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30 April 2007

Texas defends its shortcut to executing a Mexican citizen

No matter how good an imagination you have, it's pretty hard to put yourself into Jose Medellin's situation -- a convicted murderer on Texas' death row. "This could never happen to me" comes to mind.

This strange story might jump-start your imagination. This college-educated middle-class teenage girl from Sweden went backpacking to see her world and ended up in a variety of East African dungeons. International diplomacy played a part in returning her home safely, but she'd innocently bumbled into crap so deep that she owes her rescue more to Miracles and Magic than diplomacy.

The states of my part of the USA -- New England -- chose decades ago to stop executing human beings, but some states like Florida and Texas have evolved a very different politic in which executions are wildly popular vote candy, and no politician who opposes or tries to end capital punishment can hope to rise to power in Texas or Florida these days. The last time I checked, something around 85 percent of Texas voters favor keeping capital punishment.

"The Rule Of Law" gets talked about a lot these days. What the local laws are isn't too important. What's important is that every person gets the benefits of all the local laws that apply to his or her situation. The government and most of its citizens may be very angry at someone in its dungeon, but The Rule Of Law forbids the government from taking shortcuts, or ignoring its own laws, in deciding what to do with the dungeon resident.

As Texas was speeding Jose Medellin through its Execution Assembly Line, the authorities skipped a step. Medellin is a citizen of Mexico. And the USA is a signator to an international treaty that guarantees that every foreigner accused of a crime and tossed into a US dungeon has a right to promptly see a consular representative of his own government.

Part of Texas' argument in the Medellin appeals has been that the state of Texas is NOT a signator of these international treaties, and so never had an obligation to tell Medellin that he was entitled to a visit from the Mexican consul.

If ever there was a US president who wanted to enable the savage vote candy of Texas, and wanted to tell an international treaty that recognizes rights for accused Mexicans to go fuck itself, it is former Texas Governor George W. Bush. Part of how he got where he is today directly involves his demonstrated enthusiasm for Texas' Death Row.

But apparently this is one of the very rare international and human-rights controversies during the Bush presidency where the federal government feels obliged to take the side of the foreign guy in the dungeon, and oppose Texas' efforts to snuff him.

During the heyday of the Roman Empire, you could be anywhere in a vast swath of Eurasia or Africa, and if you got into a really nasty, dangerous jam, all you had to say was "Civis Romanus sum" -- "I am a Roman Citizen" -- and suddenly the local lynch mob backed off. US citizenship is very similar. For about two centuries, the USA has spread the word to everybody on the planet that if they fuck with an American citizen, the consequences could involve prompt naval or aerial bombardment, all the way up to Regime Change.

An American abroad can still get into Deep Shit -- he can commit nasty crimes, face local laws, and even be put to death -- but US diplomats hover to make sure every US citizen is treated in accord with the Rule Of Law, and gets every right and protection local law promises. We're very quick to point to this international treaty to demand the American get all his rights.

Now the Supreme Court has to decide if the treaty works in both directions. Does "Civis Mexicanus sum" have any force or meaning in a Texas dungeon? Or is Texas a sovereign nation within a sovereign nation, and under no obligation to recognize any pact the US federal government has signed with the world's other sovereign nations?


Monday 30 April 2007

U.S. court to decide
case of Mexican
on death row

by James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday it would decide whether President George W. Bush had the authority to direct a state court to comply with an international tribunal's ruling in the case of a Mexican on death row in Texas.

The justices agreed to review a decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that concluded Bush had exceeded his constitutional authority by intruding into the independent powers of the judiciary.

The case involved Jose Medellin, who was denied the right to meet with a consular officer from Mexico after his arrest for murder.

The World Court in The Hague in 2004 ordered the United States to review the cases of Medellin and 50 other Mexican death row inmates because U.S. officials failed to tell them of their right under the Vienna Convention to talk to consular officers immediately after their arrests.

Bush in 2005 decided to comply with the World Court's ruling and he directed state courts to review the 51 cases to determine whether the violation of their rights caused the defendants any harm at trial or at sentencing.

Bush's action caused the Supreme Court to dismiss an earlier appeal by Medellin without deciding the merits of the dispute and to send the case back to the Texas courts.

After losing before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Medellin's attorneys again appealed to the Supreme Court. They said the Texas court has put the United States in violation of its undisputed treaty obligations.

Bush administration attorneys supported Medellin's appeal. They said Bush acted within his authority and that the Texas court invalidated a presidential action "on a matter of international importance."

Medellin, a gang member, was sentenced to death in state court for the 1993 rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston. The brutal killings stemmed from a gang initiation.

Lawyers for the state opposed the appeal. They said Bush exceeded his authority and that he cannot pre-empt Texas criminal law.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments and decide the case during its upcoming term that begins in October.

- 30 -

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29 April 2007

heroin is safer than marijuana (if you don't want to flunk a school drug test)

Shame on The Chronicle, of West Lorne, Ontario, for running this high school student's column and not fixing his/her spelling and grammar. Embarrassing a kid in print, in front of the whole town, is a bad introduction to newspapers. No wonder kids end up so screwed up on MTV and YouTube and MySpace.

Yeah, well, and shame on Taylor Cundy for being such a crappy speller and having such lousy grammar. Youth is No Excuse for subliteracy. Especially for a Canadian Anglophone Youth.

Can't verify, but my intuition is that Taylor's a girl. She COULD have shown her draft column to her Health Teacher before she sent it off to The Chronicle. Maybe she did. So shame on the Health Teacher. Surely good spelling and good grammar are important components of good health.

West Lorne is near London, Ontario, and has a population of 1400. Wikipedia reports that West Lorne is home to western Elgin County's only high school, West Elgin Secondary School.


The Chronicle
West Lorne, Ontario, Canada
Thursday 5 April 2007

Most Teenagers Don't Use Pot

by Taylor Cundy

In health class every year we learn about drugs and their effects on the human body. We learn the drug groups and some of the effects. What we don't learn is what this does to the brain and the rest of our body. The thing that scares me about health class is that nobody listens and I know that over half my class is going to try drugs before they turn eighteen. I hope that this article will give them enough information to not try drugs.

The most popular drug that we hear about in our area is marijuana. One in six high school students have tried marijuana. Marijuana has many different street names but in our area the most common names are weed and pot. What people that use marijuana don't know is that traces of this drug stay in your body for up to seven days after you actually use it. Some effects of marijuana are feeling very thirsty, hungry, paranoia and delirium. If I could tell all marijuana users one thing it would be that you don't have to use marijuana just because you think everybody else is doing it. Most teenagers do not use marijuana!

Another drug that teens take is ecstasy. They use it at raves so our area probably doesn't have a lot of this drug. Ecstasy has good and bad side effects. Some good side effects are self-confidence, empathy, energy and peacefulness. Then there are the bad side effects which include the need to touch other people, increased heart rate and blood pressure, blurred vision, chills and or sweating. Are you willing to take these risks every time that you take ecstasy?

There are four main stages of drug abuse. The first stage is experimental use which usually involves peers for recreational use. The next stage is regular use where the taker worries about losing the drug. Daily preoccupation is the third step where the user loses any motivation and there behaviour changes become obvious. The last stage of drug abuse is dependence where the user can't face daily life without the drug. This is the stage when the user will need serious rehabilitation help.

I don't think that drugs are cool and I don't get why people try to pressure others to try drugs. I hope that this article has taught you something that you didn't know and has convinced you that there are bad things that go along with drugs. Always remember that its okay to say "no" to something that you don't want to do.


The Chronicle
West Lorne, Ontario, Canada
Thursday 26 April 2007

Letter to the Editor:
Students Keep Using Drugs

Dear Editor,

Much of Taylor Cundy's column "Most Teenagers Don't Use Pot" (5 April) reflects a school drug curriculum of value. Cundy writes, however:

"What people that use marijuana don't know is that traces of this drug stay in your body for up to seven days after you actually use it."

This factoid doesn't exist in a vacuum, but warns students that they risk failing a school or workplace drug test. It's three weeks too short; THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, is fat soluble and typically lingers in detectable amounts for up to a month after ingestion.

In the United States, where suspicionless random student drug testing has become central to anti-drug policy, students have learned about marijuana's month-long lingering traces.

Students are protecting themselves against a life-destroying failed drug test by shifting to heroin, which has become concentrated enough to snort rather than inject.

Opiates like heroin, codeine, morphine and Oxycodone are water soluble, and are flushed from the body within a few days, so teens can party with opiates on Friday night and -- if they live through the weekend -- test negative by Tuesday.

Law enforcement and drug-testing industry authorities claim that when students know they'll be tested, students stop using drugs.

In fact, students keep using drugs, but as peer word spreads, they shift from a medically innoccuous substance to highly addictive and toxic substances to evade the tests.

No death has ever been attributed to marijuana use. Fatal heroin and opiate overdoses, and deaths from binge alcohol drinking, are commonplace tragedies. Such teen deaths are on the rise in the USA because of badly flawed government anti-drug policies which rely on the instant magic junk science of suspicionless student drug tests.

Robert Merkin
Northampton, Massachusetts (online reader)

Copyright 2007 The Chronicle

28 April 2007

BOO! dhist big world cheese is coming to Northampton

Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, walks past the Tibetan flag during the official opening of the International Tibet Support Groups Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, in this 10 October 2003 file photo. A plan to honor the Dalai Lama by flying the Tibetan flag over City Hall during his May 2-4, 2007, visit to Madison, Wisconsin, is drawing flak from an atheist group and China's ruling Communist Party. (Associated Press photo)


Let's take a holiday from being terrified of Muslims.

Today we'll be terrified of BUDDHISTS!!!!!!!!!!!


The Daily Hampshire Gazette
Northampton, Massachusetts USA
Saturday 28 April 2007

Christians counter
Dalai Lama's May visit

by Casey Welch

NORTHAMPTON -- Next month, a visit here by the 14th Dalai Lama will attract hundreds of devout Buddhists, excited students and curious onlookers.

But the renowned Tibetan religious leader has some doubters. Today, conservative Christians will gather in Northampton to plan ways to assure that their faith is not overshadowed by the visiting spiritual leader.

"We welcome the Dalai Lama here, but we also want to have a chance to reach Tibetan Buddhists with the gospel," said Doug VanBronkhorst, executive director of a group called Interserve USA, in a written statement.

Interserve USA is part of an international and interdenominational organization that seeks to minister to the peoples of the Arab world and Asia. It will hold a conference on Tibetan Buddhism today at the College Church. Interserve USA is scheduling conferences in other cities where the Dalai Lama will speak this spring, including Maui, Hawaii; and Madison, Wisconsin.

The conferences aim to present a view of Tibetan Buddhism to participants and to teach Christian congregations ways to explain their faith to followers of the Dalai Lama.

Christian anxiety

The conferences reflect the anxiety of some Christians who are concerned about the impact of Tibetan Buddhism in the United States.

"Some Christians are perplexed by the growing popularity of Buddhism in America and feel a need to further spread the message of Christianity in response," said Abraham Zablocki, visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Hampshire College.

The Buddhist concept of enlightenment and practice of meditation are popular in American culture.

Jamie Hubbard, the Yehan Numata Professor of Buddhist Studies at Smith College, said Buddhism has become mainstream in the United States during the last 20 years.

Since the exile of the Dalai Lama from Tibet in 1959 and the ensuing immigration of Tibetan Buddhists to India and other parts of the world, the Eastern religious group has become more accessible to different groups in the United States, including Christians.

Another cause of the popularity of Tibetan Buddhism in the United States, Hubbard said, is the Dalai Lama's efforts to connect with Western political leaders and scientists and his interest in modernizing his country.

"The Dalai Lama himself has made so many efforts at outreach and dialogue. Who hasn't heard of the Dalai Lama these days?" Hubbard asked.

But some Christian leaders worry that the popularization of Tibetan Buddhism has blurred the line between what is trendy and what contradicts Christian teachings.

"Tibetan Buddhism is growing in the United States, and a number of Americans are enamored with or influenced by it," VanBronkhorst said in an Interserve statement. "Our goal is to give people an understanding of that religion and inform them of the many differences and few similarities between Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity."

David Householder, one of the speakers at today's event, said in a phone interview that besides teaching Christians about Tibetan Buddhism, the conference will discuss how Christians can interact with those attending the Dalai Lama's May 9 talk at Smith College and how Christians can more effectively share their own beliefs with Tibetan Buddhists. Householder, Interserve's 'ethnoserve' director, lived and worked with Tibetan Buddhists for 27 years in South Asia.

He will speak during the event today, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon. The conference costs $10 to attend. The church is located at 48 Pomeroy Terrace in Northampton.

VanBronkhorst said he hopes the conference will improve communication. "When people talk out of ignorance, not a whole lot gets done," he said.

Understanding difference

The Rev. Donald Lundgren, minister of missions at the College Church, said he believes that while Tibetan Buddhists have had an increasing influence in the United States, many American Christians are uninformed about Buddhism.

Zablocki, the Hampshire College anthropologist, said there has been a rich tradition of interfaith dialogue between Christians and Buddhists.

The Dalai Lama wrote "The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus," for instance. But Zablocki adds that there are fundamental philosophical differences which make it hard for Christians and Buddhists to understand each other.

Christians believe there is an all-powerful creator, he notes, while Buddhists believe that all people have the capacity within themselves for enlightenment. Christians believe human beings have souls, while Buddhists believe that people are always changing, so there can be no permanent essence or soul.

Hubbard said that the philosophical differences between the two religions do not mean they are incompatible.

Hubbard said some Catholic priests are lineage holders in Buddhist traditions -- meaning they are certified to have learned Buddhist teachings and can teach as Zen masters -- and that Buddhist contemplation practices have been adopted by nonreligious and Christian groups.

Zablocki said the Dalai Lama believes people can learn from Buddhist teachings without converting.

"It is worth noting that the Dalai Lama himself discourages people from converting from their own religions, whether they be Christianity, Judaism, or others," Zablocki said. "Indeed, the Dalai Lama has said that his own religion is simply kindness, thereby attempting to find common ground with other religious traditions like Christianity, which also teaches kindness."

Hubbard said it would be nice if people learned more about Buddhism as a result of Interserve's conference today. "It can only contribute to more tolerance between different kinds of religious people."

- 30 -

from Interserve:

News & Events

March 22, 2007

Tibetan Buddhism workshops to precede Dalai Lama’s USA visits this April

Tibetan Buddhism. It’s ancient. It’s complex. It’s trendy. And its leader, the Dalai Lama is visiting your city this spring.

Join with other Christian believers for a half-day workshop sponsored by Interserve and learn how you can share the gospel with Asian and Western followers of this world-wide religion. Led by experts who have lived and worked among Tibetan Buddhist peoples around the world, it will be a time to learn, share, and pray.

Workshops will be April 14 at First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, CA, and April 28 at West Houston Chinese Church, TX, College Church, Wheaton, IL, and College Church, Northampton, MA. Cost is $10 per person.

For more information, call 800-809-4440 or email


Who We Are

Interserve USA is part of an international and interdenominational fellowship of Christians committed to each other and in partnership for service to the people of the Arab World and Asia.

We are made up of Christian professionals and highly trained personnel who use their professional skills to minister holistically to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people they serve.

What We Do

Some examples:

1. Need credit for medical school? We offer medical electives in Central Asia.

2. Use your engineering skills in the mountainous region of Nepal.

3. Teach foreign language in the foreign land of East Asia.

4. Serve the people of Bangladesh as a nurse or physician in a rural hospital.

5. Help some families with home schooling in South Asia.

6. Come spend your summer in Mongolia teaching English to local students.

7. Are you a skilled Ophthalmologist? Use your skills in an eye hospital in Pakistan.

8. Work with the deaf and blind in the Arab World.

9. Called to serve, but not overseas. Check out EthnoServe, a ministry within Interserve in the United States.

Our Aim

We aim to make Christ known across cultures by word and action in countries where otherwise He wouldn't be known. By placing Christians with skills in these areas to serve individuals, churches and communities holistically they are being the real salt and light of this world.

Our History

Interserve began in 1852 when a group of teachers, Christian women from England, showed great love and compassion to the women and children of India. Orphanages and women's hospitals and school were founded in India and the good news of Christ shared.

What We Are Today

We now are made up of branches in 19 countries who send cross-cultural workers to countries in Northern Africa, the Middle East and Asia. We work in partnership with other agencies to ensure the work of our Partners reach those who need it the most.

Support us as we pursue our mission!

for north america, a once-in-a-lifetime deal, be there or be square

Aufstieg und Fall
der Stadt Mahagonny

The Rise and Fall
of the City Mahagonny

opera, sung in German
with English supertitles

music by Kurt Weill
words by Bertolt Brecht

Spoleto Festival USA 2007
Charleston, South Carolina

Sottile Theatre

May 25 at 7 pm
May 28, 30 at 8 pm
June 1, 3, 6 at 8 pm

tickets: $130, $100, $50, $25

Sponsored by BMW Manufacturing Co.

This performance is funded in part by the
Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc.,
7 East 20th Street, New York NY 10003.

Opera programming is endowed by the
Arthur and Holly Magill Foundation.
Mahagonny will feature the
Ginn Resorts Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra.

26 April 2007

2 imbeddable CNN war whores urge America to stay the course

Kyra Phillips
Michael Ware
CNN "American Morning"
[via webform]

re: interview, Thursday 26 April 2007

Dear Ms. Phillips and Mr. Ware:

I don't know what you are, but you're not journalists.

Maybe the Bush White House is paying you to support the War in Iraq with preferential access to film US military operations in Iraq.

In return, you urge the American people to support the U.S. War in Iraq, and parrot the White House and Republican warhawks about predicting disaster for the region and for America if American troops leave Iraq.

Stop being whores for Bush's War. That's Fox's job. Fox never even pretended to be an objective broadcaster of news.

Until your "American Morning" segment, I at least thought CNN was pretending to collect and broadcast news objectively.

I'm a Vietnam-era Army veteran, and this piece of shit is the biggest American military disaster since Vietnam. Stop making the Iraq War continue endlessly like Vietnam.

There are 58,000 names on the Vietnam War Memorial. If Americans listen to your advice and "stay the course," how many names on the Iraq War Memorial will be courtesy of you and CNN?

3334 of my neighbors' children have been killed in Iraq since the invasion. I want it to stop ASAP.

In November, millions of my neighbors voted to change control of Congress for one paramount reason: To stop the war in Iraq.

Report the news and leave political advice to people who don't pretend to be journalists.

Robert Merkin

SP5 US Army 1969-1971



War Funding Fight; Fugitive Father Caught; Owning a Home in Your 30s, 40s and 50s

Aired April 26, 2007 - 07:59 ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. Thanks so much for being with us once again. It is Thursday, April 26th.
I'm Kiran Chetry, here in New York.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Roberts, here in Washington.


CHETRY: And we're back now with CNN's Kyra Phillips and war correspondent Michael Ware. They both have just come back from Iraq.

Kyra and Michael, thanks for being with us once again.

And we asked you before to give us your take on some words from General Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq. He spoke yesterday on the Capitol. Let's hear one more statement from him yesterday.


GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCES IN IRAQ: What I would like to see Iraq end as, of course, is a government, a country that is one Iraq, with a government that is representative of and responsive to the people, all the people of Iraq that can defend itself, at peace with itself, and ideally an ally in the global war on terror.


CHETRY: That's a lot. I mean, that's a lofty goal. Is it possible, Kyra?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have to tell you, I heard that quote. And I thought, OK, General, would you stop being so PC and stop saying what everybody wants?

Of course everybody wants peace in Iraq. And I even sent him an e-mail this morning. We've been having correspondence. And I said, "Give me a break. Tell me what you really were saying."

And he said right here -- he said, "I'm not going to lie. I talk about the setbacks as well. There have also been the sensational car bomb attacks, the tragic loss of the combat outpost three days ago, and the challenges in Diyala province, which, understandably, have tended to overshadow the sense of slow progress on the ground in Baghdad, Anbar and some other locations."

He's a straight shooter. You've just got to know what to ask him and how to pick at him.

This is -- this was such a PC answer. And I know you spent a lot of time in Diyala province. You know he's a straight shooter, too. And he's making a good point about the setbacks in that area.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. I mean, Diyala is now the new frontline against al Qaeda. I mean, to be honest, it's a tragically bloody affair.

The brigade that was there last year lost 19 troops in 12 months. The brigade there now has lost 50 in six months.

And you listen very carefully to what General Petraeus says. He says, this is what we would like to see, a representative government.

When I was in Diyala province, I interviewed a two-star general on camera for CNN, and he admitted for the first time from anyone in the military that they are now prepared to accept options other than democracy. Now, this is what this war was sold to the American public on. Yet, they are saying now democracy isn't mandatory, it's an option, and that they are prepared to see a government that can protect itself, give services to its people, and it doesn't have to be democratic.

In fact, the general said most of our allies in this region are not democratic. So that fundamentally addresses the root cause of why America says it went to war. And now the military is saying, well, we may not get there.

CHETRY: Well, the problem is, is that it's left into the hands, it is up to the Iraqis if they want democracy. I mean, at the beginning it was to clear the way so that could be the path. If that's not how it goes for them, we can't force it.

WARE: No. But I mean, remember, the vision for Iraq was to establish this shining model of democracy that was hoped would then spread throughout the region. Well, the security situation has become so bad, Iranian influence has become so strong, Iran is much stronger because of this war. Al Qaeda is much stronger because of this war.

And as military men, not diplomats, not politicians, they're saying first is security. And if another kind of government that is not democratic but is strong and is an ally of the U.S., we will accept that.

CHETRY: Let's answer some questions that our e-mailers asked us this morning. One of them was about how Iraqis live.

"How do Iraqis live and go about their ordinary lives? Where do they eat out and where do they shop?"


PHILLIPS: They don't. I mean, you don't go to a coffee shop and have a Starbucks. You don't go to the movies. You don't just cruise the -- stroll along the main strip on -- in the evening.

There is no normal social life in Iraq. And it's hard for Iraqis, because this was the heyday decades ago.

WARE: Yes. Yes.

PHILLIPS: I mean, especially under Saddam. I mean, you could party and have a great time. And so they have just become accustomed to that. They just hope they can get up and walk to work, whether it's their dress shop or their pharmacy or whatever it is, and just make it there alive, make some money, make it back home to their family, and cook dinner.

WARE: I'll give you an example. I mean, there's an area of Baghdad where I used to live. And at night it was alive with Iraqi families going out to restaurants, shopping, boys on the streets trying to meet girls at ice cream parlors.

This same area now is a battle zone. All the buildings are destroyed. American troops continue to die and get hurt there.

And indeed, one of my dearest Iraqi friends just two days, three days before I left the country, his father, his uncle and two of his cousins went to the shop. Luckily, his father got out of the car, walked into the shop. While he was in the shop, a car bomb detonated and he lost his uncle and both his cousins.

CHETRY: Yes, and it's tragic to hear about this. And as we talk about solutions, and we talk about -- would all of us, all the American troops pulling out help the situation?

PHILLIPS: No. No way.

WARE: Gee, no.

PHILLIPS: It would be a disaster. I mean, I had a chance to sit down with the minister of defense, to General Petraeus, Admiral Fallon, head of CENTCOM. I asked them all the question, whether Iraqi or U.S. military.

There is no way U.S. troops could pull out. It would be a disaster. They are doing too much training. They are helping the Iraqis not only with security, but trying to get the government up and running.

I mean, this is a country of let's make a deal. There's so much corruption still. If the U.S. military left, they have rules of engagement, they have an idea, a focus, it would be a disaster.

WARE: Well, even more than that, I mean, if you just want to look at it in terms of purely American national interest, if U.S. troops leave now, you're giving Iraq to Iran, a member of President Bush's axis of evil, and al Qaeda. That's who will own it.

And so, coming back now, I'm struck by the nature of the debate on Capitol Hill, how delusional it is. Whether you are for this war or against it, whether you've supported the way it's been executed or not, it does not matter. You broke it, you've got to fix it now. You can't leave, or it's going to come and blow back on America. PHILLIPS: The U.S. owns this. And that's a very interesting point that you bring up about Iran.

Everybody keeps talking about a timeline. Is the U.S. winning this war? They have to start talking about other issues, like the influence of Iran.

I mean, every single day there are munitions and training and advice and support coming from Iran. I mean, they do not want the U.S. to have any presence there.

CHETRY: And we could talk about this all day. And such a fascinating conversation. Unfortunately, we are out of time.

Michael Ware, Kyra Phillips...

PHILLIPS: The two of us never stop talking. Right?

CHETRY: I know you don't. Well, you do long enough to cut his hair, because I heard you were his barber in Iraq. So now he's going to be in a pickle if he goes back.

PHILLIPS: And thanks for the bottle of wine. I appreciate it.

WARE: I don't want to get blown up on the way to the hairdresser.


ROBERTS: Yes, I have been there. There the question is, where in Iraq do you go for a haircut? Where can you go?

PHILLIPS: You go to me, John. I did a really -- can't you tell? I did a great job.

ROBERTS: You did a lovely job, Kyra.

And it's great to see you back stateside, Michael, although I don't know if New York City is going to be able to handle you after four months in Iraq.


WARE: It was a long night, mate.

ROBERTS: All right. Good to see you.

from Wikipedia:

Michael Ware is an Australian journalist reporting for CNN as an international correspondent based in Baghdad. He joined CNN in May 2006, after five years with sister-publication Time Magazine.

He gained early acclaim as one of the few reporters to establish contacts with the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi insurgency, thereby gaining insight to the opposition as the Western coalition forces entered the country.[1] Those contacts have sometimes been controversial, as he was one of the first mainstream reporters to give voice to the opposition and his contacts provided him with videotapes of attacks on coalition forces, including the murder of four Blackwater contractors; however, his numerous 'embeds' with American and British military forces have also been the focus of many of his reports as he continues to describe conditions on the ground for both military and civilians in Iraq.

Life and career

A native of Brisbane (Queensland) Australia, and graduate of Brisbane Grammar School, Ware received his law degree from the University of Queensland[3] and spent a year as Associate to then-President of the Queensland Court of Appeals Tony Fitzgerald before moving into journalism. He worked for the Courier-Mail in Brisbane from 1995-2000 and gained local notice after a series of articles led to a formal investigation into police handling (or lack thereof) of a pedophilia ring. Ware declined to name sources who had provided him with internal police documents in the matter.

His earliest assignments for Time Magazine took him to the Solomon Islands in late 2001, and in December of that year he went into Afghanistan to cover the U.S. search for al-Qaeda. As preparations for the invasion of Iraq began in early 2003, Ware relocated to the Kurdistan area in the north of that country. Although he has gone into battles embedded with US forces, he has also won infamy as one of the few Western journalists to travel to terrorist camps and report on their perspective of the war. His Time bylines include reports from Kabul, Kandahar, Fallujah, Tikrit, Tal Afar, Mosul, Samarra, Ramadi, and Baghdad.

In September of 2004, while investigating reports that Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi's nascent "al-Qaeda in Iraq" group was openly claiming control of the Haifa Street area of Baghdad, Ware was briefly held at gunpoint by terrorists loyal to Zarqawi who had pulled pins from live grenades and forced his car to stop. The men dragged him from the car and stood him beneath one of the banners, intending to film the execution with his own video camera. By threatening them with immediate and violent retaliation, his local guides, including members of the Ba'athist Party, were able to win his release. (Ware has stated that had this happened only a few months later, when Zarqawi's group had grown stronger, he would have been killed.)

He was named Time's Baghdad Bureau Chief in October 2004. [2]

He was embedded for the September 2005 assault on Tal Afar, and his harrowing video of the battle has been included in a Frontline documentary and a 60 Minutes report.

In August 2006, he spent three weeks in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley as part of CNN's team covering the Israeli/Lebanese conflict before returning to Iraq.

In November 2006, publisher Hachette Australia will publish Foreign Correspondent, Ware's first book about the Iraq war.

Sniper video controversy

On October 18, 2006, CNN aired a small portion of a videotape sent to Ware which showed terrorist snipers shooting at and apparently murdering American troops.[3] The video was a propaganda tape sent to CNN to which Ware added narration for the edited broadcast that showed American soldiers being stalked and eventually brought under fire by the terrorists. After the news report was shown, Press Secretary Tony Snow accused CNN of "propagandizing" the American public.[4] Representative Duncan Hunter, then-chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked Donald Rumsfeld to remove CNN embedded reporters following the airing of the news report,claiming that "C-N-N has now served as the publicist for an enemy propaganda film featuring the killing of an American soldier."[5]

Heckling claim

On April 1, 2007 the Drudge Report cited an unnamed source asserting Ware "heckled" two Republican Senators during a press conference.[6] In a response on CNN April 2, 2007 Ware disputed the claim, saying that no one was willing to put their name on the report, as it is an anonymous claim, and told curious parties to view the tape.[7] According to Raw Story, a video of the press conference posted to the site confirmed Ware's claims. Raw Story asserted that the video "appeared to show a short press conference without any interruptions and with Ware himself asking no questions during the question and answer session." [8]

In an AFP article [9] on McCain's trip, Agence France-Press reporter Jennie Matthew quoted John McCain as stating "I studied warfare. I'm a student of history. If you control the capital city of a nation you have a significant advantage." Matthew noted in the article that McCain made the comments "as one reporter giggled at the back." After the story's appearance, Matthew advised Raw Story that "As far as I'm aware there was no disruption of the press conference at all. The reporter who giggled at the back was not Michael Ware, whom I don't remember giggling or making any kind of disturbance."[10] When contacted by the Powerline Blog regarding the matter Matthew again denied that Ware was giggling, and said she could not identify who was. Powerline interpreted this as a refusal by Matthew to disclose the name of the reporter.[11]


1. ^ [1]
2. ^ [2]
3. ^
4. ^ Video Shows Snipers' Chilling Work in Iraq. Retrieved on October 20, 2006.
5. ^ House Defense Chair Asks Pentagon to Remove Embedded CNN Reporters. Retrieved on October 21, 2006.
6. ^ Drudge, Matt. "CNN's Ware flatly denies report that he "heckled" McCain, but right-wing media flog it anyway", Drudge Report, April 2, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-04-02.
7. ^ "CNN's Ware flatly denies report that he "heckled" McCain, but right-wing media flog it anyway", Media Matters for America, April 2, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-04-02.
8. ^ "CNN reporter slams Drudge's charge that he 'heckled' McCain; Exclusive video confirms his claim", Rawstory, April 2, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-04-02.
9. ^ Matthew, Jennie. "US White House hopeful shops in Baghdad market", Agence France-Press, April 1, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-04-01.
10. ^ Roston, Michael. "Blogs accuse CNN reporter of disrupting McCain press conference again", Rawstory, April 4, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-04-06.
11. ^ "AFP Journalist Refusing to Disclose Who Giggled at McCain Press Conference", Powerline, April 4, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-04-04.

from Wikipedia:

Kyra Phillips (b. 1968)[1][2] is an American news anchor for CNN, where she has been reporting since October 1999. Phillips co-anchors the afternoon edition of CNN Newsroom with Don Lemon.[3]

Early life and career

Phillips grew up in San Diego[citation needed] and received her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Southern California.[3] Among her first jobs in broadcasting were the positions of weekend anchor and reporter for WLUK-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin before moving on to WDSU-TV in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1994.[3] Phillips has also held positions as morning anchor for KAMC-TV in Lubbock, Texas, field producer for CNN-Telemundo’s Washington, D.C. offices and a journalist of the special assignment unit of KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, California.[3] In her spare time, Phillips participates in Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and has been doing so since 1992.[3]

Career at CNN

Phillips joined CNN in 1999.[3] During her early years at CNN, Phillips was granted access to U.S. Navy airwing CVW-9 in 2001 as they prepared for the war in Afghanistan.[3] In January 2002, Phillips spent about a month in Antarctica to work on a television documentary to be featured on the program CNN Presents.[3] Later in 2002, Phillips produced reports focusing on the U.S. Navy’s reconnaissance missions from the USS Paul Hamilton, the Navy’s Special Operations Command, the Navy SEALs, and Special Warfare Combatant Crewman training, riding in an F-14 Tomcat during an air-to-air combat mission over the Persian Gulf. She has also participated in the Navy’s TOPGUN school, SWAT training, and other police and weapons training.[3]

In 2003, she was an embedded journalist during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, where she reported from the USS Abraham Lincoln.[3]

On September 22, 2006, Phillips was the last journalist to fly in an F-14 Tomcat before its official retirement from service in the U.S. Navy. [4]


In 1997 Phillips was named Reporter of the Year by the Associated Press.[3] She has also won four Emmy Awards and two Edward R. Murrow awards for investigative reporting.[3]


Kyra Phillips was criticised for her perceived insensitivity during an April 16, 2003 interview with Dr Imad al-Najada, the doctor of Ali Ismail Abbas, a 12-year-old boy who lost 15 relatives and both arms when a US missile hit his home in Baghdad.[5][6] Joan Walsh, news editor of, wrote:[7]

"CNN hit rock bottom on Wednesday morning, when anchor Kyra Phillips interviewed Ali's doctor in Kuwait, Dr Imad al- Najada explained that, although Ali told reporters he was grateful for his treatment, he also hopes no other 'children in the war will suffer like what he suffered'. Phillips seemed shocked by Ali's apparent inability to understand we were only trying to help him. 'Doctor, does he understand why this war took place? Has he talked about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the meaning. Does he understand it?'"

On a CNN segment aired on April 21, 2005, one of her guests said that research showed that it was "a proven fact" that "children in same-sex couple homes are 11 times more likely to be abused sexually." This claim is not generally accepted as fact. In an article explaining how dubious and misleading statistics enter the national discourse with little notice, the Wall Street Journal columnist, Carl Bialik, later determined the figure to have been derived from research published in Psychological Reports by Dr. Paul Cameron. Cameron's research has been criticized by other scientists for statistical flaws as well as for being both a researcher and an advocate for anti-gay agendas. Phillips called it a "bold statement" and gave the other guest with an opposing view an immediate opportunity to respond to the assertion.[8] Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, criticized Phillips for failing to challenge the statement, and said it is the responsibility of the anchor to ask pointed questions when such numbers are stated as fact. "'This is one of the faults of live TV,' McBride said. 'It is the anchor’s job to push back. You have to have the skills to question. The idea is not to say "yes, this is right," or "no, this is wrong," but to give the audience some kind of context of where the research comes from.'"[9]

Discussing live images of the 2006 labor protests in France, in which it was later determined that no one was killed, she said that the images of the demonstrations "Sort of brings back memories of Tiananmen Square, when you saw these activists in front of tanks."[10] CNN's Chris Burns told French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy that her comments were "regrettable."[11]


On August 29, 2006, during a CNN broadcast of President George W. Bush's speech on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall, Phillips' microphone was left on while she was in the bathroom. Portions of a personal conversation were broadcast live for over a minute and a half, during which Phillips offered advice on men, criticized her sister-in-law for being a "control freak," and praised her husband.[1] The conversation audio was mixed with the President's audio feed and both were discernable. CNN immediately apologized for the on-air gaffe.[2]


1. ^ Golf Life: Kyra Phillips from Travel + Leisure Golf
2. ^ Kyra Phillips at the Internet Movie Database
3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Kyra Phillips. Anchors & Reporters. CNN. Retrieved on 2006-08-30.
4. ^ CNN Newsroom - Sept 22, 2006. CNN Transcripts. CNN.
5. ^ Siddharth Varadarajan. "Ungrateful Ali: Painful Paradox of Embedded Freedom", Times of India, 2003-25-17. Retrieved on 2007-03-29.
6. ^ Media Watch: Saving Ali. ABC Australia (2003-04-21). Retrieved on 2007-03-29.
7. ^ Joan Walsh. "The unfortunate poster boy",, 2003-04-17. Retrieved on 2007-03-29.
8. ^ Carl Bialik. "Debate Over Gay Foster Parents Shines Light on a Dubious Stat", Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2005. Retrieved on 2007-03-29.
9. ^ Dyana Bagby. "Anti-gay numbers game", Southern Voice, 13 May 2005. Retrieved on 2007-03-29.
10. ^ "French protests 'Tiananmen'", FIN24, 2006-03-28. Retrieved on 2007-03-29.
11. ^ "OBSERVER: Just a little comment", Financial Times, 30 Mar 2006. Retrieved on 2007-03-29.

24 April 2007

vets' Wiccan symbol accepted on military graves

There's No Faith, there's Big Famous Faith, and there's Small Obscure Faith. Sometimes Big Government thinks its job is to help Big Faith stay Big, and keep Small Faith out of places like cemeteries for military veterans.

President George W. Bush seems to have cast his shadow on this business when he was governor of Texas. For the record, he was raised in the Episcopal Church, and after his marriage joined the United Methodist Church.

Once a member of the military dies or leaves active duty, his or her relationship to the military is transfered to the federal agency once known as the Veterans Administration (VA), but changed a decade ago to the cabinet-level Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). "DVA" has yet to catch on in vet usage, and most vets and their families still think of this large bureaucracy as "the VA."

Historically, the agency has been particularly prone to political and corruption scandals. Its high moment in serving veterans was probably immediately after World War Two, when President Truman named 5-star General of the Army Omar Bradley to be the VA's postwar chief. At more ordinary moments, VA chiefs tend to be picked from the leadership of the large national vets organizations like the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

I don't know how many member of the U.S. military are Wiccans. According to his widow, US Army Sergeant Patrick Stewart listed "Wiccan" as his religion on his dogtags. The Roman state religion/pantheon did not forbid other beliefs, and many Roman soldiers were followers of the god Mithras. Later a small, obscure faith, Christianity, became popular with Roman soldiers, and eventually this influenced the Emperor Constantine's decision to make Christianity the Empire's official religion.

For what it's worth, when I've wandered through large military cemeteries, I like to see different faith symbols. The more different faith symbols I see, the more it seems to reflect America, and what the sailors and soldiers and fliers thought they served for.

Petty faith squabbling is the business of the living, and the business of bureaucrats, and has no business in a cemetery. What the DVA had been doing was an invisible desecration, but just as ugly as any other desecration of a grave.


The Associated Press
pickup in The Las Vegas (Nevada) Sun
Monday 23 April 2007

Veterans agency, Wiccans
settle grave symbol suit

by SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press Writer

MADISON, Wisconsin -- A nearly 10-year quest by Wiccans to have their religious symbol added to the list of emblems allowed in national cemeteries and on government-issued headstones of fallen soldiers ended Monday with a lawsuit settlement.

The agreement was reached between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Wiccans, including a Fernley, Nev., woman, who sued to include the five-pointed star in the list of "emblems of belief" allowed on VA grave markers.

Eleven families nationwide are waiting for grave markers with the pentacle, said Selena Fox, a Wiccan high priestess with Circle Sanctuary in Barneveld and a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The settlement calls for the pentacle, whose five points represent earth, air, fire, water and spirit, to be placed on grave markers within 14 days for those who have pending requests with the VA.

"I am glad this has ended in success in time to get markers for Memorial Day," Fox said.

The pentacle joins 38 symbols the VA already permits on gravestones. They include commonly recognized symbols for Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism, as well as those for smaller religions such as Sufism Reoriented, Eckankar and the Japanese faith Seicho-No-Ie.

"This settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America, including among our nation's veterans," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which brought the lawsuit on the Wiccans' behalf.

The VA sought the settlement in the interest of the families involved and to save taxpayers the expense of further litigation, VA spokesman Matt Burns said. The agency also agreed to pay $225,000 in attorneys' fees and costs.

At a news conference in Washington, Lynn said federal documents uncovered during the litigation showed that President Bush's personal beliefs influenced the VA's refusal to allow the pentacle on grave markers. In a 1999 ABC News "Good Morning America" segment about Wiccan ceremonies at Fort Hood in Texas, Bush, then the state's governor, said, "I don't think witchcraft is a religion. I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made."

"This then shows up in documents in this administration, noting that any decision will be -- in one word used -- political," Lynn said. "It's clear to us that there were political, not constitutional considerations."

VA officials did not immediately return phone messages left Monday on Lynn's comments.

Wicca is a nature-based religion based on respect for the earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons. Variations of the pentacle not accepted by Wiccans have been used in horror movies as a sign of the devil.

The agreement settles a lawsuit filed in November by veterans' widows and others alleging that the VA made "excuse after excuse" over nearly 10 years for not recognizing the pentacle.

VA-issued headstones, markers and plaques can be used in any cemetery, whether it is a national one such as Arlington or a private burial ground like that on Circle Sanctuary's property.

The lawsuit was filed by Circle Sanctuary, Isis Invicta Military Mission -- a Wiccan and Pagan congregation serving military personnel based in Geyserville, Calif. -- Jill Medicine Heart Combs, whose veteran husband is severely ill, and two members of Circle Sanctuary whose husbands were veterans -- Roberta Stewart of Nevada and Karen DePolito of Utah.

At the Washington news conference announcing the settlement, Stewart said the fight for recognition was long, but now it was time to celebrate.

"I was in shock the day I ordered my husband's memorial plaque and was told I could not put our emblem of faith, the pentacle, on that plaque," she said. "I cried for days. I never thought my own government would take the freedoms my husband and I held so dear away from us."

The American Civil Liberties Union said the agreement also settles a similar lawsuit it filed last year against the VA. In that case, the ACLU represented two other Wiccan churches and three individuals.

- 30 -

Associated Press writer Fred Frommer contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.

VA approved religious emblems

Circle Sanctuary

22 April 2007

return to the Republic of Gilead / Gonzales' shitty memory / Roe v. Wade on the Endangered List

Letters to the Editor
The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne, Indiana

To the Editor:

Your editorial "Rolling back Roe v. Wade" (21 April) distilled the common sense and, far more important, the fairness and decency for which the heartland has traditionally been known. Your editorial is a clear and blunt investment in passing these treasures of our American character onto the future.

Unhappily, the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart has declared open season on fairness and decency, and threatens eventually to overturn Roe v. Wade. Open season may lead to the extinction of common sense, fairness and decency, as America -- at least for women and girls of child-bearing age -- morphs into the nightmare reproductive theocracy Margaret Atwood envisioned as "The Republic of Gilead" in "The Handmaid's Tale."

In my mother's last year, this quiet and nearly apolitical woman marched down Washington DC's avenues with a hundred thousand sisters (and plenty of brothers) to demand every woman's right to a safe, legal abortion. Her memories of the grotesque perils and injustices America's young women endured before Roe v. Wade remained fresh, bitter and angry until she died.

What strange crimes were these before Roe v. Wade, and what strange crimes will they be again if Roe v. Wade is overturned? These are crimes only a woman or a girl can commit -- in conspiracy with those other notorious criminals, villains and fiends, her physicians. (No attack on Roe v. Wade has ever sought to criminalize the men and boys who father these pregnancies.)

This has always been about the ownership and enslavement of women at the whims of men in statehouse and courthouse majorities. All five of the majority justices are men. The Court's only woman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, broke tradition to read her angry dissent aloud.

Those who dream of ending abortion in America are not dreaming, but hallucinating, and -- like Attorney General Gonzales -- have pathetically poor memories. The desperation of an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy is an eternal part of women's experience. All Roe v. Wade changed was that abortions became medically clean and safe, and the patient's medical privacy was protected from the intrusive violations of divinely inspired prosecutors and police.

As America, to its shame, once did, the Republic of Gilead will have plenty of abortions -- performed in septic back rooms by pharmacists, midwives, nurses, and by desperate teenage girls in their bathrooms. No court decision, no federal or state law, however unfair, indecent, unjust, or divinely inspired, can prevent that.

Robert Merkin
Northampton, Massachusetts

~ ~ ~

The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne, Indiana USA
Saturday 21 April 2007


Rolling back Roe v. Wade

In upholding the 2003 federal law banning what anti-abortion proponents have dubbed “partial birth abortion,” the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday knocked a chink in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that affirmed the right to abortion.

The court gave Congress permission to render its non-medical judgment and dictate to women as they make the most wrenching personal decisions of their lives. The law forces doctors to make medical recommendations based on something other than their best medical opinions – even if the woman’s health is at risk.

Even the acceptance of the term “partial birth abortion” as the standard description of the procedure is a victory for anti-abortion activists. The real medical description is intact dilation and extraction, and it’s relatively rare.

Nearly 90 percent of abortions are performed during the first trimester – or first 12 weeks – of pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health issues, estimated that about 2,200 of the 1.3million abortions performed in the United States in 2000 – less than two-tenths of 1percent – were done using the dilation and extraction procedure, almost always later in pregnancy. The procedure is an alternative to one in which the fetus is dismembered inside the uterus. Some doctors believe it carries a lower risk of infection, bleeding and permanent injury in individual cases.

With abortion foes John Roberts and Samuel Alito Jr. joining the court, anti-abortion forces aim to make Wednesday’s decision the first domino on the way to overturning Roe v. Wade, which would allow states or Congress to outlaw abortion entirely – for any reason. This decision may begin attempts to make abortion illegal little by little – medical procedure by medical procedure.

Wednesday’s decision also points up the enormous power wielded by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s new swing vote after the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Kennedy was in the minority in 2000 when the court overturned Nebraska’s “partial birth” ban, but he joined Chief Justice Roberts, Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia on the prevailing side of this case.

In his majority opinion, Kennedy argued that banning the procedure was good for women because it would protect them from terminating their pregnancies by a method they might not fully understand in advance and that they might come to regret later.

By effectively declaring women incapable of making medical decisions for themselves in consultation with their doctors, he set the stage for tearing down the zone of personal privacy that the Roe v. Wade decision established.

Two generations of women have grown up in a world where abortion is both safe and legal, but Wednesday’s decision suggests that the next generation may not be so fortunate.

- 30 -

21 April 2007

it's Saifa Benaouda's planet and she wants to go wherever she wants to go

If you go backpacking in these parts,
get more up-to-date maps.
This one's a little outdated.

Let me be perfectly clear about this. I'm not criticizing Saifa Benaouda, or her boyfriend. I'm not in the slightest suggesting they did anything wrong or made any terrible mistakes or errors in judgment.

None that I haven't made myself when I've been wandering -- bumbling is usually more accurate -- around the world.

Travelling around the world, particularly when young, is best savored in Total Ignorance, so that every street, every door, every taxi and subway and bus and train and ferry ride is a Surprise. And if you have your wits about you, most of the Surprises are incredibly wonderful.

Of course there are no guarantees. If you want guarantees, stay home.

The basic decision Ms. Benaouda made was to roam the world independently, without a Tour Guide or an Itinerary or a Travel Agent pushing her on and off a chartered bus and guiding her every step and stop.

She wanted to wander solo, or with her b/f. (I hope he gets out of Ethiopia soon and safe.)

Apparently that's also the way her mother had wandered the world en backpack a few decades earlier, so that Plan ran in the family.

Ms. Benaouda is home again, and safe. And her mom won't sign to get her a hot new passport.

All's well that ends well.

But this is a damn great story about a damn gutsy backpacker who said, "This is my planet, and I want to see it."

She picked a terrible time to try it, and she picked terrible spots to try to see.

I envy the tags and the patches on her backpack. I envy the customs stamps in her passport -- and I hope she gets her passport returned, that's quite the collection.

I even envy the nickname she got herself in prison: Crazy Inge.

I'll bet her travels aren't over.

And I'll bet in a couple of decades her kid's travels will be quite ambitious, too. Maybe the kid will put on a backpack and head out into space. Because it's the kid's solar system, and the kid wants to see it.


The New York Times
Saturday 21 April 2007

Young Tourists Pick Somalia
and a 3-Nation Ordeal Begins


STOCKHOLM -- WITH a blend of naïveté and a love of travel, Saifa Benaouda flew into Somalia last December from Dubai, where she and her boyfriend had gone for an extended vacation. Barely 17, Ms. Benaouda, a feisty and independent high-school student, did not mention the Somalia trip to her mother, the leader of a moderate Muslim organization here and herself a bit of a rebel when she was younger.

“We were only going to be there two weeks, and I thought I’d tell her after about my adventure,” Ms. Benaouda said in an interview. Their timing, in a world obsessed with terrorism, could not have been worse or, in the eyes of the authorities, more suspicious.

They arrived in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, just as Muslims from various countries, some trained by Al Qaeda, were streaming into Somalia in response to a call from Islamist forces that controlled much of the country last year. The Islamists were briefly battling with Ethiopian troops who had intervened to take back Somalia for a weak Western-backed interim government.

Ms. Benaouda (pronounced ben-OW-da), a Muslim, disavows any political or religious motive for her venture into Somalia, and says her boyfriend is also not political. She contends that they learned of the fighting only after they got to Mogadishu and found a country she did not like and more adventure than she wanted.

With fighting raging nearby, they rapidly found themselves fleeing south toward Kenya, along with hundreds of other people. On the way, she said, an American woman — the wife of Daniel Maldonado, who is currently on trial in Houston on terrorism-related charges — died in her lap. Ms. Benaouda took over care of the woman’s three small children, ages 7 months to 9 years old, surviving by eating rice and drinking muddy floodwater and hiding in the bush when military helicopters buzzed overhead.

At the Kenyan border, she said in the interview, she was detained by soldiers, including three who had American flag patches on their uniforms. She ended up in Ethiopia, where she was held for several weeks and interrogated, she said, by Westerners.

AFTER criticism from human rights organizations, led by Cageprisoners and Reprieve, which were instrumental in Ms. Benaouda’s eventual release, the Ethiopian government acknowledged recently that it was holding 41 men and women it suspected of fighting with the Islamists. American officials have been allowed to interrogate the suspects, American officials have said, including Amir Mohamed Meshal, from New Jersey, who is expected to be released soon from prison there.

Ms. Benaouda said she got the travel bug from her Moroccan father, who died eight years ago. When the family traveled — she is the youngest of four children — they avoided tourist spots. Her Finnish-Swedish mother especially sought more exotic places. “When we went to Morocco, we didn’t go to Casablanca, we went to the mountains,” she said.

Last year, Ms. Benaouda and her boyfriend, Munir Awad, a 25-year-old Swedish citizen of Lebanese origin, decided they wanted to visit a Muslim country during Ms. Benaouda’s winter school break.

They chose Dubai but were quickly disappointed: too many Asians, too many modern, tall buildings, too much shopping. “We wanted something more authentic,” she said. They met a man from Stockholm who was going to Somalia, and they decided to go, too.

When they arrived, their baggage was missing. They were told they had to stay inside to be safe. She said they were treated badly because of their lighter skin. Then the fighting broke out, and they fled toward Kenya.

Along the way, she and her boyfriend became separated, and she joined up with a group of women and children, including the American woman, who apparently had malaria. “She was hallucinating,” Ms. Benaouda recalled. “She was saying goodbye to her kids, telling them she loved them.”

After the woman died, the people in the convoy wrapped her body in a mat, and put it on the roof of the car. The children had fallen asleep, and when they awoke Ms. Benaouda told them that their mother had gone in another car.

Ms. Benaouda said she learned only recently, from Cageprisoners, that Mr. Maldonado had been interrogated by the F.B.I. in Kenya this year, and then sent to Houston to face trial. (The children were ultimately sent to their grandparents in the United States.)

After nearly three weeks on the run, Ms. Benaouda said, her group reached the Kenyan border, where they were surrounded by soldiers — including the three with the American flag patches — pointing rifles at them. “We thought they were going to shoot us,” she recalled. “We began screaming.”

Ms. Benaouda, who had begun to suspect, correctly as it turned out, that she was pregnant, was glad to meet someone who spoke English.

She did not tell them she was pregnant, though, only that she was Swedish. She and her companions were handcuffed and blindfolded and flown to Nairobi, Kenya, where they were put in jail, she said. Then she and the others, including Mr. Meshal, were deported to Mogadishu, by then under the control of Ethiopian troops. After a few days there, they were sent to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

But her ordeal did not end there. She was interrogated again, she said, for as long as six hours on one day, mostly by two women, one of whom spoke English with what she said was an American accent. They demanded her e-mail address and password. She told them they were rude, but gave it to them. They showed her the names and photographs of some men and asked if she knew any of them. She did not. They demanded that she name any extremists she knew in Sweden.

THEY said her boyfriend had recruited jihadists in Denmark in 2004.

“I told them they were stupid,” she said. “I told them they were full of bull.” Her boyfriend was not yet a Muslim in 2004 and had never been to Denmark, she said she told them.

Her challenging manner earned her the nickname Crazy Inge from the other prisoners, she said. Ms. Benaouda said she spoke out because she had been brought up in Sweden, where women speak their minds.

“She’s crazy, but I love her,”
said her mother, Helena, who sat in on the interview but allowed her daughter to speak freely. Mrs. Benaouda, who started a Web site dedicated to her daughter’s release , said her only conditions were that her daughter not be photographed or described physically.

Ms. Benaouda gave her only other interviews to the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet and Cageprisoners , which is based in Britain.

After several weeks, during which Ms. Benaouda kept a diary on pieces of toilet paper, the Ethiopians told her she was free to go. But she had learned that her boyfriend — whom she called her husband — was there, too, and refused to leave without him. Finally, the Ethiopians said if she did not go to Sweden, they would send her to Mogadishu. She agreed to go home and arrived there in late March. Her boyfriend is still being held in Ethiopia.

While there is no telling whether there are similar adventures in store for Ms. Benaouda as she exercises her wanderlust, her immediate future promises to be uneventful. Her passport was taken by the American soldiers, and her mother said she had no intention of signing the parental consent form that a minor needed to get another one.

- 30 -

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

20 April 2007

McCain can sing rock n roll & he has a really great sense of humor too

The actor SLIM PICKENS, riding a hydrogen bomb that was grafittied either HI THERE or DEAR JOHN. In "Doctor Strangelove," Ground Zero (accidentally) was the Soviet Union. Pickens screamed "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-Haaaaaaaaaaaa!" all the way down.

During the 444-day hostage crisis in Iran, an obscure musical group, Vince Vance and the Valiants, released their novelty version of the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann," called "Bomb Iran."

(We didn't Bomb Iran. We just wanted to. Americans get very frustrated very easily.)

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator John McCain, who is running for the Republican nomination for the presidency, has revealed a previous unknown side, his funny sense of humor.

Via the e-mail web form on McCain's Senate website, Vleeptron Shared Its Feelings with this war-frothing psycho.


Senator John McCain
United States Senate
Washington DC

Don't you know how to do anything except bomb non-Christian Asian children, women and men?

You don't have my vote to bomb Iran.

If you say you were just making a joke, you don't have my laughter.

You MIGHT have the votes of some of my neighbors' children, who will die if we go to war against Iran, just as 3316 of my neighbors' children in uniform have been killed in the other war against Asian non-Christians you love, the war in Iraq.

But when they return to Dover Air Force Base, they will have to stop voting for you.

Try this exercise of the imagination: Look up at the sky and imagine bombs falling on you, your family, your neighbors. Will your last thoughts be proud when you read "Made in the USA" on the bombs? Will you think America is bringing you a gift of freedom and democracy?

Try this exercise of the imagination: Imagine yourself as an enlisted man during a doomed scoundrels' liars' War Without End.

Resign from the Senate, let the new majorities in Congress enact the clear will of the American people to end the Iraq War, and do not threaten and terrify the world by trying to become president.

You and your White House cronies gave war a chance. Now let sane, decent Americans give peace a chance.

Robert Merkin

Specialist 5
US Army 1969-1971
Army Commendation Medal
Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal


The New York Times
Friday 20 April 2007

MoveOn Blasts
McCain’s Song

by Sarah Wheaton

Senator John McCain’s “Barbara Ann” — “bomb Iran” parody has the political world rockin’ and a-reelin’. (Sorry, was just a little too easy.)

The flap involving the Beach Boys’ song originated at an appearance in South Carolina Wednesday when an audience member asked Mr. McCain if he would send an “air mail message to Tehran.”

The Arizona Republican’s response, as is usually the case these days, got around (round-get-around) via YouTube:

Mr. McCain’s audience laughed and applauded to his response, and it was fun, fun, fun until some groups on the other side of the political spectrum caught wind of it.

Asked Thursday how he would respond to critics charging his comments were insensitive, Mr. McCain responded, “Insensitive to what? The Iranians?”

Well, uh, actually, the National American Iranian Council’s president, Trita Parsi, had this to say: “To joke about such a matter at a time when war in the Middle East has done so much to weaken America is beyond comprehension.” He continued, in an email release, “It would be better if Senator McCain sought to find solutions to this challenge facing America rather than treating it as a joke.”

Not missing a beat, liberal released a new television advertisement featuring Mr. McCain’s song, followed by a voiceover,

“John McCain?
We can’t afford
another reckless president.”

With a $100,000 buy, MoveOn’s ad is slated to air in Iowa and New Hampshire Tuesday through Friday of next week, a spokesman for the group said.

On Thursday night, Mr. McCain said critics should “get a life.” But after picking up so many bad vibrations, the campaign evidently decided some excitations of its own were in order.

“It comes as no surprise that America’s most liberal interest group would attack John McCain’s belief that we cannot allow Iran to destroy Israel,” said campaign spokesman Matt David. The release went on to cite some of MoveOn’s more sensational ads, including an image of the Statue of Liberty with a bag over its head, and the group’s opposition to invading Afghanistan immediately following the 9/11 attacks.

The Sloop John M. officially sets sail on April 25 in New Hampshire.

- 30 -

34 comments so far...

April 20th,
2:17 pm

McCain’s Long Promised Road seems to be arriving at a dead end.

Not a bad thing, though. He’d probably have wanted to bring back the draft which would have brought on Student Demonstration Time.

Perhaps the best advice anyone can give him at this point is bow to the inevitable and Take A Load Off Your Feet.

Gotta go. Surf’s Up.

— Posted by RAS
April 20th,
2:25 pm

Wanna send Iran “airmail” (heh heh)? Vote McCain!

What the world needs now is NOT more belligerence. Just when you thought he couldn’t get any worse, now McCain’s official position is that if anyone opposes bombing Iran, they must be bent on allowing Israel’s destruction. AS IF Iran even would have an incentive to bomb Israel. Ignorant fearmongering. No cognitive dissonance there! All hypocrisy is swept under the rug of egotistic power, as the military men joke about that which gives an impression of the USA which creates more hate toward us… How stupid and unpatriotic.

— Posted by Erik W.65
April 20th,
2:27 pm

I don’t know, if this is the worst people can say about John McCain, I guess he deserves a second look. Life is short and a little humor helps the pain. At least John hasn’t done the DREADED “flip/flop” on an issue.

— Posted by toby
April 20th,
2:34 pm

I guess since Sen. McCain is an intelligent man, he has realized his Potemkin Marketplace stroll is the crazygluebaby that will deny him the nomination, so why not self-destruct as flamboyantly as possible?

Anyone who wants to invade Iran should probably come up with the more than 800,000 ground troops that would be necessary first. This time, arm them and train them before the invasion. Also, have global support and some real evidence for the need for invasion. And lastly, why the heck would anyone want to start another unwinnable war in a desert nation that hates us, especially when it will be completely worthless once the oil and water run dry?

— Posted by Dan Stackhouse
April 20th,
2:39 pm

It’s a shame to watch Sen. McCain slip-slide into becoming a reactionary in order to woo Republican votes. He once was a man that stood for decency.
Alas, the downside of politics.

— Posted by Jim Turley
April 20th,
2:40 pm

The reporter’s question about insensitivity was off-base and kind of ridiculous. The real issue is that the song by McCain is way too wreckless from someone who’s campaigning to become the next President. I agree with MoveOn’s stance that we cannot afford another leader with even a ~hint~ of a cavalier attitude toward war and its consequences. McCain needs to choose his public words much more wisely.

— Posted by mike
April 20th,
2:41 pm

Quit kidding yourselves, when some Americans say “support the troops”, they mean to unleash total war.

— Posted by Seve Bolger
April 20th,
2:41 pm

What was McCain thinking? What an irresponsible thing to say.

— Posted by Debs
April 20th,
2:44 pm

It’s insensitive to the thousands of killed american soldiers in Iraq who are sent to fight these wars. The Republicans repeatedly seem to think these are just fun and games - a war against Iran would cost 10s of thousands of American lives, not a joking matter last time i checked.

— Posted by Scott B
April 20th,
2:45 pm

You idiots please give it a break. It is a joke. The proclaimed President of Iran said that he wanted to destroy Isreal anyway. John has the gumption to make a joke about a joke. Stop overanalizing a joke.

— Posted by Greg
April 20th,
2:45 pm

How can they crticise an ad with the statue of liberty with a bag over her head. That is right on, showing the direction of America. They need to just get real and admit that bomb bom iran is really a stupid thing to say. Insensitve? Yes. War causes a great amount of suffering, alswys, to masses of defenseless poor people, lightyears removed from jet-setting McCain — he owes them an apology.

— Posted by frank burns
April 20th,
2:48 pm must be feeling some pain if this is all they can come up with. So, McCain is poking fun at the Iranians. Good…they deserve a nudge. If one is to get one’s panties in a bunch, one should focus on the hateful vile coming from the mouths of many Iranian politicians, not on a war veteran’s somewhat goofy sense of humor.

— Posted by Richard
April 20th,
2:49 pm

As bad as his joke was, when someone asked him today “don’t you worry about offending people”, he said “who Iranian?”. He didn’t say Iranian government but Iranian. He is an idiot. He is part of the same group of people who have nothing to contribute, but wants to a president, just like the other one, what her name Hillary who.

— Posted by Markux
April 20th,
2:50 pm


(For those of you who are Democrats/have no sense of humor)

Oh! And for the guy who thinks he knows it all (that’s you Eric)…
joke /d?o?k/ Pronunciation Key - [johk] verb, joked, jok·ing.
to say something in fun or teasing rather than in earnest; be facetious: He didn’t really mean it, he was only joking.

Get over yourselves.

— Posted by Glenn
April 20th,
2:51 pm

McCain, of course is right. We do have to be willing to bomb Iran at some point in our warming war with the Iranian Islamist Twelvers over there. So, what choice did he have but to say so, and he said it in a way consistent with his personality, with irony. I only wish Ahmadinajad would wrap himself up in a letter and send himself to John.

— Posted by Jim Carmine
April 20th,
2:52 pm

Life is short…..(responding to another reader’s comment)
Especially for all the innocent people we would be annihilating with bombs over Iran. Shame on you John McCain.

— Posted by Andrea Lapey
April 20th,
2:53 pm

So the Iranian president can say “anything” wants against the west and Israel. One guy makes a joke and it’s whoa!!! Truly, I believe some of these liberals need to apply for a “permanent” Iranian visa and pack up and go. They can get back with us in a month or so and tell us how “wonderful” Iran is (unless they line them up against a wall and well, uh).

— Posted by David White
April 20th,
2:55 pm

are you people crazy. Senator McCain makes a joke. and all everybody does is critize. a “real” american would know it was a joke and not take it seriously. and yes it was funny. get a life and relax a little . it definately helps him in the 08 race. it shows he is a real person .

— Posted by Darin
April 20th,
2:56 pm

I’d say this former front runner fast fading into single digit-land planned this to get some press, but he’s not THAT smart…

— Posted by Brian Austin
April 20th,
2:56 pm

One of the few Republicans that a lot of Democrats would have voted for is failing fast. Sad end to a great career. Rule #1: don’t chain yourself to an anchor.

— Posted by bbobbobby
April 20th,
2:56 pm

I have always liked McCain personally and thought his honesty was refreshing. Even when he didn’t even know what his position was on condoms, he was upfront about his lack of knowledge on his policy stance - I thought it was amusing and appreciated his candor. But national security is not something someone should joke about at this time.

— Posted by Helen NYC
April 20th,
2:59 pm

I agree with McCain. His critics can “get a life” if they can’t take a joke. An off the cuff remark obviously meant to get laughs is not advocating war with Iran. People really need to calm down and have a sense of humor, or atleast understand that other people do.

— Posted by Vince
April 20th,
2:59 pm

In response to Mr. Stackhouse, no one wants to “invade” Iran, the message (which I applaud)about BOMBING Iran is a response to that country’s efforts, near fruition, to acquire a nuclear weapon. Yes, it will one day be a worthless desert again but not before it has nuked Israel and exported nukes to terrorist enemies of the U.S. You know those bumper stickers that say, “Back by Popular Demand” and feature that stupid peace sign? We need one that says: “Back by Popular Demand - Nuke Iran.”

— Posted by Michael A. Padgett
April 20th, 2007 3:00 pm

Why is it that the Democrats make a big deal out of everything? First the A.G. hearings, and now McCain? The Democrats along with Republicans should be collaborating, but ever since the Democrats came into the house and the Senate, it’s been nothing but Republican bashing.

McCain made a simple jest, and nothing more. Stop the fuss, and let’s make an effort to create a bridge of understanding. Ughh… politics, the bane of mankind…

— Posted by Peter
April 20th, 2007 3:01 pm

McCain’s remark is outrageous, almost pathetic, and Wheaton’s cute treatment of it on the blog is not much better. Too many people have died …

— Posted by david ballingrud
April 20th, 2007 3:02 pm

Honestly, he is absolutely right. People need to lighten up. Ms. Parsi? you’re half right, in a time when war is ravaging the middle east and that is the sole focus of western media, humor is what is needed. What’s shameful is the oversensitivity to playful humor, not the attempt of a politician to do something than complain about policy. Senator McCain has no reason to apologize, if so many fear the loss of dignity by our congressmen, forcing those to apologize creates the image that the media controls our legislators. Our politicians are afforded the same rights of speech and expression as any other citizen and as such should not be admonished or shunned for a light hearted remark. It is shameful to see so many thin-skinned individuals who are void of any sense of humor. There’s a difference between political correctness and attempted political perfection, learn to laugh and “get over it”.

— Posted by Anthony Robinson
April 20th, 2007
3:08 pm

Republicans are such hypocrites. Remember when Kerry was attacked by the right for making the Iraq joke? And now Mccain does it and they brush it off–and they can get away with it.
If you want non-accountable, scandalous, and short sighted politicians, vote Republican!

— Posted by Rick
April 20th, 2007
3:10 pm

Being my forth cousin, I used to give him more of a hearing than his rightwing colleagues. I rarely agreed with him, but listened. He has now completely lost me attention. I do, howerver, hope that he stays in the race as a constant reminder to all of the “undecided” that put Bush in office of how bad it will be.

— Posted by Mark McCain

April 20th,
3:10 pm

I think McCain was once a great man who has seen the worst of man kind. I am not saying he would make a great president but the alternative is much worse in the Democratic front runner. A women that has the seen the worst of one man and did nothing to change him. We need a young canidate with a goal for peace, but also won’t take any crap off any other country or nation. We need a goverment that listens to the people and doesn’t just bicker and point fingers at one another.

— Posted by Todd
April 20th,
3:12 pm

I believe this event is being taken out of context. I’m pretty sure that is not what Mr. McCain fully aimed it to be, especially the way it is “interpreted” by the media.

— Posted by Aleks
April 20th,
3:12 pm

Really…they are supplying people who are killing Americans…and just maybe we should wait until they attack…they are not Arabs…they are Persians. Stll all in all, get a life….

— Posted by Larry S
April 20th,
3:15 pm

McCain’s lost it. Singing a song glorifying the use of violence in a week when 200 people lost their lives in Iraq through bombs (not dropped by the Americans but the bombings took place because of the American occupation) and when a college kid went on a violent rampage is sickening. Truly sickening. And after watching one of the presidential candidates sing about bombing a country you wonder at the violence in American Society? Its right there - singing in your face.

— Posted by Skasster
April 20th,
3:21 pm

So, here we are in a society that is in fact armed to the teeth, with words of life and death treated as jokes. How do you tell when the joke is over and the shooting begins?

America has a public mental health problem, bigtime.

— Posted by Steve Bolger
April 20th,
3:22 pm

I LOVE IT! The only McCain has done that I support.

— Posted by Go-go

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