You may have read here (and here) before about U.S. corporations' shady dealings with Colombian paramilitaries. The next issue of Virginia Quarterly Review (edited by Mother Jones' contributing writer Ted Genoways) includes an excellent piece by Philip Robertson on Chiquita's dark history in the Colombian banana business. The new VQR doesn't come out until next week, but you can read an electronic version of Robertson's piece here.

Can it be? Variety reports that Laura Dern will don heavy make up and big hair to portray the former Florida Secretary of State in an HBO movie about the 2000 Florida recount debacle. Harris should be flattered by the choice. Gore campaign lawyer David Boies didn't fare so well. He'll be played by Ed Begley Jr., but HBO did show some inside-the-beltway savvy in casting hunky Denis Leary as the Democrats' little known get-out-the-vote genius Michael Whouley. The film is scheduled to air smack in the middle of the presidential campaign next fall.

(H/T Washington City Paper)

This is about as dumb as ol' Mahmoud's claim that there are no gays in Iran.

Civil war has been averted in Iraq and Iranian intervention there has "ceased to exist," Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said yesterday.

From the Post.

I cannot believe Petraeus was able to go before Congress and completely shift the debate by claiming sectarian violence is down in Iraq, without his phony methodology being revealed or the true number of civilian casualties in Iraq being exposed. This is a chart from the Department of Defense, conveniently released after Petraeus' big moment was over. Click the chart for a larger version.

august07casualtiesiraq300.jpg

If the American people looked at this chart, there is simply no way they would believe the war is getting better and deserves more time.

(H/T Atrios)

Update: The man in charge of counting casualties for the military, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dan Macomber, tells the Washington Post that these statistics are an inexact science:

"Everybody has their own way of doing it," Macomber said of his sectarian analyses. "If you and I . . . pulled from the same database, and I pulled one day and you pulled the next, we would have totally different numbers."

So someone looking to push an agenda would have a pretty easy time...

Online community and major time-waster Facebook is reportedly considering selling five percent of the company to Microsoft for $300 million to $500 million. That puts the value of Facebook at $10 billion.

Just in case there was any doubt that I'm in the wrong business...

Americans are known for outsourcing everything. So, why not the Iraq war too? Currently, contractors in Iraq number more than 180,000, according to the Associated Press. 137,000 of them are working for the Department of Defense, and thousands more have been separately contracted by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Their number is greater than the 163,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq now.

As journalist Jeremy Scahill writes, "In essence, the Bush administration has created a shadow army that can be used to wage wars unpopular with the American public but extremely profitable for a few unaccountable private companies."

And this "shadow army" is accountable to no one, thanks to the immunity granted by U.S. authorities following the invasion in 2003, which essentially prohibits Iraqi courts from prosecuting contractors. This action prompted politicians on both sides of the aisle to introduce bills which would place U.S. security contractors under U.S. federal criminal codes. But in the meantime, contractors continue to rake in billions of dollars in Iraq and surely, when we withdraw, they'll make bank off that as well.

—Neha Inamdar

Last Friday, Chile's Supreme Court ruled to extradite former Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori to face charges of corruption, and more importantly, human rights violations in Peru. Within a day of the decision, authorities packed Fujimori into a helicopter and flew him to the airport, from where he was shuttled off to Lima. This is pretty stunning considering every indication from Chile's high court could have predicted exactly the opposite and that it is not unlike a South American court to let one of its leaders get away with, well, murder. But Chile's unprecedented ruling might just change the game.

News reports indicate that Chile's full Supreme Court lost its nerve after initially deciding to reject Fujimori's extradition, but what's really important here is that for the first time in modern history a domestic court of a sovereign nation has returned a dictator to face the people he abused. I definitely didn't see this one coming.

—Rafael Valero

This is why you let guys like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speak. They eventually make asses of themselves. From the Iranian president's highly disputed appearance at Columbia:

Actually, um, there are gays in Iran. Think Progress quotes 365gay.com: "Some international gay rights groups believe that more than 4,000 lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979." And here's video proof.

Democratic Leadership Council President and Slate blogger Bruce Reed answered the call last week when the Romney for President campaign launched a "create your own ad" contest. Team Mitt promised to buy air time for the ad with the most "love" and page views. Reed apparently couldn't resist. He used the campaign's official materials (provided by the contest), cut and pasted, and— voila!—created "Way!," a funny riff on how Mitt dissuaded son Tagg from becoming a Democrat.

The Romney people were not amused and have banned Reed's creation from the contest (which got all of 137 entries, according to Reed). Nonetheless, Reed's creation has generated vastly more love than anything the Mitt supporters have come up with. See it for yourself here:
jumpcut movie:"Way!"

Christopher Orr highlights the best part of Newt Gingrich's Fox News interview from yesterday.

CHRIS WALLACE: You've been flirting with the idea of running for president for months. And this week you said you want to see if you can get pledges of $30 million before deciding. How is that going to work?
NEWT GINGRICH: ....Next Monday, Randy Evans, who's been my friend and adviser for many, many years, will hold a press briefing. Randy will spend the next three weeks checking with people around the country. If he reports back that, in fact, we think the resources are there for a real race.... then close to that we'll face a very big decision in late October. If there aren't enough resources, I'm not for doing unrealistic things.
WALLACE: But why even go through it unless, if you get the money, you'd run?
GINGRICH: I think the odds are very high, if we ended up with that level of pledges, we'd -- I don't see as a citizen how you could turn that down.
WALLACE: So you'd run.
GINGRICH: I think you'd be compelled to.

People say Hillary would fare poorly in a general election because she would energize Republicans. Newt Gingrich would do the same to Democrats, except times a thousand. So everyone get out your checkbooks and start mailing money to this Randy Evans fellow. Or just use newt.org. Winning the future!