Political MoJo

UK-US Bomb Plot/Red Alert: Test Run in 1994?

| Thu Aug. 10, 2006 12:17 PM EDT

Some scary background from Tony Harris of CNN (with the caveat that it's not yet certain "Al Qaeda," whatever that name means these days, is behind this):

In fact in 1994, al Qaeda actually pulled off a test run of one of these bombs that was assembled on an airplane using liquid explosives and a detonator. In that case, it was a Casio watch. Here the thinking is that it might have been one of these electric key fobs.

So he says ... we're only talking about a small amount of explosives. Look at what Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, had. That was only a small amount of explosives, yet it was enough to bring down a plane, and that was much evolved from what happened in 1994.

In 1995 and 1996, there was a plot to bring down up to 11 transoceanic flights from the Pacific into the United States. This plot is very reminiscent of that. So you begin to see where there's an evolution of the al Qaeda playbook here.

Not sure how testing this out 10 years ago and doing it today represents an "evolution" but it's an interesting data point.

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Israel Allowing Hezbollah Attacks for PR?

| Thu Aug. 10, 2006 2:40 AM EDT

Tom Ricks, the Washington Post reporter whose remarkable book, Fiasco, tells you everything you didn't want to know about the Iraq war, tells Howard Kurtz on "Reliable Sources" (via PR Watch)that in Lebanon and just about any other war today, "civilian casualties are part of the battlefield play for both sides." Now Ricks is not a shoot-from-the-hip sort of guy, so this should be taken pretty seriously:

One of the things that is going on, according to some U.S. military analysts, is that Israel purposely has left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they're being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon.

KURTZ: Hold on, you're suggesting that Israel has deliberately allowed Hezbollah to retain some of its fire power, essentially for PR purposes, because having Israeli civilians killed helps them in the public relations war here?

RICKS: Yes, that's what military analysts have told me.

Hmm, using terror attacks to justify drastic military action that also serves other strategic objectives. Rings a bell somehow.

Al Gore, Penguins, Global Warming, ExxonMobil, YouTube

| Thu Aug. 10, 2006 1:43 AM EDT

gorepenguins.jpgReally, we should have blogged about this a week ago. Still, it bears repeating that Antonio Regalado and Dionee Searcey of the Wall Street Journal reported that the popular YouTube video portraying Al Gore boring a few penguins with his talk on global warming appears to be the product of "DCI Group, a Washington, D.C., public relations and lobbying firm whose clients include oil company Exxon Mobil Corp."

Ok, so this is insidious on a couple of levels. First, as Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, reported in a great investigative piece in Mother Jones, ExxonMobil has funded a vast array of think tanks and opinion makers (including FoxNews.com columnist Stephen Milloy) who—call it coincidence—are all major players in the debunking global warming movement. Really, it's hard to call it a movement, since as Mooney's article so clearly proves, all the major climate change debunkers receive funding from ExxonMobil.

The Gore video is just the latest example of the carefully crafted distance between those Exxon funds, and the convenient message they then spew out. To wit:

Dave Gardner, an Exxon spokesman, confirms that Exxon is a client of DCI. But he says Exxon had no role in creating the "Inconvenient Truth" spoof. "We, like everyone else on the planet, have seen it, but did not fund it, did not approve it, and did not know what its source was," Mr. Gardner says.

But as the Journal also points out:
The anti-Gore video represents a less well-known side of YouTube. As its popularity has exploded, the public video-sharing site has drawn marketers looking to build buzz for new music releases and summer blockbusters. Now, it's being tapped by political operatives, public relations experts and ad agencies to sway opinions.
Hipsters beware. (And, also, haven't the penguins been through enough lately? And in Texas, already.)

Full WSJ story after the jump.

Americans Say the Dumbest Things

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

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Want to know why half of Americans still say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded—up from 36% last year?

Watch this video.

Sometimes you just feel like giving up.

Remember Darfur?

| Wed Aug. 9, 2006 5:42 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 3:08 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 2:19 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 1:09 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 12:53 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.]