Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Oh, my achin' ass: Republicans Sunday accused Barack Obama's camp of stooping to "ageism" against John McCain, hitting back after Democrats complained their White House challenger had been smeared by "disgusting lies." The Democratic Party is in full-throated panic over Sarah Palin," said McCain ally and former top business executive Carly Fiorina on ABC News' "This Week," lambasting US columnists who accused McCain and Palin of telling lies. Fiorina also complained "ageism" was rampant, with Obama partisans arguing that Palin, a first-term Alaska governor and 44-year-old mother of five, was too inexperienced to serve as vice president, given McCain's age. The Obama camp raised the age issue implicitly last week when it ran an ad mocking the 72-year-old McCain as out of touch and oblivious to the Internet revolution. First--he uses a BlackBerry. Second, he's in his early 70s and he's had skin cancer. Third--we all remember what happened to Ronald Reagan. 'nuff said.

Bolivia is gonna blow up, big time: Bolivia - President Evo Morales struggled to assert control over a badly fractured Bolivia on Sunday as protesters set fire to a town hall and blockaded highways in opposition-controlled provinces, provoking gasoline and food shortages. At least 30 people have been killed in the poor Andean nation this week, Interior Minister Alfredo Rada said. All the deaths occurred in Pando province, where Morales declared martial law on Friday, dispatching troops and accusing government foes of killing his supporters. The governor of natural gas-rich Tarija, representing the four eastern provinces that are in rebellion, said before entering talks in the capital Sunday with Morales that half the country was paralyzed by 35 highway blockades.

Smaller corn and soybean harvest expected: The Agriculture Department on Friday reduced its forecast for this year's corn and soybean harvests due to drier weather, potentially leading to higher commodity prices. U.S. corn production will be 12.1 billion bushels, down from its 12.3 billion estimate last month, the USDA said. The soybean crop is projected to be slightly lower, at 2.93 billion bushels, down from its earlier estimate of 2.97 billion. While the predicted corn crop will be 8 percent below last year's, it would still be the second largest on record. The soybean crop would be 13 percent higher than last year's and the fourth largest ever. That represents a major turnaround from earlier this summer, when some analysts feared the Midwestern floods in June had devastated the crops and would make already-expensive agricultural commodities even pricier.

Practical beats flashy every day: The new Interstate 35W bridge, replacing one whose deadly collapse into the Mississippi River scarred the city's image and emotions, may be getting kudos for opening ahead of schedule and restoring a vital traffic link. But it's not generating a lot of excitement for its appearance. Some had hoped the new concrete box girder structure due to open this week would rise as an architectural jewel near downtown Minneapolis. Let me say one thing--fuck that. Build a bridge that is functional and safe, and to hell with this whole "architectural jewel" bullshit.

Author hangs himself: David Foster Wallace, the author best known for his 1996 novel "Infinite Jest," was found dead in his home, according to police. He was 46. Wallace's wife found her husband had hanged himself when she returned home about 9:30 p.m. Friday, said Jackie Morales, a records clerk with the Claremont Police Department. Wallace taught creative writing and English at nearby Pomona College.

Excavations stopped in Turkey: The archaeological site of Knidos in Turkey was once a jewel of ancient Greek civilization. A major port that exported wine as far as India and Britain, it was also the religious center of a confederacy of Greek cities and the site of a medical school that rivaled the legendary Hippocratic clinic. Archaeologists believe most of the city's secrets lie hidden beneath the ground. But Turkey has suspended excavations — accusing the project leader of negligence that led to the collapse of a newly restored column. Turkish professor Ramazan Ozgan is now fighting a legal battle at the country's highest administrative court to overturn the government's cancellation of his almost 20-year-old excavation permit. The government also suspended excavations by the British Museum and Germany's Freiburg University, which had been digging under Ozgan's permit and leadership. The dispute began when one of a series of columns that Ozgan's team had restored and raised collapsed during a storm in January 2007. The government immediately suspended digging and began an investigation that eventually accused Ozgan of faulty restoration, failing to hand over artifacts to a local museum and keeping them at a depot at Knidos. It revoked his permit on April 28.

No bailout for Lehman Brothers? What is this, capitalism? Lehman Brothers was preparing a bankruptcy filing tonight that could make it the largest financial firm to fail in the global credit crisis, after federal officials refused to help other companies buy the investment bank by putting up taxpayer money as a guarantee. A series of marathon negotiations over the weekend had failed to produce a buyout of Lehman Brothers, and sources familiar with the talks said the firm could file for bankruptcy before markets open Monday morning. After galloping to the rescue of other major financial institutions in recent months, the federal government drew the line with Lehman Brothers, ignoring pleas from would-be buyers who insisted on receiving federal backing for the company's troubled assets. Leaders of the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department decided that Lehman was unlike the investment bank Bear Stearns, whose sudden collapse in March threatened the global financial system, or Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose potential insolvency did the same.

Remembering General Odom: Lieutenant General William Odom (US Army retired) was laid to rest this week at Arlington Cemetery. He passed away suddenly [in June] when his country needed him most: the United States faces a resurgent Russian military; fresh conflict in the Caucasus; and strategic
uncertainty in Middle East. The phrase 'warrior intellectual' gets thrown around rather casually, but Odom was the real thing. A West Point graduate, Columbia University Ph.D., Vietnam veteran, and National Security Agency director, Odom must be classed as one of the leading military intellectuals of our time. He wrote the book — literally — on the collapse of the Soviet military; he was tireless advocate for intelligence reform; and he was an unsparing critic of the current course in U.S. foreign policy. Perhaps equally important, Odom was never a CNN general, broadcasting the Pentagon's talking points to a cable news audience.

Russian jet crashes: A passenger jet traveling from Moscow to the Ural Mountains city of Perm crashed while preparing to land early Sunday, killing all 88 people aboard, officials said. Investigators said engine failure may have caused the crash of the Boeing 737-500, which went down around 3:15 a.m. on the outskirts of Perm, about 750 miles east of Moscow. Flight 821, operated by an Aeroflot subsidiary, carried 82 passengers and six crew members, Aeroflot said. Citizens of the U.S., France, Turkey, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Latvia were among those killed, the airline said.