Saturday :: Feb 26, 2005

Winnowing Friends And Un-fluencing People

by pessimist

As if I need to continue to beat this soon-to-be-dead mustang [NO! I don't mean Ford's pending decision on whether to end production of its signature sport coupe! Although, in a sense, that might also apply.], King George Warmonger is an acute embarassment to this nation and its people - and I include in this lot the Red Staters who voted for him and his 'more-oil values'. There are several stories posted in the last few days that indicate clearly his attitude that if you aren't one of the Topper$, then you are no one. Take this as an example:

Bush's Gloved Handshake a Slovak Faux Pas

It was a firm presidential handshake. But technically speaking, since he didn't take off his gloves, President Bush didn't press the flesh when he greeted top Slovak officials. And that was an apparent violation of protocol in Slovakia, where leaders always shake with bare hands. Deana Lutherova, an expert in Slovak manners and protocol, said Bush's failure to remove his black leather gloves when greeting the country's president, prime minister and other dignitaries was unheard of here. Bush kept the gloves on even when shaking hands with the Slovak leaders' wives. First Lady Laura Bush also remained gloved at Bratislava's airport Wednesday night, when the temperature was just above freezing.

A call to the State Department's protocol office inquiring what U.S. guidelines say about gloves and handshaking at the highest levels was not immediately returned. Still, the president got it better for his departing handshakes at the airport Thursday night. The gloves had come off.

Those weren't the only missing mittens! Colin Powell has tossed down the gauntlet!

Powell criticises Iraq troop levels and rift with Europe

Colin Powell, the former US secretary of state, has for the first time publicly criticised troops levels in Iraq and spoken of the rifts between himself and Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, that undermined his role as architect of American foreign policy.

Mr Powell, in his first interview since resigning last November, also told The Telegraph of his "dismay" at the deterioration in relations between America and Europe and of his "disappointment" with France. Mr Powell told Charles Moore, the former editor of The Telegraph who conducted the interview outside Washington, that he regretted the fall-out with Europe over the Iraq war. He also found Mr Rumsfeld's reference to "New Europe" and "Old Europe" unfortunate. "I never used the phrase," he said. "It just wasn't a useful construct. I don't think the president ever used it. We've got a lot more work to do with European public opinion."

While holding back from blaming Mr Rumsfeld by name for the problems that eventually persuaded him to resign, Mr Powell showed that much of the innuendo and leaks surrounding his volatile relationship with the defence secretary had been well-founded.

Admitting that Mr Rumsfeld's controversial plan to fight the war with limited troop numbers had been an outstanding success, Mr Powell said the "nation building" that followed had been deeply flawed. There had been "enough troops for war but not for peace, for establishing order. My own preference would have been for more forces after the conflict."

Mr Powell said he had warned President George W Bush over dinner in August 2002 that the problem with Iraq was not going to be the invasion but what followed. He told him: "This place will crack like a goblet and it will be a problem to pick up the bits. It was on this basis that he decided to let me see if we could find a United Nations solution to this."

The United Nations is all about using diplomacy to end international conflicts - something King George Warmonger has little use for. His method, involving the use of military force where negotiations would usually work instead, may just be running into a little snag:

Physicians group may stop treating veterans

A group of Duke University physicians has threatened to stop treating military veterans referred by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center because the VA won't pay enough. Executives of Duke's Private Diagnostic Clinic physicians' group voted to stop treating the veterans Jan. 15 because the VA system wouldn't agree to pay them more than 100 percent of current Medicare reimbursement rates.

PDC Executive Director Paul Newman wrote in a Jan. 7 memo that the group wouldn't treat VA patients. The new rule was to take effect Jan. 15, according to the memo, but apparently hasn't. "As far as we're aware it's never been implemented," said Hal Hummell, spokesman for the Durham VA hospital. "They haven't stopped seeing our patients."

Hummell said the VA was negotiating with Duke about the reimbursement rate for patients referred to PDC when the VA physicians can't provide needed care. Hummell said the price the VA can pay referral doctors is set nationally and is pegged to the Medicare rate schedule. The VA pays 100 percent of the Medicare-established price of a procedure when veterans are referred to specialists outside the VA system, he said.

Hummell said he knew of no other situations across the country in which VA hospitals paid physicians more than the going Medicare rate. Duke is a Medicare provider and nearly 42 percent of the patients at Duke-owned Durham Regional Hospital are Medicare recipients.

Note that these doctors are being made out to be the bad guys here. IS anyone here asking just how much Medicare pays? These doctors just might have another reason why they want more money than the Medicare payment schedule - how many Medicare recipients have had limbs blown off by IEDs?

In case anyone has forgotten why we are in Iraq at all, you might want to take note of this:

Oil companies impatient for 'new Iraq'

The biggest prize? A possible $3 billion contract to build a new "super refinery" producing gasoline and other oil products from up to 1 million barrels per day of Iraq crude, said a senior U.S. Embassy official in Baghdad, declining to be named. An announcement could come by the end of the month; building a new refinery could take more than two years.

Companies such as Shell, Exxon and Chevron are offering all sorts of pot sweeteners to get on a refinery short list, the official said. Each one wants a "one-off" production-sharing agreement that will make it worthwhile to deal with the volatility in Iraq, including a still-changing government. Instead, U.S. advisers are recommending that the government write a petroleum law to keep things open and transparent. "One-off" deals create conditions that encourage corruption, the official said.

Will this law be applied to Halliburton?

"If we go contract by contract, other companies will out-bribe the United States companies, and we will lose," the official said. "We want an fair, open, equal process, and U.S. companies have better technology."

Or we're merely trying to minimize the baksheesh expense for them?

No foreign company can own land or extract natural resources under rules written by U.S. administrators after U.S. troops came into the country in April 2003.

Also still up for discussion are existing extraction contracts such as one signed by former president Saddam Hussein with Russian giant Lukoil, which has now been joined by ConocoPhillips. The current interim government has said that contract is void, but a newly elected parliament expected to be seated by the end of the month, may think otherwise. Other deals are still up for grabs.

But the threat of violence is real to foreigners and Iraqis alike. Insurgents blow up pipelines somewhere around the country almost daily. They killed 12 Iraq troops affiliated with a special pipeline security battalion 1,500-strong near the northern oil city of Kirkuk last week.

Tell me again about the sacrifices we're asking our military personnel to make - and why!

Saboteurs Strike Oil Pipeline in Iraq

An oil pipeline in northern Iraq was ablaze Saturday after saboteurs blew it up in the latest attack against the country's vital petroleum industry. The pipeline connecting oil fields in Dibis with the northern city of Kirkuk about 20 miles away was blown up late Friday, an official of the state-run North Oil Co. said on condition of anonymity. He said repairs would take at least four days.

At least 1,492 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

And this isn't going to end any time soon despite the crowing about the (s)election of an Iraqi government. How many lives will it take until we know that too many people have died?

Wrecking the Iraqi economy wasn't the only thing that King George Warmonger has accomplished! He's also managing to set back women's rights several hundred years. After all, aren't women property of - supposed to obey - their husbands?

Iraqi women eye Islamic law

Covered in layers of flowing black fabric that extend to the tips of her gloved hands, Jenan al-Ubaedy knows her first priority as one of some 90 women who will sit in the national assembly: implementing Islamic law. Broadening support for sharia may not have been the anticipated outcome of the US mandate that women make up one third of the national assembly. But Dr. Ubaedy's vision is shared by many members of the United Iraqi Alliance, a list of religious Shiite candidates that won a majority of seats. She says the women on the UIA list are meeting now to coordinate their agendas and reach out to women from other parties. How their presence translates into action not only will shape women's rights in Iraq but goes to the heart of how much religion will dictate law.

She is quick to tick off what sharia will mean for married women. "[The husband] can beat his wife but not in a forceful way, leaving no mark. If he should leave a mark, he will pay," she says of a system she supports. "He can beat her when she is not obeying him in his rights. We want her to be educated enough that she will not force him to beat her, and if he beats her with no right, we want her to be strong enough to go to the police."

Sure - she'll live long enough to reach the police station, won't she? And say she does - will they believe her? American rape victims are often not believed - and aren't the Iraqi police being trained by the US?


At least these women can expect to be treated better than these helpless beings:

Ga. Couple Working to Save Mustangs

If the Bald Eagle is the symbolic face of America, then the wild Mustang could be the heart. But as happened to the Eagle a generation ago, Mustangs are disappearing.

They are strong and smart with a "don't-fence-me-in" attitude that runs through their veins. But if the Mustang reflects the spirit of America, it is also the symbol of the conflict we face between progress and history. The number stood at about two million in the American West 100 years ago, but now stands at no more than 37,000.

After successful careers out of state, Ramona Kirkland and her husband, Bill, have returned to their rural Georgia roots to follow their passion of saving wild horses.

"We don't let them kill our cats, we don't let 'em kill our dogs, but yet we'll send our horses there to be slaughtered and we still do that today," Ramona Kirkland said.

The 50 or so wild Mustangs that have come to the Kirklands' farm in Wadley, Georgia, arrived as the result of a rescue. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management thought they had found hundreds of the horses a home with a rancher in California. They later found out he was starving them. "They had heard about us placing, I guess, some of the other horses that we had helped and we decided that we could take some," Ramona Kirkland said.

The Kirklands are accepting as many Mustangs as they can from the West to find them homes in Georgia. William Hall was driving past the Kirkland farm when he saw their sign. He has bought three horses, two for himself, and one for his daughter. "They're just beautiful animals and more and more people need to learn about our heritage," he said.

The Kirklands are careful about who gets a piece of America. "They symbolize our freedom here, they gave us freedom to move out West," Ramona Kirkland said. "I think we should always have free, wild, roaming, feral horses." In the meantime, the Kirklands are expecting as many as 20 more wild horses to arrive at their farm.

A new bill has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that would ban the slaughter of wild horses for human consumption.

Maybe King George would like to have the first horse burger - rare.

Lifting of ban on mustang slaughter brings backlash from conservationists

In December, Congress repealed the 34-year ban on the slaughter of the wild horses that run free across the West. For the first time in more than a generation, the mustang -- a symbol of the American West -- can be slaughtered for horsemeat. Acting on behalf of ranchers who say the horses eat forage needed by cattle, Senator Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana, attached the amendment in December to a spending bill that President Bush signed into law. It allows for the sale for slaughter of some older and unwanted horses captured during periodic government roundups that are aimed at reducing the wild population, estimated at 33,000 across 10 Western states. About 19,000 of the horses are in Nevada. Burns said the repeal of the slaughter ban is necessary to manage the herds and protect the range. The measure allows the sale of horses more than 10 years old, as well as any that are not adopted three offerings in a row. Sylvia Fascio, a fifth-generation Nevada horse breeder, said there are too many wild horses roaming the bureau-owned land next to her ranch, and some should be sold for slaughter. "I enjoy the wild horses. I'm blessed to live out here among them and it's a very romantic thought. But there is such a thing as reality," Fascio said. "Since they can't seem to find homes for all of these horses all of the time, there is only one thing left. There are foreign countries that eat horsemeat. We don't now, but we did during World War II. I see nothing wrong with that."

The fate of the horses is also a question of cultural values, according to Mike Schroeder, a Washington state wildlife biologist. "I think of them more as livestock. But a lot of tribes I work with think of them as wildlife that should not be touched," he said in a speech at a Western Governors Association conference earlier this month.

The move has brought a powerful backlash from activists, who want to reinstate full protection for the mustangs. "It is really a slap in the face to the American people," said Betty Kelly, cofounder of the horse protection group Wild Horse Spirit in Virginia City, Nev.

It is a volatile issue. Scott Freeman, a defense attorney in Reno, defended one of three young men who were accused -- and eventually acquitted of most charges -- in the 1998 shooting deaths of 33 horses on the edge of Reno. The shootings outraged animal protection groups around the world and led to death threats against Freeman. "I have lots of experience doing homicide cases, but I have never experienced the emotional outburst I did with the horse case," he said. "The rallying cry was for the defenseless animals and that the individuals -- who in my case turned out to be innocent -- should basically be strung up."

The issue has dogged the Interior Department and Congress since Nevada's Velma Johnson, also known as Wild Horse Annie, and a legion of schoolchildren persuaded Congress to outlaw the use of motor vehicles to hunt the mustangs in 1959. That was followed by the Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act of 1971. A bill to reinstate the slaughter ban was introduced in Congress last month.

Now - if only we could get a ban on killing foreign nationals!

Or kidnapping them, for that matter. Silvio must not be too happy with his buddy King George if he's allowing this to go on:

Italy probes possible CIA role in abduction

An Italian prosecutor investigating the apparent kidnapping of a suspected Islamic militant in the streets of Milan served military authorities this week with a demand for records of flights into and out of a joint U.S.-Italian air base in northern Italy. The base's chief of public affairs, Capt. Eric Elliott, confirmed that Spataro had met with the Italian base commander on Wednesday. Although the base is owned and commanded by the Italian air force, many of the fighters and bombers based there are from the U.S. and are flown by U.S. pilots. Elliott said U.S. authorities at the base intended to "respond appropriately to requests for information from the Italian authorities in accordance with existing agreements."

Italian newspapers have reported that the prosecutor, Armando Spataro, is investigating the possible role of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in the disappearance of Osama Nasr Mostafa Hassan, better known as Abu Omar, a popular figure in Milan's Islamic community who vanished Feb. 17, 2003. Spataro's warrant is believed to have sought information about the ownership and flight plans of non-military aircraft as well as records on vehicles arriving at and departing from Aviano in the hours before and after Omar's disappearance. A passerby who claimed to have witnessed the abduction said several men grabbed Omar, a 41-year-old Egyptian national, on a Milan sidewalk and hustled him into a parked van that drove off accompanied by another car.

Omar was granted political asylum by Italy in 1997. He spent the next several years as an imam, or preacher, at a popular mosque in Milan. Omar was one of several Egyptian militants opposed to the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who were granted political asylum by the Italian government. Spataro was able to link Omar's disappearance to Aviano through records of cell phone calls made by his abductors as they drove the 175 miles to the air base from Milan, Corriere della Sera reported Thursday. The calls included conversations with someone at the base, the paper said.

The newspaper reported last year that, about 14 months after his disappearance, Omar telephoned his wife from Cairo to tell her he had been released from prison by the Egyptians. During that conversation, monitored by an Italian police wiretap, Omar reportedly told his wife that he had been kidnapped by American and Italian agents, "narcoticized," and, after several hours of questioning at Aviano, flown aboard a small plane to Egypt. Once there, he said, he was imprisoned and tortured by the Mukhabarat, the Egyptian intelligence service. The Italian police said Omar was re-arrested by the Egyptians a few weeks after that phone call and has not been heard from since.

The subsequent discovery that Omar had been taken to Egypt has raised questions about the fate of the former Al Qaeda chief in Italy, Abdelkader Mahmoud Es Sayed, another Egyptian Islamist who disappeared from Milan two months before Sept. 11.

Tell us again about how you Bu$hCo guys didn't know the attacks were coming!

Since Sept. 11, 2001, several unnamed U.S. officials have been quoted by numerous media outlets discussing the U.S. practice of "rendition," in which suspected terrorists or Al Qaeda supporters captured abroad are sent for interrogation to countries where human rights are not universally respected. Most renditions in which the CIA is known or suspected to have taken part involve individuals captured on the battlefield or arrested by authorities in the countries where they reside. Neither was the case with Abu Omar, which has opened the door to the possible criminal prosecution of those involved. Spataro was quoted earlier as saying that if any Americans played a part in Omar's abduction, "it would be a serious breach of Italian law."
These guys don't much care about American law, Armondo. Why would they care about your laws?
The newspaper La Repubblica reported last week that some targets of the investigation worked for the CIA. The leading Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera of Milan, said Thursday that "at least 15 persons have been under investigation for months." Another paper, Il Giorno, reported that all 15 were CIA employees. One source told the Tribune that the police are satisfied that they know the identities of those who carried out the abduction, and that Spataro is now trying to determine at what level the action was approved.
Where's Rummy? What's he know? Maybe Italy should send in their Special Forces to capture 'THE' Donald and hustle him off to Roma for interrogation. Isn't that what King George just decreed to do with the 'enemies of America'?
The Tribune reported last month that a Gulfstream executive jet reportedly used to ferry some suspected terrorists to Egypt and other countries was owned by Bayard Foreign Marketing LLC, a Portland, Ore., company that appears to exist only on paper. The first public mention of the aircraft appeared six weeks after the Sept. 11 hijacking attacks, when a Pakistani newspaper reported that Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, a 27-year-old microbiology student at Karachi University, had been spirited aboard the plane at Karachi's airport by Pakistani security officers. There is still no information about where Mohammed may have been taken. But Pakistani officials said later that the U.S. believed Mohammed, a Yemeni national, belonged to Al Qaeda and had information about the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole while it was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden.

Another well-documented rendition involving the same plane occurred in December 2001, when two Egyptian nationals, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed al-Zery, were flown aboard the Gulfstream from Sweden's Bromma airport to Cairo. A Swedish television channel, TV4, reported last year that the plane's registration number was N379P, which would make it the aircraft acquired by Bayard Foreign Marketing last Nov. 16.

The Sunday Times of London, which said it had obtained the Gulfstream's flight logs, reported in November that the plane was based at Dulles International Airport outside Washington and had flown to at least 49 destinations outside the U.S., including Egypt, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, Libya and Uzbekistan.

Would King George admit India would be equally justified under his rendition edict in taking a similar action against Union Carbide executives - like Warren Anderson - hiding in America from Indian justice over their actions at Bhopal?

I think he'd rather eat a rare mustang burger.

Cowboys - they ate horse, didn't they? Or is that just a myth he tells to the Topper$ he serves?

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pessimist :: 12:10 PM :: Comments (3) :: Digg It!