2007 - %3, August

Gen. Pace v. Gen. Petraeus

| Fri Aug. 24, 2007 12:57 PM EDT

The Los Angeles Times reports that outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Major Gen. Peter Pace will call for cutting U.S. forces in half next year, putting him at odds with another general whose September report is much anticipated:

Administration and military officials say Marine Gen. Peter Pace is likely to convey concerns by the Joint Chiefs that keeping well in excess of 100,000 troops in Iraq through 2008 will severely strain the military. This assessment could collide with one being prepared by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, calling for the U.S. to maintain higher troop levels for 2008 and beyond.
Petraeus is expected to support a White House view that the absence of widespread political progress in Iraq requires several more months of the U.S. troop buildup before force levels are decreased to their pre-buildup numbers sometime next year. ....
Pace is expected to offer his advice privately instead of issuing a formal report. Still, the position of Pace and the Joint Chiefs could add weight to that of Bush administration critics, including Democratic presidential candidates, that the U.S. force should be reduced.

The newspaper further reports, "the Joint Chiefs in recent weeks have pressed concerns that the Iraq war has degraded the U.S. military's ability to respond, if needed, to other threats," including Iran.

Pace retires at the end of September.

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Pras: Fugees Reunion Will Never Happen

| Fri Aug. 24, 2007 4:14 AM EDT

Ex-Fugees

Rapper Pras, one-third of defunct hip-hop trio The Fugees, says a reunion of the acclaimed trio is off the table, due to the erratic behavior of singer Lauryn Hill. Pras, who along with Hill and Wyclef Jean rose to fame with the 1996 album The Score and its ubiquitous cover of "Killing Me Softly," told Allhiphop.com that there is "no way" a reunion will happen, and used an amusing political metaphor to illustrate his point:

Before I work with Lauryn Hill again, you will have a better chance of seeing Osama Bin Laden and Bush in Starbucks having a latte, discussing foreign policies, before there will be a Fugees reunion. At this point I really think it will take an act of God to change her, because she is that far out there.

Mmm, latte. Hill made news recently with bizarre shows in Oakland and Brooklyn, where she arrived hours late and performed unrecognizable arrangements of her classic material. Both Wyclef and Pras had expressed interest in bringing the trio back together, but apparently it's not working out. The Smiths, The Fugees... why can't everybody just get along?

Judges Nod Off as Fujimori's Hearing Continues

| Thu Aug. 23, 2007 11:51 PM EDT

Today several of Chile's Supreme Court judges had trouble staying awake as the court continued to consider the human rights charges against former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. Does their exhaustion stem from a night of agonizing over the ex-dictator's extradition proceedings? Highly unlikely. As much as I'd like to believe that the court appreciates the gravity of Fujimori's crimes, it just does not seem to be the case. In fact, earlier this week I wrote how odd it was that Chile fast tracked the case days after Peru's catastrophic earthquake, apparently hoping few people would notice.

It seemed likely that Chile's court would render a quick verdict in the favor of Fujimori when it was reported that the proceeding would be wrapped up in a day. But perhaps because members of the victims' families and human rights organizations have been present in court, and the judges realized they had to put on a bit of a show, a thorough reading of the corruption and human rights charges is being allowed.

— Rafael Valero

Glacier Surfing

| Thu Aug. 23, 2007 11:49 PM EDT

New climate, new sport. Opportunity in the midst of chaos? JULIA WHITTY

Morrissey Says "No" Again to Smiths Reunion

| Thu Aug. 23, 2007 9:38 PM EDT

Oh, Mozzer...
In more Morrissey-related news, sit down. Think of the person you hate most in the world, and then think how much money it would take for you to hang around with him or her for, I dunno, a few weeks. What do you say, 50 grand? A million? Howabout $75 million? Well, Morrissey is made out of stronger stuff than you and I, as Billboard is reporting the Mozzer has turned down £40 million to tour as The Smiths, the only requirement being the inclusion of guitarist Johnny Marr. That's right, drummer Mike Joyce, who was awarded £1 million in a 1998 lawsuit against Marr and Morrissey for unfair distribution of royalties, doesn't even have to be included, and Morrissey still said no. What's the deal?

Well, maybe he's holding out for more cash. With bands from The Police to The Pixies reaping huge profits from reunion tours, The Smiths are one of the only major bands of the last 30 years (whose members are all still alive) who refuse to put their differences aside. The price can only go up, really. Hold out for $200 mil, Moz!

Worth the Wait? Harper Lee Breaks Decades of Silence

| Thu Aug. 23, 2007 8:45 PM EDT

After forty years of fame, Harper Lee, author of the beloved American classic To Kill a Mockingbird, uttered her first words in public. At the Alabama Academy of Honor induction ceremony Monday, the 81-year-old writer said, "Well it's better to be silent than to be a fool."

Lee has spoken with only a handful of reporters since the 1960 publication of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. She briefly emerged earlier this year to present awards to winners of the To Kill a Mockingbird essay contest. In recent years, she has been portrayed on screen by Catherine Keener in Capote (2005) and Sandra Bullock in Infamous (2006).

Lee's years of silence have maintained an aura of mystery around her. After selling 10,000,000 copies of a book denouncing racism, she declined to offer up any political opinions. The audience of fellow Alabamans that heard Lee speak that one droll sentence yesterday did not fail to grasp the significance of the moment: they met her witticism with laughter and a standing ovation.

— Ellen Charles

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Bush Okays Blowing Up Mountains for Mining Companies

| Thu Aug. 23, 2007 4:50 PM EDT

Bush is set to release a regulation tomorrow that will allow mining companies to blast the tops off mountains and dump the resulting waste in nearby streams and valleys.

To learn more about Bush's latest assault on the environment, continue reading this post on our science and health blog, The Blue Marble.

Who's Behind "Allawi-for-Iraq.com"?

| Thu Aug. 23, 2007 4:02 PM EDT

IraqSlogger reports that on August 17, White House-connected lobby powerhouse, Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR), purchased a domain name, Allawi-for-Iraq.com.*

The timing was interesting. As Slogger's Christina Davidson reports, former Iraqi prime minister Ayad "Allawi argued in an August 18 Washington Post op-ed that Iraq will descend into chaos unless Maliki is replaced as prime minister."

Presumably, replaced by himself, he might have been hinting.

A couple months ago, I reported here on BGR's lobbying for another of Iraq's players, the Kurdistan Regional Government.

*Update: Whois registration for the Allawi domain below the fold:

Will Too Much Joy Division Love Tear You Apart?

| Thu Aug. 23, 2007 3:14 PM EDT

Joy Division
Will it make your new dawn fade? Will it cause you to lose control? I can keep going! No? Alright, fine. Legendary post-punk Manchester four-piece Joy Division had an all-to-brief run, playing their first gig (as Warsaw) in 1977, and releasing only two full-length albums, 1979's Unknown Pleasures and 1980's Closer, before lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide in May, 1980. While the remaining members continued (continue?) as New Order, Joy Division gained far more attention after Curtis' death, with at least four major collections of their work gaining wide release. But now, the Joy Division publicity machine is about to kick into an even higher gear.

Not one, but two Joy Division-themed films are set for release in the upcoming months. First up, Pitchfork reports that a documentary, helpfully titled Joy Division, will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month. Then there's Control, the Anton Corbijn-directed profile of Curtis, currently playing festivals and set for limited release in the US in October. NME says that the band's most well-known single, "Love Will Tear Us Apart," will get a re-release in the UK ahead of Control's premiere (this whole recycling-singles phenomenon being a distinctly British phenomenon), and that the band's two studio albums, as well as Still, the live/rarities collection, will get remastered and repackaged for re-release on September 10th.

So here's the question: how much attention to a defunct band is too much? Nobody loves Joy Division more than me, but even I feel a little strange about "Love Will Tear Us Apart" being tossed in with Mika and Plain White T's to see where it'll land in the Top 40. On the other hand, anything that helps introduce the band to a new generation is worth it, right? Give us your comments: has your favorite musician been glorified or diminished by extensive posthumous publicity?

New White House Surge Surrogate, Freedom's Watch

| Thu Aug. 23, 2007 2:48 PM EDT

Politico's Mike Allen reports that a new pro-war group, Freedom's Watch, fronted by former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, has launched a $15 million advertising blitz to promote the surge:

A new group, Freedom's Watch, is launching Wednesday with a $15 million, five-week campaign of TV, radio and Web ads featuring military veterans that is aimed at retaining support in Congress for President Bush's "surge" policy on Iraq. ...
The board consists of Blakeman; Fleischer; Mel Sembler, a Florida Republican who was Bush's ambassador to Italy; William P. Weidner, president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp.; and Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. The donors include Sembler; Anthony Gioia, a Buffalo businessman who was Bush's ambassador to Malta; Kevin Moley, who was Bush's ambassador to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva; Howard Leach, a former Republican National Committee finance chairman who was Bush's ambassador to France; Dr. John Templeton of Pennsylvania, chairman and president of the John Templeton Foundation; Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast Spectacor, the huge Philadelphia sports and entertainment firm; Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and ranked by Forbes magazine as the third-wealthiest American; and Richard Fox, who is chairman of the Jewish Policy Center and was Pennsylvania State Chairman of the Reagan/Bush campaign in 1980.

The Washington Post and ThinkProgress have more. "Freedom's Watch will go head to head with Americans United for Change, a Democratic Party ally, backed by organized labor, that is pressuring the same wavering Republicans to break with the White House," the Post reports. "Although louder and more experienced, Americans United is not so moneyed, with a fundraising goal of $10 million for the year, and $1.75 million to $2 million already spent on ad campaigns."

Watch has money, organization and the White House on its side. But the recently released NIE on Iraq does not easily lend itself to the flag-backed ad blitz, which rallies "those who believe we must win the war on terror" to call and tell their congressperson "defeat is not an option."