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Madonna and Britney Spears Threatened with Beheading

| Thu Sep. 13, 2007 5:01 PM EDT

Madonna & Britney

The leader of a Palestinian terror group has targeted Madonna and Britney Spears for spreading "Satanic culture," and threatened to behead them. Muhammad Abdel-Al, the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, based in the Gaza Strip, made the comments in a new book, Schmoozing With Terrorists, that presents interviews with members of terror organizations. Abdel-Al was quoted as saying:

If I meet these whores I will have the honor—I repeat, I will have the honor—to be the first one to cut the heads off Madonna and Britney Spears if they will keep spreading their Satanic culture against Islam... If these two prostitutes keep doing what they are doing, we of course will punish them.

NME reports the comments come just as Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie are heading to Israel to celebrate the Jewish New Year. Terrorists, they say crazy stuff.

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If We Had Only Known

| Thu Sep. 13, 2007 4:56 PM EDT

"The good intentions of the statesmen of Iraq, whose political experience is necessarily small, it is to be feared that serious difficulties may arise out of the differences which in some cases exist in regard to political ideas between the Shiites of the South and the Sunnites of the North, the racial differences between Arabs and Kurds, and the necessity of keeping the turbulent tribes under control.... These difficulties might be fatal to the very existence of the State if it were left without support and guidance."

Where did such prescient advice come from? A 1925 League of Nations report on Iraq that Roger Cohen, noted in his column this morning. The GOP loves to accuse the anti-war left of having 20/20 hindsight. Looks like foresight is 20/20, too.

—Nick Baumann

Presto Chango, It's H2O

| Thu Sep. 13, 2007 4:56 PM EDT

According to an article in the UK's Telegraph, a British inventor has developed a plastic bottle that converts even the rankest sludge into tasty drinking water almost instantly.

The bottle, which looks a lot like the refillable types carried on bikes everywhere, can scrub virtually any water, even samples containing viruses or fecal matter. It promises to be useful to soldiers, as well as refugees and disaster victims.

Said Michael Pritchard, the brainiac behind the invention, "Something had to be done. It took me a little while and some very frustrating prototypes but eventually I did it."

If Our Government Was Run By K-Tel

| Thu Sep. 13, 2007 4:08 PM EDT

Bush Greatest Hits
Via Towleroad comes these mocked-up adverts for some unfortunately fake greatest hits collections of the Bush administration (and, in a special guest appearance, John McCain)—although, even more unfortunately, the quotes themselves are all too real. They're all pretty great, but I have to say the glowing disco sunshine of the "Condi" album cover is especially sublime.

Clicky to embiggen.

Cheney Greatest Hits

mojo-photo-Condi Greatest Hits

More on L'Affaire Debat

| Thu Sep. 13, 2007 3:14 PM EDT

In his piece on the Alexis Debat controversy -- the ABC consultant and French counterterrorism expert who apparently faked several interviews with political figures and luminaries such as Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Bill Gates, Alan Greenspan, Michael Bloomberg oh and Kofi Annan -- the WP's Howard Kurtz failed to contact Pascal Riche, who broke this story of the faked interviews. Kurtz's piece seemed a bit thinly reported, featuring mostly Debat saying he was scammed, and Brian Ross saying he was scammed. What about the substance? Perhaps he was in a hurry.

But there's much substantive to consider. For instance, among other details, this is a guy telling the world media from several respected perches that there's a three day blitz planned to bomb Iran. It's not an uninteresting question, whether the information is solid, or is embellished, or is fabricated. It certainly creates a big echo, and is an interesting example of how misinformation or even disinformation can work. Kurtz didn't for instance, raise the question I raised here, which is blindingly obvious: did ABC bend the rules by paying a source who also served as their reporter while having a full time appointment elsewhere, smoothing over any complications by calling him an all purpose "consultant"? How much did Brian Ross approve the unusual arrangement and independently verify the information Debat was bringing from the dark corners of Pakistan? IF, and I emphasize if, Debat faked interviews for a French journal, what was to keep him from faking interviews that informed multiple stories for ABC? I fiind it implausible that ABC has independently re-reported all that stuff so quickly and determined it's kosher.

I also had an amusing, if slightly surreal, experience interviewing the real Rob Sherman - a Chicago radio talk show host - who has the same name and rough geographic location as the person who Debat claims conducted an interview with Barack Obama for him. You will not be surprised to learn, perhaps, that the real Rob Sherman says he has never heard of Debat, although he has interviewed Obama. One thing I am learning -- there's a bit of truth in many of the apparent fabrications.

The September 11th Tourist Attacks

| Thu Sep. 13, 2007 3:01 PM EDT

This video will make you hate everyone. And it will make you vomit. It will make you hate everyone while you vomit.

But it has to be seen. When else are you going to hear the line, "The tourist attacks. September 11th. Is Iraq."

So grab a barf bag, click the link, and remember: we are all Ms. South Carolinas today.

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Political Situation in Iraq Going Backward: Oil Law Dissolving

| Thu Sep. 13, 2007 2:16 PM EDT

Let's see Ambassador Crocker try to put a positive spin on this:

A carefully constructed compromise on a draft law governing Iraq's rich oil fields, agreed to in February after months of arduous talks among Iraqi political groups, appears to have collapsed. The apparent breakdown comes just as Congress and the White House are struggling to find evidence that there is progress toward reconciliation and a functioning government here....
Mr. Shahristani, a senior member of the Arab Shiite coalition that controls the federal government, negotiated the compromise with leaders of the Kurdish and Arab Sunni parties. But since then, the Kurds have pressed forward with a regional version of the law that Mr. Shahristani says is illegal. Many of the Sunnis who supported the original deal have also pulled out in recent months.
The oil law — which would govern how oil fields are developed and managed — is one of several benchmarks that the Bush administration has been pressing the Iraqis to meet as a sign that they are making headway toward creating an effective government.
Again and again in the past year, agreement on the law has been fleetingly close before political and sectarian disagreements have arisen to stall the deal.

The Iraqis' attempts at oil sharing laws have never been impressive — and have often been suspiciously advantageous for multinational oil companies. But at least there was something, before recently, that the Iraqi government had come together to achieve. Now, even that moderate success is gone.

Breaking: Sunni Tribal Leader Assassinated in Iraq

| Thu Sep. 13, 2007 12:43 PM EDT

A key U.S. ally in Iraq was assassinated near his home in Ramadi earlier today. Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, a senior member of the Anbar Salvation Council, was killed along with two bodyguards when a powerful roadside bomb destroyed his car. He had been a leading organizer of the so-called 'Anbar Miracle.' According to the Washington Post:

The council has been credited with helping tamp down violence in the area and retaking control from the insurgents, progress touted by U.S. officials as a sign their current strategy in Iraq is showing results. Abu Risha met just last week with President Bush during Bush's surprise trip to the country.
"This is a tragic loss," Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, said of Abu Risha's death. "It's a terrible loss for Anbar province and all of Iraq. It shows how significant his importance was and it shows al-Qaeda in Iraq remains a very dangerous and barbaric enemy."
Along with reaffirming the ability of insurgents to operate in Anbar, Abu Risha's assassination could raise questions about the future of the tribal coalition that had pulled together to quell al-Qaeda influence.
Petraeus, in Washington where he delivered a report to Congress this week, said he was confident the coalition will hold.
"I think that the tribes will pull together and go after whoever did this," Petraeus said in an interview with The Washington Post.
He said it was not clear who might emerge as a successor. He called Abu Risha "an important unity figure" in what had been until recently a fractious and violence-riven community.
Abu Risha, in his mid-30s, was "an organizing force that did help organize alliances and did help keep the various tribes together," the general said.
The emergence of the Anbar council, Petraeus said, caused a "political shift of seismic proportions" -- a dynamic that the U.S. is trying to replicate in other parts of the country.

Tearing the New Guy to Shreds

| Thu Sep. 13, 2007 12:18 PM EDT

George Will is no fan of Fred Thompson, apparently.

Congress Asks CIA Lawyer Nominee to be Withdrawn

| Thu Sep. 13, 2007 11:20 AM EDT

The Washington Post's Joby Warrick reports:

Members of the Senate intelligence committee have requested the withdrawal of the Bush administration's choice for CIA general counsel, acknowledging that John Rizzo's nomination has stalled because of concerns about his views on the treatment of terrorism suspects.
The decision followed a private meeting this week in which committee leaders concluded that the troubled nomination could not overcome opposition among Democratic members. It comes less than a month after a key member, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), announced his intention to block the nomination indefinitely.
Rizzo, a career CIA lawyer, has drawn fire from Democrats and human rights groups because of his support for Bush administration legal doctrines permitting "enhanced interrogation" of terrorism detainees in CIA custody.

In other intelligence news, Newsweek reports that intelligence czar Michael McConnell has asked to withdraw a statement to Congress that a recently passed electronic surveillance law contributed to the capture of German terrorism suspects earlier this month. Turns out, it didn't have anything to do with it.