Friday, February 25, 2005

National Journal on Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay

Instead of letting WaPo take all the credit, National Journal does some research of its own on the Abramoff scandal. While some of you may not be familiar with the subject or the story, you can read about it here, and search Lexis for the older stories on WaPo (they've archived their articles like NYTimes and no longer offer free articles past 14 days-though if anyone wants more info drop me a note and I'll post them in the comments section).
Bush and Putin agree: Russia should not have nukes

There's a problem with the following statement:
"We agreed that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon. I appreciate Vladimir's understanding on that," Bush said. "We agreed that North Korea should not have a nuclear weapon."
In a TSS post earlier this week we quoted WaPo who quoted Putin as saying:
"The spread of nuclear weapons on the planet does not aid security, it does not strengthen security. The latest steps from Iran confirm that Iran does not intend to produce nuclear weapons and we will continue to develop relations in all spheres, including the peaceful use of nuclear energy," Putin said at a meeting with Iranian National Security Council chief Hassan Rowhani.
So while Bush and Putin can agree that Iran should not have a nuke, Putin can say that it is clear that the Iranians are not developing one and that their nuke program is exclusively for energy production etc. As such, Putin can say, Russia will continue to support Iran's construction of nuclear reactors. In short: Bush-Putin meeting didn't resolve this issue and don't let anyone fool you by telling you it did.
Brownback and Smith on Russia in America's Newspaper

While Brownback and Smith write this op-ed in today's Washington Times, President Bush seemed to have let Putin off the hook (unless you value the reports that he was "more blunt" during his private meeting with the fomer KGB leader). Not the most positive trip for the President in my opinion; one in which he also called for a contiguous Palestinian state.
Will Condi conquer her PA counterpart?

Yassir Arafat's nephew will assume the position of Foreign Minister for the Palestinian Authority. Maybe Abbas is not for real after all.
WSJ on the completion of the Artscroll Talmud

Several weeks after the NYTimes discussed the major event (the day after Artscroll donated a full set to the Library of Congress) the WSJ gets into the mix, publishing an op-ed by a lawyer in D.C.
CEO Bonuses increased 46% in 2004

While the economy sputtered along, WSJ reports that:
At 100 major U.S. corporations, CEO bonuses rose 46.4% to a median of $1.14 million, the largest percentage gain and highest level in at least five years, according to an exclusive survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting in New York.
That's fair, isn't it? My portfolio also went up by 46% so this is ok...wait, no, I was actually in the red last year.

Am I the only one with a problem with this?
Condi can conquer dominatrix-like clothes!

WaPo has a story about it today and Wonkette did a piece on a similar picture yesterday. She just looks like Darth Vader to me.

(This is the third in our series of "Condi Can Conquer;" previous posts include this one and this one.)
WSJ Weighs in on the "Frontline" expletive flap

As TSS reported on Sunday, the original version of this week's "Frontline" on the war in Iraq included expletives straight out of the mouths of fighting soldiers. PBS was against airing the show as-was out of fear of being fined by the FCC. According to this article in today's WSJ, some affiliates did actually run the unedited version and there has been no FCC fallout.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Kofi Annan has an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal.
Among the jucier quotes:

  • "...a strong U.N. is of vital importance to humanity."
  • "All [the countries and donors] recognize that the U.N. is the right body to lead, because it is in no one's pocket."
Well, if you don't count Iraq and Cotecna...
"The U.N. can be useful because it is seen as independent and impartial."
Interesting...anyone else agree to that one?
"I could go on. I could speak also about the 18 peace operations we have in war-torn countries around the world, and the tens of millions of homeless and hungry people, over and above those affected by the tsunami, to whom we are bringing relief. Indeed, when ill-informed critics try to cut the U.N. off at the knees, the people they hurt most are not diplomats or bureaucrats but innocent people caught in war or poverty, in desperate need of the world's help."
Yes, but unfortunately the only way to get through to diplomats of repressive or tyrannical regimes is by enforcing sanctions that affect the "innocent people." It might be to inspire an uprising to overthrow the ruler or it may be to starve the regime of funds but it's a far better option than just assassinating the tyrant or launching airstrikes on the nation's military installations.

And closes thusly:

"This September, we have a real opportunity to make the U.N. more useful to all its members. Leaders from all over the world are coming to a U.N. summit in New York. I shall put before them an agenda of bold but achievable proposals for making the U.N. work better, and the world fairer and safer.

I know that Americans want to do that as much as any people on earth. More than any other people, they have the power to do it--if they listen to and work with others, and take the lead in a concerted effort. I believe that they will give us that lead. I look forward to September with hope and excitement."

Maybe my calendar is wrong, but it's only February! Is he going on vacation until the General Assembly meets again in September? I don't get it.
And, Mr. Secretary General, nice try to drop the "I believe that they will give us that lead." For my sake I hope we don't!

(In case the link doesn't work [you have to be registered] just post a comment and I'll post the entire article for your reading pleasure.)
NY's Senior Senator to fillibuster Social Security

According to today's Newsday, Senator Chuck Schumer plans to filibuster the president's Social Security plan when it (if?) it comes to the floor of the Senate. It worked for judicial nominees last session, so why not try it again? Well, for one thing, Majority Leader Frist is threatening to invoke the nuclear option. Personally, I don't think the SS plan (at least as it stands now) will pass; there simply is not enough will behind it-both political and public-to get it done. This filibuster will be a cakewalk compared to the judges.

(In other judicial news, there are reports in today's NYTimes that the thyroid-ridden 80-year-old SCOTUS Chief Justice, William H. Rhenquist, will resign when the current SCOTUS term ends in June. He has been participating in discussions and deliberations of cases, but is missing oral arguments-including today's).
Depressing Afghan Update:
UN Report Finds Afghan Standard Of Living Among World’s Lowest.
The New York Times (2/22, Gall) reports three years “after the United States drove the Taliban out of Afghanistan and vowed to rebuild, the warshattered country ranked 173rd of 178 countries in the United Nations 2004 Human Development Index, according to a new report from the United Nations.” It was “trailed only by a few countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Burundi, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Sierra Leone.” In addition to “ranking Afghanistan in the development index for the first time, the report warned that Afghanistan could revert to anarchy if its dire poverty, poor health and insecurity were not improved.”
Australia's John Howard has announced that 450 more Aussie soldiers will be sent to help rebuild Iraq. He said that the new soldiers will provide security for Japanese engineers working in southern Iraq and support efforts toward democracy.

The Coalition of the Willing is alive and well!
GOP Support for increased minimum wage

According to today's CQ Midday Update, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) plans to introduce a bill next week to increase the nationwide minimum wage by $1.10 over the next two years.
"My sense is this is probably a good time with the economy growing the way it has."
This, after the GOP blocked a Democratic attempt last year to raise the minimum wage to $7 over the next two years; the first increase since 1997.

Does anyone smell flip-flop?

In truth, Governor Pataki's veto of the New York State Legislature's bill to increase the MW to $7.15 over three years (I think) last summer was overriden. Pressure is clearly building nationwide and I suppose $1.10 is a good compromise considering it's only the first increase in seven years.
The one good result of the Disengagement Plan (and it's not worth it), is that (according to Arutz Sheva), the Gay Pride Parade that was planned for this summer in Jerusalem will be cancelled. The State simply does not have enough officers to devote to the parade and preparations for the Disengagement at the same time. Thank G-d for small favors.

In other gay-related news, the Washington Times reports that gays in Great Britain will be able to enter into civil unions beginning in December. They thus join homosexuals in parts of Europe and our very own United States of America in obtaining the rights enjoyed by many married couples.
Picture of the day:

James Tisch, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, resorts to taking HIS OWN picture with Israeli PM Ariel Sharon with a disposable camera? That's sorta tacky.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Maybe Crackberries aren't so bad after all!

Well, here comes another reason to stick with the Crackberry over alternatives such as the ATT Wireless (did Cingular buy it when they bought ATTWS?) Ogo and T-Mobile's Sidekick. It seems that a hacker was able to "compromise" the Paris Hilton's Sidekick (wow, I never thought that name would ever appear on my blog) and some 500-odd celebs had their contact info published on a now-defunct website. This appears on the same day that we read that the first virus to specifically target mobile phones has reached American soil.
Slow news day

Today being the President's Day holiday here in America, it seems to me that we've got ourselves a pretty slow news day. Aside from President Bush's speech in Belgium this morning (one half hour long!), and tons of analysis about the trip (over two pages [out of ten] were devoted to it in my Washington Morning Update this morning) there are stories about Frontline airing a show with expletives (covered by TSS [The Slippery Slope] here), the resignation of UN refugee chief Lubber (covered by TSS here [though there are allegations that Annan covered up "for an old friend" by not firing Lubber sooner]), and the Israeli Cabinet's approval of the disengagment plan (covered by TSS here, here, and here). I guess posting in real-time like yesterday makes the following days' paper a bit boring. Fear not, it's not likely to happen again anytime soon (at least I hope not-being sick is not fun!!!).

"Look, I'm with, Belgian PM Verhofstadt. Wow, I said his name properly!"
Assad to pull Syrian troops out of Lebanon

I'll believe it when I see it but Bloomberg reports it might just happen.

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is willing to withdraw soldiers from Lebanon in accordance with the Taef accords that ended the Lebanese civil war, Agence France- Presse reported, citing Arab League Chief Amr Moussa.

Syria has 13,000 soldiers in Lebanon, according to Imad Moustapha, Syria's ambassador to the U.S. Syrian soldiers first entered Lebanon, which Syrian nationalists regard as belonging to their country, as part of an Arab peace-keeping force when civil war broke out in 1975. The war lasted until 1990.

Syria has come under pressure from the U.S. and the Lebanese opposition to withdraw its soldiers following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in Beirut on Feb. 14. U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said today there was a ``high level of suspicion'' that Syria was involved in the killing of Hariri.

Mainsz to shut down during POTUS' visit
Bush security not setting up warm welcome
By Tom Goeller
The Washington Times
From the World Section

BERLIN -- Hopes of opening a new chapter in trans-Atlantic relations are clashing with security needs ahead of President Bush's visit this week to Germany, where many citizens are angry about plans to shut down highways, businesses and schools.
American security forces seem to have taken over the cities of Mainz and nearby Wiesbaden in preparation for the president's visit on Wednesday, local press reports, with snipers on rooftops, jet fighters on high alert and Secret Service agents everywhere.
The security plans, the most intensive ever seen in Germany, call for the closure of four interstate highways and shipping channels in the Rhine River, which runs through Mainz, as well as delays in train schedules.
All schools in the area will be closed, but students will have no chance to watch the arrival of Mr. Bush because all balconies along his way through the city are ordered to be empty and all windows must be closed and darkened.
About 1,200 residents who live near a conference center where Mr. Bush will visit with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will have to pass through tight security checks to get to their homes.
Businesses are expected to operate with skeleton staffs or, like the State Bank of Rhineland-Palatinate, close completely. The central hospital will be closed for patients, and its emergency room reserved in case it is needed for Mr. Bush.
"Shall I be sitting all day long in the dark, only because Mr. Bush is driving by?" complained resident Maria-Luise Fuchs in the local newspaper Wiesbadener Kurier.
The extreme measures have prompted a sort of triumphal boasting by anti-American protesters who turned out in force when Mr. Bush visited the German capital of Berlin in May 2002.
"He doesn't dare to visit Berlin again," says a posting on the Web site, which is being used to organize protests during this week's visit.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Slippery Slope has been noticed by the Googelbot!!!

When searching for "The Slippery Slope" on Google, The Slippery Slope (ya know, the thing you're reading now?) comes up as #111! We're making serious progress very quickly! Thanks for the links etc, or however else Googlebot noticed us!
Mistake of the Day-UPDATE

Having just checked the WaPo website, and being a bit bored this afternoon sick with a bad cold and all (hence the abundance of posts today), I decided to see if they fixed the misspelling of Moises Naim's name and, in fact, they did! The link from my original post is the same as the corrected one so unless you were a good reader and read my blog this morning, you missed it!

I wonder if the mistake appeared in the printed papers, whether they'll print a correction in tomorrow's paper, or even if they'll acknowledge it at all! If any of my readers are within the Beltway and have the print copy, please let me know!

As seen in this picture, with the stroke of his pen Sharon has officially signed away the entire Gaza Strip and part of the Shomron to the Palestinians (along with the homes of 8,500 individuals who live in those areas), effective July 20th, 2005. It remains amazing to me that the pioneer of the settler movement could do such a 180 degree turn and give away the land he felt it was so important to fight for. Everyone's talking about the painful decision and yet, unfortunately, I think that this is just the beginning of a painful period. Obviously this a very sensitive subject and I'm sure some people will disagree with me but I don't know that at this current juncture it's the best move. Maybe I'm wrong, I hope I am. But this is probably the saddest picture one will see today.
Another scandal at the United Nations

In response to this article in The Independent, the Guardian reports today that the UN refugee chief, Ruud Lubbers, told SecGen Kofi Annan on Friday that he was resigning because of the lack of confidence that ensued as a result of his recent sexual harassment case. Reuters has more here.
Frontline to air episode on war in Iraq with expletives

The following is Frontline's (one of my new favorite shows...which means its one of the two or three shows I watch during a given week) description of this week's episode (via e-mail) just minutes ago:
- This Week: "A Company of Soldiers" (90 min.),
Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings)
- Inside FRONTLINE: This film's special problem
- Live Discussion: Chat with co-producer Edward Jarvis this Wed. at 11am
+ This week
This Tuesday we bring you a glimpse into what the war in Iraq is really like for the average soldier. Producer Tom Roberts and his three-member team embedded with Dog Company, the 1st Battalion of the Army's 8th Calvary Regiment stationed in South Baghdad. Over 30 days and 26 missions in November 2004 they followed a small group of the young men of Dog Company on missions where they were often in combat, and always in danger. Roberts told us that he took away from the experience some things that he had not expected:
"I think there were three things. First, the intellectual and operational model the U.S. was using was far more sophisticated and far more based upon the complex reality of Iraq than what one was led to believe by watching the news or reading newspapers.
The second thing was that stories about low American morale just didn't stand up to the test of reality. Time and time again the soldiers were positive, cheery and realistic. They are not full of, if you will, star-spangled patriotism. They are quite realistic about what they're doing, quite determined, with a clear sense of mission.
The third unexpected thing I came away with is a bigger sense of the mess and chaos in Iraq than I thought there would be. One has a sense, sitting here, that there's a counter-insurgency or guerrilla war taking place. In fact, there are many layers of conflict within the society and a lot of them don't involve insurgency."
We hope you will watch "A Company of Soldiers." And we want to call your attention to a special problem that FRONTLINE confronted with this film.
As you might expect, the soldiers' language is sprinkled with expletives, especially at moments of greatest fear and stress. As we edited the program, we were judicious, but came to believe that some of that language was an integral part of our journalistic mission: to give viewers a realistic portrait of our soldiers at war. We feel strongly that the language of war should not be sanitized and that there is nothing 'indecent' about its use in this context.
PBS stations were given the option of airing an edited or unedited version based on their own community standards. Broadcasting the unedited version carries some risk that the FCC would entertain complaints and levy a fine. Each public television station had to decide for itself whether to take that risk.
FRONTLINE does not believe the expletives used by the soldiers violate the FCC's 'indecency' rule. They are not used in a "gratuitous" manner nor are they meant to "titillate" or "pander" - the terms the FCC uses to determine if there has been a violation. You may be familiar with the recent case of ABC's broadcast of the movie "Saving Private Ryan," which contained repeated instances of strong language, used in the same context as this FRONTLINE. It was widely reported that a majority of the FCC commissioners decided they would not support viewer complaints about the language in "Saving Private Ryan," and outgoing Chairman Michael Powell concluded that the agency should not take action against the ABC stations that aired it because the language was part of accurately portraying the story about the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II.
FRONTLINE thanks those stations who are willing to broadcast the unedited version, but recognizes the difficulty any station would have in deciding to take a risk that might result in a penalty. We encouraged all stations that could do so to stand with FRONTLINE because we believe what is at stake here is not only the particulars of this case, but the principle of editorial independence. We believe that overreaching by the FCC is at its heart a First Amendment issue. We think that the editorial integrity of future FRONTLINES is at risk along with many other types of programs, whether art, science, history, culture, or public affairs. Editorial decisions should be free from influence by the government and should be made in accordance with the standards, practices, and mission of public television. We hope you agree.
We hope you will join us for "A Company of Soldiers." Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings) And after watching, explore our web site where you have the opportunity to express your opinion about the program and the issues it raises, at
Louis Wiley
Executive Editor
Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, spoke to Arutz Sheva today after the geder hafrada was rerouted-but still includes the Gush:
"On such a hard day for Zionism like today, there are no winners, only losers. I
think that this disengagement - the uprooting - is a black day for Zionism, the likes of which we never had. And this partition fence, as well, is a black mark, because it symbolizes the division between faith and determination, on the one hand, and helplessness and closing-off, on the other. In terms of both these areas, I believe that we are in a very difficult situation."
Reason 67,294 to make aliyah (though I've never smoked anything other than a nebulizer in my entire life):

From Ha'aretz:
Police Arrest Teacher for Smoking Pot with Students

A 12th-grade teacher from the Sharon area was arrested over the weekend on suspicion that for the last three months he invited students to his Tel Aviv apartment, where they smoked marijuana.

In addition to the pot smoking, the police who made the arrest said that they were shocked by paintings on the walls of the teacher's home showing "horrific scenes," said one policeman, "like a doll with its arm broken off and dripping blood, and a picture of a gun, and a picture of two women butchering a man below the words 'How to rape an angel.' And pictures of swastikas and Stars of David."

The 32-year-old teacher told police that the pictures were drawn by pupils, whom he had asked to express their feelings. The 17- and 18-year-olds involved in the case confirmed that the drawings were done by them and their friends. Police said they found no evidence of a "satanic cult."

Also arrested was a 22-year-old English teacher from the school and a 22-year-old National Service assistant in the school. The English teacher is due for remand this morning; the other 22-year-old was under a limited house arrest.

The English teacher admitted to being present while the minors smoked marijuana, and stated that she did not smoke the pot, but did take a Hagigit pill, a form of powdered qat that is readily available at kiosks throughout the main cities.

The 32-year-old teacher no longer works at the school where he met the pupils, but does teach at another high school in the area, as well as at a school for blind children and at a facility for special-needs children.

Police said he did not have any explanation for allowing the minors to use the illegal drug, other than to say he "was off-kilter."

Sunset in Kfar Adumim

(This one is not mine, but it's much nicer than the one that I took when I was there)

Sunset on a beach near Netanya

The Old City of Jerusalem

Mountains of the Judean Desert as seen from the top of Masada

A view from Yad Vashem (maybe Har Nof?)

A view of Tel Aviv from the Azrieli Tower

A view of the Mediterranean Sea from a beach in Tel Aviv

The Kotel HaMa'aravi on a dark and rainy night

Rechov Yassir Arafat on the way to Kever Rachel in Beit Lechem

The matzeivah of Sarah Imeinu in Ma'arat HaMachpeilah

The matzeivah of Avraham Avinu in Ma'arat HaMachpeilah

A view of Hevron from the entrance to Ma'arat HaMachpeilah

The other side of the garden in Modi'in

A garden in Modi'in

Har HaBayit

Ma'arat HaMachpeilah

Before we lose any more of Israel, here are a bunch of pictures I took during my trips to Israel in the past thirteen month. (I can only post one at a time, sorry!)
Which Cartoon Character are you?

Bugs Bunny
You are Bugs Bunny

You are fun, friendly, and popular. [Who-me?]You are a real crowd pleaser. You have probably been out on the town your share of times, yet you come home with the values that your mother taught you. [That's a good thing, right?]Marriage and children are important to you [why does everyone keep bothering me about marriage!?! Now even the cartoons are after me!], but only after you have fun [no, that's definitely NOT my hashkafa]. Don't let the people you please influence you to stray.

Which Cartoon Character are you?

Not totally accurate but these things never are. At least I'm not the new Bugs Bunny. He's scary!!!
Is today a public fast day?

At this very minute, Ha'aretz reports that the Israeli cabinet has approved Sharon's plan to give away Gaza and part of the Shomron by a vote of 17-5.
Calling all tech junkies!!!

In case you weren't dorky enough (does using that word make me a dork, too?), there's a new gizmo out on the market! It's a wrist-PDA! WaPo has the details here.

Please don't reward stupid ideas and stick with the sleeker PDA's or SmartPhones, they're much cooler!
Mistake of the Day

Moises Naim, editor of Foreign Policy magazine (full disclosure: I'm a subscriber to this liberal mag but only because of the big names they get to write in their pages), wrote an op-ed on corruption and submitted it to the good people at WaPo.

WaPo, however, couldn't even spell his name correctly! Check out the top of the article!

They do have it spelled correctly on their newly designed homepage, though one must wonder if that was a correction...along the lines of the correction..and flowers...and gift...and bending over backwards...and apologizing they'll have to do to repay Naim for this boneheaded mistake.
Stop the press, print is dead!

...or at least it's coming close according to today's WaPo.

And another...

Ahead of the snow storm they're expecting in NYC tonight, here's a picture of the impact the last storm had. Don't worry, they're only expecting 2-4 inches this time around, not 14-18 like last time.
Sunday Times Roundup
  • That which is slowly occuring in America, namely that Jews are becoming more conservative and shifting from the left to the center and right, is also occurring in Europe according to this article in the NYTimes Week in Review section.
  • Also in the Times: Another piece on the demise of the New York State Grand Old Party, found here.
  • Thomas Friedman comments on the crumbling, brick by brick, of the Arab World's Berlin Wall.
  • It is noteworthy that on the day that the Israeli Cabinet will be officially endorsing a plan to give away Gaza and part of the Shomron, the Times does a story on the right-wing element within the State. How much more does the NYT want!?! Why not do a story on the historic day, on the political jockeying that occurred ahead of the vote, how Bibi said he'd vote against etc.? Why must there always be a focus on the negative, on the evil and murderous right wing? The rally in Rabin Square against the militant right-wingers was on Friday afternoon so if this story is in response to that (it makes no mention of the rally), they're a day late!
Could the Lexus RX330 be the next Ford Pinto?
  • According to this article, the 2004 RX330-Lexus' first to sell over 100,000 units (quite a statement in and of itself)-has some brake problems. That would be ok (sorta) if they announced, recalled, and fixed the problems. But that would co$t too much money! Instead, in the aftermath of ten complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government is now investigating a problem that seems to be more widespread than Lexus thought (shocking!). But now that people are aware of the problem it seems Lexus hasn't sent enough replacement parts to its shops! If you own one of those vehicles, I just hope you've been good lately and hope for the best!

Friday, February 18, 2005

PA officials not banned from US soil after all

This post, from JTA, is a follow up to the question I posed at the end of my post on Feb. 11. The bill is huge and I was unable track that particular clause via Thomas and was hoping some Jewish news org. would cover it in a more timely manner. Better late than never:
The U.S. House of Representatives removed controversial anti-PLO language from a popular immigrant control bill before passing it.

Pro-Palestinian and dovish pro-Israeli legislators raised alarms two weeks ago when they uncovered language in the "Real ID" Act proposed by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) that would standardize state issuance of drivers' licenses as a security measure.

The language would have designated any PLO member a terrorist, banning the entry, for instance, of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a time when President Bush wants to host Abbas at the White House. Following appeals by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), Sensenbrenner removed the language before the act passed Feb. 10.
Is Gush Katif only worth $56M???

An Arab billionaire reportedly offered to buy Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Mohamed Ali Al-Abbar, chairman of the Dubai-based real-estate conglomerate Emaar, offered Israel $56 million for the Gush Katif settlement bloc, which is to be evacuated this summer, Channel Two television said Thursday. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said the Gaza settlements will be razed after the withdrawal. But according to Ha’aretz, Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres has urged Sharon to consider Abbar’s proposal.

Spielberg to do a film on the massacre at Munich (via JTA):
Steven Spielberg will begin production on a film on the 1972 Olympic Games massacre in the summer.

Tight secrecy surrounds the feature film, which will focus on the hunt for the Black September terrorists responsible for the death of 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympics. At one point, reports said the delay was caused by fears that Muslim extremists might target locations to be used in the movie.

However, the reason reportedly was that Spielberg was dissatisfied with the script. Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”) is writing a new screenplay.

Look for CBS News to become more conservative in the months and years
Schieffer Brothers Prepare To Take Over High-Profile Jobs.
The New York Times (2/18, Steinberg , Sanger) reports on brothers Bob and Tom Schieffer. Bob will soon take over as interim anchor on CBS Evening News, while Tom was recently nominated by President Bush to be ambassador to Japan. The Times notes, “Asked how they planned to reinforce the journalistic and diplomatic firewalls between them - while still being able to talk freely about such uncontested matters as the doings of their sister, Sharon, a longtime educator - the two brothers said in separate interviews half a world away from each other that ‘common sense’ would rule.”
Will a day off bring more to the polls in November?

...John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and other Dems seem to think so.
Clinton, Kerry, Other Democrats Seek Election Day Holiday.
The AP (2/18, Barrett) reports Sens. Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and other Democrats Thursday urged “that Election Day be made a federal holiday to encourage voting.” The Los Angeles Times (2/18, Curtius, Simon) adds, “Kerry insisted Thursday that the bill he and his fellow Democrats were pushing was not sparked by his narrow loss in November. ‘This has nothing to do with the question of outcome of 2004. This has everything to do with full civil rights for Americans, period,’ Kerry said.”
Let's see if Condi Can Conquer this one

It's great that we have allies like Russia that will continue to help Iran build a nuke. Here's a dispatch from AP via WaPo.

MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Moscow will continue its nuclear cooperation with Iran and that he is convinced Tehran does not intend to develop atomic weapons.

Iran's nuclear program is likely to be one of the top issues when Putin and President Bush meet Thursday in Slovakia.


"The spread of nuclear weapons on the planet does not aid security, it does not strengthen security. The latest steps from Iran confirm that Iran does not intend to produce nuclear weapons and we will continue to develop relations in all spheres, including the peaceful use of nuclear energy," Putin said at a meeting with Iranian National Security Council chief Hassan Rowhani.

Putin's statement indicated that the chance of agreement with Washington on Iran is minimal.

"We hope that Iran will strictly adhere to all international agreements, in relation to Russia and the international community," Putin said.

He also said that Iran's leadership had invited him to visit, and he accepted. Russian news agencies said that no date has been set.

It's cute that Ha'aretz thinks it can call this coming Sunday, with all the votes expected on the Disengagement Plan and the extension of the geder hafrada (separation fence) "Super Sunday." Perhaps it takes a while for such information to cross two ponds, but the Patriots were victorious on Super Sunday two Sundays ago!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Darren Schneider's replacement

Here's the text of an e-mail I received from Darren earlier this afternoon in which he divulges what his next step will be and by whom he's been replaced:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As some of you may know, I have recently accepted at [sic] job offer to serve as an Administrative Officer for the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD. My last day at the OU will be this coming Friday, 2/18, and I will be reachable at this office until then. After then, please be in touch with either Rena Barth at,, or with my replacement, Seth Jacobson, at that same number.

If you need to be in touch with me, please do not hesitate to contact me using my personal contact info:, or (mobile)/ (home).

It has been a pleasure to work with you, and I wish you the best of luck.



Tuesday, February 15, 2005

OU-IPA Program has been reinstated!!!

I received the following letter from a friend who was among this year's applicants as a follow-up to last week's letter. This is great news!

February 15, 2005

Dear OU-IPA Internship Applicant,

We write again to follow up on our letter of last week with regard to the OU-IPA Washington Internship Program to which you have applied for this summer. In our earlier letter, we informed you that due to a sudden and unexpected change of circumstances within the OU-IPA, we believed we would be unable to conduct the Program this summer. That decision was made out of an abundance of concern over the possible disruption of your summer plans, and wanting to alert you to the situation as soon as possible.

The OU-IPA believes that the Washington Internship Program has great value to its participants and to the community. Thus, even subsequent to sending to you the earlier letter, the OU-IPA continued in discussion and efforts to overcome the obstacles to conducting the program this summer. We are pleased to report we have been able to address the obstacles and will be able, with G-d's help, to conduct the program this summer, as originally planned. [Emphasis theirs]

We hope that you remain interested in participating in the program and would like to "re-activate" your application. If that is the case, simply e-mail and inform us of that interest. In such event, we will reinstitute your application. (Please note, that in connection with last week's letter we refunded your application fee to your credit card. We will now waive that fee for you in light of any worry the uncertainty of the past few days may have caused you.)

We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible, and we look forward to providing the 2005 Summer Interns with a most rewarding and educational experience.


Mark Bane

Nathan J. Diament

Also, via Town Crier, is this post by Mendy Ganchrow:
I was forwarded information over the last few days from 2 blog sites regarding a suspension of the OU IPA summer internship in Washington. This program which I created and nurtured had 45 college interns in the program last summer serving in Senate and House offices.
Thus I am extremely pleased that after a tele-conference today of the IPA executive committee the program is back on track.I am grateful that individuals from throughout the U.S., Israel and two who were on a mission in Bulgaria took part in the discussion.
Over the next few weeks we hopefully will get word of the hiring of a new individual who will direct this program, which I consider one of my most important successes at the OU.
This is wonderful!!!
It's about time!

Months after Colin Powell called it "genocide" the US is circulating a draft of a UNSC resolution about Darfur. Again, is there anything Condi can't conquer? (aaah, alliteration)
Draft UN Resolution Calls For Peacekeeping Force In Sudan.
The Washington Post/Reuters (2/15, A11) reports, “The United States circulated a draft UN resolution Monday calling for a large peacekeeping force in southern Sudan but dodged the question of what kind of court should try accused war criminals in Darfur.” The US-drafted Security Council resolution “would impose a travel ban and freeze assets on those who violated a cease-fire in Darfur, in western Sudan, where at least 70,000 people have been killed and 2 million made homeless.” The text “would create a Security Council committee to identify which individuals should be subject to the sanctions.” The New York Times (2/15, Hoge) also reports on the story.
Will Google, through Blogger, shut down this rabidly pro-Republican blog?
98% Of 2004 Political Donations By Google Employees Went To Democrats.
USA Today (2/14, Hopkins) reports that “the Democratic Party has found a newly rich ally in one of the fastest-growing U.S. companies: Google. Google employees gave $207,650 to federal candidates for last year's elections. … And 98% went to Democrats, the biggest share among top tech donors, a new USA TODAY campaign finance analysis shows.”
Continued disaster for the NYS GOP in '06?:
GOP Worried Clinton May Face No Stiff Election Challenge In ’06.
Roll Call (2/15, Cillizza) reports, “State and national Republicans are increasingly worried that New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) will lack serious opposition in her 2006 re-election bid, providing her with a potent springboard for a presidential run two years later. Neither former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani nor New York Governor George Pataki -- the two most logical candidates on the Republican side -- seems interested in challenging the cash-flush Clinton.” Roll Call notes, “One senior Republican strategist pointed out that, given Clinton’s fundraising potential and her ambitions for higher office, if she does not face a serious race in 2006, ‘someone is asleep at the switch.’”
I remain perplexed about this because it's not the first report yet the situation has not changed appreciably over the few months.
Job Market Seen Not To Be Keeping Pace With Economic Growth.
The Los Angeles Times (2/15, Riccardi) reports in a front page story that while the US economy “grew at a brisk 4.4% clip last year,” it was “not until last month that the number of jobs recovered to the levels of early 2001. The Labor Department pegs the unemployment rate at 5.2%, the lowest in four years, but the share of people who have stopped hunting for work is the largest it has been since 1988. Today's job growth is more than twice as slow as it was after the 1990-91 recession, and slower than during any recovery since World War II, analysts say.” The Times adds, “The discrepancy is fueling a growing debate about whether such low employment growth is a harbinger of a world in which businesses can rake in increasing profits without much of it trickling down to workers.”
Just as North Korea announces they've got nukes, our missile defense system (aka the Star Wars Defense System) fails another test. This is just more great news.
Missile Defense Interceptor Fails To Launch In Test.
CBS Nightly News (2/14, story 4, 0:30, Rather) reported, “It's back-to-back failures now, the second in months for the prototype of the US missile defense system. This is a successor to the so-called ‘Star Wars’ system.” The AP (2/15) reports, “A test of the national missile defense system failed Monday when an interceptor missile didn't launch from its island base in the Pacific Ocean, the military said. It was the second failure in months for the experimental program.”
Why is it that so many staffers leave the WH so disgruntled and go on to bash the President so much!?! Here's another example:
Former Faith Based Initiative Official Criticizes Bush’s Efforts On Program.
The Washington Post (2/15, Cooperman, VandeHei) reports on its front page that David Kuo, former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said President Bush “has failed to deliver on his promise to help religious groups serve the poor, the homeless and drug addicts because the administration lacks a genuine commitment to its ‘compassionate conservative’ agenda.” In an essay published on the ecumenical religious Web site, Kuo faulted “‘snoring indifference’ among Republicans and ‘knee-jerk opposition’ among Democrats in Congress” for Bush’s failure to secure $8 billion in promised funding for the initiative during his first term. The Los Angeles Times (2/15, Wallsten, Hamburger) adds that Kuo wrote he was “‘saddened’ by the administration's failure” to fully fund the initiative, leaving it a “whisper of what was promised.” (His complete essay is available at

This obviously has significant and very large legal implications as well as practical ramifications for today's reporters.

Reporters Must Testify in Plame Case, Court Rules

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 15, 2005; 11:50 AM

A New York Times reporter and a Time magazine reporter can be jailed if they continue to refuse to answer questions before a grand jury about their confidential conversations with government sources, a federal appeals court decided this morning.

The decision upholds a trial court judge's ruling last year that Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine should be forced to answer these questions or be sent to jail. Both reporters fought to stop a subpoena from the Special Counsel to appear before a grand jury investigating whether senior Bush administration officials knowingly leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert operative, to the media in the summer of 2003.

Lawyers said both the New York Times and Time magazine will seek a stay of the decision, to avoid having their reporters go to jail, while they appeal to the full appeals court and likely to the Supreme Court. But that request for a stay would have to be granted by Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan, who first held Miller and Cooper in contempt of court and ruled they must obey the subpoena.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington rejected the contention that the First Amendment protects the information being concealed by the journalists, saying that a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision said just the opposite.

The judges also found there is no common law protection for journalists' confidential sources when a criminal investigation seeks to determine if a law has been broken and information about those sources is critical to that inquiry.

"We further conclude that if any such common law privilege exists, it is not absolute, and in this case has been overcome by the filings of the Special Counsel," the panel wrote.

Judge David B. Sentelle wrote the opinion. Judges Karen Lecraft Henderson and David S. Tatel concurred.

They cited the Supreme Court's 1972 decision in the Branzburg case which found that a Kentucky reporter who witnessed and wrote about a drug-manufacturing ring had to answer questions about his confidential sources when a grand jury began investigating possible related drug crimes.

The panel's decision is the first time in 30 years that a federal appeals court specifically addressed whether reporters can be forced to break their promise to unnamed sources when a prosecutor is trying to solve a crime.

Lawyers for media organizations say the law on protecting reporters from subpoenas in criminal matters is very weak, and they had expected the appeals court to rule against the reporters. The expressed concern that the decision will drive confidential sources underground -- and leave the public more in the dark about the inner workings of its government.

"We are deeply dismayed at the U.S. Court of Appeals decision to affirm holding Judith Miller in contempt, and at what it means for the American public's right to know," New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement. "If Judy is sent to jail for not revealing her confidential sources for an article that was never published, it would create a dangerous precedent that would erode the freedom of the press.

"The protection of confidential sources was critically important to many groundbreaking stories, such as Watergate, the health-threatening practices of the tobacco industry and police corruption. The Times will continue to fight for the ability of journalists to provide the people of this nation with the essential information they need to evaluate issues affecting our country and the world. And we will challenge today's decision and advocate for a federal shield law that will enable the public to continue to learn about matters that directly affect their lives."

Even the judge on the panel most supportive of applying a balancing test -- to determine the value of forcing reporters to discuss or identify confidential sources -- said the government had the advantage in this case.

Tatel wrote that the purpose of the government leaks, based on a story that Cooper wrote in the summer of 2003, appeared to be to smear a person who alleged the Bush administration exaggerated the strength of its evidence justifying going to war with Iraq.

"While requiring Cooper to testify may discourage future leaks, discouraging leaks of this kind is precisely what the public interest requires, " wrote Tatel.

The case grows out of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation centering on administration contacts with the media in the summer of 2003. That was when Plame's husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, published an opinion piece saying he had led a special mission to Niger to determine whether Iraq had sought to obtain nuclear material there and complained that the Bush administration had exaggerated intelligence to justify a war with Iraq.

On July 14, 2003, syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak was the first to identify Plame as a CIA operative, and he quoted administration sources as saying she had recommended her husband for the mission.

U.S. Withdraws Ambassador to Syria

The United States recalled its ambassador to Syria for "urgent consultations" today in a move that signaled the Bush administration's "profound outrage" over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri yesterday but stopped short of openly blaming Syria for the killing.

State Department spokesman Richard A. Boucher said the ambassador, Margaret Scobey, was returning to Washington from Damascus after delivering a message to the Syrian government "expressing our deep concern, as well as our profound outrage, over this heinous act of terrorism." He said the message was delivered twice -- last night and this morning -- to two different places in the Syrian Foreign Ministry...

Does Israel really want so many Egyptian troops on its border? I'm a bit skeptical with this one.
Egypt is ready to deploy up to three full battalions to its border with Israel and a potential Palestinian state in Gaza as part of a push for a comprehensive peace deal, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said yesterday.
Mr. Gheit, who meets today with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior U.S. officials, cautioned that new Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must be given the time and resources to get the security situation under control.
Ordinary Palestinians, he told editors and reporters at The Washington Times, must quickly see that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and some settlements in the West Bank is part of a larger move toward political independence and improved living standards.

Senate strengthens case on Annan's son

Kojo Annan, the son of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, played a far more extensive role than previously revealed in a company that won a key contract under the scandal-plagued Iraq oil-for-food program, Senate investigators have learned.
Investigators also have uncovered documents suggesting that Benon Sevan, the U.N. official who oversaw the seven-year program and was suspended last week, had a much more direct interest in laundered oil deals handed out as bribes by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein under the program. One Iraqi internal investigation put Mr. Sevan's profits at $1.2 million, nearly 10 times the previous estimate.
The revelations are to be aired today at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations, one of a half-dozen congressional panels investigating the $10 billion-plus scandal.
U.S. government investigators estimate that Saddam skimmed as much as $10 billion from the 1996-2003 program, which was designed to allow Iraq, laboring under strict international sanctions imposed after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, to sell its oil to purchase tightly regulated food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies.
The revelations seem almost certain to put new heat on the embattled U.N. secretary-general, who has faced sharp criticism for his overall management of the Iraq program and for the questions about his son's potential conflicts.
Kerry vs. Hillary in the '08 Dem Primary?

Well, what does new DNC chairman Dean think? Will he hold a grudge against Kerry for '04 or will he let Kerry succeed should the party desire him again?
Kerry Says 2008 Nomination Is His.
U.S. News and World Report (2/21, Bedard) reports in its “Washington 9 Whispers” column that Sen. John Kerry “thinks he's the frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.” Kerry has “been telling friends the nomination is his.”
This is pretty sick. We just celebrated the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and these sickos are still out there!
Thousands Of Nazi Sympathizers March In Dresden.
The Financial Times (2/14, Williamson, Wagner) reports, “Thousands of German right-wing extremists on Sunday marched through Dresden on the 60th anniversary of the city's destruction in allied bombing raids, overshadowing official commemorations of the wartime attacks that killed at least 35,000 people. “ Police said “approximately 4,000 from the far right, many waving black flags and carrying fire torches, mounted a mock funeral march.” The Washington Post (2/14, A1, Whitlock) also reports on the march, saying it was “among the largest gatherings of Nazi sympathizers in Germany since the end of the war,” and noting it “overshadowed Dresden's official commemoration of the city's virtual annihilation by British and U.S. bombers on Feb. 13 and 14, 1945.”
Will the 109th bring the return of the ANWR debate?
Bush Budget Includes $2.4 Billion From Expected ANWR Leasing Revenues.
U.S. News and World Report (2/21) reports that Bush “has penciled in $2.4 billion in expected leasing revenues from ANWR, money that will come only if oil companies gain access” to the region. In the Senate, Energy Committee chairman Pete Domenici “is pushing to tack ANWR onto the budget resolution, legislation that sets broad spending caps for appropriations -- and is immune from filibuster by Democrats.” Last week, a proposed House committee vote on an energy bill including ANWR was postponed until March.
From CQ Midday Update:
Ah, Valentine's Day. One legend has it that we're commemorating the anniversary of the death of St. Valentine, a Roman clergyman executed in about 270 A.D. for secretly marrying couples in defiance of the emperor. Another says the holiday began as a Roman fertility festival. Nowadays it's a great way to sell candy, flowers and jewelry. Per capita candy consumption hit 24.6 pounds in 2003, the Census Bureau says, with a large portion of that devoured around Valentine's Day. If that sounds like a lot of sweets, it's actually down from the 27 pounds each American gobbled in 1997. To avoid joining the obesity epidemic, you can send roses -- $52 million worth of domestically produced buds were sold at wholesale in 2003. And jewelry is always in season. A year ago, jewelry stores sold $2.4 billion worth of merchandise in the month of February, the Census Bureau says.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Permanent Campaign

Howard Kurtz coins a new phrase to describe the current political climate: The Permanent Campaign. I alluded to it in my post about Howard Dean's ascension to DNC chairman, namely that the RNC research team will be working harder in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. It wasn't always this way. But with the full-throttle presidential campaign lasting for well over a year now (as opposed the span of time after the last primary at which point it became clear who each party would nominate as their nominee to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) and jockeying for the 2008 campaign already underway (look for Senators Frist, Santorum, and Brownback to run...if not more), we truly are living in the era of the permanent campaign. No sooner do you clean up the mess made by the revlers at your victory party in early November than you begin sending out letters to supporters thanking them for their support and then asking for more support (=cash) as he begins to focus on the next round. It's not healthy but it's reality.
Joke of the day (from last night's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien")
In an interview yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she's always loved Beethoven. When he heard this, President Bush said, 'What a coincidence, I've always loved that movie too.
Michael Moore is a deceptive crook

By Eric Flack

(FLINT, Mich., February 10th, 2005) -- The name alone sparks debate: Michael Moore. The man behind some of the world's most famous and controversial documentaries. He's targeted everyone from the NRA to President Bush. His next project is aimed at the pharmaceutical industry, including Indiana drug maker Eli Lily. But first, WAVE 3 Investigator Eric Flack goes in search of the truth in Flint Michigan, the place where Moore launched his career, and left a city scorned.

There are places in Michigan too beautiful for words to describe. And places words can.

It's a city of 125,000 people, made famous by one man.

"You tell em you're from Flint," said resident Frances Patterson, "and they think of Michael Moore. And if they believe what he said about Flint, well it's not good."

Michael Moore is anything but a hometown hero.

"I think that the name brings up a lot of disdain," said Greg Nicholas, of the Flint Economic Growth Alliance.

Rhonda Britton and Fred Ross were two stars of Moore's 1989 documentary, "Roger and Me," the story of General Motors layoffs of 30,000 Flint workers.

Ross, a sheriffs deputy, was shown throughout the movie evicting residents. Moore's movie gave the impression the layoffs led to the evictions.

But Ross told us that was a lie. "They didn't have nothing to do with General Motors."

But did Michael Moore know that, we asked.

"Yeah he knew that," Ross said. "He had to. He talked to those people too."

Moore's movies suggests that Britton's eccentric money making scheme, selling rabbits for pets or meat, was also a result of hardships caused by the GM layoffs.

But Britton says the reason her husband stopped working for GM was because he died -- more than a decade before the movie was shot.

"He's a fraud and a cheapskate," Britton said.

Moore sold the rights to "Roger and Me" to Warner Brothers for $3 million. But Ross and Britton were all but cut out of the profits.

"He wanted me to sign a release," said Ross, "and that's where the trouble started."

A release obtained by WAVE 3 that was allowed for a paltry payoff for those who appeared in the movie.

"One hundred bucks," said Ross. "That's a slap in the face, man. A lousy hundred dollars."

Ross told Moore's representative he wasn't going to sign.

"He got Michael on the phone," Ross said. "So Michael told me at that time, if you don't sign the release, you can't ride in the limousine."

A limo ride to the premier wasn't enough to change Ross's mind.

"I got on the phone and talked to Mr. Moore," Ross said, "and I told him I had owned 10 Fleetwoods, so riding in a limousine didn't mean nothing to me."

But Britton took the money.

"Cause I have difficulty reading," said Britton, "so I didn't even know it was a waiver until years later."

And Ross took Moore to court, winning an undisclosed settlement. "It was more than $100," Ross told us with a smile.

Flint's residents slowly turned its back on a star, feeling he had turned his back on them.

"I'm not sure the community has much use for Michael Moore," Nicholas said.

In fact, economic development officials say more than 15 years after "Roger and Me," the city has yet to shake what it considers to be an unfair representation.

"A lot of times, they say Flint, 'you've got image problems,'" said Nicholas. "GM's no longer around. But then you have to bring them a dose of reality."

GM never left town completely as "Roger and Me" implies. In fact, the company has invested $2 billion in Flint since 1998.

But Flint officials say Moore hasn't put one penny of his millions back into his hometown. Maybe that's because it's not really his hometown.

"He ain't even from Flint," Britton said. "He was born and raised in Davison! He wasn't even raised here in Flint."

Davison is a white collar suburb 13 miles away. And even at his old high school, Moore's name evokes anger.

A $2,000 a year Michael Moore scholarship ended a couple years back, when Moore stopped returning calls from the principal. And a nomination to put Moore in the Davison High School Hall of Fame was shot down earlier this year.

"Mike is always out for Mike, Mike is always out for money," said former high school classmate Kevin Leffler.

Leffler is making his own documentary aimed at exposing the truth, called "Shooting Michael Moore."

"I have no problem with someone saying I'm going to make a lot of money," Leffler said. "By god, go do it, I think that's the American way. But don't tell me you're out for the little man, when in reality when you have the chance to help the little man, you screw the little man."

We wanted to know what Michael Moore had to say about all this. But e-mail, after e-mail requesting an interview, went unanswered.

So we did what Michael Moore would do, paying a visit to his $2 million lake house in Northern Michigan.

But Moore wasn't there.

And a staff member who wouldn't identify himself also wouldn't tell us how to find Michael Moore. He did take our card, and promised to pass it on to Moore or one of his assistants.

But the man who makes a living out of forcing the high and mighty to answer his questions wouldn't answer ours. We never heard back from Michael Moore, or his staff.

Which does not surprise the people he left behind.

"He rips people off and uses 'em and betrays 'em," Britton said.

"I think somebody needs to say to the world, this is what Michael Moore is really like," added Leffler.

In 2003, Michael Moore won an Academy Award for best documentary for his film, "Bowling for Columbine."

But we found a number of misleading scenes and untrue statements, not just in that film, but also in his latest movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11."

You may have heard about the controversy surrounding that film, but Thursday night at 11, judge for yourself, as we break down the truth behind Michael Moore, from past to present.

Here's a plug for Mozilla Firefox (which I have been using exclusively since July).

In other news, one month after Microsoft Corp. released a beta version of its new antispyware software, security researchers at Sophos PLC said they have detected the first malware program that seeks to attack it.

So, why would you use a rigid, boring, and insecure product from MS when you can get a fun, fast, and exciting browser from Mozilla?
"Death of the Salesman"

Arthur Miller, author of The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, and the man who stood up to the House Committee on Un-American Activities during the McCarthyism era has died at age 89.
My laptop is one year old but I'm open to presents with ten hour batteries! It probably doesn't have any CD/DVD drive and only one USB but I think I could manage. Hint hint...

Gateway Inc. unveiled a new notebook computer with 10 hours or more of battery life.

The Irvine, Calif., company said Thursday the M460 notebook, weighing in at less than six pounds for the lightest model, provides four to seven hours of battery life on a single charge with one lithium battery.

A modular "hot-swap bay" allows the addition of a second six-cell battery which, when used with a 12-cell primary battery, delivers the 10 hours or more of power. The laptop is less than 1 1/2 inches thick, and comes with either a 15.4-inch or 15-inch display, the company said.

Prices start at around $900 for a machine with an Intel Celeron-M processor, 256 megabytes of memory and a 40-gigabyte hard drive.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

02-10-05 1303ET

Bad day to own stock in GlaxoSmithKline (notice the second-to-last line before rushing to judgement though)
A new study published in the online edition of the British Medical Journal shows that the herbal supplement St. John's Wort is just as effective as the prescription drug Paxil in treating moderate and even severe depression.

The study examined 251 patients who were suffering from major depression. Half of the patients were given 900 milligrams of St. John's Wort and half 20 milligrams of Paxil. Dosages of either treatment were increased if the patient did not respond to the medication.

After six weeks of treatment, 71 percent of the subjects taking St. John's Wort showed improvement while 60 percent of those taking Paxil had a positive response to treatment. Roughly half of the patients taking the herbal supplement and 35 percent of the patients taking the prescription drugs reported the eliminiation of their depression.

Previous research had not shown that St. John's Wort was effective at treating major cases of depression. It was considered helpful in treating minor cases but not severe depression.

One thing that patients should be aware of is that St. John's Wort can reduce the effectiveness of other medications a patient may be taking. Patients should consult a doctor before taking the herbal supplement.

The research was funded by the German company that manufactures St. John's Wort which must be taken under consideration. Still, it appears patients may have more choices when it comes to treating depression.
Dean to become DNC Chairman later today...
And let the parties begin! I think the RNC will have to hire new researchers because Dean is bound to say some pretty crazy, stupid, and false things during his tenure. There are leaks about how his acceptance speech will begin but my bet is it'll be something like "YEEEHAAAAWWWW." (Ya know, because it worked so well for him the last time he tried that in public in front a microphone!)
Will this lead to a Wilson-like kerfuffle?
New Book Reveals Military, CIA Code Names.
NBC Nightly News(2/10, story 4, 2:00, Myers) reported, “In a direct challenge to the US government, military analyst Bill Arkin has published 3,000 US code names, many of them top secret, along with brief descriptions of Pentagon or CIA programs they represent. The former senior Greenpeace researcher argues too much national security information is hidden from the public. Classified for political reasons, rather than to guard vital secrets.” Arkin: “It’s trivial secrecy. It’s bureaucratic secrecy. These are bureaucrats trying to protect their turf. This is not national security. This is government gone wild.” NBC (Myers) added, “The Pentagon’s reaction so far? Muted. It has launched a routine leak investigation to see if sensitive programs were compromised.”
How is this any better than Bob Novak "outing" Valery Plame last summer? Where's the outrage!?!
Does this mean that Abu Mazen will be barred from accepting President Bush's invitation to the White House this spring?

House Passes Immigrant ID Bill.
All the major papers cover the story of the House passage of a bill that, as the Los Angeles Times (2/11, Curtius) puts it, “would virtually bar states from issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, tighten the rules for asylum and close a hole in the border fence between California and Mexico.” Of the major networks, only CBS Nightly News(2/10, story 10, 0:20, Rather) covered the House action, saying “the House voted today to beef up homeland security by requiring all states to verify that any applicant for a driver license is a US citizen or legal immigrant. Many states say they don't have the money to do it. In any case, prospects for final passage in the Senate are uncertain. And driver's licenses remain very easy to get with little, if any, checking.” CNN also reported the story throughout the day yesterday, noting that state officials worry the measure “will force states to become immigration officers.”
One provision in this bill would ban PLO terrorists from entering the United States, which would effectively prevent Abu Mazen or any other PA official from ever visiting the United States so long as this bill is on the books. I wonder how the Executive Branch will get around this one (unless it was taken out of the final bill?).

Clearly he's not reading my blog if he's almost two weeks behind on the news!
Carter Declares Iraq Elections “Very Successful.”
The Washington Times (2/11, McCain) reports in a front page story that former President Jimmy Carter said the recent vote in Iraq was “a very successful effort.” The Times notes, “As recently as three weeks ago, Mr. Carter predicted low turnout and an unrepresentative result for the Iraq election.”
International news clips:
NATO Cleared To Assume Afghan Command.
The Financial Times (2/11, Spiegel) reports, “The US and its European allies on Thursday agreed in principle to put all western troops in Afghanistan under NATO command.” The Times adds, “Although the details and timetable of the handover are still under discussion, diplomats who attended Thursday's meeting of NATO defence ministers said objections by European alliance members had been dropped, and talks had moved on to how quickly to move to a unified command.
Kurdish Assertiveness Raising Red Flags InTurkey.
The Wall Street Journal (2/11, Dreazen) reports that Kurdish leaders’ “increasingly assertive stance is setting off alarms inside the Turkish government, which fears the Kurds are laying the groundwork for a formal declaration of independence. Turkey worries that could renew secessionist rumblings among its own Kurdish minority.”

From JTA:
Lantos to link U.S., Arab aid
A high-ranking Democrat will introduce legislation to make U.S. assistance to the Palestinians conditional on Arab aid to the Palestinians.

“The Gulf Arabs, not the American taxpayer, should be leading the way to help the Palestinians,” Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) said Thursday at a meeting of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, where he is the ranking member. Lantos referred specifically to President Bush’s request this week to Congress to approve $350 million in assistance to the Palestinians.

Arab states that have enjoyed a windfall from rising gasoline prices have yet to make good on $400 million they pledged to the Palestinians in 2002, Lantos said, and he intends to propose legislation that “will condition our aid on the demonstrated performance of oil-rich Arab states in providing assistance to the Palestinians.”

There isn't a chance in the world that this bill will pass but it's definitely a valiant and worthwhile effort on Lantos' part.
Israeli politicians no longer safe from fellow citizens

In an interesting article, Ha'aretz reports that Bibi was "accosted" at a wedding in Kfar Chabad this evening by anti-disengagement protesters who chanted slogans and slashed a tire on his car. (This, the second such incident of the week, following Limor Livnat's run in with Kach activists in Tel Aviv.) He commented later that there is no room for violence in public debate.

I can't help but be reminded of the ABC news piece I saw Tuesday evening wherein they ended the short piece describing the Sharm El Sheikh meeting by showing grafiti that was written in Tel Aviv the same day, warning Sharon that they took care of Rabin and they'll take care of him, too, if they need to. Will this really happen? I'd like to believe that the religious Zionists are just that: religious. The Jewish religion does not permit murder unless someone is actively engaged in trying to murder you, in which case it's self-defense. Killing the Prime Minister (or any other government official for that matter) does not qualify as self-defense in my book. I hope that my "brethren" (a word that has always sounded fake to me but fits here) in Israel have more common sense than that.
Is this guy the real deal (Part II)?

Abu Mazen convened his Fatah central committee today to discuss how to deal with those within PA-administered territory who are hellbent on derailing the cease-fire. Part of the committee's statement said:
The PA will confront these provocations, these attempts to give Israel an excuse to evade its commitments at the Sharm al-Sheikh summit and to gamble dangerously with the future of the Palestinian people.
Again, time will tell if he's serious but he seems to be taking all the right steps. Thankfully the mortars and Qassam rockets didn't kill anyone and hopefully Abu Mazen will clamp down and end the madness once and for all. Big responsibility, unlikely, yada yada, but you never know!

White House backs bill on aliens

This headline (courtesy of The Washington Times) reminds me of the story I heard about the guy who showed up an hour late for his date and when the girl asked him why he was late he told her that he had been abducted by aliens. (True story, courtesy of a very nice mean person with the initials R.L.) Now, why would the White House back a bill on aliens when they're already causing so much trouble for men looking to get married?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The day after the ceremony at the Library of Congress, The New York Times published an article on the completion of the Artscroll Talmud.
Welcome to all those who've joined my blog after Steven I. Weiss' latest endeavour, CampusJ, linked to my posts on the OU-IPA "scandal" this afternoon
Then again...

While Abbas might be doing a good job (emphasis on the word might), it looks like his people remain hellbent on destroying the Jewish state. This, from the same publication as the article below:
IDF nabs Palestinian planning suicide attack on Jerusalem bus

Israel Defense Forces soldiers operating in Nablus on Thursday afternoon arrested a Palestinian man suspected of planning a suicide bus bombing attack in Jerusalem's French Hill section in the near future.

Maharan Omar Shucat Abu Hamis, 21, is from a Nablus-area refugee camp and has been affiliated with a number of militant Palestinian organizations including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Tanzim and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

He was carrying a handgun and two fragmentation grenades when he was arrested by Israeli special forces, Israel Radio reported.

On Thursday morning in the same West Bank city, IDF soldiers arrested two Fatah militants. The militants led the troops to an armed explosive device they had planted nearby.

Is this guy the real deal?

Could it be that an Arab leader is actually taking concrete steps against terrorism in his land? This is quite impressive, indeed.

Abbas fires three top security commanders

By Arnon Regular and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas fired three of his senior security commanders Thursday, after militants launched a massive shelling attack on Israeli targets around the Gaza Strip and dozens of armed Palestinians raided the main PA jail in Gaza and killed three prisoners.

"These are very dangerous developments, and they violate the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority," Palestinian cabinet secretary Hassan Abu Libdeh said. "No one can continue with these violations."

Earlier Thursday, Abbas ordered PA security forces to end militant fire on Gaza Strip settlements, which shattered the relative calm surrounding Tuesday's Sharm el-Sheikh summit.

The PA officials dismissed include Brigadier General Abdel Razek al-Majaydeh, public security chief for the West Bank and Gaza; Saeb al-Ajez, police chief in the West Bank and Gaza; and Omar Ashour, commander of the security forces in the southern Gaza Strip. Dozens of lower-ranking officers also lost their jobs.

"The Palestinian Authority will not tolerate any actions that will sabotage the agreement reached with Israelis on a mutual cease-fire," said Abu Libdeh. Abbas and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed Tuesday to halt all militant and military violence.

But while Abu Libdeh appeared to connect the dismissals with the mortar and rocket fire, other Palestinian officials said the dismissals came in reaction to the prison raid and were carried out ahead of a planned round of extensive new appointments in the Gaza security forces.

Dozens of armed Palestinians stormed the main Gaza jail Thursday, which is located in a complex that also houses the Palestinian police headquarters, and killed three prisoners who had been involved in assassinating officials from the ruling Fatah movement and the Palestinian Preventative Security Services in Gaza.

The assailants blew up the outer walls of the prison compound, where they killed two prisoners convicted of murdering Fatah officials. They dragged the third prisoner out of the compund and killed him in the Al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.

Later, seven people were arrested, security officials said.

The raid appears to be a new phase in the security chaos in the Strip and is considered embarrassing for Musa Arafat, who commands the Palestinian security forces in Gaza headquartered in the prison compound. Arafat is the senior figure directing the deployment of Palestinian policemen in the Strip, and the commanders fired by Abbas are considered close to him.

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials said Abbas plans to appoint many new security commanders in Gaza. He has already announced that he is planning a pension program, which will include the replacement of long-time officers.

Majaydeh was appointed by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the wake of several internal clashes and abductions in Gaza last July. He is considered a weak commander without much influence on the Palestinian security forces. Al-Ajez, who was responsible for security at the prison assaulted Thursday, was also appointed by Arafat in July and is considered a veteran officer who had a good working relationship with Israeli security officials.

Abbas orders crackdown on militants
Abbas on Thursday afternoon had ordered PA security forces to end militant fire on Gaza Strip settlements, which shattered the relative calm surrounding Tuesday's Sharm el-Sheikh summit.

Abbas's office said: "President Abbas has given orders to security chiefs to assume their responsibility to prevent any breach in the agreements to protect the national interest."

"The leadership is also studying a series of measures and decisions to be taken to restore order and rule of law," the statement said.

The head of the IDF's Southern Command, Dan Harel, met Thursday night with the commander of PA security forces in the Gaza Strip. Harel is expected to demand that Musa Arafat's forces bring an end to the Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets.

Hamas announced earlier Thursday that it had fired 46 mortar shells and rockets at Israeli communities in and around the Strip.

A second barrage was launched several hours later. One mortar shell was fired at a settlement in northern Gaza and three more in southern Gaza, Army Radio reported. There were no casualties or damage caused.

The Thursday salvo was one of the heaviest mortar barrages since Abbas and Hamas reached an accord on January 22, under which militants would curb their activities, unless Israel resumed military operations in the territories.

Hamas said that the barrage came in response to a Wednesday incident near the southern Gaza settlement of Atzmona, in which IDF soldiers opened fire at a group of four men who came within 70 meters of the fence surrounding the settlement, critically wounding one of them.

Palestinian sources said Thursday the man had died of his wounds overnight.

PA adviser Jibril Rajoub told Al Jazeera on Thursday that the Hamas reaction to Israel Defense Forces activity is not acceptable and does not serve the Palestinian interests, Israel Radio reported. He was quoted as saying that Hamas does not have the right to decide how to react to Israeli actions.

In another reminder of armed chaos in the Palestinian street challenging Abbas, dozens of gunmen including Hamas militants had stormed into a Gaza City prison on Thursday and shot dead three inmates in a settling of scores between feuding clans.

The Palestinian leader said that he was committed to the agreements he had reached at the summit in Egypt, which saw Israeli and Palestinian declarations to end hostilities between the two sides after more than four years.

Abbas is to go to Gaza on Friday to make it clear to the militants that he will not tolerate violations of the cease-fire, Abu Libdeh said.

Israel has welcomed Abbas' efforts so far, but a senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he must take far tougher action against the militants.

The IDF said that 17 mortar shells had struck Israeli targets Thursday, most of which exploded near the Neveh Dekalim settlement in the Gush Katif bloc.

A number of the shells fell within Palestinian areas of the Strip.

No injuries were immediately reported, although one of the houses in the settlement sustained damage.

IDF sources said the fire was coming from areas in which Palestinian Authority security officers are deployed, and noted that troops returned fire.

Sharon's bureau deeply concerned
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bureau on Thursday afternoon expressed deep concern over the mortar attacks in the Gaza Strip. President Moshe Katsav said he believes in Abbas but placed responsibility for the shellings on the new Palestinian leader, Army Radio reported.

Sharon's bureau called Egyptian, American and Palestinian officials on Thursday to express concern about the fresh violence. "We informed them we expect the Palestinians to act immediately against these attacks," said Asaf Shariv, an aide to Sharon.

The security cabinet met on Thursday to discuss the continuing Palestinian attacks. Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during the meeting that Abbas' days of grace are quickly coming to an end and he must act immediately and powerfully against the militants' attacks. Israel will be forced to act if Abbas does not, Netanyahu said.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz also expressed concern over the attacks during the cabinet meeting, warning that Israel may have to resume operations against terrorists.

"The fact that the terror is continuing does not correspond with Abu Mazen's [Abbas'] remarks in Sharm, that they [the Palestinian Authority] would not tolerate ongoing fire on Israeli civilians. If the Palestinians do not fight terror, we will be forced to do it," Mofaz said.

But, he added, "we still believe that this is an historic opportunity that we must not allow to get away. [Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom] has updated the cabinet on his conversations with the foreign ministers of Morocco, Oman and Qatar, regarding the opening of missions following the return [to Israel] of the Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors."