Friday, February 27, 2004

Today's headlines:

<<Blair Government Beset By UN Spying Charge.

CBS Evening News (2/26, story 3, 2:10, Rather) reported, "A former member of Prime Minister Tony Blair's Cabinet accused the British government today of spying inside the United Nations, and she said the United States was involved. But the real eye-opener is who the target was." CBS (Phillips) added, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan "apparently…was being spied on -- his every word being listened to by the two countries most intent on waging that war: The US and Great Britain."

NBC Nightly News (2/26, story 3, 2:50, Brokaw) reported, "If true, it might not be the first time, and it might not be a surprise to the US." NBC (Mitchell) added, "Tonight the British…do not deny the charge. The US would not comment, but one senior official said, ‘I am shocked, shocked that anyone would try to collect information on international diplomacy.’"

The Los Angeles Times (2/27, Daniszewski) reports, "Blair, already under pressure at home for his handling of the war, called the comments" by a former Cabinet member "‘deeply irresponsible’ and refused to confirm or deny them. ‘Our security services in this country exist for a reason, as they always have done, and that is to protect Britain, to protect this country,’ the prime minister said. It would be a ‘very dangerous situation’ if people thought they could just ‘spill out allegations, whether false or true...and get away with it.’"

The Washington Post (2/27, A12, Frankel) reports, "The United Nations reacted sharply to the allegations, asserting that any attempt to eavesdrop on the secretary general would constitute a violation of three international treaties that govern diplomatic relations. ‘From our point of view it is indeed illegal’ to spy on UN premises, said Annan's chief spokesman, Fred Eckhard. But he noted that there was little the United Nations could do about it. ‘The United Nations doesn't have a police force or any other means of enforcing these laws,’ he said.">>

So basically what he's saying is that the United Nations has laws that prohibit certain actions but no infrastructure established to punish the perps? I would've never guessed!!!

Here's a funny story:

<<Chairman Of Smith & Wesson Resigns After Armed Robbery Convictions Surface. The Wall Street Journal (2/27, O’Connell) reports, "The chairman of Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., the nation's second-largest gun manufacturer, resigned after it was disclosed that he spent time in prison in the 1950s and '60s for an armed-robbery spree and an attempted prison escape." The Journal continues, "James J. Minder, a 74-year-old management consultant and Smith & Wesson board member who became chairman in January, has had a clean criminal record since his 1969 release from prison.">>

<<Scalia Went Hunting With Lawyers While Cases Were Before Court. The Los Angeles Times (2/27, Serrano, Savage) reports, "Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was the guest of a Kansas law school two years ago and went pheasant hunting on a trip arranged by the school's dean, all within weeks of hearing two cases in which the dean was a lead attorney. The cases involved issues of public policy important to Kansas officials. Accompanying Scalia on the November 2001 hunting trip were the Kansas governor and the recently retired state Senate president, who flew with Scalia to the hunting camp aboard a state plane. Two weeks before the trip, University of Kansas School of Law Dean Stephen R. McAllister, along with the state's attorney general, had appeared before the Supreme Court to defend a Kansas law to confine sex offenders after they complete their prison terms. Two weeks after the trip, the dean was before the high court to lead the state's defense of a Kansas prison program for treating sex criminals." The Times adds, "In a written statement, Scalia said: ‘I do not think that spending time at a law school in which the counsel in pending cases was the dean could reasonably cause my impartiality to be questioned. Nor could spending time with the governor of a state that had matters before the court.’">>

It seems that his recent trip with VP Cheney was just the tip of the iceberg and may be common practice for this SCOTUS justice. While he may not have violated any laws outright, it does taint his reputation, taints the trust the public has in the institution he represents, and (though he denies it) could taint his impartiality. After all, if you're buddying up with one side, aren't you more likely to find favor in their arguments? We're all fallible when it comes to bribes...I find it quite difficult to believe that he is above human nature and am concerned about this troubling trend.

<<Audit Finds NASA Unable To Account For Public Property Worth $34 Million. The HoustonChronicle (2/27, Reinert) reports, "NASA has lost about $34 million in government property since 1997 and has failed to keep track of items ranging from outdated laptops to a $300,000 robot. An audit found $58 million in items missing, but about $24 million of the property was later accounted for. The space agency concedes it has no idea what happened to the rest. Members of Congress say that even though a lot of the items show up later, the shoddy record-keeping hurts efforts to gain support for boosting NASA's budget.">>

Ooops? Hey, that's 74% of A-Rod's salary for the year! I know, NASA has an enormous budget and $34B is but a drop in the bucket, but for we common-folk, that is a large sum of cash. They really should be keeping track of this stuff a bit better. Or is this institutional carelessness on the part of NASA? From lax accounting to not making sure the spacecraft are safe for re-entry....

<<Grasso Refuses To Return Any Of The $139.5 Million Paid To Him Last Year. The Washington Post (2/27, E1, White) reports, "Former NYSE chairman Dick Grasso is refusing to return any of the $139.5 million paid to him last year by the exchange and may seek over $50 million more that he believes he is owed, according to Grasso's attorney. In a sharply worded letter sent on Thursday to NYSE interim chairman John S. Reed, Grasso's attorney, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., argued that the former head of the exchange did nothing wrong in accepting the $139.5 million payment, which mainly covered Grasso's eight years as chairman.">>

What? He doesn't want to return the money? Another shocker.

<<EU Sanctions On Some US Goods Set To Begin Monday. The Washington Post (2/27, E1, Weisman) reports, "With Congress deadlocked on a remedy, the United States on Monday will for the first time feel the bite of trade sanctions imposed under World Trade Organization rules, when U.S. exporters begin paying duties to Europe that could top $300 million this year. … Free-trade advocates fear that the first WTO-sanctioned penalties will revive arguments in Washington that the United States has ceded its sovereignty to a politically unaccountable international body. And, they said, by not complying with an international trade authority it helped establish, the United States may provide an excuse for other countries to flout WTO rulings.">>

I'm not quite sure that's the best way to reinforce our economy, is it?


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