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Showing posts from December, 2007

Saudis seize blogger for "interrogation"

Arab News:

The Interior Ministry confirmed yesterday that Saudi blogger Fouad Al-Farhan was being held for “interrogation”. Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, the spokesperson for the ministry, said Al-Farhan was being held for “interrogation for violating non-security regulations.”
... The 32-year-old Jeddah resident was arrested from his office on Dec. 10 and taken to his home for a search by police. Family members say they still haven’t been informed of any charges or suspicions leveled against Farhan. “They told us we can see him 30 days from the date of his detention,” a family member told Arab News on condition of anonymity. The family has been in contact with the governmental Human Rights Commission (HRC) asking for help in the case. The family would also like to be able to visit Farhan, who is married and has two young children.
... Farhan’s blog leads with the slogan: “Searching for freedom, dignity, justice, equality, public participation (shoura), and all the rest of lost Islamic v…

Bhutto was to present evidence to US that elections were rigged

Times:

On the day she was assassinated, Benazir Bhutto was due to meet two senior American politicians to show them a confidential report alleging that Pakistan’s intelligence service was using US money to rig parliamentary elections, officials in her party said yesterday. The report was compiled by the former Prime Minister’s own contacts within the security services and alleged that the Inter-Services Intelligence agency was running the election operation from a safe house in the capital, Islamabad, they said. The operation’s aim was to undermine Ms Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and to ensure victory for the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) party, which supports President Musharraf, in the elections scheduled for January 8. Patrick Kennedy, a Democratic congressman for Rhode Island, and Arlen Specter, a Republican member of the Senate sub-committe on foreign operations, have confirmed that they were planning to have dinner with Ms Bhutto on Thursday evening but were not availab…

Chavez, Stone humiliated by FARC

Guardian:

A mission spearheaded by Hugo Chávez and Oliver Stone to free three hostages held by Marxist guerrillas in the Colombian jungle was on a knife-edge last night after the rebels failed to deliver on the promised handover.Venezuelan military helicopters bearing the Red Cross insignia sat for a third day in Villavicencio, a small town on the edge of Colombia's vast eastern jungles where the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as Farc, holds sway. They waited in vain for the guerrillas to tell them where to fly to inside the rebel-controlled zone to pick up the hostages....A group of 10 international observers from Latin America, France and Switzerland included the unlikely late addition of Stone, a Hollywood director, who was invited to join the rescue mission only a week ago when he met Chávez in Caracas. Chávez quipped that Stone was George Bush's emissary to the operation; Stone in return called Mr Chávez a "great man". The two flew together to Colo…

Election "results" lead to tribal warfare in Kenya

Telegraph:

The road from Nairobi to Kisumu, normally a busy artery ferrying goods to Uganda and tourists to the Rift Valley's­flamingo-lined lakes, became an avenue of terror as tribe turned on tribe and neighbour on neighbour.

Brandishing bows and arrows, their heads draped in the traditional leaves of war, fighters from the Kalenjin tribe marauded through a Kikuyu village, razing homes and erecting road blocks.

"No to peace," chanted the tribesmen, who support Raila Odinga, the presidential challenger.

"We are a country at war," one said as he twirled an axe in his hand. "We will not stop fighting until Raila is declared president."

The victims of Kenya's anger towards President Mwai Kibaki, once regarded as one of Africa's few genuine democrats, now seen as its newest autocrat, were everywhere to see.In a nearby village, the charred corpse of George Mwaura, a Kikuyu farmer, lay on the floor of his gutted home.Other tribes had suffered too. At da…

No cold blooded murder charges in Haditha cases

North County Times:

Two Marines involved in the slaying of 24 Iraqi civilians and its aftermath in Haditha in 2005 have been ordered to trial by court-martial.

A Marine Corps spokesman said Monday that Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich will face trial on charges of voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice. Also ordered to stand trial is 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson, who faces charges of making false official statements, obstruction of justice and attempting to fraudulently separate from the Marine Corps. The two join Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani and Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum as having been ordered to trial for their actions following a roadside bombing at Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005.

Wuterich led a squad from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment's Kilo Company in a house-to-house search following the bombing that killed one Marine and injured two others.

During those searches, 19 Iraqis were …

Saying thanks to the troops

Xerox has a sight were you can pick a card and personalize and it will be sent to the troops. They have a nice selection although some do like refrigerator art as my kids use to call it.

Blackwater for Bhutto?

The Belmont Club comments on an article in the Telegraph indicating that Bhutto was not allowed to hire the American security firm Blackwater.

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The aftermath of the Bhutto assassination demonstrates why public criticism is the unavoidable consequence of being perceived as "responsible" for the world. The implied criticism in the article above is that "the Bush administration didn't pressure Musharraf" to let Bhutto hire Blackwater. But isn't Blackwater the diabolical "mercenary" company that is the root of all evil in the world? But if Blackwater had been hired to protect Bhutto and shot the gunman before he could kill Bhutto, there would still be no out. The headlines would probably read "mercenary company indiscriminately fires at Pakistani crowd just as in Iraq." And if he missed the headlines would read "incompetent American bodyguard fails to spot assassin. Was Cheney involved in plot to kill Bhutto?"The next the time the…

Iran ignores its chief cleric

LA Times:

Iran's supreme leader spoke not with the thunder of a man regarded in his country as God's representative on Earth, but with the exasperated tone of a corporate manager chastising his employees.

Ali Khamenei had ordered his deputies to start privatizing state-owned businesses: the telephone company, three banks and dozens of small oil and petrochemical enterprises.

Jealously guarding their own sources of power and patronage, however, his underlings all but ignored him.

Months passed. Then Khamenei gathered the country's elite for an extraordinary meeting. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Cabinet ministers were there, as were important clerics, the leader of parliament and provincial governors, and the heads of state broadcasting and the Iranian chamber of commerce.

With television cameras rolling, Khamenei told them to pass some laws, sell off some businesses -- and be quick about it. "Those who are hostile to these policies are the ones wh…

Things Paul Krugman want tell you

Krugman's column in today's NY Times is full of his usual gloomy vision of depression era America.

But there is much that is going well with the economy and Kevin Hassett lists a few:

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1) Equity markets posted solid gains and price multiples are still low. As of last Friday morning, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had gained about 7 percent for the year, while yielding about 2.25 percent, providing investors with a total return of more than 9 percent. The Nasdaq Composite Index had climbed more than 10 percent, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index had provided a total return in the 5.5 percent range. There are no signs of irrational exuberance. The price-to- earnings ratio for the S&P 500, for example, finished the year at less than 19, safely nestled in the historical comfort range. 2) Households are wealthier. In part because of rising equity markets, household net worth increased in 2007, according to the latest numbers from the Federal Reserve. …

The year of wonder in Iraq

Ralph Peters:

GEN. David Petraeus evokes the late Warren Zevon's line, "I'll sleep when I'm dead": His idea of downtime on Christmas Day was to answer a series of questions from The Post - after spending 11 hours out visiting our troops. Relentless in his pursuit of our enemies and tireless in his pursuit of enduring results for Iraq, Petraeus is on track to become America's most successful four-star general since 1945. Question: As a remarkable year draws to a close, what's your assessment of Iraq today?A: "Our troopers and our Iraqi partners have wrested control of many of the sanctuaries from al Qaeda in Iraq and disrupted extremist networks throughout the country. Since the 'surge of offensives' began in June, attacks and civilian deaths have decreased by 60 percent. "Our own losses have fallen substantially, as well - although each loss is a tough reminder of the cost of what's been achieved. "Meanwhile, the Iraqi securit…

Autopsy anxeity on Pakistan

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CNN:

Rawalpindi's police chief stopped doctors at the hospital where Benazir Bhutto died from conducting an autopsy, according to a lawyer on the hospital's board.

It was a violation of Pakistani criminal law and prevented a medical conclusion about what killed the former prime minister, said Athar Minallah, a lawyer who serves on the board that manages Rawalpindi General Hospital. The revelation came on Monday after dramatic new videotape of Bhutto's assassination emerged, showing her slumping just after gunshots rang out. The tape provided the clearest view yet of the attack and appeared to show that Bhutto was shot. That would contradict the Pakistan government's account. Watch new tape showing apparent gunman » A previously released videotape showed a man at the right of her vehicle raising a gun, pointing it toward Bhutto, who was standing in her car with her upper body through the sunroof. He fired three shots, then there was an explosion. In the video that emerge…

Staying on offense

Rudy Giuliani:

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the United States has confronted both the deadliest attack and one of the most destructive natural disasters in the nation’s history. The term “homeland security” wasn’t part of the national debate during the 2000 election. Now, after September 11 and Hurricane Katrina, every American understands that homeland security is at the heart of a president’s responsibility.There have been no fewer than 14 attempted domestic terrorist attacks and nine international plots against American citizens and interests since 9/11, according to reports in the public record. There have been plots to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge and airplanes crossing the Atlantic. Terrorists have conspired to murder American soldiers at Fort Dix and planned to ignite the fuel lines beneath John F. Kennedy International Airport. Not a single post-9/11 plot on U.S. soil has succeeded to date. That is no accident; it is a measure of our increased vigilance as a …

Is Edwards more divisive than Clinton? Could be

Stuart Rothenberg:

While the Democratic race has often, and quite accurately, been described as a choice between change (Barack Obama and John Edwards) and experience (Hillary Rodham Clinton), it has, in the final days before Iowa, become another kind of choice as well. Democrats must decide whether they want a candidate who is angry and confrontational, and who sees those favoring compromise as traitors (Edwards), or a candidate who presents himself as a uniter (Obama), or a candidate who presents herself as someone who understands the ways of Washington and can get things done (Clinton).While Clinton and Obama both acknowledge the importance of working with various interests, including Capitol Hill Republicans and the business community, to come up with solutions to key problems, Edwards sounds more and more like the neighborhood bully who plans to dictate what is to be done.
The former North Carolina senator is running a classic populist campaign that would have made William Jennin…

What is wrong with the caucus process

John Fund:

The trouble with the Iowa caucuses isn't that there's anything wrong with Iowans. It's the bizarre rules of the process. Caucuses are touted as authentic neighborhood meetings where voters gather in their precincts and make democracy come alive. In truth, they are anything but. Caucuses occur only at a fixed time at night, so that many people working odd hours can't participate. They can easily exceed two hours. There are no absentee ballots, which means the process disfranchises the sick, shut-ins and people who are out of town on the day of the caucus. The Democratic caucuses require participants to stand in a corner with other supporters of their candidate. That eliminates the secret ballot. There are reasons for all this. The caucuses are run by the state parties, and unlike primary or general elections aren't regulated by the government. They were designed as an insiders' game to attract party activists, donors and political junkies and give the…

Alabama's rocket men

NY Times:

In 1950, this cotton market town in northern Alabama lost a bid for a military aviation project that would have revived its mothballed arsenal. The consolation prize was dubious: 118 German rocket scientists who had surrendered to the Americans during World War II, led by a man — a crackpot, evidently — who claimed humans could visit the moon.

Ultimately those German immigrants made history, launching the first American satellite, Explorer I, into orbit in January 1958 and putting astronauts on the moon in 1969. The crackpot, Wernher von Braun, was celebrated as a visionary. Far less attention, though, has been given to the space program’s permanent transformation of Huntsville, now a city of 170,000 with one of the country’s highest concentrations of scientists and engineers. The area is full of high-tech giants like Siemens, LG and Boeing, and a new biotech center. Rocket scientists, propulsion experts and military contractors have given the area per capita income levels ab…

Thompson thumps Dem candidates

Washington Times:

A more fired-up Fred Thompson said yesterday he needs to finish second in Iowa's caucuses this week, and he went on the attack, accusing Democratic leaders of having let their party be hijacked by liberal interest groups.
Campaigning heavily here over the past two weeks, Mr. Thompson has refined his message and yesterday released a 15-minute Web video laying out his qualifications and telling voters they need to pick a Republican nominee who is willing to call out Democratic leaders for abandoning their principles.
"They're all NEA, MoveOn.org, ACLU, Michael Moore Democrats," Mr. Thompson charges in the video, which is on his campaign Web site. "They've allowed these radicals to take control of the party and dictate their course."
He said that gives Republicans a chance to recapture independents and "good Democrats" who agree their party has been hijacked, but he said Republicans must choose someone capable of making that case.
Th…

John McCain's fast driving Mom

Telegraph:

John McCain, at 71 regarded by many as too old to be the next US president, has found the perfect response to the age question: his sprightly 95-year-old mother Roberta.A poll released on Sunday placed Senator McCain as the new front-runner in the tight four-way tussle for the Republican nomination.
It is a remarkable turnaround for a candidate whose campaign appeared to have collapsed last summer amid debts and acrimony, as well as repeated sniping about his age.

Out on the stump, he outlines his hawkish stance on the "transcendent challenge of radical Islamic extremism" and details how he championed a major troop increase in Iraq long before it was implemented.

And he pre-empts the issue of his advancing years with a disarming tribute to his mother.

"If there's any question about any age problem we might have in this campaign, there's my genes," Mr McCain said recently at an event in an Iowa restaurant, pointing to his beaming mother, elegantly atti…

A "grotesque feudal charade"

Tariq Ali:

Six hours before she was executed, Mary, Queen of Scots wrote to her brother-in-law, Henry III of France: "...As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him." The year was 1587.On 30 December 2007, a conclave of feudal potentates gathered in the home of the slain Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and testament being read out and its contents subsequently announced to the world media. Where Mary was tentative, her modern-day equivalent left no room for doubt. She could certainly answer for her son.A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of the most venal and discredited politicians in the country and still facing corruption charges in three European courts) and two ciphers will run the party till Benazir's 19-year-old son, Bilawal, comes of age. He will then become chairperson-for-life and, no doubt, pass it on to his children. The fact that this is now official does not make it any less grotesque…

Womb for rent, growth business in India

AP/Houston Chronicle:

Every night in this quiet western Indian city, 15 pregnant women prepare for sleep in the spacious house they share, ascending the stairs in a procession of ballooned bellies, to bedrooms that become a landscape of soft hills. A team of maids, cooks and doctors looks after the women, whose pregnancies would be unusual anywhere else but are common here. The young mothers of Anand, a place famous for its milk, are pregnant with the children of infertile couples from around the world.The small clinic at Kaival Hospital matches infertile couples with local women, cares for the women during pregnancy and delivery, and counsels them afterward. Anand's surrogate mothers, pioneers in the growing field of outsourced pregnancies, have given birth to roughly 40 babies.More than 50 women in this city are now pregnant with the children of couples from the United States, Taiwan, Britain and beyond. The women earn more than many would make in 15 years. But the program raises…

Ambush kills 7 in Mexico

BBC:

Seven police officers have died after gunmen attacked a convoy carrying three alleged kidnappers arrested in northern Mexico, officials have said. Two of the suspects were freed in the raid which took place about 48km (30 miles) south of the city of Zacatecas. Two police officers escorting the detainees were also wounded when the gunmen opened fire in Friday's attack. The third suspect, who did not escape, is being questioned in Mexico City, the federal attorney general's office says. According to officials, the seven dead officers were six local police and a traffic officer....
Mexico needs to train local officers in counterinsurgency operations and convoy security. While it is not clear whether the kidnapper operation is tied to the Drug insurgency, it is likely.

Thumbs up

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MNFI:

A U.S. Army Soldier thumb-wrestles with an Iraqi child in Sab al Bor, Iraq, Dec. 22, 2007. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. William Greer.Click on the image for a larger view. Look at the faces of the kids and see if those who claim we are seen as the enemy are wrong.

Taliban change of command in Afghanistan

Bill Roggio:

As 2007 comes to a close, the Taliban has dismissed its senior military commander in southern Afghanistan. Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, a senior military commander, was relieved of his command by Mullah Omar, according to a statement. Dadullah was accused of insubordination. "Mullah Mansoor Dadullah has been dismissed as the Taliban commander because he disobeyed the orders of the Islamic Emirate,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told AFP. "Therefore it was decided not to appoint any post in the emirate to him," Mujahed concluded.Mansoor was the military commander of Taliban forces in the strategic southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, and Zabul provinces. He took command of Taliban forces in May of this year after his brother Mullah Dadullah Ahkund, a popular but brutal and effective commander, was killed by British special forces in Helmand province.
...Afghan and Coalition forces drove the Taliban from the former stronghold of Musa Qala. The T…

The Undocumented Texans of the Year

Dallas Morning News:

He breaks the law by his very presence. He hustles to do hard work many Americans won't, at least not at the low wages he accepts. The American consumer economy depends on him. America as we have known it for generations may not survive him.

We can't seem to live with him and his family, and if we can live without him, nobody's figured out how. He's the Illegal Immigrant, and he's the 2007 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year – for better or for worse. Given the public mood, there seems to be little middle ground in debate over illegal immigrants. Spectacular fights over their presence broke out across Texas this year, adding to the national pressure cooker as only Texas can.
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The fight is really over the rule of law. If you don't think it is important to enforce immigration laws you can agree with the Dallas Morning News. There is a false premeise in the depate over immigration that does need to be addressed. There a…

Liberal Fascism--objection to NY Times Kristol column

The Politico:

The New York Times’ hiring of Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol to write for its op-ed page caused a frenzy in the liberal blogosphere Friday night, with threats of canceling subscriptions and claims that the Gray Lady had been hijacked by neo-cons

But Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal sees things differently.

Rosenthal told Politico shortly after the official announcement Saturday that he fails to understand “this weird fear of opposing views.”

“The idea that The New York Times is giving voice to a guy who is a serious, respected conservative intellectual — and somehow that’s a bad thing,” Rosenthal added. “How intolerant is that?”

Kristol, whose strident support of President Bush and the war in Iraq remains a source of consternation among liberals, took pride in the reaction on the Huffington Post, where the news first broke.

“I was flattered watching blogosphere heads explode,” Kristol told Politico. “It was kind of amusing.”

...
This is a great example of liberal …

Exercise and disipline at West Point?

It is pretty silly, but I am sure there is a point to it somewhere. Hat tip Opfor.

The man who brought hope to the hopeless

Sunday Telegraph:

For a man whose critics say he is far too fond of the television cameras, General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in Iraq, has been rather out of the limelight this Christmas.The sprightly, media-friendly 55-year-old is not perturbed, however, that his face is no longer number one item on the US networks. As he said last week, where Iraq is concerned, "No news is good news."Today, we put him in the spotlight again by naming Gen Petraeus as The Sunday Telegraph's Person of the Year, a new annual accolade to recognise outstanding individual achievement.He has been the man behind the US troop surge over the past 10 months, the last-ditch effort to end Iraq's escalating civil war by putting an extra 28,000 American troops on the ground.So far, it has achieved what many feared was impossible. Sectarian killings are down. Al-Qaeda is on the run. And the two million Iraqis who fled the country are slowly re…

The argument for lawfare

Thomas B. Wilner:

The Supreme Court heard arguments this month in cases brought by detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Media reports noted the complicated legal issues involved, such as whether the Constitution extends beyond sovereign U.S. territory, whether foreigners are entitled to constitutional protections and whether habeas corpus would have been available in a place like Guantanamo some 250 years ago under British rule. Those are all interesting legal questions. But what is at stake here is far less complicated and more fundamental -- the question of whether our government can throw people in prison without giving them a fair chance to defend themselves. Throughout the civilized world, the right not to be imprisoned without a fair hearing -- one that provides notice of the charges and the opportunity to rebut them before a neutral decision maker -- is fundamental. It is the hallmark of the rule of law.
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If we were fighting lawfare instead of warfare this argument would be more …

Paul's passionate proponents

Andrew Cline:

For several hours last Sunday, more than a dozen Ron Paul volunteers stood in snowdrifts in the rain outside the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester waving at last-minute Christmas shoppers and handing out hundreds of yards signs. The campaign doesn't know how many people participated because, as with so many Paul rallies, this one was organized entirely by fans not officially associated with the campaign. "We told them to take Christmas Eve and Christmas off, and next thing we know they're doing a sign wave at the mall," said Jim Forsythe, a self-employed engineer and former Air Force pilot from Strafford, N.H., who independently organizes volunteer efforts for Ron Paul. That spontaneous grassroots support is why Mr. Paul, an obstetrician from Lake Jackson, Texas, could pull off a stunner on Jan. 8 and place third in New Hampshire's Republican primary. If he does, he would embarrass Rudy Giuliani and steal media limelight from John McCain and Mitt …

Behind the McCain resurgence

Salena Zito:

Hands down, John McCain is the buzz in New Hampshire. After a political freefall in the summer, the man who swept Granite State Republicans and independents in 2000 has gone and done a Lazarus, resurrecting his presidential candidacy.He did it the old-fashioned way: He earned it.
"Townhall meeting by townhall meeting, bus ride by bus ride, and endless phone calls to local talk show hosts, are what have put McCain back on the map in New Hampshire," says David Carney, a GOP political strategist not affiliated with any campaign.One of those local radio talk show hosts, former Democrat candidate for governor Arnie Arnesen, agrees. "(D)espite many voters' disappointment with his dismal campaign ... the charisma, smarts and straight talk of McCain did not evaporate with voters over the last eight years." More important, Arnesen says, no negative news has come out about McCain: "No illegals cutting his lawn, no clemency cases in Arkansas, no trophy wif…

Liberal Fascism--Thwarting democracy in Michigan

Paul Jacobs:

Even the world's most repressive regimes often have laws on the books that pretend to grant citizens certain political rights. What matters is the extent to which citizens are actually allowed to use those rights — you know, in real life. In Michigan, taxpayers are now trying to recall ten state legislators, and in the process testing how "real life" their democratic rights are. The ten targeted solons come from both parties. Prior to their fateful votes to raise taxes against their constituent wishes, taxpayer groups repeatedly warned them that a recall effort would be launched against them if they voted for the $1.6 billion dollar tax increase. And yet, a few months ago, vote for the tax boost they did. And it passed, adding yet more depressive burden to the state's lingering recession. Michiganders, and all people for that matter, are free to agree or disagree on taxes, as well as with recall campaigns. But it remains an undisputed fact: the Michigan c…

Bhutto's undemocratic succession

CNN:

Benazir Bhutto's 19-year-old son will succeed her as chairman of the Pakistan People's Party, officials announced Sunday.

"I'm thankful for the CEC (Central Election Commission) for imposing their trust in me as chairman of the Pakistan's People's Party," Bilawal Zardari said at a news conference, speaking in English. "Like all chairmen of the PPP, I will stand as the symbol of the federation. The party's long and historic struggle for democracy will continue with renewed vigor, and I stand committed to the stability of the federation. "My mother always said democracy is the best revenge."Bhutto had named her husband Asif Ali Zardari to head the Pakistan People's Party in her will, which was read on Sunday, but he handed over the position to the couple's son, PPP official Makhdoom Amin Faheem said. The party accepted that decision in a meeting following the reading of the will. Party officials told CNN that the younger Zarda…

A case that needed to be settled

NY Times:

THE Indiana Children’s Wish Fund, which grants wishes to children and teenagers with life-threatening illnesses, got an early Christmas gift nine days ago. Morgan Keegan, a brokerage firm in Memphis, made an undisclosed payment to the charity to settle an arbitration claim; the Wish Fund said it had lost $48,000 in a mutual fund from Morgan Keegan that had invested heavily in dicey mortgage securities.

Coming less than two months after the charity filed its claim, and as a reporter was inquiring about its status, the settlement is a rare consolation for an investor amid all the pain still being generated by the turmoil in the once-bustling mortgage securities market. Before the Wish Fund reached its settlement, its mortgage-related losses meant that nine children’s wishes would go ungranted.Against the backdrop of all the gigantic numbers defining the subprime debacle, the Wish Fund’s losses look like small potatoes. The crisis has generated almost $100 billion in losses or wr…

Anniversary of end of slave trade

Eric Foner:

WE Americans live in a society awash in historical celebrations. The last few years have witnessed commemorations of the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase (2003) and the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II (2005). Looming on the horizon are the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth (2009) and the sesquicentennial of the outbreak of the Civil War (2011). But one significant milestone has gone strangely unnoticed: the 200th anniversary of Jan. 1, 1808, when the importation of slaves into the United States was prohibited.

This neglect stands in striking contrast to the many scholarly and public events in Britain that marked the 2007 bicentennial of that country’s banning of the slave trade. There were historical conferences, museum exhibits, even a high-budget film, “Amazing Grace,” about William Wilberforce, the leader of the parliamentary crusade that resulted in abolition. What explains this divergence? Throughout the 1780s, the horrors of the Middle Passage w…