Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Pennsylvania GOP wants a dress code at the polls A political fight over what voters can and can't wear to the polls is headed to court in Pennsylvania. Not surprisingly, Democrats oppose such measures, while republicans are in favor.

Military helicopters collide in Iraq An Iraqi soldier was killed when two UH-60 Black Hawk military helicopters collided during landing at a base in northern Baghdad. Two Americans and two Iraqis were injured in the accident.

Oversight of contractors outsourced to contractors The bu$h administration isn't really one to pay much mind to the rules, so it does not surprise us here at the Nightowl to learn that contractor oversight has been outsourced, even though that is a clear violation of the regulation that says it is illegal to hire contractors for jobs “considered to be inherently governmental functions” including “the direct conduct of criminal investigations.”

$6 Billion arms sale to Taiwan What kind of armaments can you get for that kind of scratch? 330 Patriot Missiles, 30 Apache helicopters, 34 sub-launched Harpoon missiles, fighter jet spare parts, and 182 Javelin guided missile rounds.

Karzai's brother has connections to the heroin trade Allegations that Ahmed Wali Karzai, now the chief of the Kandahar Provincial Council, is connected to the drugs trade is a cause for great consternation in both Kabul and Washington. United States officials fear that perceptions that the Afghan president might be protecting his brother are damaging his credibility and undermining efforts by the United States to buttress his government, which has been under siege from rivals and a Taliban insurgency fueled by drug money, several senior Bush administration officials said.

Dropping like flies Car dealerships are going under right and left, proving to be the proverbial "canary in the coal mine" where the tightening credit crunch is concerned.

The Bush legacy is going to be further stained by this deal with India: India and the United States promised Saturday to sign soon a nuclear cooperation deal which New Delhi said "opened the door for India" to the global nuclear market and tied its future to Washington's. Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee and visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters that last-minute hitches had derailed the scheduled signing of the agreement but both looked to the future. "It is this agreement which has opened the door for India for international nuclear commerce," Mukherjee told a packed press conference with Rice by his side. "What India and the United States are doing today has direct benefits to our peoples," he added. "India's quest to build a knowledge society leads us to work very closely with the USA." He added that he hoped the deal "will be signed shortly." Rice, who had lobbied Congress to approve the deal despite fears it could undercut global efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons, had hoped to initial the agreement as the highlight of her brief trip.

Israel criticized for nuclear weapons: A U.N. nuclear conference of 145 nations indirectly criticized Israel on Saturday for refusing to put its atomic program under international purview. But the Jewish state managed to evade being targeted by Islamic countries pushing for a vote to link it to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Iran, Israel's most outspoken foe, spearheaded the verbal attack on the Jewish state, as it has done at past general conferences of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Israel is widely considered to have nuclear arms, but has a "no tell" policy on the issue. Chief Iranian delegate Ali Ashgar Soltanieh said Israel's nuclear capabilities represent a "serious and continued threat to the security of neighboring and other states." He took the United States and other Western backers of Israel to task for their "shameful silence" on what he said was the menace posed by Israel's atomic arsenal.

Not that the Gordon Brown era was going to be all that and a bag of chips anyway: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown reached into the past in a bid to save his future Friday, recruiting stars from the Tony Blair era into his Cabinet. Brown said sweeping changes were required to handle the effects of high oil prices, the worsening credit crunch and doubts about the banking system. "The global economy will never be the same again," Brown said in announcing the Cabinet shake up and the creation of a new economic crisis council composed of ministers and business leaders. Turning to Blair's trusted hands represents a serious blow to Brown's pride, after he confidently promised a decisive break with his predecessor's tenure when he took office last June.

Arrests at our southern border drop: Arrests of people entering the United States illegally along the busiest stretch for such crossings fell for the second year in a row, possibly reflecting economic conditions in both the U.S. and Mexico, a Border Patrol spokesman said Friday. From October 2007 through August, agents in the 260-mile Tucson sector arrested just under 300,000 illegal immigrants. That's 16 percent fewer than the nearly 359,000 caught during the same period last year. In the 125-mile Yuma sector, fewer than 8,000 illegal immigrants were captured in the same period - down from more than 37,000 last year, for a 78 percent decrease. That's also a canary in a coalmine you can trust.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews terrorize Israelis Religious vigilantes in Israel, calling themselves "modesty patrols" have stepped up their intimidation tactics in recent weeks. Women are stoned for transgressions like wearing red or otherwise acting immodestly, and at least one store that sells devices that access the internet has been torched. The reason? The haredim (god fearers) are afraid that Israelis will use such devices to access pornography.

Vying for Catholic votes The abortion issue has some competition this year as liberal Catholics are pushing back and pointing out that there are many facets to "life" not just reproductive choice. Catholics are also concerned about the war in Iraq, immigration and social justice, and many are arguing that on balance, the Democrats better represent Catholic issues.