Friday, November 21, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Look Out - delays in approving disability claims for injured veterans are about to get a whole lot longer Feds arrest 14 people in Louisville for falsifying veteran disability claims - the ringleaders are Service Officers for the Disabled American Veterans. In Kentucky, the DAV has - had - a reputation as the best claim-filers of all the veterans service organizations. Bet it's a few decades before a DAV-filed claim gets approved now.

The grave of Copernicus has been found: Researchers said Thursday they have identified the remains of Nicolaus Copernicus by comparing DNA from a skeleton and hair retrieved from one of the 16th-century astronomer's books. The findings could put an end to centuries of speculation about the exact resting spot of Copernicus, a priest and astronomer whose theories identified the Sun, not the Earth, as the center of the universe. Polish archaeologist Jerzy Gassowski told a news conference that forensic facial reconstruction of the skull that his team found in 2005 buried in a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Frombork, Poland, bears striking resemblance to existing portraits of Copernicus.

I bet they just laughed: China has stepped up computer espionage against the US government and American businesses, according to an influential Washington congressional panel. In its annual report to Congress, the panel warned that China was gaining increasing access to sensitive information from US computer networks. It said China was aggressively pursuing cyber-warfare capabilities to gain an advantage over the US in any conflict.

The republican brand continues to lose share In the latest Gallup poll, taken since the historic presidential election two weeks ago, only 34% of Americans have a favorable view of the GOP, while fully 61% hold an unfavorable view of the party. That is the highest disapproval the party has ever ranked since Gallup established the measure. When the question turns to “where do we go from here?” the picture doesn’t look any better. 59% want the republicans to become more conservative, 28% think it should remain about the same, and only 12% want to see it become less conservative. Enjoy the wilderness, repubs. Neither party can win without appealing to Independents who occupy the broad middle, and the attitudes expressed in this poll are not going to bring in many of those voters.

The Wall Street Journal tops last weeks effort and publishes what is well and truly the stupidest column ever written Did you know that the current economic woes have nothing to do with Credit Default Swaps, deflationary spirals, unregulated markets or greedy bastards stuffing other peoples money in their off-shore accounts. No. None of that is a culprit in this mess. We are rogered roundly because of the “War on Christmas” - because a nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy. We know that you have been struggling with this proper assignation of blame, and we are glad we could fulfill our civic duty and clear that up for you.

With Minnesota recount under way, Franken gains With only 215 votes separating Franken and the incumbent republican Coleman when the recount got underway, the 43 votes Franken gained today are significant.

Petland chain tied to puppy mills After an exhaustive eight-month investigation that looked into 21 Petland stores and dozens of breeders and brokers, the Humane Society of the United States has accused the chain of selling dogs from puppy mills that breed animals in inhumane and cruel conditions. The Petland stores are supplied by large-scale puppy mills, although customers who inquire are routinely lied to and told that dogs sold at Petland come only from “good breeders.”

Rahm does outreach Incoming Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel went calling on the Hill today, reaching out to republican lawmakers and telling them he “welcomes their ideas.” He even gave out his personal cell phone number and promised that he would respond within 24 hours if anyone uses it.

First military execution since 1961 scheduled Pvt. Ronald Gray, who has been housed on death row at the disciplinary barracks at Ft. Leavenworth will be executed by lethal injection on December 10. Gray was convicted of raping and killing a female Army private and a civilian near his post at Fort Bragg. He was also convicted of the rape and attempted murder of another fellow soldier in her barracks at the post. He was convicted by both military and civilian courts and has been housed on Death Row of the US Military Disciplinary barracks since 1988. I remember vividly when these crimes were committed - my brother was at Bragg at the time - so I will volunteer to come out of retirement for a few hours on December 10. If they need a professional with clearance to drop in the line for the lethal injection, they know where to find me. Literally.

US asks Gulf states for $300 Billion The Kuwait daily Al-Seyassah reported today that the United States has gone hat-in-hand to four oil-rich Gulf states asking for financial assistance in the to help it curb the global financial meltdown.

Contractors lose their immunity in Iraq: Private contractors working for the U.S. government in Iraq will lose their immunity from Iraqi law under a new pact with Baghdad, senior American officials said on Thursday. The contractors, who provide everything from personal security to meals for U.S. forces and officials in Iraq, were told they should expect to lose their immunity starting Jan. 1, the State and Defense department officials said. The agreement, which has yet to be approved by Iraq's parliament, allows U.S. forces to stay in Iraq three more years. A vote is expected next week on the pact, which replaces a United Nations mandate that expires at the end of this year.

The Aussies are staying out of the fray: Australia will not send a fisheries patrol ship this year to shadow Japanese whalers and protests near Antarctica, the government said on Friday, appealing for activists to keep high seas protests peaceful. As Japan's whaling fleet heads to the Southern Ocean to hunt close to 1,000 minke and fin whales, Canberra said it was pursing a diplomatic solution to Tokyo's yearly research hunt after Japanese complaints last season about the Australian patrol ship. Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the ship had already gathered photographic and video evidence of the hunt to back a possible international legal challenge to the cull, while this season's hunt would be mostly in New Zealand patrol areas. That's the former lead singer of Midnight Oil, of course, and he is exactly the kind of leader we need to find in our own country to run for the Senate in 2010 and beyond to challenge the feckless bastards who betrayed us--someone who has stood up and done something and has gone from the world of the arts to the world of actually getting shit done. The problem is, the US equivalent of Peter Garret is probably that asshole from Skid Row, and I'm not sure how that's gonna work out.

Unemployment hits China: China has said its employment outlook is "grim", amid worries that economic problems could lead to social unrest. Unemployment is expected to rise next year as businesses close because of a lack of orders. Chinese leaders are already warning that an economic downturn could lead to further protests by those facing financial hardships.

Now that the election is over, Michele Bachmann can resume acting crazy Now she is saying that she didn’t say what we all heard her say. She told Hannity and Colmes that it’s just an “urban legend.” Something tells me that she is confused about what an urban legend actually is, so I will clear it up - an urban legend is an apocryphal tale, such as the person who didn’t really wake up in a hotel bathtub full of ice, relieved of a kidney. A wingnut crazy person caught on tape calling for a revival of McCarthyism…isn’t.

Speaking of stupid things said by crazy people… Dana Perino doesn’t know what the hell the Endangered Species Act is, or what it does. She told the White House press corps today that the ESA doesn’t actually protect any species, even ours. Whatever, Dana. Tell it to the Snail Darter, the Grizzly Bear, the Grey Wolf, the California Condor and the Bald Eagle.