall of a congressman and several other Washington officials. Choking back tears, Abramoff delivered a highly emotional plea for the judge to exercise leniency, but readily admitted he had become corrupt. "I stand before you a broken man," he said during the two-hour sentencing hearing. "I am not the same man who happily and arrogantly engaged in a lifestyle of political and business corruption," he said. The once-powerful Abramoff appeared a meek figure, wearing a brown jail-issued T-shirt and speaking with his head slightly bowed. They couldn't get him a suit? Guess what, Jack? Come clean and tell us everything you know, and we'll knock of thirty days.

Ridiculous--nothing about this was justified: The Prince George's County Sheriff's Office has concluded in an internal review that its deputies were justified when they shot and killed two dogs belonging to the mayor of Berwyn Heights during a July drug raid, Sheriff Michael Jackson said yesterday. The sheriff said that one dog was engaging an officer and that the other was running toward a second officer at the time the black Labs were shot, but the ruling did not satisfy the mayor, who said the inquiry was incomplete and misleading. Jackson released the results of the review in response to a scientific examination of the dogs' carcasses by a veterinarian with the Maryland Department of Agriculture at the request of Mayor Cheye Calvo. The necropsy concluded one dog was shot four times and the other twice, including once in the dog's back legs. Calvo said the necropsy has bolstered his contention that neither dog was threatening law enforcement officers during the raid and that one dog was shot from behind as he fled into a back room.