Wednesday, September 30, 2009
TORONTO -- A few things that came across the news desk here in Toronto this week; The 61st Prime Time Emmy’s were broadcast this week hosted by former child star Neil Patrick Harris and his forehead, and it featured a new category: reality programming. Here’s a reality: ZzzzZzzzzzzzzz….. A video has surfaced of Ben Stiller teaching 89 year old Mickey Rooney how to use Twitter. That ought to be worth a larf, since Mickey is older than electricity itself….Former chess champ Anatoly Karpov had a rematch with Gary Kasparov on the 25th anniversary of their title bout, which took almost as long to finish; the original match lasted five months and had to be called due to player “exhaustion”….Barack Obama, who became the first sitting U.S. President to guest on Letterman’s show, was intrigued by a heart-shaped potato brought in by a fan, and by Letterman’s question, “how long have you been a black man?”….Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper passed on addressing the United Nations at the G20 summit, dumping the duties on Deputy Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. Wouldn’t want our PM to do anything IMPORTANT like being a statesman for our country now would we....speaking of the G20, Pittsburgh turned chaotic Thursday after protesters responded to calls to disperse by throwing stones and knocking over garbage cans, yeah, that helps…Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau is being inducted into the Queer Hall of Fame for his role in de-criminalizing homosexuality....K-Fed is apparently okay with adding "fatso" to his other attributes "untalented" and "obnoxious"....Zooey Deschanel marries Death Cab singer Ben Gibbard, and this writer's heart is breaking....Canadian author Douglas Coupland's new book "Generation A" is being released; from X to A, eh Doug?.... Mackenzie Phillips, star of the 70’s sitcom One Day at a Time, and daughter of Papa John Phillips, has alleged in her new book that she and her father had a sexual relationship for ten years, by turns it was rape and consensual, she alleges… Mama Michele says she’s crazy because, “she’s had a needle up her arm for 35 years…” Gee mom, you’re swell….scientists have come to the brilliant conclusion that if you paint a Butterflies antennas black, they will become lost and be unable to migrate. I could have told you THAT without a science degree….Patrick Swayze’s memoir’s are set to hit the shelves soon, and in it he states that the script for his hit movie Dirty Dancing “seemed fluffy, nothing more than a summer camp movie”….why is former UFC champ Chuck Liddell dancing with the stars? Shouldn’t he be grounding and pounding them instead? It’d be more fun to watch….Jessica Simpson’s Maltipoo daisy was ingested…I mean EATEN… by coyotes and she is devastated. “Jessica has a very small inner circle,” one of her friends says, “but she always had Daisy. Daisy gave her unconditional love.”
Thanks to all the NAD contributors this week, it’s been interesting. Although we had no rhyme, reason or theme this week, we can be thankful that all remaining celebrities are still alive and not dead as this Summer of Death comes to a close. Please scroll down and revisit some of this week’s great posts, and enjoy our comment sections, some of the best on the net, in my humble opinion. Until next week.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Death Toll Hits 240 in Philippine Flooding
All Maximo Merioles Jr. could think about were his two children. As the floodwaters that had swamped his neighborhood came close to submerging him, he grabbed his two kids, ages 12 and 10, and swam toward another house, clambered up to the third floor, jumped between roofs and climbed down a wall to safety across the street.
Mr. Merioles’s heart sank Saturday as he watched not just the flood but also a raging fire eat up most of the houses in Tatalon, a slum area in Quezon City, one of the cities that make up Greater Manila.
As residents dealt with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Ketsana, the government was facing criticism on two fronts: Did it provide enough warning before the floods, and was it doing enough to help people recover?
To help with the recovery, the government on Monday appealed for international help as the death toll rose to at least 240.
The American Embassy deployed Navy personnel to help out in the rescue and relief operations and also promised $50,000 in immediate disaster aid.
“The system is overwhelmed, local government units are overwhelmed,” Anthony Golez, a spokesman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, told reporters during a briefing on Monday. “Our assets and people are spread too thinly.”
In Tatalon, unlike the other areas that were ravaged by the storm, what the flood did not destroy, the fire did. Seven residents died in Tatalon, officials said.
Mr. Merioles and the others interviewed in his neighborhood said electrical power remained in their area even as the floodwaters rose above four feet. No one knows exactly how the fire started. “Either you die from the fire or from the flood,” said Mr. Merioles, a stocky electronics repairman.
The tropical storm arrived in the Philippines over the weekend, releasing the largest amount of rainfall in nearly half a century and flooding 80 percent of Greater Manila before moving on to Vietnam, where it has killed at least 23 people, The Associated Press reported Tuesday morning.
Nearly 2 million people in the Manila area were affected, including more than 100,000 who were displaced after the storm dumped 16.7 inches of rain in just 12 hours on Saturday.
In Pasig City, one of the hardest-hit suburbs near the heavily silted and polluted Pasig River, the floodwaters in many communities hardly decreased. “The water is not moving,” a tearful Nene Monfort, 71, told ABS-CBN television in a live interview. She said she and her family, who have been holed up on the second floor of their apartment, could not come down because of the water.
The Health Department warned Monday of a possible spread of infectious diseases, especially in the refugee centers of Manila, which number more than 200.
And as the affected residents tried to rebuild their lives, they were seeking answers as well.
Many, like Rene Anselmo, 57, a retired driver in Tatalon whose three-story house was burned down except for about 5 feet of browned concrete and singed wood, wanted to know “why there was no warning about a flood this big.”
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, the government’s weather bureau, denied in local reports that it had been negligent in warning people, saying it had issued warnings as early as Thursday, even raising storm alert levels the next day.
In an attempt to help deal with the aftermath of the storm, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo decided to open a portion of the grounds of the presidential palace to refugees. “The president has allowed the use of Malacanang itself, her own home, to be a center of relief operations,” said her press secretary, Cerge Remonde. He said the first family would be transferred to another area in the presidential compound.
The government also had declared a “state of calamity” in metropolitan Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces, including many that had not flooded before, allowing officials to use emergency funds for relief and rescue.
Mrs. Arroyo earlier announced that her government would not relent in its efforts to help those hurt by the storm.
Criticism of Mrs. Arroyo’s response could affect the presidential election, which is eight months away. The administration’s candidate is Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, who also leads the National Disaster Coordinating Council.
In the narrow streets of Tatalon, residents spent Monday taking out burned trash, dumping it on the main street outside of the slum, where mounds of black debris had been piled, practically blocking the street. Filthy floodwaters snaked beneath the rubbish.
Zoraya Tera, a 39-year-old homemaker, spent hours scrubbing her floor tiles and cleaning up her burned utensils. “Nothing is left, as you can see, but I am glad that none of my children were hurt,” she said, gesturing at what remained of her home, which had nothing in it except the burned and now rusting galvanized iron roofs.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Special to CNN
Editor's note: Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst, is a fellow at the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank that promotes innovative thought from across the ideological spectrum, and at New York University's Center on Law and Security. He's the author of "The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader."
HELMAND, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Eight years after September 11, the "war on terror" has gone the way of the dodo. And President Obama talks instead about a war against al Qaeda and its allies.
What, then, of al Qaeda's enigmatic leader, Osama bin Laden, who has vanished like a wisp of smoke? And does he even matter now?
The U.S. government hadn't had a solid lead on al Qaeda's leader since the battle of Tora Bora in winter 2001. Although there are informed hypotheses that today he is in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province on the Afghan border, perhaps in one of the more northerly areas such as Bajaur, these are essentially guesses, not "actionable" intelligence.
A longtime American counterterrorism analyst explained to me, "There is very limited collection on him personally."
That's intelligence community shorthand for the fact that the usual avenues of "collection" on a target such as bin Laden are yielding little or no information about him. Those avenues typically include signal intercepts of phone calls and e-mails, as well as human intelligence from spies.
Given the hundreds of billions of dollars that the "war on terror" has consumed, the failure to capture or kill al Qaeda's leader is one of its signal failures.
Does it even matter whether bin Laden is found? Yes, it does. First, there is the matter of justice for the almost 3,000 people who died in the September 11 attacks and for the thousands of other victims of al Qaeda's attacks around the world.
Second, every day that bin Laden remains at liberty is a propaganda victory for al Qaeda.
Third, although bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri aren't managing al Qaeda's operations on a daily basis they guide the overall direction of the jihadist movement around the world, even while they are in hiding.
Those messages from al Qaeda's leaders have reached untold millions worldwide via television, the Internet and newspapers. The tapes have not only instructed al Qaeda's followers to continue to kill Westerners and Jews, but some also carried specific instructions that militant cells then acted on.
In March 2008, for instance, the al Qaeda leader denounced the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper as a "catastrophe" for which punishment would soon be meted out. Three months later, an al Qaeda suicide attacker bombed the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, killing six.
Some reading this may think: But what's the proof that the al Qaeda leader is still alive? Plenty. Since September 11, bin Laden has released a slew of video and audiotapes, many of which discuss current events. After a nine-month silence, for instance, bin Laden released a 22-minute audiotape on March 14, sharply condemning the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza.
Are these tapes real? Not one of the dozens of tapes released by bin Laden after 9/11 has been a fake. Indeed the U.S. government has authenticated many of them using bin Laden's distinctive voiceprint.
And what about the persistent reports that he is ill? In 2002, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said bin Laden had kidney disease, for which he required a dialysis machine, and was therefore likely dead. But the stories of bin Laden's life-threatening kidney problems are false, judging by his appearance in videos that he released in 2004 and again in 2007, in which he showed no signs of illness.
On the 2007 tape, the al Qaeda leader had even dyed his white-flecked beard black, suggesting that as the Saudi militant entered his fifth decade, he was not immune to a measure of vanity about his personal appearance.
In fact, bin Laden looked much better in those videos than he did in the video he released shortly after the battle of Tora Bora in late 2001, where he had narrowly escaped being killed in a massive American attack.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri are almost certainly hiding out in the tribal areas of Pakistan, on the Afghan border.
Arthur Keller, a CIA officer who ran a spy network in Pakistan's tribal areas in 2006, told me the problems of working in the region: "It's an incredibly remote area. They're hiding in a sea of people that are very xenophobic of outsiders, so it's a very, very tough nut to crack."
An additional factor operating in bin Laden's favor is the personal popularity he has long enjoyed in Pakistan. Three years after the September 11 attacks, for instance, a Pew poll found that al Qaeda's leader had a 65 percent favorability rating among Pakistanis.
However, it is clear from the videos of bin Laden and al-Zawahiri that aired in the years since the attacks that they are not living in caves.
In those tapes, both men's clothes were clean and well-pressed. Caves generally don't have laundry facilities. And the videos that they have released are well-lit and well-shot productions, suggesting access either to electrical outlets or to generators to run lights. Al-Zawahiri is often filmed in a library setting, and on one of his videos from March 2006, there are curtains clearly visible behind him, suggesting that the tape was shot in a house.
By early 2008, the Bush administration had tired of the Pakistani government's unwillingness or inability to take out al Qaeda's leaders, and in July, the president authorized Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults in the tribal regions without the permission of the Pakistani government.
But in the face of the intense Pakistani opposition to American boots on the ground, the Bush administration chose to rely instead on drones to target suspected al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Bush ordered the CIA to expand its attacks with Predator and Reaper drones.
Between July 2008 and this month, U.S. drones have killed dozens of lower-ranking militants and at least 10 mid- and upper-level leaders within al Qaeda or the Taliban.
This strategy seems to have worked, at least in terms of combating the ability of al Qaeda to plan or carry out attacks in the West. Law-enforcement authorities have uncovered no serious plots against U.S. or European targets that were traceable to militants who had received training in Pakistan's tribal regions after the drone program had been dramatically ramped up there.
The increased pace of the American drone attacks in Pakistani's tribal areas was motivated in part by the hope that it would increase panicked communications among the militants, which might help pinpoint the locations of the top leaders in al Qaeda or the Taliban, but that approach has not paid off when it comes to bin Laden.
If killing bin Laden with a drone has proved difficult, so too will be capturing him alive.
His former bodyguard Abu Jandal told Al Quds al Arabi newspaper, "Sheikh Osama gave me a pistol. ... The pistol had only two bullets, for me to kill Sheikh Osama with in case we were surrounded or he was about to fall into the enemy's hands, so that he would not be caught alive "
Should bin Laden be captured or killed, that would probably trigger a succession battle within al Qaeda.
While al-Zawahiri is the deputy leader of the terror group and therefore technically bin Laden's successor, he is not regarded as a natural leader. Indeed, even among his fellow Egyptian militants, al-Zawahiri is seen as a divisive force, and so he is unlikely to be able to step into the role of leader of al Qaeda and of the world jihadist movement that is occupied by bin Laden.
By the law of averages, eventually, bin Laden will be captured or killed. Yet the ideological movement that he helped spawn -- "Binladenism" -- will live on long after he is gone. That is bin Laden's legacy.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Big turnout for Kiddieland's last day
T.J. Pleva chokes up when she reminisces about her decades' worth of trips to Kiddieland in Melrose Park.
"We have a lot of sad memories of saying goodbye to this," she said, motioning to her two children, Haley, 8, and Nolan, 6. She came when she was young and brought her own kids to the amusement park four times this year, Pleva said, but "we're looking forward to a great last day."
Kiddieland opened its gates to the general public for the final time today, and hundreds waited outside in bright sunlight for the chance to buy tickets. At one point, more than 400 stretched in an hourlong line around the chain link fence, listening to the screams of those riding the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Little Dipper. The park, open since 1929, will host one final celebration next week for those who won bids to be among the last on rides like the train and roller coaster.
About 6,000 people came to Kiddieland today, according to park estimates, with a line about 1,000 feet long at its peak. The adults wore T-shirts with farewell messages and openly admitted to nostalgic motivations, but the kids lived only in the moment.
Nicholas Martorina, 9, of Chicago, is the first one to arrive a little before 9:00 a.m. at Kiddieland in Melrose Park, Ill. on Sunday. The park is closing at the end of the day for good, 80 years after it opened its doors to the public. (William DeShazer/Chicago Tribune)
Nicholas Martorina and his father, Sam, were near the front of the line, and the 9-year-old ran full-bore for the bumper cars when the gates opened at noon.
"It feels awesome," said Nicholas, a third-grader at Andrew Jackson Language Academy in Chicago. "I've never been first in line for anything."
Among the morose, though, were park owners, who expected a day of mixed emotions.
"It's certainly going to be bittersweet," said Tom Norini, one of the owners. "We're trying to be as upbeat as we can."
He said the part of the family that owns the property Kiddieland sits on didn't allow a lease renewal, so closing was the only option. The park's future, Norini said, is unknown.
"Nobody's been able to find out," he said. "There's all kinds of rumors."
The family drama, though, was the last thing on the minds of those waiting to enter the park.
They instead relived their own Kiddieland memories, of which there were legion.
Kisha Lipscromb, of Bellwood, said that as a child, she rode the steam train, the Kiddieland Limited, over and over while her mother studied for nursing school on a nearby bench. Denise Javers, of Chicago, brought her daughter, Amanda, 11, and told her stories about her own childhood, when a day of Kiddieland would be followed by barbecue at a nearby Russell's restaurant.
"Everybody has wonderful memories, and everybody has a story," said Mary Rynes, another one of the owners. She said they've heard of people meeting on rides, then winding up married. Those who worked at Kiddieland said the park was just as important to them. Before the doors opened, they began the day doing the "Cha-Cha Slide" dance together. They say that's the kind of relaxed environment they've come to cherish.
"You meet a lot of new people, friendships that I'm sure will last forever," said Diana Lopez, 17, who works in the park's arcade. The last day is "going to be a lot of fun. ... It's going to be a sad day, as well."
For many, sadness at times overshadowed the day's pleasures. Pleva, who said her kids cried as they watched a news program Sunday morning about the park's closing, fondly remembers trips to Kiddieland with her parents when she was 4 years old.
"It's really sad that they couldn't have grown up and have their kids come here," she said, tears in her eyes.
-- Georgia Garvey, Steve Brosinski
Swiss Arrest Roman Polanski for Possible Extradition to U.S. in Sex Case
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Director Roman Polanski was arrested by Swiss police for possible extradition to the United States for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl, authorities said Sunday.
Polanski, a French citizen, was flying in to receive an honorary award at the Zurich Film Festival when he was apprehended Saturday at the airport, the Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement. It said U.S. authorities have sought the arrest of the 76-year-old around the world since 2005.
"There was a valid arrest request and we knew when he was coming," ministry spokesman Guido Balmer told The Associated Press. "That's why he was taken into custody."
Balmer said the U.S. would now be given time to make a formal extradition request.
Polanski has been living in France since he fled the U.S. in 1978, a year after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with the underage girl. Authorities told FOX News that Polanski's possible extradition to the U.S. will likely take some time — up to a month or longer.
The director of such classic films as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby" has asked a U.S. appeals court in California to overturn a judges' refusal to throw out his case. He claims misconduct by the now-deceased judge who had arranged a plea bargain and then reneged on it.
Iran to Test-Fire More Missiles That Could Hit Israel, U.S. Bases
Sunday, September 27, 2009
After claiming to successfully test-fire two short-range missiles during drills Sunday by the elite Revolutionary Guard, Iran will test-fire a missile on Monday that could have the capability to hit Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf region, Reuters reported.
The drills are a show of force days after the U.S. and its allies condemned Tehran over a newly revealed underground nuclear facility that was being constructed secretly
The Guards on Monday will test-fire the surface-to-surface Shahab 3 missile, which Iranian officials say has a range of around 1,240 miles, potentially putting Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf within reach, according to state radio. It has been tested several times before.
English-language Press TV reported that on Sunday, the first day of exercises, the solid-fuel Fateh-110, Tondar-69 and Zelzal missiles were test fired, but did not give specifics on range or other details. Both are short-range, surface-to-surface missiles.
Gen. Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guard Air Force, told reporters Iran tested for the first time a multiple missile launcher. Press TV showed pictures of at least two missiles being fired simultaneously and said they were from the latest drill.
First read this; by way of the Globe and Mail (link)
The short version is that the Canadian tax payer is about to spend $500,000 on added protection so that Bush can pretend to be an adult and do what Bill Clinton does, which is travel all over the place and make mad money doing speaking engagements.
I am not sure what baffles me the most. Is it the idea that the Canadian government would agree to flip all those loonies towards the Bush entourage, in order to protect a man that probably has a small army of secret service agents around him all the time anyway? Or, or, and here is the punch line; who in there right mind, aside from those of us that loves a good Bushism, is going to spend good money listening to Bush speak? He would be better off doing a tour where he throws out first pitches. I'd be leery of letting him handle scissors, so I guess grand openings are out of the question. Oh Georgie, how I have missed you so.