Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

More fallout from the Postville, Iowa raid: Federal prosecutors have arrested Sholom Rubashkin, former chief executive officer and vice president at Agriprocessors and son of company founder Aaron Rubashkin, on a criminal complaint that alleges the man conspired in immigration-related offenses. The criminal complaint is the first against any high-level member of Agriprocessors management and comes in the wake of a massive May 12 immigration raid at the plant. In all, 389 workers — nearly half the plant’s workforce — were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. According to documents filed with the court, Rubashkin “did knowingly conspire, confederate and agree with others, for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain, to harbor one or more aliens at his place of employment in Postville, Iowa, knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact that such aliens had come to, entered and remained in the United States and aided and abetted the possession and use of fraudulent identification documents and aided and abetted aggravated identity theft.”

Sadly, this incident only encourages more incidents: Just 5 days before the election, at 3a.m. on October 30th, all of the front windows of the Cindy Sheehan for Congress campaign offices were shattered. Although staffers had been in the office less than an hour earlier, no one was in the building at the time of the incident. No one was hurt and there were no witnesses. Cindy Sheehan is a candidate for Congress in California's 8th Congressional District race against incumbent Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). "It seems to have been a calculated intimidation tactic," said Tiffany Burns, the Cindy for Congress campaign manager. "One of our computers was stolen, but no other property was taken from our offices and no surrounding buildings were targeted. Clearly they wanted to both frighten us and to gather information." Total damage to the campaign office is currently estimated at more than $5,000.

Did you know torture was illegal? A Miami jury has convicted the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for torture and conspiracy. "Chuckie" Taylor - who was born in the United States as Charles McArthur Emmanuel - faces a possible life sentence for the crimes. They were committed between 1999 and 2003, a period when he was in charge of a notorious Liberian military unit.

Lockerbie bomber asks for bail: The man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, has applied to be released on bail, pending his appeal. Arguments are due to be heard in the High Court in Edinburgh next Thursday. Earlier this month his lawyer announced that the Libyan was suffering from advanced prostate cancer. Megrahi is serving a minimum of 27 years in Greenock prison for the bombing, which killed 270 people. He has so far served seven years.

A pointless attempt at salvaging something? US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will head to the Middle East next week in a bid to advance peace talks before the Bush administration leaves office. A state department spokesman said Ms Rice would visit Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories during her four-day tour. President George W Bush had hoped Israel and the Palestinians would reach a peace deal by the end of the year. But both sides have said that will not be possible. No one wants to deal with the Bush administration--nor do they respect Rice. End of story.

What's this "agreed to" stipulation? How about "told he would go to jail if he didn't move out?" A state senator from Frederick County [Maryland] has agreed to immediately move out of his Mount Airy home following allegations by his wife that he pushed her on a bed, then choked her when she got up. The agreement Thursday followed a request for a protective order filed Tuesday on behalf of Sallie Brinkley, wife of Sen. David Brinkley (R). Under the agreement, Sen. Brinkley is consenting to the protective order without admitting that any abuse occurred. Both parties agreed not to threaten, harass or abuse the other. And, umm--is there a "resignation" forthcoming as well?

Verizon and Alltel allowed to go ahead with merger: The proposed merger between Verizon Wireless and rural carrier Alltel to create the nation's largest wireless company moved a step closer to reality today after the Department of Justice signed off on the deal. Officials with the Justice Department said they would back the $28.1 billion merger on the condition the combined company divest radio spectrum assets in 100 markets in 22 states where the two companies overlap. The merger must pass final regulatory approval by the Federal Communications Commission, which is scheduled to vote on the deal at its Nov. 4 meeting.

Colombia punishes troops: The Colombian government has sacked three generals and 24 other soldiers over alleged extrajudicial killings. They are suspected of being involved in the deaths of 11 young men from Bogota, whose bodies were found in mass graves in the north-east of the country.

Ohio ballots are crucial: If the outcome of next week’s presidential election is close, this precariously balanced state could be the place where the two parties begin filing the inevitable lawsuits over voting irregularities, experts say. The battles could be over the rules for a recount, or how to deal with voters who were not added to the rolls even though they registered properly and on time. Lawyers could fight over how to count the paper ballots used when the electronic machines break down, or whether a judge was correct in deciding to keep certain polls open late. But the most likely source of litigation is the state’s heavy use of provisional ballots, which are issued when a voter’s identity or registration cannot immediately be verified or when polls stay open late. Ohio has a history of requiring large numbers of voters to use these ballots, which are easy to disqualify and are not counted until after the election. “Provisional ballots are really the Achilles’ heel of our electoral process, because in a close race that is the pressure point lawyers use to try to undo the results,” said Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University who is one of the nation’s foremost experts on voting litigation. “The larger the number of provisional ballots cast in a state, the more vulnerable the Achilles’ heel, and Ohio has for a couple of elections used more of these ballots than most any other state.”

Go get a history lesson from Juan Cole--and a blog post he wrote in 2002:

1) Iraq could be destabilized, with ethnic forces becoming mobilized and squabbling over resources, as happened in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion.

2) Iraq could be reconstituted as an unpopular American-backed dictatorship, as happened in Iran in the 1950s. So far, close US allies in the War on Terror in the Middle East include Egypt, which is a military dictatorship that just jailed Saad Eddin Ibrahim for human rights work; Pakistan, a military dictatorship whose leader is attempting to manipulate the fall elections to keep himself in power; Saudi Arabia (nuff said); and other countries with extremely bad human rights records or which are involved in imperial occupations. A Pinochet in Iraq would potentially harm the US diplomatically for decades to come.

3) The loss of civilian life will be significant, further turning much of the world against the United States and losing any sympathy generated by September 11.

3) Recruitment of terrorists to strike the U.S. in the Muslim world may well be easier in the aftermath of a bloodbath in Iraq.

There's more--go check out how prescient he really was.

Ted's numbers tank: The Ted Stevens/Mark Begich Senate race in Alaska was a toss-up before the jury came back with the verdict of guilty on all seven felony counts for failure to disclose gifts and services totaling more than $250,000. And, despite the amped up, frenzied Stevens supporters who crowded into an airplane hangar for Stevens’ Welcome Home rally last night, the scale has started to tip decidedly for Democratic challenger Mark Begich. It’s a toss-up no more. It isn’t over yet, but Uncle Ted’s chances are looking pretty slim.
Rasmussen released the following numbers, taken the day after Stevens’ conviction.
Begich (D) - 52%
Stevens (R) - 44%
Bird (AIP) - 3%
Undecided - 2%