2006 - %3, August

Remember Darfur?

| Wed Aug. 9, 2006 6:42 PM EDT

AP reports:

A peace deal that was supposed to end the conflict in Sudan's war-ravaged Darfur region has brought anything but peace, with fresh fighting displacing 50,000 more people and July marking the deadliest month for aid workers since the conflict began. Four aid groups warned Tuesday that conditions for millions of civilians suffering in the area could get much worse quickly if security does not improve. Spiraling violence is already causing a rise in malnutrition and the spread of disease in some displaced persons camps, the groups said.

Eight Sudanese humanitarian workers were killed last month along with countless civilians, part of increasing violence since a May 5 peace deal was signed in Nigeria between the government and the main rebel group. The deal was supposed to help end the conflict but has instead sparked months of fighting between rival rebel factions. Aid groups, the United Nations and beleaguered African Union peacekeepers say rebel factions are seeking to gain advantage before peace upsets a status quo in a region where more than 200,000 people have been killed since 2003 when ethnic African tribes revolted against the Arab-led Khartoum government. Fresh clashes have left countless dead in the last two months and displaced nearly 50,000 more people in addition to the more than 2 million who had already fled their homes. One million people also rely on food aid because their fields have been razed or they're too afraid to go out to farm.

Activists are pushing the Bush administration to do more (Reuters).

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Global Warming To Create a British Riviera?

| Wed Aug. 9, 2006 4:08 PM EDT

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The Guardian brings word of research predicting that, as global warming brings the climate up to a steady simmer, fewer northern Europeans will fly south to seek sunshiny climes. Mediterranean countries will become too hot for lily-white Brits and Germans, while the south coasts of England, Wales and Ireland will experience a tourist boom.

The researchers have already used their model, which factors in changes in climate, population and economic conditions across the world, to predict that tourism demand will shift northwards and to higher altitude destinations. Now they have extended the model to include domestic tourists.

"More people will stay in their home country, particularly Germans and Brits," said Richard Tol at Hamburg University. Germans are the most travelled nation with 72m international tourists and the UK is third with 53m. Both are rich with unreliable weather and close neighbours. But as the weather heats up, the model predicts more will stay within our borders.

The tourism losers in the next decades, are set to be Greece, Italy, Spain, and the Caribbean. Tourists will flock to the Baltic coast, southern Sweden, Ireland, the Alps, Croatia and southern Britain.

If the threat of melting ice caps, massive population displacements, and species extinctions isn't enough to make people get real about global warming, maybe the prospect of British people (and I speak as one) wearing fewer clothes will. For pity's sake let's get this stopped!

Two HIV-positive individuals gunned down in Iraq

| Wed Aug. 9, 2006 3:19 PM EDT

Farid Abbas received a telephone call from someone who accused him of having an "indecent disease" and who told him Abbas would be killed "for the safety of the country." Two days later, Abbas was gunned down in a drive-by shooting by a man who yelled at him: "Death to all people who carry diseases acquired from indecent methods against Islamic beliefs." Abbas had been HIV-positive for nine years.

On July 30, Abbas's wife, Hania Omar, also HIV-positive, left her house to pick up her eleven-year-old son from school. She, too, was the victim of a drive-by shooting. The killer dropped a letter which said "This is the price to pay for a Muslim woman who is willing to sleep with a dirty man whose blood is infected with the devil's impurity." Iraqi police, according to an IRIN report, wrote the deaths off as "sectarian violence."

There were two other HIV-related murders in Iraq in the early part of 2006, and HIV-positive Iraqis report being shunned by their families and community.

Both Abbas and Omar had hemophilia and were infected by contaminated blood. The killers did not even realize that their victims had not engaged in any of the "indecent methods" scorned by Islam.

According to Reuters, the current situation is not much worse than when Saddam Hussein was in power and HIV-positive patients were virual prisoners in hospitals. Iraqis have not had much education about HIV and AIDS, and, according to the Iraqi Aid Association for Chronic Patients, still tend to believe that they can acquire the virus by merely touching patients or being nera them.

The Iraqi government tests all people coming into the country for HIV and has deported several people who tested positive. 73% of reported cases have been brought about by transfusions of contaminated blood, but one has to wonder how big a fear factor there is in reporting a case in which HIV infection occurred because of sexual contact or needle-sharing.

Lieberman Out. Video Gamers Rejoice!

| Wed Aug. 9, 2006 2:09 PM EDT

Something I'd overlooked until now was the significance of Lieberman's canning for...the video game industry. But Mike Antonucci, who blogs on the subject for the San Jose Mercury News, sounds almost as exultant today as the Kossacks.

Connecticut's Joe Lieberman -- a high-horse, moralizing, "family entertainment" zealot who's good at making unjustified trouble for the video-game industry -- lost the Democratic primary for his Senate seat yesterday to novice challenger Ned Lamont.
Lieberman plans to run as an independent, so he's not yet officially gone. But his defeat in the primary is a good start.
Anybody in that area of the country know anything about Lamont's politics on media and entertainment issues? ...

Does Lamont have politics on media and entertainment issues? He better get some.

Hollywood's Cowardice Over Mel Gibson

| Wed Aug. 9, 2006 1:53 PM EDT

I share Ruth Marcus's bewilderment at the absurd and morally abtuse refusal, on the part of Hollywood types, to outright condemn Mel Gibson for his anti-Semitic rant. (She imputes mercenary motives -- which is rather a rich irony when you think about it.) Sure, the guy's an alcoholic, but the notion that this explains his comment, made apropos of nothing whatsoever, that "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," is pitiful.

No less an icon* than Patrick Swayze offered that "people say stupid things when they happen to have a few, and especially if you don't drink any more, or have limited your drinking for a long time and all of a sudden you decide to have one too many with the boys - you are stupid." When drunk, people do say stupid things--like, "You're an idiot!" or "I never liked you in the first place!" or "I slept with your wife." [Update: or "husband."] Rarely do they say things on the order of "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" -- unless, I presume, that's the kind of thing that's always floating close to the surface of their minds. Alcohol doesn't alter people's basic beliefs (if only!); it just seems to bring them into the open.

[* Sarcasm is being (pettily) deployed here, which should, but evidently doesn't, go without saying.]

What Part of "Outrages Upon Personal Dignity" Don't They Understand?

| Wed Aug. 9, 2006 4:42 AM EDT

In the "international law is what we damn well say it is" department, the Bush administration is proposing a bill to revise the War Crimes Act, the law that essentially binds the U.S. to the Geneva Conventions. Apparently, reports the Washington Post, the administration is concerned with excessive vagueness in the Conventions' language (crafted, lest we forget, essentially by American negotiators), particularly the part about forbidding "outrages upon personal dignity." Because, you see, this administration is all about appreciating cultural differences:

"I mean, what is degrading in one society may not be degrading in another, or may be degrading in one religion, not in another religion," [Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon] England said.

Midnight Express, anyone? How long till we hear that exact same language out of a spokesman for some government, somewhere, to explain what's being done to some hapless American tourist (or CIA officer, for that matter) who's ended up in a bad, bad jail?

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"Antiwar, Anti-Bush, Anti-Establishment, Anti-Washington Message is Very Effective."

| Wed Aug. 9, 2006 2:09 AM EDT

Not that anyone should make too much of this, but that quote (from an analyst from the non-partisan Cook Political Report) is the take away from this Washington Post article.

Among the notable moments in the piece is the explanation of why Democrat Cynthia "tennis shoes" McKinney lost tonight. After 9/11, she suggested that Bush might have had prior knowledge of the attacks. Which is just sheer lunacy. As a result of this and other "missteps" she lost the 2002 Democratic primary to another black candidate (who then ran for Senate, effectively handing the House seat back to McKinney). State Rep. Billy McKinney spelled out the reason for his daughter's political troubles that election night: "J-E-W-S."

Ouch. Note to all Georgia pols. Keep the family members on a short leash. Remember Billy.

Relax, Celebrate Victory: Sad But True Lamont v. Lieberman Headlines

| Wed Aug. 9, 2006 1:14 AM EDT

Fourth Generation Harvard Grad Lamont Takes On Lieberman
From the Harvard Crimson (where else) and, as I write, headlining Google News. Makes you wonder if Joe had a point in his "who's this rich boy stealing my Joementum" diatribe.

Connecticut Primary Almost Exciting; Lieberman Still Boring
That from something called the Bostonist, whose server is down—perhaps because of the traffic generated by that headline.

Still, too true.

Joe Lieberman, Independent

| Wed Aug. 9, 2006 1:08 AM EDT

It sure didn't take Joe Lieberman long to trot out his new image as an independent. In his "concession speech," he accused Lamont of being guilty of "the same old partisan politics that have paralyzed Washington for years."

To which we say: !?!?!!!

Let's hope Clinton (either) can pull off the "for the good of the party/here's a plump ambassadorship" move and get JoeEgo to take a graceful bow and exit the state. I say that, though there is something kind of appealing about watching Joe and Ned slug it out in Round Two.

Lamont Wins Over Lieberman

| Wed Aug. 9, 2006 12:13 AM EDT

The New York Times reports:

Ned Lamont, a Connecticut millionaire whose candidacy for the United States Senate soared from nowhere on a fierce antiwar message, won a narrow but decisive victory tonight over the storied incumbent, Joseph I. Lieberman, in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Mr. Lieberman conceded shortly after 11 p.m. after nearly complete results showed him trailing Mr. Lamont by nearly 4 percentage points.

With 96 percent of Connecticut's precincts reporting, Mr. Lamont held 51.9 percent of the vote, with Mr. Lieberman holding 48.1 percent.