Racist Palestinian Media
Via Allahpundit, according to Palestinian news reports, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a blood-sucking, baby-killing, monkey-gestating, destruction-bringing, colored, dark-skinned black raven.
Lots more at Palestinian Media Watch.
Michael Moore: Simply Irresistible
Michael Moore -- gadfly filmmaker, liberal activist and political lightning rod -- says he finds himself being hugged by a lot of Republicans these days.
"If you were to hang out with me here it won't be five or 10 minutes before you see a Republican hug me..."
Used to traveling with security and encountering a barrage of hostility, Moore said he finds people now more accepting, even to the point Republicans are spontaneously hugging him.
GDP Growth Slows, Market Overjoyed
The advance reading on 2nd quarter GDP growth came in at 2.5% this morning, lower than the 3% predicted. Economists knew the growth rate had slowed from last quarter's sizzling 5.6%, but this first look at the data suggests it cooled off more than they thought.
The market is delighted.
While interest rate futures had previously been implying a 50/50 chance that the Federal Reserve would call for an 18th consecutive rate hike at their August meeting, in the wake of this report, the odds seem to have dwindled. Traders seem increasingly confident that this more dramatic slowing could convince the Fed that its belt-tightening work is done, that inflation is well-contained and that further hikes would unduly constrain further growth.
The data actually showed signs of rising inflation in the 2nd quarter, but the GDP growth slowdown remained a compelling argument that the Fed would pause in August.
Wall Street's optimism overshadowed data showing rising inflation. The GDP report said core consumer prices -- excluding energy and food -- surged 2.9 percent last quarter, while the department's employment cost index rose a stronger-than-forecast 0.9 percent.
In the first hour of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 76.68, or 0.69 percent, to 11,177.11.
Broader stock indicators also advanced. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 7.37, or 0.58 percent, at 1,270.57, and the Nasdaq composite index climbed 15.18, or 0.74 percent, to 2,069.65.
The economic data lifted bonds, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note sliding to 5.01 percent from 5.04 percent late Thursday.
Whaddaya say, Mr. Bernanke? Make like the Europeans and take August off.
So how fast do you think the economy is growing?
Here's your chance to weigh in alongside the Wall Street analysts and show them you can throw darts as well as they can. Friday morning at 8:30, the Commerce Department will release the advance GDP reading for the 2nd quarter of 2006. Most believe the pace of growth slowed considerably from the breakneck 5.6% real growth we experienced in the first quarter. But by how much?
Make your guess in the comments section. Bear in mind the following:
-- State growth rate in real terms (subtracting inflation)
-- Analysts expect: 3.0%
-- Recent GDP growth rates:
- 1Q 2006: 5.6%
- 4Q 2005: 1.7%
- 3Q 2005: 4.1%
- 2Q 2005: 3.3%
For my money, in light of the number of companies whose earnings have recently busted 2nd quarter expectations, and given the fact that June durable goods orders came in well higher than expected today, I'm going to say that we easily eclipse expectations and clock in at a healthy jog of 3.6%.
Update: Close... but I'm way off. 2.5%.
Jobless Claims Drop (and Other Good News)
New claims for state jobless benefits fell to 298,000 in the week ended July 22 from an upwardly revised 305,000 new applications in the previous week, the Labor Department said.
Economists polled by Reuters were expecting claims to rise to 310,000 from an initially reported 304,000 claims in the July 15 week.
The Commerce Department reported that new orders for durable goods rose 3.1 percent last month, much better than the 1.7 percent gain that Wall Street had been expecting. The rise followed a tiny 0.3 percent May gain and a 4.7 percent drop in orders in April.
Grand Theft E-mail
A North Carolina database marketing business owner faces a potentially daunting penalty if federal allegations of data theft are proven.
United States Attorney Pat Meehan today announced the return of an indictment charging William Bailey, Jr. of Charlotte, NC, with 11 counts of computer intrusion. Bailey is charged with getting unauthorized access to the membership database of the American College of Physicians in Philadelphia and downloading information regarding more than 80,000 members.
Bailey runs a business in North Carolina that markets databases to people interested in marketing to physicians, dentists, lawyers and other professionals. The indictment charges that between January and May 2005, Bailey gained unauthorized access to the computer at American College of Physicians and downloaded the membership database.
If convicted, Bailey faces a maximum possible sentence of 55 years imprisonment, $2,750,000 in fines and a special assessment of $1100.
As Robert Ritter once presciently told Jack Ryan, "Computer theft is a serious crime."
A Creepy Pop Quiz
You make the call.
Move Over Ebola. Here Comes Morgellons.
Sleeping well? Has fear of the Ebola virus lost its punch? Are you so over fretting about the avian flu?
Fear not. There's a new nightmare disease for you to fear.
The symptoms sound like something straight out of a horror movie: crawling and biting sensations all over the skin, dementia and insomnia, painful sores that never heal and, most terrifying of all, mysterious tangled fibers pushing out through the open wounds.
Mysterious. Tangled. Fibers. Pushing. Out. Through. The. Open. Wounds.
Thousands of victims concentrated in Texas, California and Florida claim to be afflicted by the debilitating malady, for which there is no known cause and no certain cure. One young Austin man apparently committed suicide when the agony grew too acute, while many others, spurned by disbelieving doctors, are suffering in silence.
Depending on the CDC's conclusions, the ailment known as Morgellons disease might soon displace Ebola and bird flu as the world's newest nightmare disease. But unlike those illnesses, which are still far from U.S. shores, Morgellons cases have already been reported in every state, as well as in Europe, Japan, Australia and other countries.
Morgellons is not yet an official "disease" per se, as the CDC has thus far been unable to characterize its bizarre symptoms scientifically. Skeptics believe Morgellons lesions are self-inflicted and that the fibers come from environmental sources like clothing or bandages. Still, the CDC is investigating Morgellons as potentially real and potentially very, very bad.
Dan Rutz, a CDC spokesman [said,] "There's a concern that there's an infectious process going on. It would be very disturbing from a public health standpoint if that turns out to be case. We don't have any evidence to support that, but we are approaching this with an open mind."
Morgellons victims have no doubt that the joint pain, fatigue and self-described "brain fog" they are suffering is real.
Some believe the accompanying psychological symptoms of fatigue, dementia, depression, and "brain fog" are further evidence that the affliction may be something closer to non-infectious maladies like chronic fatigue syndrome, neurotic excoriations, or delusional parasitosis. Bad stuff, but mental in nature, despite resulting in unpleasant physical symptoms.
Still, the CDC investigation, which may focus in part on a concentrated population of sufferers in south Texas, sounds like it could have merit.
I am 100 percent convinced that Morgellons is a real disease pathology," said Dr. Randy Wymore, an assistant professor of pharmacology and physiology at OSU.
Wymore added that the fibers don't look like anything found in textiles. He has also determined that the fibers are not rubbing off from clothing, because doctors at OSU have found the fibers inside the body.
Counter-Hijack Killer App
Oh, this is just neat:
Some 30 European businesses and research institutes are working to create software that would make it possible from a distance to regain control of an aircraft from hijackers, according to the German news magazine.
The system "which could only be controlled from the ground would conduct the aircraft posing a problem to the nearest airport whether it liked it or not," according to extracts from next Monday's Der Spiegel released Saturday.
"A hijacker would have no chance of reaching his goal," it said.
Being able to safely fly and land commercial planes by remote control is a tantalizing prospect. Though I'm not sure who this is worse news for - prospective hijackers or pilots' unions.
Incontrovertible Evidence Sways 1 in 2!
Well, it's a start:
Half of Americans now say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded the country in 2003 -- up from 36 percent last year, a Harris poll finds. Pollsters deemed the increase both "substantial" and "surprising" in light of persistent press reports to the contrary in recent years.
The survey did not speculate on what caused the shift in opinion, which supports President Bush's original rationale for going to war. Respondents were questioned in early July after the release of a Defense Department intelligence report that revealed coalition forces recovered 500 aging chemical weapons containing mustard or sarin gas nerve agents in Iraq.
In recent weeks, [Michigan Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra] has recommended that more material confiscated since the invasion be declassified and made public, including a 1998 standing order to Iraqi officials to hide or destroy weapons and thus evade inspectors from the United Nations.
Most encouraging about the trend is the apparent degradation of a misleading media's ability to keep the wool over the American public's eyes, no matter how doggedly they fight to suppress and diminish these painfully evident truths.
Meanwhile, the Harris poll offered some positive feedback on Iraq. Seventy-two percent of respondents said the Iraqi people are better off now than under Saddam Hussein's regime -- a figure similar to that of 2004, when it stood at 76 percent. In addition, 64 percent say Saddam had "strong links" with al Qaeda, up from 62 percent in October 2004. Fifty-five percent said that "history will give the U.S. credit for bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq."
The purchasing consortium includes Merrill Lynch, Bain Capital, Global Private Equity and HCA founder Thomas Frist, Jr., brother of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
Kerry Tears Irony a New One At "Honest John's Bar and Grill"
U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D- Mass., who was in town Sunday to help Gov. Jennifer Granholm campaign for her re-election bid, took time to take a jab at the Bush administration for its lack of leadership in the Israeli-Lebanon conflict.
"If I was president, this wouldn't have happened," said Kerry during a noon stop at Honest John's bar and grill in Detroit's Cass Corridor.
Hungry, Hungry Hussein Hospitalized (Or Not)
According to the chief prosecutor in his trial, Saddam Hussein was hospitalized Sunday, on day 17 of his hunger strike, but FOX sources say medical tests are happening on-site at the detention center, not at a hospital.
Jaafar al-Moussawi said he visited the prison Sunday where Saddam and the seven other co-defendants are held and was told that the ex-president's health "is unstable because of the hunger strike."
"We took him to hospital and he is being currently fed by a tube," al-Moussawi told The Associated Press. He refused to identify the hospital.
Asked if Saddam's health had improved, al-Moussawi replied: "No, it is not stable yet."
I have to say I've never really understood the hunger strike as a means of protest. It strikes me as the grown-up version of a child holding his breath until he gets his way.
I wonder if Saddam is at least allowing himself the occasional Jamba Juice smoothie.
Dissident Men O'War
So begins the Jelly Jihad.
Jobless Claims Pull Back Again
After last week's bounce in initial jobless claims, caused by auto plant layoffs and the New Jersey government shutdown, the situation reversed itself this week, as reflected in the Labor Department weekly report.
In the week ending July 15, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 304,000, a decrease of 30,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 334,000. The 4-week moving average was 316,750, a decrease of 1,250 from the previous week's revised average of 318,000.
Jobless Claims Fall (Again)
Jobless Claims Drop
Retail Sales Up, Jobless Claims Down
Initial Jobless Claims Dip Still Lower
Say It With Me Now: "Joblessness Falls Again"
New Joblessness Dwindles by 3%
9/11 Pentagon Recreation
This is a fascinating recreation of American Flight 77 striking the Pentagon on September 11th. It combines computer simulation with still photos and video footage captured during and after the crash to piece together how the flight's final moments contributed to the resulting damage and debris field.
Maybe, but doubtfully, this'll go toward quieting the nutjob 9/11 conspiracy theorists that e-mail me daily with their latest delusions.
Hat tip: Little Green Footaballs.
10th Time's the Charm
Weehaw. Uncle Ben's comments about easing inflation really set the market ablaze today. It's amazing how much of an overhang the fear of an indefinitely hawkish Fed has had on stock prices. Bernanke's language wasn't even particularly committal, either on his confidence in his inflationary outlook or on any change in interest rate policy. But even this modest sashay doveward has sparked a massive relief rally.
The buying binge was further fueled by a Maryland court handing Wal-Mart a favorable ruling in a healthcare suit. As noted previously, the law being (happily) overturned in this case owed to an extreme bout of boneheadedness on the part of the Maryland state legislature.
The buoyancy on Wall Street has enabled the Dow Jones Industrials to break through the 11,000 mark for the 10th time this year. Will it stay there this time? We've got oil back below $73, so barring an extreme escalation in the Middle East or some ugly earnings surprises later this week and next, it just might.
I Hate To Say "Bout Time" But...
At long last, the thus far highly hawkish Ben Bernanke is showing signs that his dovish underbelly may one day be exposed.
Stock prices rallied Wednesday on remarks from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that economic moderation "now seems to be under way" and that inflation remains contained. The Dow Jones industrial average shot up more than 100 points.
Of course, while it'd be economically delightful if the Fed were to quit hiking interest rates, there's a downside to economic moderation.
It means the economy is moderating.
Two government reports indicated that the economy is slowing. The Labor Department said the Consumer Price Index rose by just 0.2 percent in June, the smallest increase in four months, but core inflation, which excludes energy and food, rose by 0.3 percent in June, higher than the 0.2 percent Wall Street expected. That increase left core inflation rising for the past three months at an annual rate of 3.6 percent, far above the Federal Reserve comfort zone of 2 percent or less.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said construction of new homes fell by 5.3 percent in June, another sign that the once-booming housing market is slowing.
Still, earnings season has been pretty positive so far, oil is easing a touch, and industrial production is humming along.
So if Ben wants to give us a little shot in the arm by taking the economy down a peg, I'm all for it.
Speaking With the Speaker (On Speaker)
Today, I had the opportunity to attend a Bloggers Briefing with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Given that the event was in Washington and I was in New York, my presence was conveyed by speaker phone, but it was nonetheless elucidating. Gingrich spoke about the interconnectedness of current worldwide military conflicts, which he sees as a true World War, and gave his thoughts on various options America has for dealing with them.
The physically present Mary Katherine Ham captured some salient quotes:
In reference to a 2002 New Yorker article, for which the author followed Hezbollah around the globe:
"They said, 'we're gonna eliminate Israel...anything we say between now and then is a tactical excuse...Our goal is the elimination of Israel."
"Hamas has said, 'not a single Jew will remain.' Now, I think that's a pretty clear statement."
On the Hezbollah/Iran connection:
There's a Hezbollah training camp in Paraguay, there's a group in North Carolina, we caught a cell crossing the border...They're all funded by the Iranians."
"At one point when people are killing you, you start to think, 'Gee, maybe this is a war.'"
"I don't think the administration or the State Department understands with just how much contempt we are viewed in the world right now...I watched North Korea shoot seven rockets on July 4th. This was not a case of inelegant timing...This is Kim Jong Il saying to us, 'you are cowardly and weak and you're not gonna do anything about it.'"
"Why would we think either China or Russia cares if North Korea fires an ICBM at the United States?"
"It is global...this is a real war. The correct answer to Hezbollah today is to destroy them...Israel should stand down when all 13,000 missiles and every Iranian is out of Lebanon, and anything less than that is a defeat."
On the U.N. barrier idea:
"It's a terrible idea and I hope it collapses under its own implausibility...Can you imagine if someone had said, 'why don't we create a barrier between the Nazis and the Americans?' FDR would have flipped."
On applying the Reagan philosophy:
"Reagan was asked his philosophy on the Cold War, and he offered four words-- 'We win. They lose.' Reagan didn't win with a radical application of American military power."
On the idea that the American military is stretched too far:
"We have overwhelming naval power if we decide to blockade Syria."
"Aiding the Lebanese army with air power would defeat Hezbollah.""Only on editorial boards and our own academic classes are we lacking power."
"The question should be, 'how do we strengthen the Lebanese government?'...We want to help the Lebanese people and the democractically elected government defeat Hezbollah. We should plant a flag next to them and say 'we will help you.'"
Up With 3rd Parties
Update from the campaign trail:
As part of my run for New York State Senate, my campaign team and I have spent the last month collecting signatures from registered Republicans in the district (central and east side of Manhattan). New York election law requires any Senate candidate, even after being designated by a party with guaranteed ballot access, to collect 1,000 such signatures in order to appear on the ballot. Having recently finished that process (an occasionally harrowing one, as reported by the New York Times, who did a ride-a-long with us one evening), I've taken a cue from Giles Corey and subjected myself (and my dedicated campaign team) to a second helping.
New York election law also allows candidates to form their own independent ballot lines through the petitioning process. If a candidate collects another 3,000 valid signatures, he or she can then appear on the ballot both as the designated candidate for their primary party and as the candidate for a shiny new customized party.
In my case, that shiny new party is the Growth Party. The focus of this ballot line is quite simple:
Adopt policies that promote sustainable economic growth and prosperity for New Yorkers.
Encourage new businesses to start up here and reward those who grow by allowing them to keep more of their earnings, thus creating new jobs, enriching entrepreneurs, shareholders, and pension holders, and fueling this vital economic engine that drives not only our city and state, but in large part this country and the world economy.
Simple? Yes. Obvious? You'd think.
As New York has the most abusive, punitive, growth-stifling tax environment in the country, we're also experiencing the inevitable and lamentable effects: rapid outmigration by businesses and individuals, constrained economic growth, and fewer jobs. We've lagged the rest of the country during these recent years of sustained job creation, real wage growth, and economic expansion. Equally inevitably, this anemic growth has led to a lower tax base than we would have otherwise encountered, meaning short-sighted legislators are further encouraged to maintain the lofty status quo among tax rates in order to keep pace with our ballooning expenditures. Our state-funds spending will rise 13% in 2007, 4x the pace of inflation!
Yet somehow, we maintain a fiscal footing that mercilessly punishes progress, that tells business owners they're better off doing business across the river, across the country, or overseas. It's a message that tells current and would-be New Yorkers that the privilege of living and doing business here comes at a dear price, one they should be grateful to tender. This city became the superlative financial and cultural hub that it is thanks to the innovation, creativity, passion, and determination of centuries of risk-taking entrepreneurs, philanthropists, financiers, artists, and other hard-workers. The value of the community that arose became self-reinforcing, encouraging others to come start businesses, find jobs, and raise families here because of the unmatched opportunities this thriving community offered.
For Albany now to financially strangle these individuals and businesses exposes the gross misunderstanding that the value and renown of New York have nothing to do with our geographic borders, but rather come from the very presence of these mistreated residents, whose economic, cultural, and personal contributions have historically made this community one where people so eagerly flock. This value, then, is impermanent. If we lose enough New Yorkers, we lose New York.
The fact that people are now fleeing for less abusive pastures should give Albany pause. On the contrary, the fact that rather than reassessing the situation, they're spending (in the words of the New York Post) like Really Drunken Sailors, gives me pause.
It also gave me the impetus to start the Growth Party, the focus of which will include lowering and simplifying the state's individual and corporate tax burden, reigning in dizzying spending levels, reforming the grossly undisciplined debt policy, and privatizing and/or eliminating unnecessary "public benefit corporations". These quasi-private entities, many of which are perennial money losers, account for tens of billions in debt and often provide low-quality, unreliable service (remember the Roosevelt Island Tramway incident?).
Reducing taxes, lowering debt, reigning in spending, and privatizing and/or eliminating bloated, pseudo-private behemoths have will have predictable effects: heightened business activity, sustainably increased economic growth, higher real wages, lower unemployment, and improved service quality. This economic growth will increase the tax base and create jobs, while lower tax rates will allow New Yorkers to take home a larger percentage of their earnings. The encouragement of business activity will include real estate development and housing, an increase in the supply of which (combined with a decrease in the cost of doing business) will lead to increase affordable housing for New Yorkers. Reforming the disastrous public benefit corporation system will have a dramatic, positive impact on a range of quality of life issues, from transportation to utilities to... whatever the Overcoat Development Corporation is supposed to do.
While we're currently mired in a self-perpeutating, vicious cycle of high taxes, constrained business activity, outmigration, stifled productivity, and a consequently depressed tax base, unable to keep pace with our runaway spending, adopting the above pro-growth policies engenders an equally strong virtuous cycle.
The idea of shifting our policy from punishing hard work, risk-taking, and wealth creation, to actually rewarding it is the message I'm eager to shine a bright light on via this new party line. If you want to learn more, you can visit the newly launched and still, ahem... growing website at www.GrowthNY.com. As ever, my primary campaign site is www.Flip4NY.com.
If you're local, we need volunteers to help with petitioning so drop me a line if you're able to lend a hand!
Snakes On a Plane II: Oh, Rats!
From the team that brought you the ironically-acclaimed Snakes On a Plane:
Eggs Allah Carte
With mounting tensions between Israel and Lebanon, it is important not to lose sight of other important regional news. For example:
A chicken in a Kazakh village has laid an egg with the word "Allah" inscribed on its shell, state media reported Thursday.
"Our mosque confirmed that it says 'Allah' in Arabic," Bites Amantayeva, a farmer from the village of Stepnoi in eastern Kazakhstan, told state news agency Kazinform.
Here's hoping the next egg doesn't say "Death to Israel."
Missile Smackdown Successful
Hundreds of miles above southern New Mexico, it was a picture-perfect impact between two missiles.
...[M]ilitary officials said the test went better than they could have hoped.
"This was phenomenal," said U.S. Army Col. Charles Driessnack, the project manager for the Missile Defense Agency's THAAD program. "It performed as expected."
The test demonstrated the THAAD's ability to "completely destroy that warhead so that no chemical or nuclear residue would contaminate areas" below the explosion, Driessnack said.
What a show.
A crowd of roughly 75 spectators, military personnel and defense department contractors, gathered near the WSMR Museum in the predawn hours to view the test.
As the target missile launched, it streaked into the still-dark sky, looking like a comet with a long, white tail. As it got to the second firing stage, red fire bloomed out of the leading edge of the missile.
Minutes later, the THAAD was launched, giving a little pirouette before speeding upward.
"Get up there baby," one observer shouted.
For a couple of minutes, the crowd held their collective breath, waiting to see if the impact would occur as planned.
When the target missile was destroyed, sending a brilliant white, mushroom-like cloud into the dark sky, the crowd began to applaud and cheer wildly.
"We smashed it," several people cheered as the rainbow colored contrail gave way to the cotton ball cloud of destruction above.
Oil Above $76
Light, sweet crude for August delivery shot up $1.35 to $76.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, surpassing the previous intraday high of $75.78 set last Friday.
"With little prospect of any good news on Nigeria, Iran and global demand any time soon, the risks remain on the upside and the prospect of a move to, and through, $80 per barrel must be very real, very soon," said Paul J. Harris, head of energy and emissions at Bank of Ireland Global Markets in Dublin, Ireland.
The hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico could be a catalyst for even more price spikes, Harris said.
While I've continued to scratch my head about the 40% reduction in New York's Urban Area Security Initiative allocation (even more so as we subsequently learned about an aborted cyanide bomb attack on the City's subways in 2003 and a recently foiled tunnel bombing plot), certain pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place.
It may be only because I live in New York that I find it to be so chock full of important landmarks, icons, and symbols. Perhaps when viewed objectively in comparison with other localities, it simply isn't the case. Take the great states of Indiana or Wisconsin for instance. According to the National Asset Database, used by Homeland Security to identify likely terror targets, both states are far more target-filled. Indiana, as it turns out, is the most target-rich state in the nation, with 8,591instances of terror bait. Wisconsin comes in second with 7,146, while New York runs a distance third with 5,687.
We're crossing over from just plain misguided to certifiably nuts.
And if you're wondering whether the creators of the database are simply taking a more *nuanced* view of what constitutes a "target", perhaps moving away from focal points like financial centers and national monuments, well, you're part right. They are indeed focusing on some, er... less obvious sites.
It reads like a tally of terrorist targets that a child might have written: Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, the Mule Day Parade, the Sweetwater Flea Market and an unspecified “Beach at End of a Street.”
... Brian Lehman, said he owned the only operation in the country with [the name Amish Country Popcorn.]
“I am out in the middle of nowhere,” said Mr. Lehman, whose business in Berne, Ind., has five employees and grows and distributes popcorn. “We are nothing but a bunch of Amish buggies and tractors out here. No one would care.”
But moving the focus to the middle of nowhere doesn't quite bound the absurdity of the database. When it does consider [yawn] financial centers and national monuments (do terrorists even care about such things anymore?), it puts on a show of dazzling inaptitude for counting.
New York, for example, lists only 2 percent of the nation’s banking and finance sector assets, which ranks it between North Dakota and Missouri. Washington State lists nearly twice as many national monuments and icons as the District of Columbia.
Someone's not just asleep at the switch. Someone labeled the switch upside down, or spilled coffee on the switch, or accidentally flushed the switch down the toilet and is embarrassed to tell anyone.
(Hat tip: Alert reader Pat in Indiana. Pat, you might want to find yourself a sturdy bomb shelter pronto.)
Cynthia McKinney Slaps Constituents In the Face
Courtesy of Drudge:
Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D) failed to appear at two televised debates over the weekend, fueling criticism from two opponents who are challenging the controversial incumbent in a July 18 primary in the Georgia's 4th District.
One of McKinney's Democratic primary challengers, DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson provided the bon mot.
Johnson's campaign said that McKinney's absence was a "slap in the face" to her constituents.
Deadly Explosions at Indian Train Stations
A series of deadly train bombings targeted Bombay's commuter population today:
Seven explosions hit Bombay's commuter rail network Tuesday evening during rush hour, ripping apart train compartments, officials said. Indian television reported dozens may have been killed.
Chaos engulfed the crowded rail network in India's financial capital following the blasts, and authorities struggled to determine the number of casualties.
India's CNN-IBN television news, which had a reporter traveling on the train, said the blast took place in a first-class car as the train was moving, ripping through the compartment and killing more than a dozen people.
Another CNN-IBN reporter said he had seen more than 20 bodies at one Bombay hospital.
Earlier in the day, a series of grenade attacks diirected mainly at tourists in Srinagar, India, killed 7 people and wounded many others.
Suspected Islamist militants killed seven people, six of them tourists, on Tuesday in a series of grenade attacks in Srinagar, police said, the most concerted targeting of civilians in months.
In the bloodiest strike, a grenade was thrown inside a bus in Srinagar, near the city's famous mountain-ringed Dal Lake, killing the six holidaymakers and wounding seven. Four other people were also hurt.
Yet another X-11 attack.
Allahpundit is providing ongoing updates.
Update: Express India reports that Mohammad Afzal, a suspected perpetrator of the Srinagar attacks who allegedly hurled a grenade onto a bus, injuring ten people, was apprehended by bystanders and turned over to police.
Update: Allahpundit notes that New York City has elevated its transit security in response.
"We're increasing our police presence, both uniformed and plainclothes, and taking the steps necessary to secure the system," said MTA spokesman Tom Kelly.
He said the beefed up security will be applied at all MTA locations, including the LIRR, Metro-North, Grand Central Terminal, Pennsylvania Station, plus all MTA-run bridges and tunnels leading in and out of the city.
Air Travel Etiquette II
Do take your shoes off when passing through TSA metal detectors.
Do not hollow out the soles of your shoes ahead of time, particularly while carrying bomb components in your laptop bag.
Suicide Attempt Collapses NYC Apartment Building
The apparent gas explosion that brought down a brownstone on East 62nd Street in Manhattan this morning was possibly the result of a suicide attempt. Not clear if the attempt was to blow the perpetrator/victim's self up or simply to succumb to gas fumes, but there are still no reports of any deaths from the incident. The building housed two doctors' offices and a number of residences.
Authorities are investigating the possibility that it was Dr. Nicholas Bartha, owner of the building, whose suicide attempt caused the explosion. Bartha was critically wounded, but coherent, when pulled from the rubble. Fox News is reporting a suicide email sent by the doctor has reportedly surfaced.
Air Travel Etiquette
Do wipe down the lavatory sink as a courtesy to your fellow passengers.
Do not run toward and repeatedly ram the door to the cockpit.
(Hat tip: Drudge)
Payroll Numbers Underwhelm
Employers boosted payrolls by a tepid 121,000 in June -- an improvement from the previous month but new evidence that companies are reluctant to bulk up their work forces in the face of high energy prices and slowing economic growth.
The count of new jobs added in June was the most since March but fell short of economists' forecasts for an increase of around 175,000 new positions.
In a word: notsomuch. And the markets are peeved.
When the report was first released this morning, stock futures rallied (per the backward logic that negative economic news will prompt the Fed to quit tightening interest rates, which in turn fuels economic growth). Then - according to various punditry - traders decided they were so underwhelmed by the report (perhaps compounded by high expectations following ADP's amped up prediction) that worries about growth sustainability began to outweigh the allure of a placated Fed.
A cloud to every silver lining. Stagflatio-nimbus clouds in this case, which are ugly indeed.
On the bright side, annualized, seasonally adjusted wages ticked up a sharp 6% last month, well outstripping inflation.
7/7 London Bombing Anniversary
Pajamas Media has a nice round-up of today's remembrance of the London Underground terror attacks that killed 52 people one year ago.
NYC Tunnel Bomb Plot Foiled
From the NY Daily News:
The FBI has uncovered what officials consider a serious plot by jihadists to bomb the Holland Tunnel in hopes of causing a torrent of water to deluge lower Manhattan, the Daily News has learned.
The terrorists sought to drown the Financial District as New Orleans was by Hurricane Katrina, sources said. They also wanted to attack subways and other tunnels.
The News has learned that at the request of U.S. officials, authorities in Beirut arrested one of the alleged conspirators, identified as Amir Andalousli, in recent months. Agents were scrambling yesterday to try to nab other suspects, sources said.
Sources said that New York City officials believed the plan could conceivably work with enough explosives placed in the middle of the tunnel, which runs underneath the river bed, a source said.
The FBI discovered the plot by monitoring Internet chat rooms, where the aspiring terrorists discussed striking the U.S. economy, rather than causing mass casualties, a source said.
"They're hell-bent on destroying the economy in the U.S.," a counterterrorism source said.
Don't these terrorists know that neither Wall Street, nor the Holland Tunnel, nor Ground Zero, nor any assets in Lower Manhattan are American icons? What a waste of time!
U.S. agents were allowed to take part in the interrogation of Andalousli, a source said.
Well, I'm confused. Why would U.S. agents be interested in interrogating the conspirators? That would suggest that an attack on New York's financial system has some kind of dire national implications. If that were the case, surely adequate federal dollars would be allocated to ensure correspondingly robust security of such areas. You know... high tech security cameras, supplemental police forces, etc.
Federal agents must be having a slow business day to turn their attention to such a local issue.
Yale No Longer Taliban's New Haven
And so ends former Taliban ambassador Rahmatullah Hashemi's brief career as an Eli.
The New York Times’ education reporter, Alan Finder, told me that he has been in contact with the Boola Boola Mullah’s financial backers , and they say he hasn’t been admitted to the regular degree program at Yale. He may have a few credits left in his current program, so he might be back for one more semester or so in the fall, but he won’t graduate from Yale.
This is a bizarre, freakish chapter in Yale’s history, and even though I’m glad Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi is leaving, I actually hope the story isn’t over. I hope that Yale will continue to examine the root causes of this awful decision. Right now Yale is a place that forbids ROTC from training on campus on one hand, but at the same time welcomes an unrepentant high official of one of the vilest regimes in recent history. In 2002, Yale turned down an opportunity to admit a group of academically qualified Afghan women, but a couple of years later they admit their oppressor. There’s something culturally wrong with a place that tolerates that sort cognitive dissonance and I hope they try to fix it.
The Prattle of Bull Run
Animal rights activists - some wearing just underwear or even less - sprinted through Pamplona Wednesday to protest the running of the bulls, two days before this year's edition of Spain's most famous festival gets under way.
Some women ran topless or in panties and bras, and most of the men were in their underwear at least. One man was naked except for a makeshift loincloth.
Is it just me, or does PETA play the naked card a little too often? I can understand it when it involves not wearing fur, but what on earth does protesting in your birthday suit have to do with people fleeing from a pack of bulls? I get the impression some of these people are a tad attention-starved (not to mention protein-starved).
In related news, if you heard a loud, self-satisfied thud recently, that was just the sound of PETA landing the most shameless bandwagon jump since "The Real Housewives of Orange County".
Jobless Claims Fall (Again)
NK Fires 7th Missile; UN Security Council Mulls
While Kim Jong Il continues to behave like a kid with a box of firecrackers, the UN Security Council met this morning to discuss possible responses.
Allah Pundit provided updates throughout the recently concluded meeting and notes we're now waiting for a UNSC press conference.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton commented on the situation just before the meeting.
Bolton said the council must send a "strong and unanimous signal" to the North that its actions were unacceptable. He said the council would proceed in a "calm and deliberate fashion," with experts starting discussions on a draft.
"This is obviously a very serious matter because of the North Korean provocation, but this is precisely what the Security Council is designed to handle and we hope the council will rise to the occasion."
Video of Bolton's remarks following the meeting is available at Outside the Beltway.
Enron Founder Ken Lay Dies at 64
Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay, who was convicted of helping perpetuate one of the most sprawling business frauds in U.S. history, has died of a heart attack in Colorado. ... Lay, who faced life in prison, was scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 23.
Lay, who lived in Houston, was convicted May 25 along with former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling of defrauding investors and employees by repeatedly lying about Enron's financial strength in the months before the company plummeted into bankruptcy protection in December 2001. Lay was also convicted in a separate non-jury trial of bank fraud and making false statements to banks, charges related to his personal finances.
Pastor Steve Wende of First United Methodist Church of Houston, said in a statement that church member Lay died unexpectedly of a "massive coronary."
Wende said Lay and his wife, Linda, were in Aspen, Colo., for the week "and his death was totally unexpected. Apparently, his heart simply gave out."
Employment Index Notches Largest Gain Ever
The monthly ADP National Employment Report released this morning, which measures non-farm private employment, shows June 2006 sporting the biggest month-to-month job gain in the 5-year history of the index. The report states seasonally adjusted employment grew by 368,000 over the previous month.
The Department of Labor will release its June numbers of Friday, officially forecast to show a gain of 160,000 jobs in June. The ADP report is often an early bellwether of either an upside or a downside surprise in those Labor Department numbers.
Following last week's upward revision of 1st quarter GDP growth to a ripping 5.6%, this is more evidence running counter to the Fed's insistence that the economy is "moderating". What's more, the fact that this measure is focused on a far more recent time period means it reflects a couple more rate hikes than the GDP figure. That should've meant we'd see additional softening, not resilient expansion.
That's both good and bad news if it means Bernanke is likely to continue hiking rates until the economy decides to cooperate and show consistent evidence that it actually is moderating. For now, we may simply have to suffer the stubbornness of an economy that just won't quit. So long as inflation doesn't become problematic, I say let it grow, let it grow, let it grow.
North Korea Test Fires Several Missiles, Perhaps Including Taepodong ICBM
The first missile, which is preliminarily thought not to be the intercontinental variety causing the most alarm, has fallen into the Sea of Japan.
The reclusive communist state launched the missile at 3:32 a.m., or 2:32 p.m. Tuesday EDT, and it crashed into the Sea of Japan several minutes later, public broadcaster NHK reported.
NHK said Japanese government officials were trying to determine whether it was a long-range ballistic missile that had been readied for launch recently. North Korea had been thought to be preparing a test-launch of its Taepodong 2 missile, which is believed to be able to reach parts of the United States.
Fox News is reporting that the Japanese and U.S. government have both stated they believe North Korea subsequently fired a second test missile. Reports suggest the second missile is also thought not to be a 3-stage Taepodong-2 missile that might reach the United States, but rather a conventional surface-to-air missile.
Kim Jong Il may be feeling pyromaniacal today, but he doesn't hold a roman candle to our fireworks.
Update: CNN reports that the State Department says a third missile - this one the intercontinental Taepodong - has been fired. The report says the missile failed in mid-air.
The senior State Department official said the launches were timed to coincide with the launch of the space shuttle Discovery from Florida, calling it "a provocative act designed to get attention."
Update: The AP is reporting that as many as 4 mid-range missiles have now been test fired, all of which landed in the Sea of Japan.
Japan's Kyodo news agency said they were believed to be mid-range Rodong missiles and landed about 300 miles off the western coast of Japan's Hokkaido Island.
A Pentagon official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, identified two of the missiles as Scuds.
However, the State Department official said North Korea appeared ready to launch the long-range Taepodong-2 missile. The official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, did not confirm that the Taepodong-2 had been launched.
"We are urgently consulting with members of the Security Council," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said in a statement.
If the timing is correct, the North Korean missiles were launched within minutes of Tuesday's liftoff of Discovery, which blasted into orbit from Cape Canaveral in the first U.S. space shuttle launch in a year.
Happy Independence Day!
After a few days of hiatus due to a lovely Savannah wedding, we're back to a regular blogging schedule on this patriotic morning. If you find yourself taking a break from being outside, roasting weenies and blowing off your thumbs, you might enjoy frittering away some indoor time via these online July 4 resources.
Visit America Supports You.
Learn How Fireworks Work.
Download Desktop Dynamite from Zambelli Fireworks.
Read the Presidential Proclamation.
Access the Independence Day Checklist from To Do List Software.
Countdown to fireworks at Cape Canaveral.
Around the blogosphere:
Did you know...
America shares a birthday with Geraldo Rivera, Rube Goldberg, and Calvin Coolidge?
180 years ago today, consecutive Presidents Jefferson and Adams died within hours of each other, upon witnessing the 50th birthday of the country they helped found. 5 years later, in 1831, President Monroe jumped on the bandwagon of patriotically-timed Presidential expirations by dying on the country's 55th birthday.
(Honorable mention for Abe Lincoln's V.P. Hannibal Hamlin, the first ever Republican veep, who shuffled off on America's 125th birthday in 1891.)