Thursday, December 30, 2004

Iraqi police get it on, hold their own.

Iraqi police killed three insurgents on Thursday during a gunbattle in a northwestern Baghdad neighborhood that was a flashpoint of violence earlier this week, a city police officer said.
About 30 rebels, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms, set up a false checkpoint in Baghdad's al-Ghazaliya neighborhood. After a 30-minute gunfight, police detained one of the insurgents, the officer said.

So much for the benefit of the doubt....

A prominent West Bank gunman carried a smiling Mahmoud Abbas on his shoulders Thursday, endorsing the presidential candidate and prompting questions of whether Abbas is identifying with violent groups.
The highlight of Abbas' visit to the Jenin refugee camp next to the northern West Bank town of Jenin was his encounter with a group of gunmen led by Zakaria Zubeidi, the local leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent group with ties to Abbas' ruling Fatah party.
Zubeidi, who is idolized in the camp for his swagger and wanted by Israel for organizing attacks and sending suicide bombers into Israeli cities, took center stage in welcoming Abbas to the camp. Zubeidi and other gunmen hoisted aloft Abbas, who smiled and waved to about 3,000 Palestinians gathered around. Some in the crowd were armed.
Abbas won Zubeidi's ringing endorsement. After Abbas left the stage, Zubeidi, with gunmen firing in the air, warned that he would deal with anyone who tried to challenge the elected Palestinian leadership. In his address, Abbas referred to the 2002 battle, in which 52 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed, recalling that Arafat called the camp "Jeningrad." The crowd responded with a healthy cheer.
"When we demand security," Abbas said, "we demand it for all our citizens, including our wanted brothers who also deserve a life of security and safety," he said, in a reference to Zubeidi and his group, evoking another big cheer.

What would be terrorism, Alex.

Three terrorist groups warned Iraqis against voting in Jan. 30 elections, saying Thursday that people participating in the "dirty farce" risked attack. All 700 employees of the electoral commission in Mosul reportedly resigned after being told they would be killed .

Dead Terrorist Alert!

An Israeli drone fired a missile at Palestinian militants in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing four, witnesses said.
The drone targeted militants planting explosives by a building in the town a short time after Israel had sent in more troops and armored vehicles to Khan Younis, witnesses said.
The Israeli army confirmed that the air force had targeted an armed group in a raid on Khan Younis and that the target was hit.
Two of the militants killed belonged to an armed faction of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' mainstream Fatah, and had been involved in bombarding Jewish settlements with mortar bombs in the past two weeks, group members said.

Dead Terrorist Alert!

About 10 Israeli tanks moved into the Khan Younis refugee camp early Thursday, and two Palestinian gunmen were killed by tank fire, residents said. Military officials said the incursion was aimed at stopping the firing of rockets and mortars by Palestinian militants at nearby Jewish settlements and Israeli army bases.

It's who you know that matters.

Weeks of working sources, days of planning and waiting, hours of driving across roadless Afghanistan - that's what went into the raid. A raid that turned up nothing, anyway, until a suspicious-looking man walked in from the desert.
The soldiers snatched him up, and he turned out to be Abdul Wadud. The captain commanding the Fort Bragg-based Special Forces team talked to the provincial governor, Jan Mohammad Khan, who said Wadud was definitely a Taliban leader.
His capture made the work of the raid worthwhile.
But now the Green Berets are being told to let him go.
The word the team gets is that Afghan President Hamid Karzai's brother has called the American ambassador in Kabul to complain about Wadud's capture. The embassy called Lt. Gen. David Barno, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who called the Special Forces task force.
Meanwhile, back at the team's firebase, the Afghan admits that he is a former Taliban brigade commander. The soldiers say he tells them that he scouts compounds for Taliban commanders to use as safe houses.

Iraqi 911.

Leads generated through a hotline to report insurgent activity in Iraq demonstrate that the Iraqi people want to bring an end to the violence against innocent civilians and critical infrastructure, a top officer in the Army's 1st Cavalry Division told reporters in Baghdad today. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey W. Hammond, the division's assistant commander for support, said the tips hotline received more than 400 calls during the past few months. These enabled the coalition to take prompt action — from freeing several women who had been kidnapped for ransom to identifying and destroying vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices Hammond said "were rigged and ready to explode."

Just in case you were wondering.

Thanks to better body armor and faster and more sophisticated medical care, more than twice as many wounded soldiers are surviving in Iraq than in previous conflicts. More than half return to duty within 72 hours.

Dead Terrorist Alert!

Deadly violence flared in southern Gaza Thursday, with three militants killed during an Israeli raid aimed at thwarting militant attacks on nearby Jewish settlements.
Two from the Islamist movement Hamas and one from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, an armed offshoot of the dominant Fatah faction.

Reflections from the gene pool.

A man is accused of using an air compressor to defeat an ignition interlock device.
Michael Simo, 41, had the device installed in his car after being convicted of multiple drunken driving offenses. Drivers are supposed to exhale into the device, and if it detects enough alcohol on the breath, the car won't start. Police said Simo used an air compressor to make it seem like he was breathing into the device.
Brian Raab, 39, of Buckingham, who also has a history of DUI offenses, was driving Simo's car when an officer found the two at a parking lot near Raab's home.

Reflections from the gene pool.

A family fight turned uglier when their pet pit bulldog joined the brawl. Christina Lyman told authorities she was trying to break up a Christmas evening altercation between her brother and sister, Nicholas Lyman, 19, and Yvonne Lyman, 22, both of Indianapolis.
That's when the family pit bull entered the fray and "turned on all three parties," according to Cpl. Chad Gillenwater of the Hawkins County Sheriff's Department.
Arriving at the home, Gillenwater said he found dents in the siding, a broken storm window and torn screen from the fight, and Yvonne Lyman outside in a "violent and intoxicated state."
The officer found Nicholas Lyman and Christina Lyman inside. Both appeared to have been drinking as well.
All three Lymans were suffering from dog bites and had to be taken to the emergency room for treatment.
Nicholas and Yvonne Lyman were charged with domestic violence assault. Yvonne Lyman also was charged with disorderly conduct. No action was taken against the dog.

Final death throws.

Ukraine's election commission rejected the entire appeal by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych against results showing he lost this week's repeat running, saying he had not proved there were any mass violations, a commission member said.
Yanukovych now has the option of appealing to the Supreme Court. The prime minister has refused to accept results showing a solid victory for Western-leaning opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko in Sunday's vote.

Keeping the pressure on.

Plotters of the double car bombing in the Saudi capital yesterday were spooked by a gunbattle with police earlier in the week and launched their attack hastily, failing to penetrate the security installations they targeted, a Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman said Thursday.

Iraqi tough guys kicking in.

They’re commandos, elite forces battling terrorists — and they’re Iraqi.
Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds are working together to protect their homeland. And they’re trained by American soldiers to do it.
These unit's train to become part of Iraq’s security force, which currently has 120,000 members and a small-but-growing number of skilled fighters from all parts of the country.
The school teaches the Iraqi soldiers to handle raids, ambushes and light infantry tactics.
“I feel good because we are fighting the terrorists,” said one Iraqi commando.

Evolve or die.

Victor Hanson on the current state of the democratic party.

Osama's darkest fear.

Good take on why Osama Fears elections.

Sacked in the backfield.

U.S.-led forces in Iraq have captured a senior member of the al Qaeda-linked network led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a raid in Baghdad, the Iraqi government said on Thursday.
It said Fadil Hussain Ahmed al-Kurdi was captured along with two other suspected insurgents. It said Kurdi, a 26-year-old Iraqi Kurd also known as Ridha, was the brother of Umar Baziyani, a Zarqawi lieutenant captured in May.

How big is big?

The quake that set off the devastating tsunami literally shook the Earth to its core, scientists believe, accelerating its rotation and shortening days by a fraction of a second. It may be necessary to add a "leap second" in years to come in order to correct the change.

You have the right to remain stupid.

Authorities are investigating a mysterious laser beam that was directed into the cockpit of a commercial jet traveling at more than 8,500 feet.
The beam appeared Monday when the plane was about 15 miles from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, the FBI said.
"It was in there for several seconds like the plane was being tracked," FBI agent Robert Hawk said.
The pilot was able to land the plane, and air traffic controllers used radar to determine the laser came from a residential area in suburban Warrensville Heights.
Hawk said the laser had to have been fairly sophisticated to track a plane traveling at that altitude. Authorities had no other leads, and are investigating whether the incident was a prank or if there was a more sinister motive.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Reflections from the gene pool.

A burglary suspect broke into a house, tore open gifts under the Christmas tree and began preparing a batch of methamphetamine before he was caught, investigators said.
The homeowner called police early Dec. 16 when he arrived home and saw someone inside. Deputies said they noticed a strong odor of ammonia and saw a makeshift meth lab fueled by a can of propane fuel.
"What's so odd about this thing is that he was apparently cooking dope in the residence he broke into," said Craighead County sheriff's investigator Gary Etter. "You don't really see that happen much."

Operation payback time.

U.S. forces launched a new offensive Wednesday against insurgents in an area south of the capital dubbed the "triangle of death," where militants ambushed an elite Iraqi police unit in a Baghdad neighborhood known for its loyalty to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, killing 29 people, most of them civilians.

Another skeleton falls out of Saddam's closet.

SULEIMANIYAH, Iraq — Workers digging the foundation of a new hospital in this northern city discovered Wednesday a burial site that a regional human rights minister said could contain the remains of hundreds of people.
Officials said the bodies were believed to be of Kurds killed while fleeing Saddam Hussein's army as it tried to crush an uprising following the 1991 Gulf War.
Speaking at the site of the dig, Salah Rashid, the regional Kurdish human rights minister, said "there are mass graves all over Kurdistan especially in areas that were under the control of the Iraqi government."
"This grave dates back to 1991 when Saddam's regime came to crush the Kurdish uprising," Rashid said. He predicted that at least 400 bodies would be found there.

Little pig...little pig...let me in!

Interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made a campaign run Wednesday through West Bank towns living in the shadow of Israel's separation barrier, urging Israel to tear down the huge structure that he said would never help peace.
Abbas, the front-runner in the Jan. 9 presidential election, made the appeal in Tulkarem, a town of 40,000 on the line between Israel and the West Bank, blocked on two sides by the 25-foot-high concrete slabs of the barrier. Israel began building it to stop a wave of Palestinian suicide bombers who were infiltrating unhindered from the West Bank.
"I say to our neighbors ... no fence will bring peace or bring you security," Abbas told a rally at a Tulkarem stadium just 500 yards from the barrier.
~yeah, well...I think they're gonna hold on to it for awhile.

Riyadh brawl...Dead Terrorist Alert!

Militants in the Saudi capital launched coordinated car bombings against the police ministry and a troop recruitment center and battled security forces in attacks that caused oil prices to jump and signaled that Muslim extremists are keeping up their fight despite the kingdom's crackdown on al-Qaida.
Seven militants were killed in the gunbattle with police in a northern district of Riyadh, Al-Arabiya television reported. The clash broke out about the same time as the the two car bombings — a remote control blast near the Interior Ministry and a suicide attack on the recruitment center.

Some more persecuted Christians.

PROVIDENCE, RI- Some residents are dismayed over the removal of a Ten Commandments tablet that had been at Roger Williams Park for four decades.
City officials removed the monument with the basic Christian tenets with no advance announcement. The act surprised some people, including Raymond Dempsey. ''I wish we could have known about this before. We could have had a rousing dialogue."
The monument was given to the city in 1963 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, whose Ten Commandments tablets in other places -- such as Austin, Texas, and two counties in Kentucky -- have sparked legal battles that have gone all the way to the US Supreme Court.

Dead Terrorist Alert!

American troops backed by warplanes battled insurgents in the Iraqi city of Mosul today, killing around 25 guerrillas in fierce clashes after being attacked by suicide bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. A military spokesman said a suicide vehicle bomb exploded near a US military outpost in Mosul, and a second suicide attack targeted a US patrol responding to the first blast.
He said that when the patrol reached the outpost, around 50 insurgents attacked with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire.
15 American troops were injured with no deaths reported.

Dead Terrorist Alert!

Saudi police killed a suspected militant in a shootout in Riyadh and captured two wanted militants after a gun battle in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on Wednesday, state television and security sources said.
Security forces also killed a man early on Wednesday who had lobbed a hand grenade from his car at police combing a residential area in the capital Riyadh following a clash with militants the day before, state television said.

Thanks, Joe.

Joseph "Jumpin' Joe" Beyrle, the only World War II soldier to fight for both the Americans and the Soviets, died on Sunday a hero for two nations. He was 81.
The wartime feats of Beyrle, a member of the 101st Airborne's "Screamin' Eagles," still seem improbable.
After parachuting into Normandy on D-Day in June 1944, he was captured by the Germans. Battered and starved, Beyrle escaped from a Nazi prison camp and found Soviet troops advancing toward Berlin. He joined their ranks and fought for weeks, then was injured and taken to Moscow, from whence he eventually made his way home to Muskegon, Mich.
He wore a vest filled with American medals on one side and Russian on the other. Beyrle attributed his fate to a higher being.

On the horizon.

Militant groups including al Qaeda are exploiting the seven-nation Horn of Africa region to hide, recruit and train members and possibly plan attacks.
"We find the terrorist networks here using the fact that there is a lot of ungoverned space in the Horn of Africa," said Maj. Gen. Samuel Helland. "Because of (this) ... it's very easy for a terrorist organization to establish a presence ... It's very easy for them to train, equip, organize and use the facilities that are present to gain a foothold."
The Horn of Africa region encompasses the territories of Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Yemen and Ethiopia.
"I think we can say with some level of confidence that there are al Qaeda operatives in the Horn of Africa. This is ungoverned space they thrive in. It is a place where there is chaos. It's a place where there is no governance. There's no rule of law. It's all based on warlord relationships, and they just go ahead and blend in with them," he said.

Sacked in the backfield.

U.S. forces have captured a man described as a senior commander of a militant group linked to al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Iraqi government said on Wednesday.
It said in a statement the 33-year-old Iraqi, whom it named only as Abu Marwan, was a leader of the hitherto unknown Abu Talha group, affiliated to the Jordanian militant whom Osama bin Laden this week endorsed as his lieutenant in Iraq

Reflections from the gene pool.

A man has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for fatally shooting his friend through a protective vest on an apparent dare, police said.
Alexander Joseph Swandic, 20, died of a gunshot wound to the heart Monday after donning a protective vest and asking David John Hueth, 30, to shoot him, police said.

Winning the war.

Persistent arrests of prominent al-Qaida leaders, plus increased intelligence sharing by America with other countries, have acted to prevent the world's most notorious terrorist organization from being able to launch any successful, large-scale, mass casualty attacks, according to a half a dozen serving and former U.S. intelligence officials interviewed by United Press International.

Islam fills Marxism shoes.

Interesting bit on the new Marxism in France

Well, you can't say you didn't see this coming.

A fresh crisis in relations between Russia and the West over Ukraine has threatened to erupt after Moscow said international monitors who gave the country's presidential election a clean bill of health were not objective, just as European leaders hailed the result.
The Russian statement, the first from Moscow since the weekend's election results were announced, suggested that the Kremlin might refuse to recognize the victory of Viktor Yushchenko, who led the "orange revolution".

Lurch returns....again!

Former US attorney general Ramsey Clark has joined the team of Jordan-based lawyers defending Saddam Hussein.
Mr Clark - who held office in the 1960s under President Lyndon Johnson - said his principal concern was protecting the rights of the former Iraqi leader.
Left-wing activist Mr Clark is an outspoken critic of American foreign policy on Iraq and visited Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in February 2003 just before the US-led invasion.
After leaving office in 1969, he became active in the anti-Vietnam War movement. More recently, he has offered legal advice to numerous figures at odds with the US government including former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.

Oh what wonderful news!

According to Israel Defense Forces figures presented Wednesday, the number of Israeli civilians killed in cold blooded terror attacks and the number of troops killed in battle dropped by 44 percent in 2004, from the previous year's figures.
In 2004, a total of 118 Israelis were murdered as part of ongoing Palestinian violence, down from 212 in 2003.

More Palestinian peace efforts.

Gunmen opened fire early Wednesday on a jeep traveling near the West Bank border village of Baka al-Sharkiyeh, lightly wounding two Israel Defense Forces soldiers riding in the vehicle.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Queer eye for the straight army.

A new army base going up in the northern part of the West Bank will be Israel's most colorful, painted in a dazzling array of pink, brown, purple, light blue and orange, an army weekly reported.
The current edition of "Bamahane," a publication for soldiers, carries a small picture of the Jalameh base, going up near the Palestinian town of Jenin. It shows the stark structure of two-story cement blocks joined at right angles painted in eye-popping shades of orange and pink.
"I'm sick of seeing the ugly and depressing colors of military buildings - always beige and gray," the officer behind the artsy project, Capt. Itsik Koren, told the weekly. "I decided to do something different here."
~It's soooo sheek, I mean oh.. my.. god, just look at way it offsets the barbed wire.

Reflections from the gene pool.

Armed intruders broke into a family's house in Britain, only to apologize and leave again, having realized they intended to beat someone up next door instead, police said.
A woman was upstairs with her children in Swinton, Yorkshire, northern England, when two men armed with a knife and a plank of wood broke in through a back door.
"The intruders made their way upstairs where the occupant was with her two children," a South Yorkshire Police spokesman said.
"It became obvious the intruders had got the wrong address and they left, apologizing. No threats were made, although the woman was in a distressed state."
The men then forced their way into a next door house and beat up a young man -- presumed to be their intended victim -- although he was not seriously hurt, the spokesman added.

Reflections from the gene pool.

A man angry that he got no presents for Christmas burned down his parents' house early the next morning, police said.
Steven Murray, 21, was charged with arson and risking a catastrophe in the blaze that broke out early Sunday. No one was injured.

Dead Terrorist Alert!

Three militants have been killed by police in a shootout in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, security sources say.
The sources said a district in Riyadh had been cordoned off.
One report said the militants opened fire after being stopped at a roadblock, another that they were attacked in a raid on their hideout.

Lets get ready to rumble!

Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, winner of Ukraine's re-run of a rigged presidential election, called on his supporters on Tuesday to block the country's government building. "I want to say there should be no government meeting ... Dear friends, I ask you to strengthen a blockade of the government building tomorrow from early in the morning," Yushchenko told thousands of his supporters in the capital Kiev's Independence square. Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, who has vowed to challenge the election results, said he would return to work and hold a government meeting on Wednesday.

Kofi Annon, please report to the principals office.

The head of an independent investigation into alleged corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program said most of the money illegally obtained by Saddam Hussein came from smuggling, much of which the U.N. Security Council knew about but didn't stop.
"The big figures that you see in the press, which are sometimes labeled oil-for-food — the big figures are smuggling, which took place before the oil-for-food program started and it continued while the oil-for-food program was in place,"
"Without question, there were problems in the oil-for-food area," Volcker said. "But when you look at those $10 billion figures, or $20 billion figures, most of those numbers are so-called smuggling, much of which was known and taken note of by the Security Council, but not stopped."
Volcker refused to speculate on why the council didn't stop the smuggling, but indicated the issue would likely be addressed in his reports. An initial report is expected in January and a final report in the summer, he said

More good news out of Iraq.

Heather Nauert and cameraman Joel Fagen traveled to Iraq to investigate reconstruction efforts, preparations for the upcoming election, and how our troops are battling terror.
"It wasn't until I got there that I realized most are seeing just one sliver of the story in Iraq, and a lot more is going on.",2933,142749,00.html

Those crazy little men at the U.N.

The international response to a catastrophic tsunami in Asia has been quick and generous, a senior U.N. official said on Tuesday, playing down his earlier comments that wealthy nations were stingy.
U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland backed off from statements he made on Monday after an annoyed Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States was "the greatest contributor to international relief efforts in the world."

That's $4,716.98 per vote folks!

Election officials finished the presidential recount in Ohio on Tuesday, with the final tally shaving 318 votes off President Bush's six-figure margin of victory in the state that gave him a second term.
The recount shows Bush winning Ohio by 118,457 votes over John Kerry, according to unofficial results provided to The Associated Press by the 88 counties. Lucas County, where Toledo is located, was the last to report its results Tuesday.
The state had earlier declared Bush the winner by 118,775 votes and planned to adjust its totals to reflect the recount later this week.
The Kerry campaign supported the recount, but said it did not expect the tally to change the election winner. Supporters of the recount, requested by two minor party candidates, said they wanted to make sure that every valid vote was counted.
The Ohio secretary of state's office claims that the cost of the recount to be $1.5 million, because 3 percent of the ballots in each county have to be counted by hand; many counties lack central counting equipment; and poll workers have to return and count many of the ballots
~When they say they want your vote they mean it!

Circling the wagons.

Once-bitter rivals Russia and China will hold a massive joint military exercise on Chinese territory next year involving submarines and possibly strategic bombers, Russia's defense minister said Monday as the two nations move to bolster already burgeoning military ties.
"For the first time in history, we have agreed to hold quite a large military exercise together with China on Chinese territory in the second half of the year," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said.
Many observers saw the announcement as Russia's response to a spat with the United States and other Western nations over the disputed election in Ukraine.
Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of Russia in Global Affairs Magazine, also described the maneuvers as a gesture aimed at the West.
"It's a response to a series of political defeats Russia has suffered, most recently in Ukraine," Lukyanov told The Associated Press. "It's a reminder that Russia is still a great military power."

You can't make this stuff up.

Staff at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) have been given instructions on how to walk through a door, a tabloid newspaper reported. The Sun, Britain's biggest selling daily newspaper, reported that workers at the global broadcaster's offices in Birmingham, central England, had been issued with a memo advising them on how to get through a revolving door. An email, sent to 800 staff -- complete with matchstick man diagrams for ease of understanding -- comes after one worker trapped her foot in the new doors at the BBC's offices in Britain's second city, cracking a toenail, The Sun said.

Under my thumb.

China said yesterday its armed forces had a "sacred responsibility" to crush moves towards independence by Taiwan, whatever the cost, and described relations with the island as "grim".
The warning followed Beijing's announcement this month that it would submit an "anti-secession" bill to the National People's Congress next March.
"They want to give a crystal clear message to the outside world: don't underestimate our determination to use force if Taiwan continues its independence process," said Andrew Yang, defence analyst at the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taipei.

Monday, December 27, 2004

How big is big?

The earthquake that unleashed deadly tidal waves on Asia was so powerful it made the Earth wobble on its axis and permanently altered the regional map, US geophysicists said today.The 9.0-magnitude temblor that struck 250 km south-east of Sumatra island on Sunday may have moved small islands as much as 20 metres, according to one expert.
“That earthquake has changed the map,” US Geological Survey expert Ken Hudnut told AFP.
“Based on seismic modelling, some of the smaller islands off the south-west coast of Sumatra may have moved to the south-west by about 20 metres. That is a lot of slip.”
The north-western tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra may also have shifted to the south-west by around 36 metres, Hudnut said.
In addition, the energy released as the two sides of the undersea fault slipped against each other made the Earth wobble on its axis, Hudnut said.
“We can detect very slight motions of the Earth and I would expect that the Earth wobbled in its orbit when the earthquake occurred due to the massive amount of energy exerted and the sudden shift in mass,” Hudnut said.

Out of chaos comes hope.

Pakistan offered relief and rescue assistance to India after tidal waves killed thousands of people on its southern coast, as the nuclear-armed rivals began two day peace talks Monday.

The drinking thread is open - pass the ice please....

Educrats find a new cause.

The idea was born one night last year in Birmingham, Ala. Retired educator Eldon "Cap" Lee was one of dozens of administrators, teachers, and parents meeting there to express support for a successful new school called World of Opportunity (WOO) - a school designed to accommodate students forced out of regular public schools due to their poor performance on standardized tests.
It was, in other words, the kind of place where one might not expect to find much support for the test-driven No Child Left Behind federal education law.
So perhaps it was only natural that one evening, as the educators sat around talking about the negative impact of high-stakes testing, Mr. Lee took out his backpacker guitar, and began singing 1960s folk songs.
The themes of struggle and activism in the words they sang rang true on that night in Birmingham four decades after they were written. Soon, somebody started making up lyrics about the No Child Left Behind law, set to the tunes Lee played. Somebody else jotted down the words to the impromptu parodies.
By the time Lee returned to his home in Milwaukee, he was fired up with the notion of creating the CD that is now known as "No Child Left Behind: Bring Back the Joy."
The 15-song album is a combination of original compositions and others set to classic tunes like Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land."

In defense of the defense

The terrorist love fest continues.

In an audiotape broadcast Monday by Al-Jazeera satellite television, a man purported to be Osama bin Laden endorsed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as his deputy in Iraq and called for a boycott of next month’s elections there.
The voice on the tape described al-Zarqawi as the “emir” of al-Qaida in Iraq and called upon Muslims there “to listen to him.”
The speaker on the tape praised an October statement in which al-Zarqawi declared allegiance to bin Laden and changed his group’s name to al-Qaida in Iraq. The purported bin Laden called the move “a great step on the path of unifying all the mujahedeen in establishing the state of righteousness and ending the state of injustice.”
The speaker said al-Zarqawi and those with him are fighting “for God’s sake.”
“We have been pleased that they responded to God’s and his prophet’s order for unity, and we in al-Qaida welcome their unity with us,” he said.
~Ummm....where did I put that old Air Supply tape?

Well, isn't that special...

Fighters in the Gaza Strip are proud to show off the latest addition to their arsenal of homemade rockets -- the "Yasser Arafat."
Designed to fly farther and strike harder than other makeshift missiles, it is also a powerful symbol of an arms race that defies hopes that Arafat's death last month could be a catalyst for peace.
"Al-Yasser rockets show our love and admiration for our historical leader and symbol of our fight against occupation," said Abu Qusai, a leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Preview of an independent Palestine.

Palestinians held local elections Saturday for the first time in many years. Hamas, the militant group that is against rapprochement with Israel, scored well in the polls, defeating the Fatah party in many areas.

Indian seashells more important than national security.

Succumbing to pressure from the environmental lobby, the U.S. Senate is blocking legislation already passed by the House that would erect an impenetrable national security fence across the U.S.-Mexican border.This past fall, the House voted to add a 150-foot corridor with a patrol road along the border and a second fence inside the border. The Senate, however, wouldn't go along, CNN said.
Environmentalists are "digging in" over their concerns that the fence would be harmful to endangered species of plants and birds, and would disrupt Indian artifacts, such as seashell fragments.
Meanwhile, California's southern border remains vulnerable to al-Qaida terrorists, who, when captured, have told U.S. interrogators they intend to exploit lax border security to smuggle a nuclear bomb into the country.

Someone's been in the Tequila.

Alarmed by glimpses of sweaty citizens in the buff, the city council in the southeastern city of Villahermosa, Mexico has adopted a law banning indoor nudity, officials confirmed Wednesday.
The regulation, which takes effect on Jan. 1, calls for as much as 36 hours in jail or a fine of 1,356 pesos ($121) for offenders in the Tabasco state capital, 410 miles east of Mexico City.
"We are talking about zero tolerance ... for a lack of morality," said city councilwoman Blanca Estela Pulido of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which governs the state and city.
Opposition party councilman Rodrigo Sanchez said in an interview "I have no idea how you detect the naked. You'd have to have a big operation to try to bring it under control," he added.
Pulido said she was confident that citizens who catch a glimpse of offenders would report them to police — though the law also threatens jail for peeping Toms.

Next stop...Syria!

Syria yesterday denied accusations it was aiding the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq. Syrian Information Minister Mahdi Dakhlallah said accusations against Damascus were baseless and were harmful "to the general situation and Syrian-Iraqi relations."
The statement comes after officials said last week the U.S. may initiate incursions into Syrian territory to stop Baathist insurgents from crossing the border into Iraq.
The official said last month's operation in Fallujah had revealed "how much of the insurgency is now being directed through Syria."
There have been reports the past few days of new evidence that elements within the Syrian government itself has been supporting the insurgency and looking to destabilize Iraq.
An Iraqi police chief said one of six people detained on suspicion of organizing a bombing last week in Najaf had confessed to receiving training in a Syrian camp under the supervision of a Syrian military officer.
A report in the Times of London last week said U.S. Marines in Fallujah found a hand-held global-positioning system receiver with transmissions originating in western Syria and the names of four Syrians in a list of 27 fighters contained in a ledger. The U.S. reportedly sent a list of Syrian nationals it would like detained, including the four, but officials say Syria has been unresponsive.

Where's the democracy?

Democracy is exploding.

An explosive device blasted a monument to Yugoslavia's late communist leader Marshal Josip Broz Tito in his native village of Kumrovec in northern Croatia, state news agency Hina reported yesterday.
The device was planted at night by the life-size statue of the man who created Yugoslavia after World War 2 and ruled it with an iron fist until his death in 1980, Hina quoted local police spokesman Josip Janzek as saying .
The statue was erected near the house where Tito was born in Kumrovec, close to the border with Slovenia. The village was a venue of organised pilgrimage for communist leaders and youth - Tito's pioneers - until Yugoslavia's breakup in 1991.

Awww....That's to bad.

Sunday's deadly tsunamis that affected tourist resorts across southern Asia have also had an impact on coastal areas in eastern Africa. Officials in Somalia say that hundreds of people may have been killed by the huge waves. The Somalian government has appealed for immediate international help in coping with the disaster.
~Last time I checked sending help to Somalia didn't work out so well.

You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Arlen Specter is showing his true colors. He says "that he was troubled by Mr. Bush's announcement" that the President was re-submitting the names of several conservative nominees that Democrats had been filibustering.

The only opinion that matters.

Despite a year of ferocious combat, mounting casualties and frequent deployments, support for the war in Iraq remains very high among the active-duty military, according to a Military Times Poll.
Sixty-three percent of respondents approve of the way President Bush is handling the war and remain convinced it is a war worth fighting. Support for the war is even greater among those who have served longest in the combat zone: Two-thirds of combat vets say the war is worth fighting.
In addition, 87% say they're satisfied with their jobs and, if given the choice today, only 25% say they'd leave the service.

Let my people go..go..go....

Israel released 159 Palestinian prisoners Monday as a gesture to the new Palestinian leadership. Dozens of prisoners arrived Monday morning at dropoff points in the West Bank and Gaza Strip some waving Palestinian flags and flashing victory signs.
Seventeen prisoners got off a bus at the Beitunia checkpoint near Ramallah. One prisoner waved a Palestinian flag as the group rushed off the bus to hug, kiss and shake hands with their waiting relatives.
Abdullah Hussein, 43, spent 11 months in the Ketziot military prison in southern Israel. He had five months left on his sentence for providing help to the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militant group linked to Fatah.
~Doesn't seeing terrorists freed give you that warm fuzzy feeling?

Pre-litigation president.

Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko said Monday that Ukraine will finally be free after declaring himself the winner of the rerun of fraud-filled presidential elections, while supporters of his pro-Russian opponent vowed to challenge the results in court.
"Now, today, the Ukrainian people have won. I congratulate you," he told a jubilant crowd in Kiev's Independence Square, the center of massive protests following the Nov. 21 presidential runoff that was annulled after fraud allegations.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Yeah, right...

Prominent Palestinian figures appealed Sunday for an end to violence, adding weight to the election campaign of moderate Mahmoud Abbas to succeed Yasser Arafat and launch peace talks with Israel.

Well, isn't that special.

Iraqi militant group Army of Ansar al-Sunna Sunday issued a video tape about the bombing of a U.S. army camp which killed 22 people, identifying the suicide bomber as Abu Omar al-Museli.
The videotape posted on the group's Web site showed what appeared to be the explosion at the dining hall of the camp in Mosul. A later shot, apparently taken from a car driving along the base's perimeter, showed the ripped tent housing the hall.

Santa pays a visit.

Residents of Samaritan House didn't know what to expect when the bearded, middle-aged man parked his sport utility vehicle in front of the downtown homeless shelter Christmas Eve.
The man walked into the building, pulled out a thick roll of $100 bills and began passing them out to each of the approximately 300 residents.
When he was finished, he had given out $35,000.

And the exodus begins.

Residents of a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip agreed to move to a community inside Israel and will begin the evacuation in March, an Israeli official said Sunday.
Yonatan Bassi, head of the government administration in charge of Israel's planned withdrawal, on Sunday confirmed a deal had been reached with residents of Peat Sadeh last week.
The community, located deep in the southern Gaza Strip, will be the first to be dismantled under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza next year.

Those crazy Columbians.

Marxist rebels have abducted up to 10 tourists celebrating Christmas at a lakeside spa in northwestern Colombia, officials said.
Fighters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, raided a cluster of bungalows late Friday near San Rafael, 230 kilometers (140 miles) northwest of Bogota, and herded between 8 to 10 vacationers into vehicles, Jorge Mejia, deputy governor of Antioquia state, told The Associated Press.
~I think this brings the total to ten Columbians that are not currently kidnapped, detained or held for ransom.

Let the games begin!

KIEV, Ukraine — Rival candidates Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych faced off Sunday in a repeat election triggered by a fraudulent runoff vote and massive protests that resulted in an unprecedented third round in Ukraine's fiercely waged presidential contest.
The vote is momentous for Ukraine, a nation of 48 million caught between an eastward-expanding European Union and NATO and an increasingly assertive Russia, its former imperial and Soviet-era master.

Sacked in the backfield.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The U.S. military said Saturday it has captured two senior terrorists linked to Iraq's most feared Islamic militant group.The two detainees linked to Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Al Qaeda in Iraq network were identified as Saleh Arugayan Kahlil and Bassim Mohammad Hazeem.
"Both of these individuals were cell leaders for a local Zarqawi-affiliated terrorist group that is operating" in the western province of Anbar that include the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, U.S. Marines said in a statement.

On board for the big win.

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — The only country in the Western Hemisphere besides the United States still fielding soldiers in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq may extend its troop deployment beyond a scheduled return early next year, El Salvador's president said Saturday.
"We're helping the Iraqi people, and if there is the need to prolong our presence, if the authorities need it and we can help, I would not have a problem," President Tony Saca said.

Friday, December 24, 2004

And to all a good night.

Twas the night before christmas,he lived all alone,in a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give, and to see just whoin this home did live.
I looked all about, a strange sight I did see, no tinsel, no presents,not even a tree.
No stocking by mantle, just boots filled with sand, on the wall hung picturesof far distant lands.
with medals and badges, awards of all kinds, a sober thought came through my mind.
For this house was different, it was dark and dreary, I found the home of a soldier,once I could see clearly.
The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone,curled up on the floor in this one bedroom home.
The face was so gentle, the room in such disorder, not how I pictured a united states soldier.
Was this the hero of whom i'd just read? curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed?
I realized the families that I saw this night, owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.
Soon round the world, the children would play, and grownups would celebrate a bright christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year, because of the soldiers, like the one lying here.
I couldn't help wonder how many lay alone,on a cold christmas eve in a land far from home.
the very thought brought a tear to my eye, I dropped to my knees and started to cry.
The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,"santa don't cry,this life is my choice;
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more, my life is my god, my country, my corps."
The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep, I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours, so silent and still and we both shivered from the cold night's chill.
I didn't want to leave on that cold, dark, night, this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
Then the soldier rolled over, with a voice soft and pure,whispered, "carry on santa, it's christmas day, all is secure."one look at my watch,and I knew he was right."merry christmas my friend,and to all a good night

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The drinking thread is open - pass the ice please....

Rumsfeld checks in on troops.

U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld makes unannounced visit to U.S. troops in Mosul, Iraq, where bombing killed 14 soldiers.

Savor the small victories.

A suspected terrorist was killed Thursday when roadside bomb he was planting detonated prematurely northeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
The attempted attack against a 1st Infantry Division patrol took place south of Baqouba, 57 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, the military said without providing details.

You can't make this stuff up.

Late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat invested $1.3 million in a company that owns a popular bowling alley in Greenwich Village, newly released documents show.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Domestic Insurgents...Nice.

An unauthorized radio station in the nation's capital called for "massive protests" in the week leading up to the January 20 presidential inauguration.
The station broadcast Wednesday at 1680 AM and identified itself as "Guerrilla Radio, WSQT."
During the identification message, an announcer said, "WSQT is a project of urban activists in the D.C. area working on housing issues, homeless issues, issues of war, issues of occupation both at home and abroad, and issues of the environment that we all have to live in."

Say it with me now...large thermonuclear event.

Astronomers spotted an asteroid this week after it had flown past Earth on a course that took it so close to the planet it was below the orbits of some satellites.
The object, named 2004 YD5, was about 16 feet wide, though that's a rough estimate based on its distance and assumed reflectivity. Had it entered the atmosphere, it would have exploded high up, experts figure.
2004 YD5 is the second closest pass of an asteroid ever observed by telescope, according to the Asteroid/Comet Connection, a web site that monitors space rock discoveries. The closest involved a rock that flew by last March and was not announced until August.
2004 YD5 was discovered Tuesday, Dec. 21 by Stan Pope, who volunteers his time to examine images provided by the FMO (Fast Moving Object) project, an online program run by the University of Arizona's Spacewatch Project. After the initial detection, other observers noted the object's position during the day and its path was then calculated back. Closest approach occurred on Dec. 19.
The rock approached Earth from near the Sun and so would have been nearly impossible to detect prior to close passage. It soared over Antarctica -- underneath the planet, Washington State University researcher Pasquale Tricarico told the Asteroid/Comet Connection.
Astronomers are aware of this significant blind spot for asteroids that approach Earth while in the glare of the Sun. Only a space telescope could detect such objects
~ummm NASA, maybe we should start paying more attention to this asteroid thing?

I think I need a drink.

Something -- or someone -- had regularly cleaned layers of dust from the solar panels of the Mars Opportunity vehicle while it was closed down during the Martian night.
The cleaning had boosted the panels' power output close to their maximum 900 watt-hours per day after at one stage dropping to 500 watt-hours because of the heavy Martian dirt.
By contrast, the power output of the solar panels of Mars Spirit -- on a different part of the Red Planet -- had dropped to just 400 watt-hours a day, clogged by the heavy dust.
"These exciting and unexplained cleaning events have kept Opportunity in really great shape," the magazine quoted NASA rover team leader Jim Erickson as saying.
~let me get this straight..."something or someone"!?!

More persecuted Christians.

South Orange-Maplewood school district decided to ban instrumental Christmas carols at school-sponsored holiday concerts.
The move has brought considerable publicity to Maplewood, located about 10 miles west of Newark, and echoes a larger debate over what public religious displays or expressions are acceptable during the Christmas season.
There have been several other publicized disputes in New Jersey towns, including Egg Harbor Township. The school board there voted earlier this month to remove "Silent Night" from an elementary school holiday program after a parent complained, then voted to reinstate the song after the complaint was withdrawn. The program already included songs celebrating Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
There have been lawsuits involving a public holiday display in Cranston, R.I.; a school nativity scene and performance of Christmas carols in Bossier Parish, La.; and a school in Saginaw, Mich., that prohibited a student from passing out candy canes containing religious messages.

More Palestinian peace efforts.

A Palestinian gunman killed an Israeli man west of the city of Hebron, military sources said. Israeli media described the victim as a security guard.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group linked to the mainstream Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the slaying. In a statement the group affirmed its "commitment to the option of resistance until the (Israeli) occupation ends."

Payback time!

U.S. troops backed by armored vehicles swept through virtually empty streets of Mosul amid an undeclared curfew in Iraq's third-largest city Wednesday, a day after an insurgent strike on a nearby base killed 22 people and wounded 72 in one of the deadliest attacks on American troops since the war began.
An Associated Press reporter saw almost no cars or people on the streets of Mosul Wednesday, and most schools in the city were closed, although a curfew was not declared. Even traffic policemen were not at major intersections as usual.
U.S. forces blocked Mosul's five bridges over the Tigris River that link the western and eastern sectors of the city, while hundreds of troops spread out across several neighborhoods, conducting sweeps in eastern districts backed by Bradley fighting vehicles and armored Humvees. The AP reporter saw helicopter gunships clattering overhead and jets flying high above the city. .
~nowhere to run to baby... nowhere to hide.

"peaceful family friendly gatherings"...yeah, right...

As President Bush's team works furiously to get ready for the 55th presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, events are also being planned in protest of the president's big day.
Though the election is over, some of the president's detractors say they aren't done complaining.
"For the past four years, the Bush administration has tried to silence the voice of the people. We are coming to Washington on Jan. 20 because we want our audience with the president," said Jet Heiko, a 31-year-old activist from Philadelphia who launched on Nov. 3, the day after the election. "We hope to inspire people to keep turning their backs on the Bush administration and its policies."
Heiko's group anticipates that more than 10,000 people from 41 states will come to Washington on Jan. 20 — the day of the swearing-in ceremony, a parade and various balls — to "turn their backs" on Bush as the president rides by them on the parade route.
Also on Jan. 20, the anti-war group A.N.S.W.E.R. is organizing a "CounterInaugural" protest. "Our intention is to show President Bush and the world our movement is energized, mobilized and determined to fight back," said Gael Murphy, of the activist group Code Pink.
The D.C. Anti-War Network is organizing a rally and march to the White House on the morning of the inauguration, getting the word out through the Web site, which says, "Bush isn't going away, and neither are we."
Inauguration week will feature rallies, marches and demonstrations with the focus on peaceful, family-friendly gatherings, said protest organizer Shahid Buttar. Hundreds of groups throughout the country will participate, Buttar said, including Mobilization for Global Justice and the Committee to ReDefeat the President, a political action committee that views Bush's presidency as illegitimately won.
David Lytel, founder of ReDefeat Bush, said his group will film events on Inauguration Day and release a documentary online that evening. They also plan a protest near the Capitol on Jan. 6, the day Congress will certify the electoral votes and officially declare Bush the winner.

Sacked in the backfield.

MADRID, Spain — Police on Wednesday arrested three Moroccans they believe were part of a radical Islamic cell looking to buy explosives in a central European country for a terrorist attack in Spain, the Interior Ministry said.

Stupid is as stupid does.

A man who visited a middle school dressed as Santa Claus on Thursday left with a citation for misdemeanor marijuana possession.
The 40-year-old Detroit man faces up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine after a small plastic bag of marijuana was found in the pocket of his street coat, which he left in a school restroom, Wayne County Sheriff's Department officials said.
A deputy who works at the school found the marijuana while searching the coat for identification after a teacher found it in the bathroom. The man dressed as Santa approached the deputy a short time later and identified the coat.
The man denied the pot was his. His wife, who was at the school to take pictures of Santa with the students, apparently did not know the marijuana was in her husband's coat, officials said.
"She was not happy," Lt. Paul Jones said. "It's going to be a long ride back to the North Pole."

fugehta 'bout it..won't be hear'n from 'dem no more.

Iran has arrested more than 10 people on charges of revealing its nuclear secrets to Israeli and U.S. intelligence agencies, Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said.
"These people were spying for Mossad and CIA," IRNA quoted Yunesi as saying. He was referring to the Israel's external secret service and the Central Intelligence Agency.
The minister said the identity of those detained will not be revealed before they stand trial but said three of them were employees of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and the rest were not government employees.
They are now in the hands of the hard-line Revolutionary Court, which deals with security crimes, Yunesi said.

Sent pack'n...

Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday it was withdrawing its ambassador to Libya and ordered out Libya's envoy in response to reports that Tripoli plotted to assassinate the Saudi crown prince.

Sleeping bear stirs...

Russia's Strategic Missile Forces successfully test-fired a heavy intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday from the Ural Mountains region to the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Far East, Russian news agencies reported.
It was the first time that an RS-20V Voevoda, which NATO identifies as the SS-18 Satan, had been fired from Russia since the 1991 Soviet collapse, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. The Interfax news agency said the missile had hit its target on a testing ground on Kamchatka, more than 6,000 kilometers (3,750 miles) to the East.
The RS-20 intercontinental ballistic missile is the heaviest in the inventory of Russia's strategic nuclear forces.

The morning anyone?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The drinking thread is open - pass the ice please....

Reason #672 to stay away from shopping malls.

It wasn't holiday cheer that poured out of two cars, but rather three holiday shoppers who spilled out with tempers flaring over a parking space.
Police said the confrontation developed just after 3:30 p.m. in the crowded lot of the Corbins Corner Shopping Center, home to Best Buy, Toys "R" Us and other retailers.
When a parking space opened up, two cars turned up to fill it.
A woman riding in one of the cars tossed an orange peel at the other vehicle. Angry words erupted and three people jumped out of the cars and, within moments, Officer Kevin McCarthy said, "all three went to the ground."
"It turned into a little free-for-all," McCarthy said.
No one was hurt, but Luz Alicea, 43, Jasmin Kurtz, 16, both of Hartford, and Julia Baldini, 22, of Suffield, were all charged with breach of peace.

I want to be just like Arafat when I grow up!

Abbas, the PLO chief, is the front-runner in Jan. 9 elections to replace Arafat as Palestinian Authority president, which would seal his status as Arafat's successor.
"We are standing here today to reiterate to the world that we are committed to the choice of just peace, to achieve the rights of our people," Abbas said.
Referring to Arafat, Abbas said: "We will continue the struggle to make your dream and our dream come true and to have a Palestinian child raise the Palestinian flag on the walls of Jerusalem, the capital of our independent Palestinian state."
Abbas said he would follow Arafat's legacy, as outlined in a speech by the late Palestinian leader in the summer. In that speech, Arafat acknowledged he had made mistakes in running the Palestinian Authority and promised government reform.
~Let's here it for positive role models...YEA!

Another sign of Palestinian peace efforts.

A missile fired by Palestinian militants struck a synagogue in a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip during morning prayers Tuesday, causing extensive damage but no injuries, the Israeli military said.

Dug in like an Alabama tick.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday he was relieved that a horrible year was coming to an end but reiterated he has no intention of resigning over allegations of corruption in the U.N. Oil-for-Food program and plans to move ahead with sweeping changes at the United Nations.

Oh those kooky enviromentalists.

An environmental activist group called The Rainforest Action Network helped organize a second grade class trip from Southport, Connecticut to the Park Avenue world headquarters of J.P. Morgan Chase, described as the second largest bank in the world. The kids raised money by doing chores around the house, then bought ice pops and sold them at school to raise more cash, donating the money to RAN They also participated in a poster contest, and brought the posters with them. Chaperones lined the kids up in front of the Chase skyscraper, while the assembled media took pictures of the spectacle, and then the kids went inside to seek an audience with the company's CEO.

Love him or hate him, he's large and in charge!

To the French, he's an uncouth cowboy -- a swaggering statesman in a Stetson who shoots from the hip and asks questions later, if he asks them at all. From Berlin to Beijing, President Bush was widely scorned abroad during his first term as a headstrong hombre more interested in action than consultation.
Now, as the world spins into a new year, many are eyeing his second term with a mixture of caution, frustration and resignation. Denied the chance to wipe the slate clean with a Kerry administration, nations like France -- snubbed and sidelined by a bitter trans-Atlantic rift over Iraq and other foreign policy squabbles -- can only hope that Bush will cast a less imposing shadow over the next four years. Like it or not, America, the world's only remaining superpower, still calls the shots on everything from global warming to peace in the Middle East. France and Germany, which tangled the most fiercely with Washington over the U.S.-led war in Iraq, "greet Bush's second mandate with prudence and suspicion," columnist Luc de Barochez said.
If Bush needs friends, he need only turn to staunch U.S. allies such as Poland, where many are charmed by what they see as his sincerity and simplicity. They say it reminds them of Ronald Reagan, revered by Poles for helping to end the Cold War. He can also look to Italy, where Premier Silvio Berlusconi describes himself as a close friend and bucked the pro-Kerry sentiment that swept most of the continent -- including his own country -- by openly rooting for Bush. Some of its leaders past and present are doing what they can to break the impasse. Key European powers, including anti-war France, Germany and Russia, have agreed to join U.S.-led efforts to get Iraq's economy back on track by forgiving its debts. French President Jacques Chirac, who clashed publicly and repeatedly with Bush, wrote a "Dear George" letter congratulating the American president on his re-election and expressing his wish "to reinforce the French-American friendship." German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, also anxious to improve relations with the United States, has moved from rhetoric to action by launching a program to train Iraqi soldiers and police outside Iraq as an alternative to involvement in the U.S.-led peacekeeping effort.

We almost lost him, Jim.

IN time for the holidays, war prisoner Panama's Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega got a clean bill of health. Earlier this month his blood pressure rocketed then plummeted, and our government, which takes careful care of their VIP charge, sped him from his Florida prison cell to the hospital. Daughter Sandra who lives in Santo Domingo and daughter Thays who lives in Panama took turns visiting. He is now OK and back inside the institution he has for decades called home.

Oh those kooky professors.

A recent study by Santa Clara University researcher Daniel Klein estimated that among social science and humanities faculty members nationwide, Democrats outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one; in some fields it's as high as 30 to one. And in the last election, the two employers whose workers contributed the most to Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign were the University of California system and Harvard University.
Many teachers insist personal politics don't affect teaching. But in a recent survey of students at 50 top schools by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a group that has argued there is too little intellectual diversity on campuses, 49 percent reported at least some professors frequently commented on politics in class even if it was outside the subject matter.
Thirty-one percent said they felt there were some courses in which they needed to agree with a professor's political or social views to get a good grade.

Putting away the carrot and breaking out the stick.

The president who said he looked into Vladimir Putin 's soul three years ago and liked what he saw may take a dimmer view of the Russian president now. How to deal with the increasingly authoritarian leader is giving the Bush administration a second-term headache.
"Both Washington and Moscow are having some second thoughts at the moment," said Rose Gottemoeller, a specialist on defense and nuclear issues in Russia and the other former Soviet states at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "They are trying to judge what the next four years can bring."
Gottemoeller, for one, predicts the Bush administration will see little advantage in continuing the largely polite and muted response to Putin that characterized the last couple of years.
"We already see signs that they will be much more outspoken in problems they see with Putin, the cutting back of democratic reforms, the scaling back of press freedoms," and moves to consolidate Russia's oil business and punish a former media baron who crossed Putin, Gottemoeller said.
Putin startled the White House in recent weeks with vehement denunciations of the United States for what Putin called meddling in Ukraine. Bush and other Western leaders criticized election fraud in the former Soviet republic last month that favored a pro-Russian candidate.
Putin echoed Soviet-era rhetoric when he said U.S. influence abroad amounts to a "dictatorship." He also colorfully likened the United States to a "strict uncle in a pith helmet."

Here comes the calvary.

The United States will assign serving military officers to its de facto embassy in Taiwan for the first time since 1979 in a reversal of a longstanding policy, a spokeswoman said.
"Historically, AIT has hired retired American military officers as contractors to coordinate defence assistance to Taiwan," said AIT spokeswoman Dana Smith.
"Non-uniformed, active-duty military and Department of Defense civilian personnel will now replace these contractors. They are being detailed to the American Institute in Taiwan as part of the normal rotation of personnel."
But Smith was swift to add that "our policy towards Taiwan has not changed."
"This is simply an effort to promote administrative efficiency in personnel matters, nothing more."
Analysts said the move is expected to rile Taiwan's rival China since it would mark closer military ties between Washington and the island.
China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and vows to invade if the island, which has been ruled separately since 1949, formally declares independence. It already has 600 missiles pointed at the island.
"Washington has become less concerned over any potential protest from Beijing amid growing unease over China's military ambitions in the Asia-Pacific region," the weekly said.

Iran renigs....again.

Iran will continue preparing raw "yellowcake" uranium for enrichment, a process that can be used to make nuclear weapons, until the end of February, despite a recent pledge to freeze all such activity, diplomats said.
"The Iranians have decided to continue UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) production until the end of February," a diplomat told Reuters. Two other diplomats in Vienna, where the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is based, confirmed the report.
UF4 is the precursor to uranium hexafluoride (UF6), the gas that is fed into centrifuges which spin at supersonic speeds to purify it for use as fuel in civilian nuclear power plants or in atomic weapons. Iran recently pledged to freeze all activities linked to uranium enrichment as a confidence-building gesture.
The United States accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy program, a charge Iran denies. Washington has also told the European Union's "big three" -- France, Britain and Germany -- that Tehran has no intention of honoring its pledge to freeze enrichment work.

Murdering radical islamic terrorist scum slaughter and massacre at lunch.

A radical Islamic group claimed responsibility Tuesday for an rocket attack that killed at least 20 people at a U.S. military base near the northern city of Mosul.
The Mosul blasts, which reportedly struck a dining hall, injured at least 60 people, according to a Defense Department official.
The dead included U.S. military personnel, U.S. contractors, foreign national contractors and Iraqi army, said Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, commander of Task Force Olympia in Mosul.
Jeremy Redmon, a reporter for the Richmond, Va., Times-Dispatch embedded with the troops in Mosul, reported that 24 were killed in the attack at Forward Operating Base Marez, including two from the Richmond-based 276th Engineer Battalion, which had just sat down to eat.
He reported 64 were wounded, and civilians may have been among them, he said.
One Pentagon official put the death toll at 22; another military official said it was around 20.
Officials could not break down the toll of dead or wounded among the groups. Reports also differed as to whether mortars were used in the attack on the camp, which is based outside the predominantly Sunni Muslim city about 220 miles north of Baghdad.
Update-19 U.S. Soldiers reported dead.

The morning anyone?

Monday, December 20, 2004

The drinking thread is open - pass the ice please....


Construction workers accidentally drilled a hole through a 17th-century painting worth 250,000 euros while renovating the Dutch upper house of parliament, officials said Friday.
The painting, Portrait of Jacob Cats by Baroque Dutch painter Ludolf de Jongh, was on loan from the Hague Museum.
The accident occurred a "couple of weeks ago" when the 1679 painting, which had been taken down and was leaning up against a wall in the legislature's Noon Hall, was pierced by workers who drilled through from the next room, said spokesman Janwillem Lohwman.
"I'm sure the contractor isn't pleased, but accidents happen," Lohwman said. The legislature has returned the painting to the Hague Museum for repair.

Gotta Love those IU kids!

An Indiana University student has admitted tossing a guinea pig tied to a makeshift parachute out of an eighth-floor dormitory, police said.
The 19-year-old student, who could face a felony charge of animal cruelty, told IU police that Thursday's incident was a "prank gone bad."
IU police officer Brice Boembeke said the student told police he had intended to retrieve his pet once it floated to safety, but it got stuck in a tree on the way down.
Janitors at Briscoe Quadrangle rescued the animal, which was slightly injured.
Boembeke said the student admitted throwing his pet out the window of an eighth-floor dorm room across the hallway from his own as other students egged him on.
"It seemed like one of those things where somebody had an idea, and it was taken to the next level," he said. "It definitely got out of hand."
A felony charge of animal cruelty has been forwarded to the Monroe County prosecutor's office for review, but no charge had been filed as of Friday afternoon.

Somebody buy Mikey a drink!

Former "This Week" host and National Public Radio veteran Cokie Roberts blamed conspiracy filmmaker Michael Moore on Sunday for causing Sen. John Kerry to lose the presidential election."I think Michael Moore actually had a very major impact - a negative impact - on the Democratic Party," Roberts told NBC's "Chris Matthews Show."
"I think he exemplified all of the things that people hate about Democrats. And the fact that he was - it was a hate-America-first campaign and that hurts the Democrats every time."
Adding insult to injury, Roberts also contended that Moore's "physical appearance did not help."

The truth is out there.

The reporter who managed to get a National Guardsman serving in Iraq to question Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about why his unit's vehicles lacked sufficient armor coached the soldier using false information.In fact, by the time Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts rehearsed Spc. Thomas "Jerry" Wilson on what to say to Rumsfeld, the Pentagon had already up-armored 97 percent of the vehicles in Thomas' 278th Regimental Combat Team, senior members of the Army's combat systems development and acquisition team said Thursday.
Further undermining the premise of Pitts' question, orders to up-armor the last 20 of the 278th's 830 vehicles were already in the pipeline when he engineered the bogus inquiry.
According to the Maryville, Tenn., Daily Times - a rival to Pitts' paper - Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Speakes and Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson said during last week's Pentagon briefing that routine pre-deployment preparations before proceeding to Iraq included adding protective armor plates to the last 20 vehicles of the Tennessee-based 278th Regimental Combat Team's 830 vehicles.
"When the question was asked, 20 vehicles remained to be up-armored at that point," Gen. Speakes said, in comments completely ignored by the major media.
"We completed those 20 vehicles in the next day," he said. "In other words, we completed all the armoring within 24 hours of the time the question was asked," Gen. Speakes added.

More storm clouds on the horizon

Conspiracy filmmaker-turned-political strategist Michael Moore is touting New York Sen. Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party's star presidential candidate in 2008, saying that women in America would turn out in droves to vote her back into the White House.In quotes first reported by California's Santa Monica Mirror, Moore told Democrats gathered last week at a Pacific Palisades home: "Hillary is a star. She walks into a room and it lights up."
Saying his party needed to nominate "a candidate people want to watch," Moore contended that Clinton would be hugely popular with female voters, especially single moms.
"Poor, disenfranchised, single moms - they will come out to vote if they believe their life will be better," Moore predicted. "Don’t give them a candidate with a confusing message."
The single-mom vote is critical to the party's success in 2008, he said, because single mothers make up a disproportionate percentage of the 70 million people who did not vote in 2004.
The conspiracy filmmaker does have one problem with a Clinton candidacy, however, complaining that she’s been hawkish on the war in Iraq.

One flew over the Cuckoos nest.

Lots of people want to take credit for President Bush's re-election. But here's a new one. While some pundits credit moral values, or the swift boat veterans, that is all wrong ... according to that famous political handicapper — Muammar al-Qaddafi. The Libyan dictator says it was his decision to give up weapons of mass destruction that pushed President Bush into the winning column, saying, "We know that with this withdrawal, we contributed by 50 percent to his electoral campaign."

~Do you think he made the Whitehouse Christmas Card list?

Any job worth doing is worth doing right.

Sri Lankan hangman Suranimala has never seen an execution, confesses the sight of the gallows makes him a little nervous and lacks the most crucial tool of his trade -- a rope.
The slight, soft-spoken 24-year-old has spent his first three years in the job pushing papers in the chief jailer's office at Welikada prison in Colombo, but all that is about to change.
Sri Lanka reactivated its dormant death penalty last month after a near 30-year-lull to combat a surge in grisly crimes and contract killings, which means it is now finally time for Suranimala to learn the ropes.
"I have not received any training yet but I am supposed to practice with a sand bag each time before I hang someone," he said, surrounded by dusty folders in the prison guards' office.

A legend in his own mind.

Jimmy Carter has reached that mellow stage in life when the demons of the past can be confronted without making a hell out of the present.
What's more, the former U.S. president who transformed his humiliating 1980 exit from the White House into an extraordinary second act as a respected statesman, is sharing some of his most personal experiences without fear or favor.
"I really have learned, with some degree of difficulty over the years, to reach out to others," Carter, 80, told Reuters in an interview.
"Slowly but surely as I go through life, I have been more willing to assess my own feelings internally and confront some of the changes that have taken place during my years. Once I confront them personally I am willing to share them with others," he said.
His one-term presidency was dogged by a crumbling economy and the debacle of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, while his earnest efforts to take the pomp out of the White House fell flat and domestic reforms were largely thwarted by Congress.
But his second career as a diplomatic trouble-shooter and mediator through his nonpartisan Carter Center have made him one of America's most esteemed ex-presidents.

Hell no, we won't go!

Jewish settler leaders urged their followers Monday to resist the evacuation of settlements in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, signaling a shift toward revolt after settlers lost hope of stopping the pullback by political means.

Storm clouds on the horizon.

If the 2008 presidential election were held today, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton would handily defeat three of the top Republicans being touted as possible candidates, a startling new survey by Fox News Opinion Dynamics shows.In a race between Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Clinton, the New York Democrat would win by 7 points, defeating Frist 40 percent to 33 percent, the poll found.
Matched against New York Gov. George Pataki, Clinton's margin of victory drops by 1 point, but she'd still win 41 percent to 35 percent.
In the most stunning development, the Fox survey found the former first lady would even defeat Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 46 percent to 35 percent.

The rats come out of their holes.

In the past 10 days, groups of insurgents have re-emerged in Fallujah to re-engage U.S. forces there. Several Marines have been killed in recent attacks

Ding...Ding...Round Two

Ukraine's presidential rivals were preparing for their sole televised debate in a lightning campaign ahead of a rerun election that was set after a disputed vote sparked a political crisis in the former Soviet republic.
"I am ready to debate him in any place in any forum and in front of any audience," Yanukovich told reporters ten days ago. "I challenge that coward and loudmouth to a debate."
"I think Yanukovich should calm down," Yushchenko countered days later. "He will never win. I want him to go to sleep and see all this in his dreams and not torture the country."

Those darn christians, when will they learn.

School officials in Ohio cancelled an optional anti-drug assembly at a high school because a band scheduled to perform was described as Christian and mentions God and Jesus in its lyrics.
Officials at Rossford High School cancelled the performance by the group Pawn, a member of which is a senior at the school, because of concerns over having religious music played in a public school.
"We are just shutting the whole thing down," Rossford Superintendent Luci Gernot said. "There is some controversy, and I'd rather err on this side."

Those darn christians, when will they go away.

Students at a high school in California who were told they could not paint a nativity scene on a school window as part of an annual holiday decoration effort argued and eventually won their case.The students at Weed High School by tradition paint windows for the holidays to compete for spirit points.
Senior class president Becky James and her classmates wanted to paint a simple nativity on a small window at the entrance of the school, but were told they couldn’t.
When student body president Jessica Hofer heard about it, she balked.
"I thought that the ruling of no nativity set was unfair, especially when one class had 'Happy Kwanzaa' approved and another class a Menorah," Hofer said. "To say you can't have a Christian symbol at Christmas but allow other religious symbols is discrimination."
Hofer provided Principal Mike Matheson with a copy of a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that allows student-initiated free expression of religion at school.
"Our First Amendment rights give us freedom of religion, not freedom from religion," Hofer said. "Mr. Matheson said he would allow the nativity scene if we took a poll of the class and the seniors were for it.
"We did, and 43 of our 45 seniors signed it saying they were in favor of the nativity scene. Two seniors were absent that day."

French Grinch...

Officials in France have denied children their traditional chocolate treats because of the country’s ban on religious symbols in schools, reports the BBC.
Chocolate figures depicting St. Nicholas were recalled from the area's schools after a teacher noticed large crosses on them, banned under the law.
The mainly Flemish region celebrates the saint's day on Dec. 6 by delivering the chocolates to schools.
Officials replaced the figures with "nice round sweets and chocolate bars."

The morning anyone?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The drinking thread is open - pass the ice please....

Gotta love 'ol Fidel.....

Cuba retaliated for the U.S. diplomatic mission's Christmas display supporting Cuban dissidents by putting up a billboard Friday emblazoned with photographs of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners and a huge swastika overlaid with a "Made in the U.S.A." stamp.

Giving from the heart.

Salvation Army officials don't know who has been dropping gold coins into their holiday kettles over the past 20 years, but they hope the mysterious donations continue.
More than 300 gold coins have been collected since the early 1980s, with an average value of about $200 each, said Cliff Marshall, spokesman for the charity in Chicago, where the tradition began.
Chicago bell-ringers have brought in 10 gold coins so far this year. They aren't the only ones.
In Kirksville, Missouri, someone donated a gold coin that was minted 20 years before the Civil War, worth nearly $1,000. A South African Krugerrand worth $400 was dropped in a kettle in Bloomington, Illinois, meaning 12 extra families will get a complete Christmas dinner.
But officials still don't know where the coins come from.
The mysterious tradition began in 1982, when someone slipped a gold coin into a kettle in the Chicago suburb of Crystal Lake. The donations have occurred there ever since and have spread across Illinois and about a dozen other states.
The phantom donors almost always conceal the coins, usually folding dollar bills around them. They range from small gold pieces worth about $15 to Krugerrands that can fetch $600 from collectors.

More terrorists rock'n the vote...

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A brazen daylight attack in the heart of Baghdad with rebels executing election workers in cold blood served as a chilling reminder Sunday of the deteriorating security situation in the Iraqi capital with just more than a month before crucial parliamentary elections.

You better be drop'n that change, bubba.

An intoxicated Salvation Army bell ringer with a history of public drinking was arrested after getting into a fight with an employee at a grocery store where he was collecting donations.
David Duncan, 46, was arrested Thursday on 11 outstanding warrants after he got into a fight with the Safeway worker, police detective Teresa Garcia said.

Let my people go...go...go...

JERUSALEM - Israel on Sunday approved the release of 170 Palestinian prisoners in a goodwill gesture to Egypt and encouragement to interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in hopes for future negotiations.

Bush, you 'da man!

After winning re-election and "reshaping the rules of politics to fit his 10-gallon-hat leadership style," President George Bush for the second time was chosen as Time magazine's Person of the Year.
The magazine's editors tapped Bush "for sharpening the debate until the choices bled, for reframing reality to match his design, for gambling his fortunes — and ours — on his faith in the power of leadership."

~ Besides, who else can wear a ten gallon Hat!

Somebody slap a muzzle on this guy.

From his prison cell, ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein urged his compatriots to remain united against the U.S. occupation and warned of the potential dangers of the upcoming elections, his lawyers said Sunday.
Iraqi lawyer Khalil al-Duleimi met with Saddam on Thursday, the first meeting since Saddam was captured a year ago.
"Our representative in Iraq told us that the president warned the people of Iraq and the Arabs to beware of the American scheme aimed at splitting Iraq into sectarian and religious divisions and weakening the (Arab) nation," said Bushra Khalil, a Lebanese member of the defense team.
"The president sent recommendations to the Iraqi people to remain united and not fall in the trap of America's slogans," she said. "He said Kurds, Arabs, Shiites, Sunnis and Christians are all Iraqis who all have to stand united against the American plot."

Terrorists rock the vote.

Car bombs rocked Iraq's two holiest Shiite cities Sunday, killing more than 60 people and wounding more than 120, while in downtown Baghdad dozens of gunmen carried out a brazen ambush that killed three Iraqi employees of the organization running next month's elections.
The bombs exploded an hour apart. First, a suicide blast ripped through parked minibuses at the entrance to the Karbala bus station. Then a car bomb shattered a central square in Najaf, crowded with residents watching a funeral procession. The city police chief and provincial governor were among the group but were not hurt.
The violence was the latest in an insurgent campaign to disrupt the crucial Jan. 30 elections, the first national polls since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
While many have feared that voting in the Sunni areas of northern and central Iraq will be hampered — if not impossible — because of the spiraling violence, Sunday's attacks highlighted that even the strongholds of Iraq's Shiite majority in the south are vulnerable. Shiites have been strong supporters of the elections, which they are likely to dominate.
The car bomb in Najaf detonated in central Maidan Square where a large crowd of people had gathered for the funeral procession of a tribal sheik — about 100 yards from where Gov. Adnan al-Zurufi and police chief Ghalib al-Jazaari were standing.

The morning grind...Coffee anyone?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Le We Monseiur, Satellite.............

A European rocket roared into space from a pad in South America on Saturday, placing into orbit a surveillance satellite billed as giving France's military new abilities to spy worldwide.
The Helios 2A military satellite, the rocket's main cargo, is to rotate in sun-synchronous orbit around 435 miles above the Earth, Arianespace said.
Among expected functions, the satellite is to monitor possible weapons proliferation, prepare and evaluate military operations and digitally map terrain for cruise missile guidance, the French Defense Ministry said in a statement Friday.
Helios 2A, weighing 4.6 tons, is said to be able to spot objects as small as a textbook anywhere on Earth. Equipped with infrared sensors, it is expected to allow France's military to gather information at night from space for the first time.

Stupid is as stupid does.

An Italian tourist aboard a flight from Sydney to Vienna caused an international security alert after he sent a joke text message from his cell phone to his wife claiming his plane had been hijacked by terrorists, the Australian government confirmed Sunday.
The man, Antonio Casale, 35, sent the message to his wife from Kuala Lumpur during a refueling stop on a Lauda Air flight from Sydney last Sunday night, Sydney's Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported.
Transport Minister John Anderson's spokesman confirmed the newspaper report.
Casale claimed terrorists were in control of the plane and were taking the passengers to an unknown destination.
His distressed wife contacted Italian police, who immediately contacted the Italian embassy in Canberra, who in turn contacted Australian Federal Police.
Anderson's spokesman said authorities were able to quickly establish Casale's identity and discover the message was a hoax.
The pilot was reportedly contacted while in flight by counterterrorism negotiators, who found him oblivious to any hijacking attempt.
"The Italian police picked up on it, then the Italian embassy, the Australian Federal Police came in on it and it was quite a big operation," Anderson's spokesman said on condition of anonymity.
"Federal police and other authorities over here have got enough on their plate without having to worry about stupidity like this as well," he added.
The Sunday Telegraph reported Casale was taken aside by the plane's captain and detained by police when the plane landed in Vienna.
He was questioned by police and later released without charge

Look...up in the sky, Its a big frigg'n rock!

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A loud noise that several witnesses said resembled an explosion was heard in parts of Jakarta early Sunday.
Media reports said an object that might have been a meteor was seen flashing across the sky above the capital, but did not make clear if it had hit the earth.
Several callers to el-Shinta radio station reported a noise that sounded like an explosion at around 7:30 a.m. in western Jakarta.
Metro TV station reported that a large object, believed to be a meteor, was seen falling toward the earth at around the same time, also to the west of the city. The report did not say whether the object had hit the ground.
Police said they were investigating, but had no report of any bombings in or near the capital, or of any objects falling from the sky.
No other details were immediately available.

Happy holiday's and a politically correct new year!

With all the controversy swirling around Christmas lately, it seems as though the Grinch and Scrooge are running the show this year.
Across the country, debates are brewing over everything from nativity scenes in town squares to Christmas carols in school, with some groups trying to put Christ back into the holiday and others taking offense at public displays of religion.
"We're seeing a systemic attempt by groups … to scrub Christmas from the public square," Joshua Carden, an attorney with the Christian legal organization the Alliance Defense Fund, told FOX News on Friday. "The Supreme Court has never declared nativity scenes, the singing of Christmas carols and other traditional Christmas celebrations unconstitutional."

The drinking thread is open - pass the ice please....

To those that died in the snow, thank you.

Veterans from across the United States returned Saturday to find this market town that was at the center of the fighting much as it was on that bitter cold December in 1944 — covered in snow and buffeted by wind.
The old soldiers, wearing military berets and caps, were greeted with warm applause, hugs and kisses from a grateful crowd that lined the streets.
"I'm very happy to see so many people come out for this event," said Miasy Dumont, 68, from nearby Ludelange, Luxembourg. "This is the last time I'm sure. In 10 years there will be no more veterans."
The king, joined by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill, led a commemoration and laid wreaths at the vast Mardasson memorial on the edge of town. The ceremony paid homage to the 19,000 American soldiers killed and about 61,000 wounded in the largest land battle for U.S. forces in World War II. The fighting also claimed 120,000 German lives.
"All soldiers memorialized at this monument are part of the greatest generation," said U.S. Gen. James L. Jones, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.
After the half-hour ceremony which included a U.S. honor guard from the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, veterans were driven by bus from the towering memorial back to the center of town.
Once there, they again enjoyed warm applause from crowds lining the main street to the town square and attended a sound and light show and a parade of World War II vehicles.
The day began with a parade of veterans, marching bands, World War II-era jeeps, trucks and ambulances through Bastogne. The vehicles rumbled past the town's central square, named for Anthony MacAuliffe, the acting commander of the 101st Airborne division, whose paratroopers repulsed repeated attacks.
On Dec. 22, 1944, MacAuliffe was given two hours to surrender by the Germans or face "total annihilation." His now famous reply: "Nuts!"
A commemorative throwing of nuts was also to take place at the square.
There were guided walks along the defensive perimeter south of Bastogne that was relieved by Patton's Third Army, which rushed north from France to help defeat the Germans. The battle raged for six-weeks across the Ardennes hills of southern Belgium and Luxembourg, but the market town of 14,000 bore the brunt of the fighting.
"The American veterans who have returned 60 years later to the battle site represent those who gave their lives on our soil so that today we can live free," Bastogne Mayor Philippe Collard said in French at a memorial honoring U.S. General George S. Patton.
He added in English: "we will never forget. You are home here."
Rising out of the Champagne fields of northern France, the Ardennes highlands sweep across southeastern Belgium, cover much of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, then flow into western Germany's Eiffel range.
Sixty years ago, their valleys, trout streams and rolling hills were the scene of Hitler's last gamble. His panzer divisions smashed through the forests, catching the Allies by surprise and driving the front westward in a "bulge" that ran deep into Belgian territory.
There was so much destruction that its impossible to know exactly how many people were killed in action, how many went missing and how many were wounded.

The battle drew in more than a million troops — 600,000 Germans, 500,000 Americans and 55,000 Britons — who fought in bitter cold from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945.
The Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge in Arlington, Va., says 19,000 American troops died in the battle.
The Mardasson Memorial on the edge of Bastogne is built on the spot where German artillery bombarded the Americans in the town below, honoring the U.S. forces killed and wounded during the Ardennes offensive.
The memorial bears the names of U.S. Army units that participated in the action as well as the names of the then 48 U.S. States in bronze letters. There is also a plaque bearing a Latin inscription saying: "Liberatoribus Americanis Populus Belgicus Memor," or "The Belgian People Remember Their American liberators."

What a deal!

Osama bin Laden on Thursday declared a new phase in his campaign to topple the Saudi monarchy, urging followers to mount a peaceful revolution while also calling on Muslims not to miss a "golden and unique opportunity" to kill Americans in Iraq.

Awww.......that's to bad.

Gen. Augusto Pinochet was hospitalized in Santiago's Army Hospital Saturday after feeling ill, and will likely undergo a series of tests, his spokesman said."He felt bad during breakfast — as if he would faint, and doctors decided to take him to the hospital," said retired Gen. Guillermo Garin. "He's stable now, but doctors are worried."Garin said he asked the hospital to report on the 89-year-old former dictator's condition.The retired general, who suffers from mild dementia, diabetes, arthritis and uses a pacemaker, has been repeatedly hospitalized.His hospitalization Saturday comes a day after the Santiago Court of Appeals postponed until next week a decision on whether to uphold his indictment and house arrest for the alleged kidnapping of nine dissidents and the killing of one of them during his 1973-90 military regime. The indictment and house arrest order were issued by Judge Juan Guzman.

Lets get ready to rumble!

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said Thursday that he would not accept a victory by his opponent in the Dec. 26 rerun of Ukraine's contested presidential race and that his supporters were likely to turn out into the streets en masse to block such an outcome.

Under my thumb...

A secession law being drafted by China could provide the legal basis for using force against Taiwan, but it is unlikely to include a clear deadline for when reunification must take place, analysts said.

Mubarak, say it ain't so!

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was quoted on Saturday as saying he was convinced there would be an independent Palestinian state within the next four years.

"I'm convinced of that. I see the most likely time as 2008, at the end of President Bush second term.

You open the, you do it.

Colombian police seized 292 voodoo dolls but were reluctant to inspect the black, hand-sized talismans for fear of witchcraft.

There she is...Ms. Plastic Surgery

China chose its first Miss Artificial Beauty on Saturday, giving the crown to a 22-year-old from the northeastern city of Jilin who couldn't have done it without the help of her plastic surgeon.

The morning grind...Coffee anyone?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Note to self: it's over!

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Voters who claim problems with Ohio voting machines Nov. 2 indicated fraud refiled a request with the Ohio Supreme Court on Friday to overturn the presidential results.
The 37 voters cite reports of machine errors, double-counting of some ballots and a shortage of voting machines in predominantly minority precincts as reasons to throw out the election results.
The challenge is backed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Cliff Arnebeck, a Columbus attorney for the Massachusetts-based Alliance for Democracy, who accused the campaign of President Bush of "high-tech vote stealing."
The group filed the request Monday, the day the Electoral College cast votes for Bush. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer of the state Supreme Court threw out the complaint Thursday, saying the voters improperly included a second election challenge in the complaint.

Politics, Schmolitics....Show me 'da money!

U.S. Sen.-elect Barack Obama, whose 1995 book jumped onto best seller lists after his keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, has landed a three-book deal worth $1.9 million.

Crown Publishing Group and Random House Children's Books, divisions of Random House Inc., announced Friday that Obama will write two books for adults and one for children.
He'll be paid an $850,000 advance for each adult book and $200,000 for the children's book, said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs. Proceeds from the children's book, which Obama will work on with his wife, Michelle, and their two young daughters, will go to charity, Gibbs said.

The contract is contingent on the approval of the Senate Ethics Committee, he said.

Ding dong the witch is dead.

The United States on Friday designated al-Manar television -- the mouthpiece of Lebanon's Hizbollah anti-Israel guerrillas -- a terrorist organization, prompting an end to its U.S. satellite transmissions.
Lebanon's ambassador called the designation unacceptable censorship and an attack on freedom of speech.
The State Department listing came less than a week after France banned broadcasts of al-Manar's satellite channel following accusations that its programs were anti-Semitic and could incite hatred.
The United States already considers Hizbollah a "foreign terrorist organization."
"The designation is to put al-Manar television on the Terrorist Exclusion List because of its incitement of terrorist activity," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
In response to the new designation, al-Manar was removed from the satellite which beamed it into the United States on Friday.

Michael throws a party.........

Dozens of children visited Michael Jackson Neverland Valley Ranch on Friday at the invitation of the pop superstar who is awaiting trial on child molestation charges.
Three buses containing mostly grade-school children and some parents as well as five minivans drove through the gates of Jackson's sprawling estate in the foothills above Santa Barbara, California, Reuters photographers said.
It was unclear where the children had come from. Jackson's spokeswoman said on Thursday such invitations were regularly extended to groups including churches.
A Reuters photographer said the children appeared excited and happy and that one mother said she expected to spend the day at Neverland, which has theme-park style rides, a miniature train and a small zoo.
It was not known whether Jackson, 46, was at the event or would meet his guests. The entertainer is free on bail awaiting trial set for late January on a 10-count indictment of child molestation. Jackson has pleaded innocent.