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New Warning from Turkish Generals

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 1:40 PM EDT

In anticipation of tomorrow's parliamentary vote in which Turkish lawmakers are expected to elect Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to the country's presidency, a largely ceremonial position, the Turkish military has again warned that it may oppose the move. The military considers itself the inheritor of Kemal Ataturk's legacy and the protector of Turkey's secular system. Gul is a devout Muslim, whose wife wears a head scarf, a particularly polarizing symbol in Turkish society. Although the foreign minister says he supports Turkey's secular system, few in uniform appear to take him at his word. General Yasar Buyukanit, the chief of the country's armed forces, has warned that "centers of evil" are "trying to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic." He did not name any of these centers of evil, but his meaning was clear enough.

The military issued a similar warning on its website last April during Gul's first run at the presidency. The resulting furor led to early elections in July, which reaffirmed the ruling AK Party's popularity. The party then renominated Gul for the presidency over the military's objections.

There have been four military coups in Turkey since 1960.

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Gonzales' Resignation Statement, Clement Acting AG, Chertoff AG Likely Nominee

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 11:41 AM EDT

CNN:

Embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation Monday in a brief statement at the Justice Department.

"Yesterday I met with President Bush and informed him of my decision to conclude my government services as Attorney General of the United States effective September 17."
He did not take questions from reporters.
Bush will likely nominate Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to the position, senior administration officials said.
Chertoff has headed Homeland Security since 2005. He served as a federal appellate court judge, a federal prosecutor and as special counsel for a Senate committee investigating President Clinton's involvement in the Whitewater land development.
Solicitor General Paul Clement will serve as acting attorney general, the White House press office said.
President Bush is expected to make a statement about Gonzales at 11:50 a.m. from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he has been vacationing, but will not announce a replacement, two senior administration officials said.

More here and here.

Late Update: Hold off on the Chertoff speculation, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux now told.

Is the Enemy of Your Enemy Really Your Friend?

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 10:25 AM EDT

Much has been made (and, come September 15, will be made) of the new U.S. alliance with Sunni tribesmen in Iraq's Anbar province. The fragile union aims to rid the area of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). And, indeed, the new tactics appear to be working, at least in the short term: Between December 2006 and June 2007 (the most recent month for which numbers are available), insurgent attacks in Anbar province declined by 34 percent. As the Pentagon described in its most recent report to Congress, "In Anbar province, anti-AQI sentiment is widespread, with growing tribal influence as the primary driver of decreasing violence levels."

But, as the new NIE warns, the relative calm in Anbar could be shortlived:

Sunni Arab resistance to AQI has expanded, and neighborhood security groups, occasionally consisting of mixed Shia-Sunni units, have proliferated in the past several months. These trends, combined with increased Coalition operations, have eroded AQI's operational presence and capabilities in some areas... Such initiatives, if not fully exploited by the Iraqi Government, could over time also shift greater power to the regions, undermine efforts to impose central authority, and reinvigorate armed opposition to the Baghdad government.

Did we really need the NIE to tell us that arming Sunni tribesmen carries risk of blowback? More importantly, should we consider the recent gains in Anbar to be anything other than illusory? From Walter Pincus in this morning's Washington Post:

Fourteen months ago, a 300-page Defense Department-sponsored research paper titled "Iraq Tribal Study: Al-Anbar Governorate" was completed and delivered to the Pentagon. That report -- put together by a distinguished group of retired military counterinsurgency specialists and academics, each with Iraq experience -- was circulated in the Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., at the time led by then-Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the top U.S. commander in Iraq. The study proposed changing how the United States interacts with Sunni tribal leaders, eventually contributing to winning their support in fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq forces...
The study summed up how the Sunni tribes viewed the conditions that Washington established in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. "Throughout the modern history of Iraq, the Sunni tribes have occupied a privileged position in Iraq society and enjoyed wealth, autonomy and political clout," the report said. "To lose those advantages in a system of proportional representation that empowered the Shia, or in a truncated Iraq with a Kurdish autonomous province, would bring shame to a long and prosperous Sunni history."
It also cautioned that the main themes of the U.S. message in Iraq -- "freedom and democracy" -- do not resonate well with the population "because freedom is associated with chaos in Iraq." In addition, the Sunnis "are deathly afraid of being ruled by a Shia government, which they believe will be little more than a puppet of the Shia religious extremists in Iran."
The study identified three tribes in al-Anbar province, all of which initially fought as insurgents against U.S. forces. But more recently, all three tribes -- or "significant parts of them" -- joined the movement against al-Qaeda in Iraq. "This presents a window of opportunity for engagement and influence of the tribes by the coalition," the study stated.
However, the study warned that with two of the tribes, such cooperation "should not be considered as support for, or even acceptance of, coalition activities." Instead, it occurs "for no other purpose but to rid the area of a common enemy, al-Qaeda and its allies." With the third, it cautioned, "the recognized leadership plays both ends of the insurgency, coalition versus the insurgents, against the middle while maintaining a single motive, to force the coalition to leave Iraq."
In short, the study's experts pointed toward what has become a short-term U.S. success, while warning more than a year ago -- as the intelligence community did last week -- that it is all temporary.

NYT: Gonzales Resigns

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 9:28 AM EDT

Here's the story, filed by the NYT's Steven Lee Myers, dateline, Waco, Texas:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. A senior administration official said he would announce the decision later this morning in Washington.
Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.
Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Attorney General's resignation had not yet been made public.
Mr. Bush had repeatedly stood by Mr. Gonzales, an old friend and colleague from Texas, even as he faced increasing scrutiny for his leadership of the Justice Department, including his role in the dismissals of nine United States attorneys late last year and questions about whether he testified truthfully about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.
"We're watching a political exercise," Mr. Bush said at a news conference this month, dismissing accusations that the Attorney General had stonewalled or misled a congressional inquiry. "I mean, this is a man who has testified, he's sent thousands of papers up there. There's no proof of wrong."
Mr. Gonzales's resignation is the latest in a series of high-level departures that has reshaped the end of Mr. Bush's second term. Karl Rove, another of Mr. Bush's close circle of aides from Texas, stepped down two weeks ago.
The official said that the decision was Mr. Gonzales's and that the president accepted it grudgingly. At the same time, the official acknowledged that the turmoil over his tenure as Attorney General had made continuing difficult.
"The unfair treatment that he's been on the receiving end of has been a distraction for the department," the official said.

Earlier this weekend, U.S. News' Paul Bedard reported that DHS chief Michael Chertoff was likely to be nominated as Gonzales' successor.

The AP is reporting that "A senior Justice Department official said that a likely temporary replacement for Gonzales is Solicitor General Paul Clement, who would take over until a permanent replacement is found." (Via ThinkProgress).

Vogue Goes Green!!! (No, Not Really)

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 12:57 AM EDT

Everybody knows that Green is the new Black, and nowhere is the corporate greenwashing trend more annoyingly exploited than in the pages of various Condé Nast magazines. So, for example, in the current issue of Vogue, amid a fashion shoot where models cloy at various "green" items (mostly CFC bulbs and mockups of wind turbines), is a picture of a giant bales of paper, with the following caption:

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: It looks good on paper! Family-owned since 1896, Chambers Paper Fibres in Brooklyn sorts ten to fifteen tons of wastepaper an hour. Each recycled ton saves seventeen trees and 7,000 gallons of water.

Did I mention that this came on page 722 of the "840-page biggest issue ever!" of Vogue? So the question that leapt to mind (that is, after I contemplated which poor photo assistant had to construct the giant bales of paper so that the logos of the Times and the WSJ were showing) was: So just how much #$%@ing paper does this 840-page issue of Vogue use anyway?

Ok, so I think Vogue's circulation is around 2 million. And that issue weighed about five pounds. Based on those assumptions and on Conservatrees' calculation that "one ton of uncoated virgin, or non-recycled printing and office paper uses 24 trees" then I see the math as following:

2 million issues x 5lbs per issue= 10,000,000 lbs of paper / 2,000= 5,000 tons of paper x 24 trees = 120,000 trees. And if all these issues of Vogue were recycled at Chambers (and Vogue's fact-checking is kosher) it would take the folks there (assuming eight-hour work days with no lunch) 61 days to recycle Vogue alone.

I will eat one of Anna Wintour's least fashionable shoes if I'm wrong, but the post-consumer content for Vogue is negligible to none. Mother Jones, meanwhile, uses 30% post-consumer recycled fiber (and non-chlorine bleach), which allows us to save 432 trees, 89,564 gallons of water, 216 pounds of solid waste, and 33,393 pounds of greenhouse gases per issue. Now no old-media editor should throw stones, and fashion mags, admittedly, have the greatest incentive to print on virgin paper; advertisers demand it. But if every magazine changed its policies just a little—say 10% post-consumer—it would help change the market. And hey, maybe advertisers should demand it too. Especially those whose products are pimped on the facing page, to wit:

Borrow a look from the boys but in a delicate peach and baby blue with subtle luster. Miu Miu silk waffle-knit V-neck ($760), pant ($965), and leather belt: Miu Miu boutiques. LaCrasia pistachio opera gloves. Hermes leather d'Orsay plaforms.

Later this week: The incredible carbon cost of Vanity Fair's green issue. And, why does Condé Nast poly bag every one of its magazines with Fashion Rocks?

Gonzales Finally On the Way Out?

| Sat Aug. 25, 2007 11:48 PM EDT

U.S. News' Paul Bedard: "The buzz among top Bushies is that beleaguered Attorney General Alberto Gonzales finally plans to depart and will be replaced by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Why Chertoff? Officials say he's got fans on Capitol Hill, is untouched by the Justice prosecutor scandal, and has more experience than Gonzales did, having served as a federal judge and assistant attorney general."

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California's Healthcare Battle In A Nutshell

| Sat Aug. 25, 2007 3:37 PM EDT

Leave it to the Washington Post to give the best synopsis I've read of the battle currently underway in California between the Republican governor (Schwarzenegger) and the Democratic legislature over efforts to create a statewide healthcare plan. Though California hasn't actually led the way in this kind of initiative (look to Hawaii and, much later, Massachusetts), its decision—due in three weeks—may well set the agenda for other states and presidential candidates to follow.

The urgency here, reports the Post, is that Californians are less likely to be covered than residents of 45 other states, and those who are covered are concerned it's not going to be there for them when they need it. . . [sure is a familiar feeling in my world, read: self-employed and paying scary, ever-increasing percentage of meager earnings for dubiously useable health insurance. . .] Read here for examples of why that is.

From the WP:

Under both the governor's proposal and the Democrats', employers would have to spend a minimum amount on health care for workers or pay money into a state-run purchasing pool through which people could buy private insurance. But the employer's fee under the Democrats would be higher—7.5 percent of payroll, compared with 4 percent of payroll under Schwarzenegger's plan. Another difference: The governor would require physicians to pay 2 percent of their revenue to the state, and hospitals 4 percent, to help finance the new system. The Democrats' plan has no such charges. The governor would require everyone to have a basic level of health insurance; the Democrats have no individual mandate. Both plans would expand public programs and subsidized coverage for low-income families. Neither is cheap. Schwarzenegger's plan would cost $12 billion annually and cover an estimated 4.1 million people; the Democrats' would cost $8.3 billion and cover 3.4 million.

Let's hope they reach a tenable consensus and trigger tons o' momentum on a national agenda. Once again, Californians, have more power than they realize. . . JULIA WHITTY

Missing Icecap Begets More Melting

| Sat Aug. 25, 2007 2:57 AM EDT

This from Jeff Master's Wunderblog on the disappearance of summer Arctic sea ice. The record low was smashed (again) just last week:

With one third of the Arctic ice cap already gone, and another month of melting to go, we need to consider what effect this will have on weather, climate, and sea level rise. Well, we don't need to worry about sea level rise, since the polar sea ice is already in the ocean, and won't appreciably change sea level when it melts. However, the remarkable melting of the ice cap will likely lead to unusual weather patterns this fall and winter. The lack of sea ice will put much more heat and moisture into the polar atmosphere, affecting the path of the jet stream and the resultant storm tracks. Expect a much-delayed arrival of winter to the Northern Hemisphere again this year, which may lead to further accelerated melting of the ice cap in future years.

Here's an animation of the past, present and forecast future from UCAR. JULIA WHITTY

Russia Drowns NGOs in Red Tape

| Fri Aug. 24, 2007 7:41 PM EDT

Strict enforcement of a new registration law is not only belaboring the work of NGOs in Russia but threatening their very existence. As the English-language daily the Moscow Times reports, many NGOs are struggling to comply with the new law's onerous demands.

Groups whose agenda present a challenge to the power-grasping Putin administration seem to have been singled out. The St. Petersburg-based Citizens' Watch, which seeks to protect constitutional rights from police and military encroachments, is now obligated to submit "the entirety of its written correspondence with anyone or any organization outside the office over a three-year period—including e-mails." Another group, the Heinrich Boell Foundation, which promotes democracy and human rights, plans to take on an extra employee just to deal with the increased paperwork.

Some in the NGO world and elsewhere wonder whether the new measures are, at least partially, in response to the recent revolutions in former Soviet bloc countries. Georgia's Rose Revolution in 2003 and the Ukraine's Orange Revolution in 2004 both toppled pro-Putin leaders through grassroots protests.

It's a pity Putin doesn't seem to realize that a strong state is helped, not hindered, by a strong civil society. Then again, perhaps it's too optimistic to expect a former KBG man, who has stacked his administration with former comrades, to allow the forces of transparency to operate unfettered.

— Ellen Charles

Freaky Friday Music News

| Fri Aug. 24, 2007 4:58 PM EDT

The Nuge is On Fire

  • Ted Nugent confirms his insanity by going on an onstage rant in which he describes various acts certain Democrats could perform with the machine guns that he happened to be brandishing at the time. The profanity-filled clip (definitely NSFW) features the Nuge calling Barack Obama a "piece of s***... I told him to suck on my machine gun," and offering Hillary Clinton the opportunity to "ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless b****." More disturbingly, the crowd goes wild. Other politicians get a shout-out as well, and then he caps it off by hollering "Freedom!" Wow.
  • Jeez, more bad Amy Winehouse news? Do I have to write about it? You say it drives readership in key target demos? Fine. Well, she and her boyfriend apparently beat the crap out of each other, and then she said she did it to herself, despite the photographic evidence of them both looking utterly destroyed. The UK's Daily Mail published the photos. (Also possibly NSFW if you don't like bruises or blood or feeling really sad).
  • In less, um, tabloid-oriented news, MTV and MySpace will host "real-time, one-on-one presidential dialogues" where candidates will, I guess, text you abbreviated answers to questions like "WHR R U AT," or something. The first one, with John Edwards, is to be aired on MTV and webcast on MySpace on September 27th. (MTV News)
  • The tracklisting for Bob Dylan's elaborate box set, appropriately titled Dylan, has been determined, and published by Billboard. The compilation will be available in multiple versions including a cloth-covered box complete with lithograph prints and replica LP sleeves. The recent Mark Ronson remix of "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)" will not be featured on any of the CDs but will be released on iTunes starting September 18. (Billboard)