Showing posts from August, 2009

Libya armed IRA terrorist

Independent: Libya has hinted for the first time that it is considering compensating the families of IRA victims in recognition that it armed the terrorists. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi supplied arms and explosives to Irish republican paramilitaries during the Troubles and the recent release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, has seen renewed calls for an apology and compensation from Tripoli for its role in the IRA killings. In a rare interview with a top Libyan official yesterday, the deputy minister for foreign affairs indicated that the IRA compensation claims were part of on-going discussions between Tripoli and London and that they could be approaching some form of agreement. ... I was not aware of Libya's helping the IRA but the timing is consistent when both were active terrorist. I suspect the compensation discussion is to deflect form all the bad media afte the release of the Libyan mass murderer.

McChrystal new strategy sounds like what we are doing now

NY Times: The top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal , said Monday that conditions on the ground were “serious” but that the war here is still winnable, part of a long-awaited assessment of the American-led war. Officials in Washington say that while the general’s classified report did not request additional American troops, it effectively lays the groundwork for such a request in coming weeks. The change in strategy envisioned by General McChrystal would invest the United States more extensively in Afghanistan than it has been since toppling the Taliban government in 2001, Washington officials said. For President Obama , who already ordered another 21,000 troops to Afghanistan this year, the prospect of an even more extensive commitment of American troops would test his political commitment to the war at a time when he is already trying to tamp down discontent in his liberal base. In recent weeks, senior American officers here have said that they do not have enoug

Marines see progress in Afghanistan

LA Times: The general in charge of U.S. Marines in Afghanistan said Monday that progress was being made in wresting a key southern province from Taliban control but cautioned that the process was slow and difficult to measure. Marine Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland also said the Marine Corps was ready to send more troops to Afghanistan if asked by top U.S. officials. "Everything we're doing is preparing to put more forces in theater," Helland said. The Marines' goal is to train the Afghan security forces to carry the fight to the Taliban. The training is going slowly, Helland said. "They don't understand leadership, they don't understand noncommissioned officers," he said. "To use a Marine term, they're a herd. But once trained, they're warriors." Helland is set to retire Friday after 41 years of military service, beginning as an Army enlisted man with the Special Forces in Vietnam. For the last two years he has been the commanding general

Climate change comes to Canada

Winnipeg Free Press: If you’ve been of the opinion that the weather in Winnipeg has never been so bad — you’re right. Environment Canada says that Winnipeg will set a local record today for nine consecutive months of below-seasonal temperatures. "You’ve never had nine consecutive months of below-seasonal temperatures before," meteorologist Alyssa Charbonneau said this morning. Charbonneau said the mean average temperature for the month of August has been 17.27 C — more than a full degree cooler than the average of 18.5 C for this month. ... Maybe they would feel warmer if they used the Fahrenheit scale. While Washington, Texas has not been as cool as Winnipeg, August has been much cooler than July which is a reversal of normal trends. As George Straight might say, perhaps we will feel the chill of an early fall.

Kadhafi says Israeli superpoer responsible for everything that goes wrong in Africa

AFP: Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi blasted Israel at a special African Union summit on Monday on the eve of celebrations to mark his 40-year rule, accusing the Jewish state of causing all the woes facing Africa. Israel is "behind all of Africa's conflicts," Kadhafi told some 30 African leaders gathered under a huge tent at Tripoli airport for the summit focused on the continent's trouble spots, including Sudan's Darfur and Somalia. He demanded the closure of all Israeli embassies across Africa, describing Israel as a "gang" and saying it uses "the protection of minorities as an excuse to launch conflicts." Kadhafi claimed that a Darful rebel group had opened an office in Tel Aviv while its leader lives under French protection, a reference to Sudan Liberation Army chief Abdelwahid Mohammed Nur who lives in exile in Paris. "As African brothers we must find solutions to stop the superpowers who are pillaging our continent," he said. ... I

Raider Hall at Quantico museum

John Gizzi: The week of August 17 was a special one for the men in uniform who are considered the fathers of the modern Special Operations Forces so critical to today’s armed forces: The Marine Raiders, whose heroism in World War II was saluted with the opening of Raider Hall at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va. The crucial role played in the Pacific by the four Raider battalions in the early days of World War II was highlighted in remarks delivered by a former U.S. Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. Alfred Grey. Raider Hall features equipment and exhibits about the Marines, who conducted amphibious landings in the island battles in the Pacific and operated behind enemy lines. The Raiders were the first American combat forces to wear camouflage, to be trained in martial arts and knife-fighting, and to operate at night. To some uniformed cynics, the Raiders were an “elite force within an elite force.” Much-decorated Gen. Chesty Puller, for example, resented such an elite unit’s being cr

Deficits start to matter politically

Irwin Stelzer: $2,000,000,000,000. That's the amount by which the Obama administration raised its ten-year estimate of the nation's budget deficit from the one it made only a few months ago. Now, $2 trillion is a lot of money. But even more significant is the fact that this revision represents almost a 30 percent increase -- no tiny percentage of the earlier $7 trillion figure. It seems that expenses are higher -- up 24 percent this year, the largest increase since the height of the Korean War -- than originally estimated, and revenues are lower. The resulting deficit, says Peter Orszag, Obama's budget director, is "higher than desirable". He might have added that the administration's critics had it right when they claimed that the earlier estimate represented a turn around the dance floor with that old seductress, Rosy Scenario. There's worse: the new estimate assumes that Medicare and Medicaid spending will be cut by $622 billion, even though Congress

The Texas Republican governor's race

Craig Hines: Oh, Kay! What have you gotten yourself into? The simple answer is that Kathryn Ann "Kay" Bailey Hutchison, a Republican and senior U.S. senator from Texas, has entered the race for governor back home, a job she long has yearned to hold. But that's where the simple part ends. A more realistic answer, at the moment, is that Hutchison has gotten herself into a mess that imperils her long, largely productive political career. Until, say, six months ago, Hutchison was, as she had been for many years, arguably the most popular politician in the Lone Star State. In one Senate re-election race she picked up more than 4 million votes, the state's record for a nonpresidential candidate. Now, however, Hutchison is at the center of an intra-GOP Armageddon that has the national Republican Party holding its head in its hands and ambulances down home lining up to haul the wounded off the internecine battlefields of a state that the party needs to keep reliably red.

'Duh' award for California

From the NY Times: California Officials Fear Abduction Case May Hurt Efforts on Parole Let's see. A parolee abducts an 11 year old girl and rapes her for 18 years keeping her as a sex slave. Yeah, that is reason for concern about parolees. But, liberals are still defending the release of Willie Horton. Parole authorities are just not that good at identifying the monsters they are releasing.

The cap and trade fallacy

George Will: ... That legislation is a particularly lurid illustration of why no serious person nowadays takes seriously Washington's increasingly infantile bandying of numbers. The point of cap-and-trade is to impose a ceiling on the nation's greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions—primarily carbon dioxide. The legislation endorses the goal of holding the global carbon--dioxide level to a maximum of 450 parts per million by 2050. That. Will. Not. Happen. Steven Hayward and Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute do the math. The 450 level is less than the 2030 projected level for all countries other than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's 30 developed nations. Which means the global goal would be unreachable even if in 2030 those 30 disappear—if they have zero emissions. Waxman--Markey endorses the goal of reducing all of this nation's GHG emissions 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. In 2005, the United States' carbon-diox

The Chicago way comes to Tegucigalpa

Mary O'Grady: ... For Mr. Chávez, Mr. Zelaya's return to power is crucial. The Venezuelan is actively spreading his Marxist gospel around the region and Mr. Zelaya was his man in Tegucigalpa. The Honduran push-back is a major setback for Caracas. That's why Mr. Chávez has mobilized the Latin left to demand Mr. Zelaya's return. Last week, Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández joined the fray, calling for Honduras to be kicked out of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta). Mr. Fernandez is a close friend of Mr. Chávez and a beneficiary of Venezuela's oil-for-obedience program in the Caribbean. Mr. Obama apparently wants in on this leftie-fest. He ran for president, in essence, against George W. Bush. Mr. Bush was unpopular in socialist circles. This administration wants to show that it can be cool with Mr. Chávez and friends. Mr. Obama's methods are decidedly uncool. Prominent Hondurans, including leading members of the business community, com

Mens underwear index?

Washington Post: For one answer to the nation's most pressing economic question -- when will the recession end? -- just take a peek inside the American man's underwear drawer. There may be some new pairs there, judging by recent reports from retailers and analysts, and that could mean better days ahead for everyone. Here's the theory, briefly: Sales of men's underwear typically are stable because they rank as a necessity. But during times of severe financial strain, men will try to stretch the time between buying new pairs, causing underwear sales to dip. "It's a prolonged purchase," said Marshal Cohen, senior analyst with the consumer research firm NPD Group. "It's like trying to drive your car an extra 10,000 miles." The growth in sales of men's underwear began to slow last year as the recession took hold, according to Mintel, another research firm. This year, Mintel expects sales to fall 2.3 percent, the first drop since the comp

Anti energy groups playing catch up

Washington Post: The oil lobby was sponsoring rallies with free lunches, free concerts and speeches warning that a climate-change bill could ravage the U.S. economy. Professional "campaigners" hired by the coal industry were giving away T-shirts praising coal-fired power. But when environmentalists showed up in this college town -- closer than ever to congressional passage of a climate-change bill, in the middle of the green movement's biggest political test in a generation -- they provided . . . a sedate panel discussion. And they gave away stickers. Next month, the Senate is expected to take up legislation that would cap greenhouse-gas emissions. That fight began in blazing earnest last week, with a blitz of TV ads and public events in the Midwest and Mountain West. It seems that environmentalists are struggling in a fight they have spent years setting up. They are making slow progress adapting a movement built for other goals -- building alarm over climate change, enco

Iraqi air force planes found in Serbia

NY Times: Iraqi officials have discovered that they may have a real air force, after all. The Defense Ministry revealed Sunday that it had recently learned that Iraq owns 19 MIG-21 and MIG-23 jet fighters, which are in storage in Serbia . Ministry officials are negotiating with the Serbs to restore and return the aircraft. The Serbian government has tentatively promised to make two of the aircraft available “for immediate use,” according to a news release from the ministry. The rest would be restored on a rush basis, the ministry said. An Iraqi delegation went to Serbia as part of an effort by the government to locate assets stashed abroad by Saddam Hussein to evade sanctions. Serbia had had friendly relations with Mr. Hussein’s government. During that visit, Serbian defense officials told the Iraqis that Mr. Hussein had sent 19 fighter jets to Serbia for repairs in the late 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war, but was unable to bring them back after sanctions were imposed on h

Fragile Ecuador government closes critical media

AFP: Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa announced Saturday he is seeking to definitively shut down a private television station that he accused of "espionage" on his office. The station Teleamazonas, a private broadcaster that has been critical of Correa and his government, has already been fined multiple times for breaking broadcasting law, notably for reporting opposition charges of voter fraud during April's general elections. This week the station broadcast a secretly recorded conversation between Correa and a Quito lawmaker -- seemingly the last straw for Correa, who has sought the station's closure for months. "I ask that Teleamazonas... is finally closed," Correa said on his own weekly television and radio show Saturday. "They have spied on a meeting in the office of the president -- that's an attack on national security.... We will not accept these things," said Correa. Also Saturday, Correa ordered that the pan-American Telemundo talk

Fade to white 5,000 years ago

Daily Mail: People in England may have only developed pale skin within the last 5,500 years, according to new research. Scientists believe that a sudden change in the diet around that time from hunter-gathering to farming may have led to a dramatic change in skin tone to make up for a lack of vitamin D. Farmed food is lacking in vitamin D and while humans can produce it when exposed to the ultraviolet light in sunlight darker skin is far less efficient at it. Scientists at the University of Oslo believe this change in diet may have led to our dark-skinned ancestors evolving paler skin to overcome this problem. The link between skin colour and Vitamin D from sunlight has been suggested before. It had previously been believed that our ancestors’ skin had gradually lightened to generate more Vitamin D the further north they moved away from the equator to places where there was less sunlight. Now scientists believe that the change in their diet away from foods rich in Vitamin D also playe

Who knew?

From the Times: Bongo, son of Bongo, favourite in Gabon poll It is a story about the first election in nearly 50 years in a West African country. If they decided to engage in self parody, they are all set.

MI6 also in on Libya oil for terrorist deal

Daily Mail: New questions about the extent of the Government’s involvement in the trade deals that led to the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, were raised last night with the revelation that an MI6 agent flew to Libya with former BP boss Lord Browne for two cloak-and-dagger meetings with Colonel Gaddafi. Jeff Chevalier, the ex-lover of Lord Browne, has told The Mail on Sunday that Browne was ‘shocked’ when the agent made a reference to his relationship with Mr Chevalier, indicating the authorities knew about their liaison, which was a closely guarded secret. Mr Chevalier said Lord Browne also referred to Mark Allen, the MI6 counter-terrorism chief at the centre of the secret talks between Libya and Britain, who now works for BP. But he did not know if Allen was the agent who accompanied the peer to Libya. Lord Browne’s secret missions started shortly after international sanctions were lifted on Libya in 2003, prompting an ‘oil rush’ by companies keen to win lucr

2 Straws' in the wind following release of terrorist

From the Guardian: Straw denies Megrahi allegations and the Telegraph: Straw admits cave-in over Lockerbie bomber demands The Times seems to confirm the Telegraph account. The government approved the decision. They must really be embarrassed about it since their silence is pretty deafening. They have much to be embarrassed about.

GOP counter Town Halls build momentum for 2010

Politico: Republican challengers across the country have found a new way of capitalizing on the roiling emotions surrounding congressional health care town hall meetings. Driven by intense voter interest in the topic, the almost-certain promise of media coverage and the opportunity to upstage incumbent Democrats , GOP candidates in state after state are holding their own health care town halls — and reveling in the subsequent publicity bonanza. The health care events are proving to be a boon for those seeking to oust incumbents, delivering the most precious of political commodities — voter attention and local press coverage. Florida Republican Allen West, who is running against Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.), said his Deerfield Beach town hall meeting earlier this month drew several hundred local residents, many of whom stayed long after the 90-minute session ended to chat with him. Just as important, the event was the subject of extensive media coverage and was streamed live on a l

A gathering of Marines

San Antonio Express-News: He was a young Marine on a 1963 mission so secret that no one knew where they were going until after putting out to sea. Rich Lantz was on the ground floor of the Vietnam War. He and his best friend, Lance Cpl. Dino Denardo, fought the Viet Cong while fellow Marines mapped beaches and inland areas off Highway 1. They came home and lost contact, but Lantz, 65, of Fairmount City, Pa., still feels such love for Denardo that he broke down while talking about him recently. “You get so damned tight, it's unbelievable,” he said. “When you can close your eyes and your buddy's guarding your back, you know what I'm saying? And you know that he can close his eyes and you're guarding his back.” A band of Marine Corps veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam met last week in San Antonio. Don't call them ex-Marines. They fought different enemies over the years but share common experiences and core truths, the first being that war is a brotherhoo

'What kind of soldier is James?'

Miami Herald: ... ``A tall one,'' says his captain, Curt Byron. Byron is a rugged military man who has flown UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters 50 feet over Iraq. He is responsible for the training, safety, mission accomplishment, health and morale of more than 120 men in Task Force ODIN (Observe, Detect, Identify, Neutralize). Company motto: ODIN's fury. Byron met his wife at West Point, and she is a company commander for a military intelligence unit in Korea. Point is, Byron has seen and heard some war stories, but he has never before heard and seen one like this: A former NBA player in the Army who nobody knew was a former NBA player? James hasn't shared his past with fellow soldiers. Quiet, remember? Humble, too. He wanted to be just another teammate. So none of James' fellow soldiers knew he used to play pro basketball, though they all said he should have after he scorched those younger soldiers in a pickup game one day during training. He didn't tell them a

An objective look at Democrat counterterrorism policy

Cal Thomas: ... ... Somewhere in a cave in Pakistan, Obama bin Laden rejoices. By any objective standard, releasing terrorists from prison and prosecuting their interrogators is nuts. How can these actions fulfill the president's oath to defend the country? The Justice Department wants to apply new interrogation rules to methods that were used and approved during the George W. Bush administration. This is like lowering the highway speed limit to 55 mph and giving speeding tickets to people who drove 65 mph when the higher speed was legal. What is to be gained from going after CIA interrogators who thought they were operating within the law and defending the country? Doesn't the white-wine-and-Brie set understand that a terrorist won't discriminate between people with jelly for a backbone and those with backbones of steel? Do they really think they will escape death by being nice to killers who use our laws against us in order to replace those laws with theirs? Islamic ter

Al Qaeda claims credit for human bomb attack on Saudi official

BBC: Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing by a militant who wanted to give himself up to Saudi Arabia's security chief. An online statement by the al-Qaeda Organisation in the Arabian Peninsula said Abdullah al-Asiri had flown on the prince's plane from Yemen. The prince was slightly injured in the assassination attempt. ... The man had said he wanted to personally tell the prince in his Jeddah interior ministry office that he would give himself up. This story suggest the Saudis need to beef up their security for boarding planes that will carry admitted terrorist. They also need to build up their security for screening those who will meet with anti terrorism officials. The Saudis have been pretty effective at dealing with internal security issues caused by al Qaeda. They need to be less trusting of the intentions of terrorist.

Antiwar pukes push for defeat in Afghanistan

NY Times: A restive antiwar movement, largely dormant since the election of Barack Obama , is preparing a nationwide campaign this fall to challenge the administration’s policies on Afghanistan. Anticipating a Pentagon request for more troops there, antiwar leaders have engaged in a flurry of meetings to discuss a month of demonstrations, lobbying, teach-ins and memorials in October to publicize the casualty count, raise concerns about the cost of the war and pressure Congress to demand an exit strategy. But they face a starkly changed political climate from just a year ago, when President George W. Bush provided a lightning rod for protests. The health care battle is consuming the resources of labor unions and other core Democratic groups. American troops are leaving Iraq, defusing antiwar sentiments in some quarters. The recession has hurt fund-raising for peace groups and forced them to slash budgets. And, perhaps most significant, many liberals continue to support Mr. Obama, or a

Holder's track record on terrorism

Debra Saunders discusses his positions in the Clinton Justice Department where he supported pardons of 16 Puerto Rico independence terrorists, along with the pardon of Marc Rich and his current position where he claims to be compelled to pursue CIA interrogators.

A media Catch-22 in Afghanistan

LA Times: ... A turnaround is crucial because military strategists believe they will not be able to get the additional troops they feel they need in coming months if they fail to show that their new approach is working, U.S. officials and advisors say. ... If the new strategy is to increase the force to space ratio in Afghanistan by adding US and allied troops, how are they going to show that the new approach is working without the troops? Obama has already failed to deliver the original number of troops requested. If he does so again it will make the war longer and bloodier, or he will give the Demcorats the excuse some are looking for for leaving. Of course that will allow the enemy to reconstitute and continue its war against us at ever higher costs in terms of terrorist attacks.

Democrats' political prosecution of CIA operatives

Joseph Finder: EARLY in 2002, Eric Holder, then a former deputy attorney general, said on CNN that the detainees being held at Guantánamo Bay were “not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention,” particularly “given the way in which they have conducted themselves.” Six years later, declaring that “Guantánamo Bay is an international embarrassment,” Mr. Holder said, “I never thought I would see the day when ... the Supreme Court would have to order the president of the United States to treat detainees in accordance with the Geneva Convention.” So what changed? A lot of things, of course, but most of all, our national political climate. Reeling from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many on the front lines of the war against terrorism felt a sense of fear and urgency that, years later, it’s hard for some to recall. Now, the attacks receding into the past, a lot of us see things in a different light. Certainly Mr. Holder, now the attorney general, does. Last week he

How Obama fooled 'moderate' voters

Steve Chapman: Barack Obama came into office championing change, and he apparently assumed that if Americans voted for him, it was because they wanted the future to be different from what went before. Actually, what they wanted was a future much like the not-so-distant past -- before the financial crisis, before the recession, before the Iraq war, before the most unpopular president since the invention of polling. If voters had wanted a sharp ideological shift, they could have voted for Democratic candidates more identified with Great Society-style government -- Hillary Clinton, John Edwards or even Dennis Kucinich . Obama got the early endorsement of Ted Kennedy, but like Bill Clinton before him, he won because he distanced himself from Kennedy-style liberalism. His promise of change was eloquent enough to motivate the left wing of his party but vague enough to make him acceptable to people in the middle. Among independents, Obama beat John McCain by an 8-point margin. The reason Joh

Fragile Chavez regime fears dissent will topple Venezuela government

AFP: Venezuela's top prosecutor said Saturday that recent street protests were legally tantamount to "rebellion" against President Hugo Chavez's government and that demonstrators will now be charged. The dramatic move by Attorney General Luisa Ortega capped a week of huge street protests, mostly directed against a new education law that critics say is politically charged. "People who disturb order and the peace to create instability of institutions, to destabilize the government, or attack the democratic system, we are going to charge and try them," Ortega said in a statement, referring to the government of leftist-populist Chavez. William Ojeda, of the opposition A New Time party, argued that "the very right to protest is being turned into a crime." "The justice system is now being used as a tool of political and ideological persecution," Ojeda added. Ortega claimed opposition groups were looking for "any reason to march, to

Metrics of failure in Afghanistan?

Washington Post: The White House has assembled a list of about 50 measurements to gauge progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan as it tries to calm rising public and congressional anxiety about its war strategy. Administration officials are conducting what one called a "test run" of the metrics, comparing current numbers in a range of categories -- including newly trained Afghan army recruits, Pakistani counterinsurgency missions and on-time delivery of promised U.S. resources -- with baselines set earlier in the year. The results will be used to fine-tune the list before it is presented to Congress by Sept. 24. Lawmakers set that deadline in the spring as a condition for approving additional war funding, holding President Obama to his promise of "clear benchmarks" and no "blank check." Since then, skepticism about the war in Afghanistan has intensified along with the rising U.S. and NATO casualty rates, now at the highest level of the eight-year-old

Taliban whack-o-moles moving into northern Afghanistan

McClatchy: Taliban insurgents have taken over parts of two northern provinces from which they were driven in 2001, threatening to disrupt NATO's new supply route from Central Asia and expand a war that's largely been confined to Afghanistan's southern half, U.S. and Afghan officials said. Insurgents operating out of Baghlan district along the highway from Tajikistan launched coordinated attacks during the Aug. 20 presidential elections, killing the district police chief and a civilian, while losing a dozen of their own men, local officials said. It was the worst bloodshed reported in the country that day. The violence has been on the rise in recent months, however, as the Taliban and al Qaida -linked foreign fighters have staged hit-and-run attacks, bombings and rocket strikes on German, Belgian and Hungarian forces in Baghlan and neighboring Kunduz provinces. The insurgents now control three Pashtun-dominated district

Cuba's command economy can't order toilet paper

Miami Herald: There's good news and bad news in Cuba. The bad news: There's a shortage of toilet paper, and officials in Havana say it will not ease until the end of the year. The good news: Day-old copies of the Communist party's newspaper Granma, a traditional substitute, are available for less than a U.S. penny. And that's six to eight full, if rough, pages per day. Cuban officials say the shortage is the result of the global financial crisis and three devastating hurricanes last summer, which forced cuts in imports as well as domestic production because of reductions in electricity and imports of raw materials. But CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria says that ``at the bottom of this toilet paper shortage is Cuba's continuing commitment to its bizarro world of socialist economics.'' ``Cuba's disastrous economy would be a joke were it not for the poverty it has perpetuated among millions of Cubans,'' Zakaria said in a vid

US offered to fund house arrest of Lockerbie bomber

Independent on Sunday: Scottish ministers went ahead with the controversial decision to send the Lockerbie bomber back to Libya despite an American offer to bankroll his "house arrest" in the United Kingdom, it emerged last night. US officials had "very reluctantly" backed a proposal to move Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi from Greenock Prison into some kind of high-security accommodation elsewhere in Scotland, senior government sources on both sides of the Atlantic confirmed. But the Americans had only consented to the option in a desperate attempt to deter the Scottish Executive from releasing Mr Megrahi on compassionate grounds – due to his terminal prostate cancer – and sending him home to die. They also made it clear that the US would be willing to contribute millions of dollars to a complicated house arrest operation that would demand round-the-clock security to keep the prisoner under guard and protect him from attack. But the Scottish National Party administr

Death for Taliban found in Swat

Sunday Times: NEARLY three months after the Pakistani army retook the Swat valley from the Taliban, corpses are appearing on the streets almost every day. This time the killings are about revenge. The bodies are suspected militants or Taliban collaborators. Their killers are alleged to be the security forces, although this is denied officially. ... The body of Afzal Khan, who was in his mid-thirties and lived in the village of Salampur, is one of dozens that have been found since last month. Khan used to serve food to the Taliban and was friendly with Shah Dau-ran, their commander. Dau-ran was killed in June. ... Some families have protested that innocent relatives have been targeted: the Ullah brothers were found blindfolded, with their hands tied behind their backs, after they had been killed with a shot to the head. “My sons had nothing to do [with the Taliban]. They were innocent,” said their mother, Bakht Begum. The reprisals are a grim echo of the Taliban’s

Letters show terrorist released for Libya oil deal

Sunday Times: The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal. Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards. The letters were sent two years ago by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, to Kenny MacAskill, his counterpart in Scotland, who has been widely criticised for taking the formal decision to permit Megrahi’s release. The correspondence makes it plain that the key decision to include Megrahi in a deal with Libya to allow prisoners to return home was, in fact, taken in London for British national interests. Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: “This is the strongest evidence yet that the British government has been involved fo

Pollution the answer to global warming?

Sunday Times: THE Royal Society is backing research into simulated volcanic eruptions, spraying millions of tons of dust into the air, in an attempt to stave off climate change. The society will this week call for a global programme of studies into geo-engineering — the manipulation of the Earth’s climate to counteract global warming — as the world struggles to cut greenhouse gas emissions. It will suggest in a report that pouring sulphur-based particles into the upper atmosphere could be one of the few options available to humanity to keep the world cool. The intervention by the Royal Society comes amid tension ahead of the United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Copenhagen in December to agree global cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. Preliminary discussions have gone so badly that many scientists believe geo-engineering will be needed as a “plan B”. Ken Caldeira, an earth scientist at Stanford University, California, and a member of a Royal Society working group on geo-engineeri

Seize the internet?

Say Anything: Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet. They’re not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency. The new version would allow the president to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” relating to “non-governmental” computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for “cybersecurity professionals,” and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that li

Marines case against Haditha officer dropped

NCT: The Marine Corps has dropped its pursuit of criminal charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the highest-ranking officer accused of misconduct after 24 Iraqi civilians were slain in the city of Haditha in 2005. Instead, Lt. Gen. George J. Flynn has decided to handle the matter administratively by appointing a three-member Board of Inquiry that will meet at Camp Pendleton this fall. The board of Marine Corps officers will determine if Chessani should be reduced in rank if it finds he engaged in substandard performance of duty, misconduct and professional dereliction of duty. Its finding will serve as a recommendation to the Secretary of the Navy, who will make the final decision. At stake is Chessani's rank after he retires from the Marine Corps, a retirement that has been on hold pending a decision in the Haditha matter. Chessani's retirement pay will not be affected by any decision to reduce his rank, Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Roger Galbraith

Democrat hypocrisy watch

Peter Baker, Caucus Blog: The Democratic National Committee wasted no time Friday slamming Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida for installing a Republican crony in the Senate as a seat warmer until Mr. Crist can run for the post himself next year. Within hours of Mr. Crist’s appointment of his former chief of staff, George LeMieux, to fill a vacant seat until next year’s election, the D.N.C. sent reporters an e-mail message highlighting a St. Petersburg Times editorial assailing the decision under the headline, “Crist Serves Himself, Not Florida, With Appointment.” “Gov. Charlie Crist could have appointed a former congressman, a former legislator, a former Jacksonville mayor, a former state attorney general, or even a former to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez,” the editorial said. “Instead, the governor chose his alter ego to keep the seat warm for 16 months as he campaigns for it.” As questionable as that may be, it might seem like a strange thing for th