Suitably Flipping the Byrd
I've just received confirmation from Senator Byrd's office that he was the second secret holder on S2590, but that he has now released the hold. According to Byrd's Press Secretary Tom Gavin:
There was an effort to pass a bill (S. 2590) on an important subject without debate just before the Senate recess. Senators have an obligation to their constituents to know what they are voting on before signing off on any proposal. The American people ought to demand that bills receive scrutiny by Senators before those bills are approved. We have seen the consequences of rushing legislation through the Senate without any time for review or understanding.
On August 2, the last day before a month-long Senate recess, a Senate committee gave its approval to a brand new piece of legislation, cosponsored by Senator Obama and Senator Coburn. That same day, there was an effort to rush the legislation through the Senate without any Senator having the chance to ask questions.
Senator Byrd wanted time to read the legislation, understand its implications, and see whether the proposal could be improved. Now that there has been time to better understand the legislation, Senator Byrd has released his hold. Senator Byrd believes that the bill should be debated and opened for amendment, and not pushed through without discussion.
Will Senator Stevens follow suit?
Coming In November: Falling Oil, Economic Bliss, Some Elections
Happy news, following on the last few days of swiftly falling oil prices:
"The only place they have to go is down," says Fred Rozell, gasoline analyst at the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS). "We'll be closer to $2 than $3 come Thanksgiving."
Travel organization AAA foresees prices 10 cents a gallon lower by the end of next week. It reported a nationwide average of $2.84 Tuesday, the lowest since April 20.
It's good news for consumers and the economy. Continued lower prices "may act like a tax cut" and stimulate spending, says Richard DeKaser, chief economist at National City in Cleveland.
I think I like the sound of that.
Hold the Phone - Another Secret Holder Lurks!
Suitably Flip has received a tip that another Senator, in addition to Ted Stevens, has a hold on S2590. This is contrary to the apparent resolution of this week's lengthy process of elimination, which seemed to successfully eliminate the 99 non-Stevens Senators, culminating with Stevens' acknowledgment of his identity as the secret holder.
The Capitol Hill source of this information contends that GOP leadership staff has indicated the second holder is a Democrat.
Here are the highlights of a detailed timeline that accompanied this information.
- August 4, 12:33am: GOP leadership staff states that at least one hold had been placed on the bill and that it will not pass before Congress adjourns for recess.
- August 16, 4:43pm: GOP leadership staff states that Sen. Stevens is the only hold on the Republican side.
- August 29, 6:57pm: GOP leadership staff states that at least one Democratic Senator placed a hold on S.2590.
- August 30, 3:27pm: GOP leadership staff again states that at least one Democratic Senator placed a hold on S.2590. Because the GOP and Democratic cloakrooms operate independently and operate under different rules, we do not know the identity of the Democratic Senator. However, if the information given to us by GOP leadership staff is correct, then Sen. Stevens is not the only hold.
In ruminating with Mary Katherine, we cooked up three possibilities to reconcile this information with the 44/44 denials by Democratic Senators' offices.
- A Democratic Senator (or a member of his or her staff) is lying.
- A Democratic Senator initiatied a hold very recently, after being pinged by a blogger but before Tuesday at 6:57 pm.
- One of the denials logged at TPMM or Porkbusters was based on a soft "Not that I know of" denial, which was upgraded to a firm "No" when catalogued.
If you live in a Senatorially blue or purple state, it's time to get back on the phone and not get off until you get a firm answer. If you get any static, refer them to the Majority Leader's directive for "all members, when asked by the blog community, to instruct their staff to answer whether or not they have a hold, honestly and transparently, so I can pass this bill."
I'll be ringing Chuck and Hillary in the morning.
Very tantalizing indeed. Stay tuned for updates.
During the exciting eliminat-o-rama earlier in the week, it was a Porkbusters reader named Angie who reported that "Senator Robert Byrd's office confirms that he is not the senator who placed the secret hold."
Angie. Aaaaangie. You can't say we're satisfied...
Armitage Owns Up To Plame Leak
The former Deputy Secretary of State finally gets his tongue back from the cat.
[Armitage's] lawyer and other associates of Mr. Armitage have said he has confirmed that he was the initial and primary source for the columnist, Robert D. Novak, whose column of July 14, 2003, identified Valerie Wilson as a Central Intelligence Agency officer.
The identification of Mr. Armitage as the original leaker to Mr. Novak ends what has been a tantalizing mystery.
Had Enough, Crude? Yeah, You Stay Down.
The Department of Energy put out its weekly U.S. oil inventory report this morning. Analysts had expected a drawdown in supplies. Instead, the report showed a buildup of 2.4 million barrels, leaving inventories more than 6% higher than one year ago.
Following two days of cheapening oil, the news sent prices even lower, with October crude futures hovering just
over under $69 a barrel.
Of course we still have the possibility of something crazy coming out of Ahmadinejad's mouth later today, as the U.N. Security Council deadline to halt enrichment activity expires, a question mark that could see prices rebound if Mahmud is in a mood.
Foreign banks are waving goodbye to North Korea as they sever ties en masse with the rogue nation, a move supported by the U.S.
The United States has accused Pyongyang of spreading weapons and missile technology to other countries, counterfeiting U.S. currency and trafficking drugs. It wants to see the reclusive, communist-led regime financially incapacitated.
"There is sort of a voluntary coalition of financial institutions saying that they don't want to handle this business anymore and that is causing financial isolation for the government of North Korea," Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press.
"They don't want to be the banker for someone who's engaged in crime, as the North Korean government is," he said.
Banks in Singapore, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong and Mongolia are opting not to do business with North Korea, Levey said.
This will undoubtedly inflict some desrved discomfort on Pyongyang, but is the added pressure productive toward our ends? Clearly it's a move toward further isolation of the country, something any rational head of state would seek to avoid. But "rational" isn't among the first adjectives that spring to mind when considering Kim Jong Il's track record. "Reclusive" and "unstable" seem more apt.
To the extent the financial cutoff curbs North Korea's ability to engage in counterfeiting, drug trafficking, and weapons sales, the move is unequivocally welcome. But does the increased isolation also risk squeezing Kim into a tighter corner where he's more likely to lash out with whatever functional fireworks he's managed to stockpile?
The Silent Triumverate
New day, time to spread out a new post. See here for yesterday's thrilling developments in the hunt for the Senator with the secret hold on pork transparency bill S2590, as well as ruminations about the likelihood of each prospect.
I'm waiting to hear back from inquiries I've put in to the offices of Senators Stevens, Gregg, and Crapo, having pointed out Senator Frist's call for all Senate offices to respond "honestly and transparently" to bloggers' questions about the hold.
Meanwhile, Captain Ed feels enough pieces have fallen into place to name Stevens. He makes a strong case. Still, as time dwells on and we're stuck at 3, I continue to wonder about Option 3 posited yesterday.
Stay tuned for updates as they roll in.
Update: TPM Muckraker is now pointing to a 12-day-old article in the Fort Smith Times Record, in which Senator Coburn identifies Senator Stevens as the lone holder. (HT: Allahpundit, who seems to have lost a bet.)
One of the senators most criticized for his personal projects, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has a hold of his own on Coburn’s bill to make public the spending patterns of the government. Called the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, the legislation calls for the creation of a database open to the public where citizens can track government spending.
“He’s the only senator blocking it,” Coburn said of Stevens.
So... you're telling me this exciting process of elimination that's mounted over the last few days was unnecessary? Well, nearly. Unfortunately, the Times Record doesn't seem to get any love from Google News, otherwise anyone with an inkling and a browser could've settled this long ago.
Kudos to Mary Katherine for the early spot-on pick.
Update: I've just heard back from Susan Wheeler, media contact for Senator Crapo, who states, "Senator Crapo has determined this is an exceptional case given the Majority Leader’s request and has instructed me to let you know that he did not place the hold."
Senators Gregg and Stevens remain the only two yet to respond.
Update: Per TPMM, a representative of Senator Gregg has denied he is the secret holder.
Update: With 99 denials, and the last seat filled as the music finally stopped, Stevens confirms his secret identity.
Whew! That was fun. Good game, blogosphere. Nice hustle.
Next up: Where is D.B. Cooper?
A Neck-Snapping 180: E&P Is All About the Blogs
Just when your sides stopped hurting from laughing and you thought it was safe to take another sip of milk, Editor & Publisher treats you to more of its comedy stylings, this time via a self-congratulatory retrospective on their innovative Katrina coverage.
Exactly one year ago, E&P chose a blog-like approach to monitor the disaster unfolding in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast -- one of the few news outlets early on to draw on reader forums and blogs at local newspaper sites. Here are selections from the first 24 hours after the storm struck, mainly contributed by E&P Editor Greg Mitchell.
Notwithstanding what I presume to be an accurate retrospective of their year-ago coverage (perhaps naively, given their recent history of quietly monkeying with old, inaccurate articles about reporters writing old, inaccurate articles) readers of this or, well, most any other non-lefty blog will doubtless be surprised that Mitchell and E&P are so forward-looking and receptive to the "blog-like approach".
Last week, not only did E&P boldly trumpet a study pooh-poohing blogs for their lack of accuracy and reliability (sadly, without benefit of spell check), but Mitchell penned a two-part story (1, 2) in which he decried the ignorance of bloggers who "smear" fraudulent war fauxtographers in an attempt to wage a "propaganda war" on the mainstream media. Soon thereafter, Confederate Yankee noted that three years ago, Mitchell had confessed in an opinion piece that he had written a fake story as a journalism intern in the late 1960s, a story which turned out to contain multiple factual errors, which were in turn, slyly, incompletely, and disingenuously corrected on the archived webpage.
Surely, it's just this kind of meddling that raises the ire of many in the traditional media and which was the likely impetus behind Mitchell's two-part backlash. But I don't want to rush to judge the motives behind this surprising, front page blogosphere bear hug. Maybe it simply took this whirlwind dust-up to bring Mitchell and E&P around.
If so, let me be the first to welcome them. Now the healing can begin. Sorry I laughed at you at the top of the post.
Secret Holder Being Sniffed Out
Suspects remaining: 1 (See the new post for details)
The identity of the one or more Senators who placed a "secret hold" on S2590 (the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act), a pork transparency bill sponsored by Senators Obama and Coburn which would create an online, searchable pork database, is/are slowly being revealed in an exciting blog-driven game of musical chairs.
Leading the way in championing individual constituents' efforts to get their Senators to deny on record being the secret holder, and documenting the successful efforts are Porkbusters and TPM Muckraker.
While the quality of the inbound information can't always be guaranteed, it appears the vast majority of Senators have gone on record that they are not the secret holder.
The remaining list of suspects (Senators who have not yet responded or who have responded that they will neither confirm nor deny) is presented below and will be updated as additional Senators step forward:
Percentage of party delegations responding:
- R: 95%
- D: 100%
- I: 100%
* One remaining Senator is asterisk-worthy, namely Mike Crapo, whose office actually has responded, per TPMM, stating it's not the Senator's practice to confirm or deny such a hold.
And so, with 2 chairs left and 3 Senators standing, help stop the music by getting on the horn if you're from Alaska, Idaho, or New Hampshire.
I've put in inquiries to the three remaining Senators' offices, but have yet to receive a response. On his own blog, Majority Leader Bill Frist has called on Senators to respond to such requests from bloggers.
So, to get this bill passed, I am calling on all members, when asked by the blog community, to instruct their staff to answer whether or not they have a hold, honestly and transparently, so I can pass this bill. And I encourage Minority Leader Reid to do the same.
Update: Now that we're down to three, it's probably time to get a little more substantively speculative about the susp-, eh, let's call them prospects.
The Case for Stevens
In a word: Strong like boar.
Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican in the Senate and the former Chairman of the Appropriations Committee was inducted to the Porkmaster Hall of Fame courtesy of the Gravina Island Bridge ("To Nowhere") debacle, a $223 million pork project that would've served an island with 50 inhabitants. Stevens threatened to resign from the Senate if his pork was diverted to Katrina sufferers. Senator Stevens' porcine bona fides are beyond reproach.
The Case for Gregg
In a word: New kid in the barrel.
Gindu points out recent press releases on Judd Gregg's website, extolling his own abilities to bring home bridge-bound bacon. In just 5 days, 13 projects were announced, clocking in at an average of a million dollars apiece. The fact that Gregg wears his summer pork on his shoulder may mitigate the likelihood that he's prone to spending secrecy, but as Gindu puts it, the man does like his pet projects.
The Case for Crapo
In a word: Dark pig in the race
Mike Crapo may not have any bridges that need (or don't need) building in Idaho, but he does win the prize for the most recently announced 7-figure earmark. Yesterday. Earlier today, Crapo's media contact, Susan Wheeler, told TPMM, "It's not Sen. Crapo's practice to confirm or deny any hold on any bill." Given that stance, whether or not Senator Crapo is the secret holder, I'd watch for him to make it to the final two. To my knowledge, he is the only remaining prospect to have explicitly declined to answer the question.
My Updated Speculations (in decreasing order of likelihood)
1) Stevens is the secret holder. Enough pressure will be brought to bear with only three remaining that Gregg will shortly remove himself from contention. Crapo will stand by his policy long enough that Stevens, assured his anonymity is on borrowed time, will release a statement acknowledging his identity as the secret holder, rather than risk the incremental indignity of being outed after a process of 99 eliminations.
2) We eventually wind up with 100/100 eliminations, meaning one of the second-hand e-mailed accounts of (typically unnamed) staffers in various Senators' offices that surfaced throughout the day turned out to be incorrect.
3) The Porcine Trifecta - all three remaining prospects have holds on S2590. While I rank this possibility third, every hour that passes with the prospect count stuck at three (having raced down so quickly until this point) tends to buoy this option's likelihood in my estimation.
Update: According to Kate O'Beirne, Senators Frist, Obama, and Coburn are likely aware of the identity of the secret holder (Hat Tip: The Political Pit Bull). PPB also points out this interview Captain Ed conducted with Dr. Frist, who appears determined to bring the bill to the floor.
Meanwhile, amidst all the excitement of the hunt for the holder, Tim Chapman makes a cogent case in defense of secret holds.
Gross Prophet Apprehended
The fugitive leader of a polygamist Mormon sect has been arrested in southern Nevada.
Warren Steed Jeffs, 50, was taken into custody after he and two other people were pulled over late Monday by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper on Interstate 15 just north of Las Vegas, FBI spokesman David Staretz said.
The leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was wanted in Utah and Arizona on suspicion of sexual misconduct for allegedly arranging marriages between underage girls and older men.
Since May, Jeffs has been on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list, with a $100,000 reward offered for information leading to his capture.
The AP piece leaves out the detail that Jeffs, his cohorts, and their brainwashees comprise a separatist, excommunicated, criminal entity, unaffiliated with the actual Mormon church.
From the FBI's remarks on Jeffs:
Warren Jeffs is the leader of a polygamous sect known as the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and is considered a "prophet" by his estimated 10,000 followers.
WARREN STEED JEFFS, THE LEADER OF A POLYGAMOUS SECT, IS WANTED FOR THE ALLEGED SEXUAL ASSAULT ON A MINOR IN 2002. HE IS ALSO WANTED FOR ONE COUNT OF CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT SEXUAL CONDUCT WITH A MINOR IN 2002. THE ALLEGED OFFENSES TOOK PLACE IN THE VICINITY OF COLORADO CITY, ARIZONA. ADDITIONALLY, JEFFS IS WANTED FOR RAPE AS AN ACCOMPLICE IN UTAH.
Enjoy prison, Warren.
Previously: Gross Prophet
Oil Tanks Again
For the second day in a row, oil prices are falling fast. Off more than 3% so far this week, today's slide followed growing confidence that Ernesto poses minimal threat to Gulf energy assets. In light of updated forecasts, Royal Dutch Shell said it would return evacuated workers to the Gulf. Applying additional downward pressure on prices, BP said it had returned the disrupted production in their Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, field to 200,000 barrels per day, roughly half capacity.
Watch for big moves in, um... *some* direction over the next two days, as lots of oily stuff will be going on. U.S. oil inventory statistics are released tomorrow (quantifying the effect of the partial Prudhoe Bay shutdown) and Iran faces its deadline to halt uranium enrichment on Thursday. As the country is the world's 4th largest oil producer, whether we receive a heaping dose of Ahmedinnyhoohoo's kooky talk or whether he bows to U.N. "pressure" could dramatically affect prices.
For now, let's bask in the relative cheapness.
Consumers Get Their Pessimism On
The Consumer Confidence index for August slipped from 107 to 99.6, its lowest level in nine months, says the Conference Board.
"Consumer confidence lost significant ground in August and is now at its lowest level this year," says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "Less favorable business conditions coupled with a less favorable job scenario have resulted in the largest one month decline in confidence since Hurricane Katrina last year. Looking ahead, the glass remains half empty as consumers are growing increasingly more pessimistic about the short-term outlook."
Catch Me If You Ca- Whoops, You Caught Me.
A former JPMorgan employee was recently arrested following a gargantuan check-stealing scheme. Over the course of about a year, Gregory Halley, who worked in a Brooklyn mail center for the firm, is accused of stealing more than $100 million in corporate checks.
Halley would credit the paper sums to the customers' accounts, but would hide as many as several dozen cheques - generally worth at least $50,000 each - in his clothing and take them home. He would then give the cheques to co-conspirators in exchange for cash payments.
A JPMorgan spokesperson told reporters that the bank discovered some cheques were missing and alerted authorities. Since then the bank has implemented additional security procedures at the facility.
One is reminded of the sensational tale of paperhanger extraordinaire Frank Abagnale, but was the Hollywood-celebrated fraudster Halley's criminal inspiration? Details of the case suggest Halley may have used a different model.
According to press reports, Halley stole cheques from 2005 until his arrest on 21 April 2006. He was arrested as he left the facility with about 40 stolen cheques, worth about $4 million, hidden in his socks.
More On the Adventures of the Recovering Fabulist
Lemme explain. No, there is too much. Lemme sum up.
If you're new to the whole Editor & Publisher scandal involving editor Greg Mitchell, get caught up here. I'l wait...
Done? Swell. Today, Hot Air notes that E&P has inadequately re-adjusted Mitchell's confession piece about his fake story about Niagara Falls, to reflect the correct year and Mitchell's correct age at the time of the transgression, which had been misreported, both in the original 2003 confessional and in the various altered versions of that article that appeared last week in the wake of much blog ado about Mitchell's journalistic irregularities (and their contrast with his tirade against "freewheeling" and "politically-driven" bloggers, intent to wage a "propaganda war" against the media).
However, today's doc-job conceding the inaccuracy of the timing of the Niagara Falls story-within-a-story continues to get it wrong. See for yourself.
CORRECTION, August 27, 2006: Several readers of the 2003 story below have informed us that the water flowing over Niagara Falls was turned off in June 1969, not in 1967, as the article below stated. We have corrected or deleted that date and Mitchell’s age where they appeared in this column. Mitchell worked at the Gazette in the summers of 1968 and 1969 before graduating from college in 1970. The incident recounted below occurred in his second summer at the paper, not in the first, as the original had it.
This still ain't right. It sounds reasonable that Mitchell interned in both 1968 and 1969, between sophomore/junior and
junior/senior years. But the original version of the article
didn't make the (perhaps more understandable, plausibly unintentional)
mistake of confusing which of his summer internships involved the
Niagara Falls trip. Mitchell had placed it yet an entire year
earlier, in 1967, when he was 19, presumably before he ever worked at the
In magnitude, it's a smaller error that thus remains uncorrected, but if E&P has taken enough heat they feel they now need to address this via a correction, one would think they'd be careful enough to see to it they're finally getting their facts straight. Clearly they are not. The internally inconsistent correction as described above serves to minimize the significance of the inaccuracy of Mitchell's dates, as he was ostensibly confused merely about which internship involved the fraud.
However, if Mitchell began work at the paper in 1968, then even this correction makes a material misrepresentation, since the year of Mitchell's backdating was 1967, a year before his first internship, an error which tends to suggest a more deliberate number-fudging than if he were genuinely mixing up his summer internships.
Is this tangled web a bottomless pit of half-truths or can we peel back enough layers to reveal the light at the end of the tunnel? Mary Katherine Ham is working on it.
From the Campaign Trail: The Growth Party Is Born
After 6 hard weeks of petitioning, and thanks to the help of dozens of dedicated individuals, I'm happy to report we have successfully won ballot access for the newly formed Growth Party this November, allowing me to appear on the ballot as both the Republican and the Growth Party candidate in the 26th District (central and East Side of Manhattan).
The favorable reaction we got on the street from voters of all political stripes enabled us to collect nearly 4,000 signatures in this effort, almost 1,000 above the required threshold.
The political doctrine associated with this shiny new ballot line essentially reflects the key points of my economic and fiscal platform - easing New York's crippling tax burden, curbing runaway government spending, lowering state debt levels, and generally making New York a more welcoming place for people and businesses to live and work. Such common sense, pro-growth policies (while they seem downright alien in comparison to the status quo) will fuel new business growth, encouraging New York firms to keep jobs in-state, giving entrepreneurs the incentive to build new businesses in-state, creating jobs, increasing standards of living, and providing for the sustainable prosperity of all New Yorkers.
Over the next couple days, we'll be rolling out a lot of new content on the Growth Party website, so feel free to swing by for updates. And if you're a NY metro area dweller, stop by the campaign website for information on ways to get involved with the campaign!
The press release that went out today is included in the extended entry.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
PETITION DRIVE FOR PIDOT’S NEW “GROWTH PARTY” BALLOT LINE SUCCESSFUL
NEW YORK, N.Y., AUGUST 28, 2006 –Philip “Flip” Pidot, the Republican Party candidate for New York State Senate in the 26th District, handily won a second ballot line for his new “Growth Party” for the general election on November 7, 2006.
In announcing the success of a massive, independent petition drive for the Growth Party line, Pidot stated, “I am delighted with the overwhelming response that we received from thousands of residents of the 26th District. Time and time again, voters from every political stripe were clearly taken by the undeniable appeal of the Growth Party’s message.”
Pidot was able to collect nearly 4,000 signatures from registered voters throughout the 26th District, which includes the Upper East Side, Midtown East, Turtle Bay, Tudor City, Murray Hill, and portions of Gramercy Park, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, the Theater District and Central Park West. Thanks to the tremendous response, Pidot garnered almost 1,000 signatures in excess of the required threshold to achieve ballot access.
“The hardworking residents of the 26th District are clearly ready for a state legislature that doesn’t stifle economic growth with abusive levels of taxation. They are fed up with short-sighted legislators who squander tens of billions of dollars through wasteful spending and irresponsible debt levels and are then forced to bail themselves out by shamelessly bilking taxpayers. I look forward to continuing this important conversation with voters, working with my neighbors to help rid Albany of its current dysfunction and to bring sustainable prosperity to all New Yorkers. The resounding success of the launch of the Growth Party has further convinced me that this November 7th, together we’re finally going to make that happen.”
Pidot is an accomplished financial professional whose experience includes investment management, strategic business consulting, new venture development, and corporate fraud investigation. He is also a lifelong New Yorker who currently lives in the heart of Midtown East, in the center of the 26th District. Currently occupied by Liz Krueger, the seat was previously held by Republican State Senator Roy Goodman for 33 years.
Ernesto More Menacing For Orange Gold Than Black
Gasoline and natural gas futures also fell sharply, and analysts said the downward trend was supported by rising supplies and indications of a weakening economy.
With weather forecasters predicting that Ernesto could strengthen to a hurricane and strike Florida, "it's more of a concern for orange juice futures," said Wachovia analyst Jason Schenker.
No word on how Mortimer and Randolph Duke are trading on the news.
We Get it, You're a Vile Tyrant
Fret not, Hugo Chavez. We still remember you're a dangerous wackjob. Just because we're dealing with an approaching hurricane, an aviation disaster, and a bunch of your wacky counterparts around the world doesn't mean we've forgotten about you. So these occasional tantrums where you violate international law for some quick attention are wholly unnecessary.
U.S. and Venezuelan rhetoric is heating up as officials are trying to resolve a dispute after Venezuelan customs authorities seized diplomatic baggage from the United States that contained military hardware.
This latest row occurred amid growing distaste in President Hugo Chavez’s government over moves by the United States to step up spying operations in relation to Venezuela, with the creation this month of a post overseeing intelligence gathering and analysis for Venezuela and Cuba, the Times reported. Chavez regularly claims the United States plans to destabilize his administration and topple him.
Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman in Washington, told The Associated Press that the United States had requested an "immediate explanation of the entire incident,” claiming the search violated international treaties on diplomatic baggage. "The impounded cargo consisted of household effects of a U.S. diplomat and a shipment of commissary goods,” Vasquez said.
Chávez has criticized American efforts to thwart Venezuela’s ambition to secure a seat this year on the United Nations Security Council.
Emmy Plane Crash Spoof
I watched a sum total of roughly 10 minutes of the Emmys tonight. I enjoy Conan O'Brien and I expected the opener to be amusing. It was a montage, cleverly assmebled, that involved a number of celebrated shows, including The Office, Lost, and 24, some of which was filmed on the shows' respective sets and all of which involved one or more actors from each show.
I found it pretty amusing. Despite the highly unfortunate timing of the Lost segment, which included an over-dramatized (for comedic effect) plane crash, uncomfortably timed with today's tragic Comair crash that claimed 49 lives, I found the segment to be pretty well done as such things go.
Many are debating whether it was in good taste. Obviously, the bit was conceived and filmed well before today's tragedy. But equally obviously, the producers had the opportunity to yank the segment in light of today's tragedy and chose not to. I don't particularly begrudge the decision. Unfortunate timing: certainly. A travesty: I'm not so sure.
Anyway, Hot Air has the video. Judge for yourselves.
Out of this World
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently announced that it has awarded $500 million to two start-up rocket companies, Space X and Rocketplane-Kistler, to develop the capability to resupply the International Space Station.
As a taxpayer, I have two major problems with this decision. First, if resupplying the international space station is not in NASA job description then what is? This is like a teacher outsourcing the instruction of her students. By the way, Congress gives this teacher almost $7 billion annually to do this part of her job.
Furthermore, NASA choose two inexperienced companies to develop their resupply technologies. NASA appears to understand the technical challenges associated with this complex mission:
Getting to and from space is difficult. Doing it safely, reliably, and cost effectively is even more difficult.
So why is NASA placing its bets on two rockets that have never flown (or even been built yet)? Alternatively, why didn’t NASA even consider the companies that do this best, especially since the US Government already subsidizes the only two rocket providers (Lockheed Martin and Boeing) with hundreds of millions of dollars annually?
As taxpayers, you should be concerned that NASA is sending two kids to college (not even medical school) instead of simply going to the most qualified and experienced doctors in the world.
Centanni and Wiig Freed
Being up at 5:00 this morning, getting ready for the NYC Half Marathon, I had the pleasure of hearing this great news from Fox News itself as it was breaking this morning.
Two FOX News journalists were released by their kidnappers Sunday, nearly two weeks after they were taken hostage in the Gaza Strip.
Steve Centanni, 60, and Olaf Wiig, 36, left Gaza and have since crossed into Israel after their release. The men left Gaza through the Erez border crossing.
The freeing of Centanni, a correspondent, and Wiig, a cameraman, ends the longest-running drama involving foreign hostages in Gaza.
Hot Air has YouTubed the "conversion video" that the journalists' captors forced them to make, declaring their acceptance of Islam ("without pressure"), reciting their new Muslim names, and decrying various actions of the West.
I have to say both Centanni and Wiig appear incredibly calm, even professional as they read the statements in front of them. It makes you wonder what their state of mind was at the time - whether they thought they uttering their last words or whether at this point, they had an inkling that they were taking part in a face-saving exercise that their captors were undertaking as they prepared to release them. They don't seem to exhibit either terror or elation, but they must have been either cautiously overjoyed, fearing imminent death, or at least cognizant that their situation was about to change dramatically, even if they didn't know whether for much better or much worse.
Whatever the case, their staid demeanors and their ability to recite their coerced statements calmly and cogently, if nothing else, seems to say a lot about their skills as television journalists.
Welcome back, Steve and Olaf.
Recovering Fabulist Off the Wagon?
[Scroll for updates on breaking irregularities!]
Throughout the week, I've been posting about the anti-blogosphere sentiments bubbling at Editor & Publisher. Today, the excitement boils over.
Monday: E&P Publishes a piece about the inaccuracy and unreliability of blogs (riddled with spelling errors).
Tuesday: E&P editor Greg Mitchell writes Part 1 of an article lambasting bloggers' successful efforts to debunk several instances of war fauxotgraphy as "speculative, unfounded, or politically-driven charges."
Thursday: Part 2 of Mitchell's diatribe hits the E&P website, in which he laments the "anti-media propaganda war" prosecuted by bloggers.
Friday: Confederate Yankee notes a 3-year-old article penned by Mitchell, detailing his own "Jayson Blair" moment, in which he invented a source, forged notes, and wrote a fake story while on assignment for the Niagara Falls Gazette in 1967.
Today, Confederate Yankee notes that Mitchell's 2003 confession has been doctored. Not in 1967, in the last 24 hours.
The opening paragraph of yesterday's version:
Since the press seems to be in full-disclosure mode these days, I want to finally come clean. Back when I worked for the Niagara Falls (N.Y.) Gazette (now the Niagara Gazette), our city editor asked me to find out what tourists thought about an amazing local event: Engineers had literally "turned off" the famous cataracts, diverting water so they could shore up the crumbling rock face. Were visitors disappointed to find a trickle rather than a roar? Or thrilled about witnessing this once-in-a-lifetime stunt?
And today (changes emphasized):
Since the press seems to be in full-disclosure mode these days, I want to finally come clean. Back in 1967, when I was 19 and worked for the Niagara Falls (N.Y.) Gazette (now the Niagara Gazette) as a summer intern, our city editor asked me to find out what tourists thought about an amazing local event: Engineers had literally "turned off" the famous cataracts, diverting water so they could shore up the crumbling rock face. Were visitors disappointed to find a trickle rather than a roar? Or thrilled about witnessing this once-in-a-lifetime stunt?
The facts of the story have not changed. In a later paragraph in the undoctored article, Mitchell's age was given as 19 and a web search bears out the timing (Update: As noted below, further web research actually debunks the timing). But this version, in which the aging of the transgression is identified upfront, is clearly not from May 20, 2003, as the article continues to claim. It's either from August 25 or 26, 2006.
Shall we play Count the Ironies?
1. "America's Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry" publishes an article extolling traditional media's relative accuracy versus the blogosphere, committing multiple errors that any spell checker would have caught.
2. The journal's editor lashes out at bloggers for accurately exposing repeated fraud among various traditional media sources, citing them for waging a "propaganda war".
3. The editor in question - albeit at a young age - committed a wholly deliberate act of unabashed journalistic fraud.
4. Once the irony-drenched atonement gains a heap of blog-based attention, someone at the journal in question doctors the story retroactively, which serves to mitigate the seriousness of the transgression.
Reprinted (unedited from the original)
by popular demand just because I think it's funny, try your hand at the E&P SAT Analogy Challenge:
A) Old Man Jenkins:Those meddling kids
B) Mr. Furley:Jack and the girls
Turn your monitor upside down to reveal the answer.
There's no way to say this without sounding condescending, so I'll just say it: Doesn't the mainstream media ever learn? We've entered a place where this kind of shiftiness doesn't go unnoticed. Except for the spelling errors in the comparative accuracy piece, I can't claim to have uncovered any of these tidbits myself (I know, a smidge nerdy) - a handful of other bloggers and commenters are to thank for that capable sleuthing. But one way or another, if your reporting falls somewhere in the spectrum from simply sloppy to politically driven to deliberately fraudulent, you're going to get called out on it.
If Mitchell and E&P are bitter about their eroding influence and resentful of the blogosphere for helping effect it, they're giving credit where it isn't due. There's every reason to believe grievous errors and intentional distortions have always plagued mainstream journalism. An efficient mechanism capable of exposing those flaws has emerged, but it's a misplacement of blame to lash out at that mechanism. Any standard-bearer for the mainstream media, if it believes in the value and integrity of the service it provides, ought to embrace this new wheat-chaff separating machine as an opportunity to weed out hacks and emerge as a more robust, more trustworthy source of objective news reporting.
Rather, the very level of rancor exhibited by some media outlets in response to blog-based exposure of repeated, deliberate fraud is telling in and of itself.
Update: Courtesy of commenters in the CY post, it appears the Niagara Falls shutoff took place in 1969, not 1967. It's possible they were also shut off in 1967, as Mitchell claims, but Wikipedia and Encarta reference only the 1969 shutoff. Does this mean Mitchell was 21, not 19, at the time of his "Jayson Blair moment"?
If the 1969 shutoff was indeed the one Mitchell "covered", then either he was born in 1949/50, meaning he was indeed 19, and the story is wrong only about the year; or he was born in 1947/48, meaning he was 21, and the story misrepresents both the year of the transgression and his age. Oddly, I can't find a source referencing the year Mitchell was born. Still looking...
Update: According to this article by David Hirschman, Mitchell was 55 in September 2003, meaning he was born in 1947/48. If correct, and assuming there was no 1967 shutoff, one has to conclude Mitchell's 2003 mea culpa misrepresented both the year of the incident and his age at the time.
Given E&P's willingness to alter old articles, will they update the original story to reflect the actual timing?
Know What I Love Best About the NYC Half Marathon?
They'll customize your official race t-shirt to say anything you want.
The first-ever NYC Half-Marathon will be carried by ABC-7 in New York, so watch for this fiscally well-adjusted runner on Sunday morning!
E&P Windbag a Recovering Fabulist
Greg Mitchell (the Editor & Publisher editor who has so lambasted those "freewheeling" bloggers over the last few days for daring to meddle with the influence of duly coronated mediacrats by accurately exposing numerous acts of deliberate fraud) may have more reason to fear and loathe the blogosphere than just pining for the good old days when his ilk was able to ply its agenda unchecked.
Three years ago, Mitchell detailed his own "Jayson Blair moment":
(Hat Tip: Confederate Yankee)
Since the press seems to be in full-disclosure mode these days...
You have a separate mode for that?
...I want to finally come clean. Back when I worked for the Niagara Falls (N.Y.) Gazette (now the Niagara Gazette), our city editor asked me to find out what tourists thought about an amazing local event: Engineers had literally "turned off" the famous cataracts, diverting water so they could shore up the crumbling rock face. Were visitors disappointed to find a trickle rather than a roar? Or thrilled about witnessing this once-in-a-lifetime stunt?
I never found out. Oh, I went down to the falls, all right, but when I got there, I discovered that I just could not wander up to strangers (even dorky ones wearing funny hats and knee socks) and ask them for their personal opinions, however innocuous. It was a puffball assignment, but that wasn't why I rebelled. I just could not bring myself to do it.
So I sat on a park bench and scribbled out a few fake notes and then went back to the office and wrote my fake story, no doubt quoting someone like Jane Smith from Seattle, honeymooning with her husband Oscar, saying something like, "Gosh, I never knew there was so much rock under there!"
Of course, I got away with it. There was no Jane Smith to complain about being misquoted, and no one was going to call all the Smiths in Seattle to find out if she really existed. I suppose the world was none the worse for it. As a story, it wasn't exactly on a par with a sniper shooting up the suburbs of Washington.
Good point. So long as you really and truly promise to give us the unvarnished truth on the important stories, we cab abide wholesale fogeries on whatever stories you deem puff.
The tale sounds more like a Stephen Glass moment to me, but I suppose it was more apropos to hang the Jayson Blair tag on it, as the anecdote is presented as a prologue, wiping Mitchell's journalistic slate clean, before opining on the real disgraces which Blair had recently wrought on his noble profession.
The second installment of Editor & Publisher editor Greg Mitchell's anti-blog frenzy is out today. I noted yesterday that E&P decries the "freewheeling atmosphere" of the blogosphere, noting bloggers take part in "speculative, unfounded, or politically-driven charges".
Despite the many and ongoing blog-based discoveries of doctored war photographs, scenes of manufactured horrors staged among rubble piles, and blatantly misleading captions accompanying otherwise unsensational images, Mitchell is highly perturbed by what he feels is an "an anti-media propaganda war" perpetrated by right-wing bloggers.
A "propaganda war"?
Mitchell doesn't seem to be able to get past the fact that bloggers have political ideologies that drive the kinds of stories they post about. Of course they do. And they wear them on their sleeves. It's that transparency that seems to irk Mitchell so much - perhaps because their honesty about their viewpoints is largely that which sets blogs apart from traditional media outlets. In any case, the idea that bloggers have political viewpoints is, to Mitchell, damning enough to render any MSM fraud they uncover (however true and egregious it may be) to be irrelevant, particularly when the point that a given photographer or journalist was driving at is - in his, her, or Mitchell's opinion - still valid, despite the fraud.
Of course we first saw this "fake but accurate" defense hurled awkwardly in response to the Rathergate forgeries. The point being driven at was still valid (er, was still one the media wanted to make, whether or not the evidence was any good), so proving these exhibits to be fakes was incidental. Rather than rebutting the agenda-driven story, and rather than exposing numerous media standard bearers to have be sloppy and/or complicit with, if not perpetrators of such fraud, the only effect of these ongoing exposures is - if we are to believe Mr. Mitchell - to illustrate the doggedly anti-MSM tendencies among bloggers.
This is apparently so damnable a supposition that any documentary evidence of malfeasance that such individuals may produce is to be summarily discarded.
Meanwhile of course, the traditional media is to suffer no such aspersions, despite not only a pronounced aggregate bias, but also the plain - occasionally deliberate - failure to present unfiltered or even undoctored evidence.
I truly don't understand why Mitchell would seek to make this argument, when a perfectly respectable, far less ridiculous point could be made along the lines of, "These forgeries are a terrible disgrace on the journalistic tradition. The vast majority of people in the business hold themselves to a higher standard. These instances tend to get a lot of press because they're quite sensational, but they represent a serious problem and we should all work together to try to make our news gathering process more robust to avoid such problems in the future."
Attacking the attackers does nothing to minimize the significance of or excuse these deliberate and dishonest acts and, in my opinion, only serves to show the public that institutions among traditional media - certainly E&P - prize loyalty among their ranks over their ostensible mission to report the news fairly and objectively.
As with the first installment, Hot Air has capably dissected Mitchell's second round of fraud-apologist blogbashing.
Fool me once, shame on you... can't get fooled again.
Yesterday, the notorious prank caller and Howard Stern fan - real identity: North Wales, Pa., gas-station employee Thomas Cipriano scammed his way onto CNN's "The Situation Room."
In a live 4 p.m. phone interview with star anchor Wolf Blitzer (below), Cipriano impersonated Wendy Hutchens, a California woman who claims that five years ago she had detailed chats about the death of JonBenet Ramsey with creepy murder suspect John Mark Karr.
"So then what happened after that?" Blitzer pressed. "When did the E-mail, when did the talk of JonBenet Ramsey begin?" The fake Wendy answered: "It started around September of 2001, when he told me that he knew more about the JonBenet Ramsey case than what anybody else had known - and that he was instructed to kill JonBenet by Howard Stern."
At which point, Blitzer, poker-faced, ended the interview: "All right. Well, that sounds like we've just been Howard Sterned, as they say."
I've been doing this for 20 years!" Cipriano marveled. "You'd think they'd be on to me by now."
8-Year Kidnapping Ordeal Has Happy Ending
Austrian authorities said Thursday they believe they have identified a girl who has been missing for more than eight years by a scar on her ear.
Natascha Kampusch vanished in Vienna on her way to school on March 2, 1998, when she was 10. Her mysterious disappearance triggered a massive search that extended into neighboring Hungary.
On Wednesday, police said they found a teenage girl in a garden northeast of Vienna who told them she was Kampusch. The young woman, who was identified late Wednesday by her father, mother and half-sister, told police that she had been kidnapped and kept in house by a man for years, Halm said.
Wolfgang Priklopil, the alleged kidnapper, was kind enough to spare Austrian taxpayers the expense of a trial, as he leapt in front of a train in Vienna last night, following a long police chase.
The Times Online has additional details on yesterday's amazing events.
When police raided Priklopil’s two-storey house last night ... they found a 20in (50cm) hole in the cellar floor under the car service bay that led into a dungeon that had been Natascha’s bedroom for eight years.
The room was only 6ft x 10ft (1.8m x 3m), and contained a bed, a cupboard and a few children’s books.
At lunchtime yesterday Natascha was allowed out in the garden but for some reason her captor did not accompany her. Seeing her chance to escape she ran into a nearby property, where she was found by an elderly woman. Natascha told her that she had been held captive in a cellar near by for many years and the woman rang the police.
At about the same time her captor had discovered her escape, jumped into his red BMW and fled at speed. He was spotted by a police patrol heading into Vienna and a 200km/h (125mph) car chase started.
Details are still vague but it appears that he managed to lose the police for a while, during which time he parked his car and called an as-yet unnamed friend.
It is believed he was picked up by the friend and driven to an unknown location.
Just before 9pm a call came in describing a man of his description who had just jumped under a train at the Praterstern Vienna North train station.
Police said: "...[W]e can say with certainty that this suicide was Wolfgang Priklopil."
The "National Crime Squad" described Natascha as having a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome, which I suppose is hardly surprising after 8 years. What's most amazing to me is the fact that - Stockholm Syndrome be damned - when she had what was apparently her first opportunity for escape in all these years, she siezed it without hesitation.
According to police, [Natascha's father] Herr Koch walked in and there was a long pause as the two stared at each other. Then Natascha, who was wearing just the simple knee-length orange dress and ballet shoes she had on when she escaped, jumped up and threw her arms around her father's neck.
Herr Koch said afterwards: "I never gave up hope. But I am so wonderfully relieved."
Hot Air Takes On MSM Windbag
Editor & Publisher editor Greg Mitchell is lashing out at the blogborne backlash against the mainstream media in the wake of Reutersgate and other recent war fauxtography scandals, labeling bloggers' asonishing and repeated debunkery of frequent forgeries and stagings as "speculative, unfounded, or politically-driven charges."
Allahpundit ain't havin' none of it and offers a lengthy and all kinds of linked up rebuttal.
(I hope I didn't contribute in any way to E&P's anti-blog rancor by spellchecking their "trustworthier than thou" story of a couple days ago.)
If you're a mainstreamer thinking about betraying your sanctum and crossing that media divide, E&P has set up a Blog Watch info center to help you understand the perils of blogging, apparently owing in part to the blogosphere's darned "freewheeling atmosphere".
Here's an impromptu SAT problem for you to consider:
A) Old Man Jenkins:Those meddling kids
B) Mr. Furley:Jack and the girls
Turn your monitor upside down to reveal the answer.
2,996 Bloggers Remember 9/11 Victims
Michelle Malkin points out a huge, distributed blog project, preparing to individually honor each of the 2,966 people killed on 9/11.
I've just signed up and will be paying tribute to Andrew Kates, Senior Managing Director at Cantor Fitzgerald, killed in the World Trade Center at age 37.
600+ additional bloggers are needed to sign up.
Kidnappers of Fox News' Centanni, Wiig Claim Responsibility
A video released by the group and broadcast on Al Jazeera demanded the release of US-held Muslim prisoners in the next 72 hours as a condition of their release.
The video, which broadcast by Al-Jazeera and also seen by an Associated Press correspondent, was the first sign of American correspondent Steve Centanni, 60, of the San Francisco area, and cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36, of New Zealand, since they were kidnapped Aug. 14 near the Palestinian security services headquarters in Gaza City.
Although Palestinian militant groups have often seized foreigners, including members of the media, this is the longest any have been held.
In the video, the men sat on the floor in sweatsuits and appeared to be in good health. No armed men were seen.
As Allahpundit notes, there are more curiosities here than the complete obscurity of the group in question.
Also, it took them nine days to demand that the U.S. release all “Muslim prisoners”?
We have 72 hours to do that, by the way. If we don’t, they’re vowing to — make us wait some more.
I don’t know. The name itself rings false somehow, possibly because it evokes the names of two other Pali terror groups: Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
Mary Katherine transcribed Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin's reading of a transcript of the video.
Centanni: "We've been captured in Gaza and been held prisoner here and we are in good condition and live as well and in good health. We have water and food and everyday access to the bathroom, shower.
We have clean clothes. Our captors are treating us well and so just letting you know that I'm here and I'm alive and I give my love to my family and friends and ask you to do anything you can to help us get out of here."
Wiig: I guess I will add for myself that I know my family. If you can find local pressure or local government here in Gaza and the West Bank to help us, I would appreciate it. To my family, please don't worry. I am okay.
Centanni: We love you all and hope to see you soon.
Update: Hot Air has posted the video.
Ironic Cybercrime Wave Sweeping the Etherweb
King of all hackers hacked.
I wonder why this site hasn't been targeted yet.
Tragedy In Skies Over Ukraine
I'm starting to think it might not be a bad idea to ground all Russian airlines.
A Russian jet carrying 171 people, including 39 children, to St. Petersburg from a Black Sea resort caught fire in mid-air and crashed northwest of the Ukrainian city of Donetsk Tuesday afternoon, Russian and Ukrainian officials said.
There were no survivors among the 161 passengers and crew of 10, rescue personnel said.
Officials said they had ruled out terrorism, which downed two Russian commercial flights simultaneously in August 2004.
Eyewitnesses on the ground confirmed the plane did not seem to have suffered a blast. The flight, which went down in foul weather, was operated by the St. Petersburg regional carrier Pulkovo Airlines.
Russian (and other former Soviet state) airlines' safety records are unenviable, incurring more than 400 deaths in the last 4 months.
The crash was the third major airline disaster in Russia since May. On July 9, an A-310 airbus operated by S7, Russia's second-largest carrier, crashed after it veered off the runway upon landing in the Siberian city of Irkutsk. Of the 204 people on board, 124 were killed. On May 3, a plane operated by the Armenian national carrier, Armavia, crashed as it approached the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. The cause of that crash, which killed all 113 passengers and crew members, is still under investigation.
While today's tragic event appears to owe at least in part to mother nature, recent years have also brought dozens of terror-related deaths aboard Russian airliners. The simultaneous bombings almost precisely two years ago of Volga-AviaExpress and Siberia Airlines turned out to be preventable incidents, facilitated in part by the corruption of airport employees and failure to carry out prescribed profiling procedures which in fact were successful in temporarily netting the two trigger women before they boarded the targeted flights, until the airport police captain released them prematurely.
Non-stop commercial flights offer regular service from Russia to New York, Chicago, Washington, and Atlanta.
Elsewhere: Daily Pundit
Try Iran New Formula - Now With Extra Crazy!
Hot Air is covering all angles and updates on the ambiguous, can-kicking response out of Tehran this morning.
A very terse paraphrasing: Despite your offer, we're not stopping our enrichment activity. But we propose a "new formula for resolving the issue through talks."
Hmm, my ouijabrowser is suddenly pointing here...
USPS: Gluttons for Anthrax
When a letter burst open in a California mail processing center, emitting a cloud of mysterious white powder and revealing a menacing note inside, one
intrepid insipid supervisor stepped up to handle the situation.
The employees claim a top supervisor at the Postal Service's facility responded to the Aug. 3 incident by testing the powder with her bare fingers before concluding it was flour and ordering employees back to work.
Post office protocol is clear in the aftermath of a deadly spate of anthrax attacks in late 2001. Supervisors are expected to immediately cordon off an area that comes into contact with suspicious material and contact off-site postal inspectors.
It's one thing to lock the door after the horse is out of the barn - after 9/11, we reinforced cockpit doors; after the London bombings, we started inspecting bags on subways (supposedly); after the jetliner bombing plot was thwarted, we banned airborne liquids.
But in this case, not only is the horse out of the barn, but we've gone to Home Depot and bought a really strong, really expensive barn lock, we stuck it on a shelf in the closet, and we resumed our nap, while horse poachers are lurking behind the hay bales waiting to nab more horses.
Okay, it's a tortured metaphor (especially since anthrax is found naturally in cows, not horses). Still, the "This ain't sugar" method may look cool in cop movies, but it seems foolish when it comes to lethal biological weapons.
[A] handful of workers at the plant, which sorts about 4.5 million pieces of mail daily, are vehement in charging that supervisors jeopardized everyone's safety with a botched initial response.
Then, employees say, top brass at the 1,500-employee facility tried to sweep the incident under the rug.
"Management never said a thing after that day because they know they screwed up big time," Redmond said. "They downplayed the whole thing in hopes of nobody outside finding out about how they screwed up responding to something that could have been very serious."
Employees say protocol was ignored. They say inspectors were not initially called and that the order to reopen the area was given by the top supervisor within 30 minutes of the incident.
"We do have a very serious procedural path we follow when suspicious materials appear in the mail, particularly since the anthrax scare," Cannone said, adding that millions have been spent in installing anthrax detection technologies.
Fox News Journalists Still Missing
Breaking the pattern of Gaza kidnappings typically being resolved happily within hours, Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig have now been missing for more than a week.
Michlle Malkin is not letting the low-key media treatment of the story, ostensibly based on the lack of ongoing juicy tidbits, keep her from hammering away at it. FNC for their part has been noting the story occasionally, after an initial deliberate period of self-muting. Some (including Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti) had stated that negotiations for the release of the journalists were underway, but as of Monday evening, Brit Hume reported on Special Report that there had been no contact with any individuals claiming responsibility, nor any demands received by authorities or Fox News itself.
Previously: Fox News Journalists Kidnapped in Gaza
Vent With a Twist
Would I Lie To You?
[8/23: Updates, follow-up, and scuttlebutt are here.]
Traditional media brands like newspapers and television are far more trusted by the public than Web sites and blogs, accordign to a survey this week by British interactive marketing company Telecom Express.
1000 respondents were asked what percentage of the information they received fro mvarious sources was accurate, true and unbiased, according to Telecom Express.
The most trusted source of information in the survey was television, which scored 66 percent among respondents.
Information on television was seen as the most trusted, scoring a 66% accuracy mark; this was on a line with information respondents received from friends. Newspapers were ranked second, scoring 63%, while radio got a 59% score.
By contrast, Web sites and blogs took the lowest accuracy ratings with 36% and 24% marks respectively.
I don't know if Editor & Publisher's online edition (quoted above) qualifies as traditional media or a website, but keep them off my team. Their aversion to spell check isn't going to do us any good in those accuracy rankings.
(I've got the screen capture for posterity's sake, on the off-chance they discover and correct the errors.)
Riehl World View suspects the pollster's motives are ulterior.
They fixed it (though not before I e-mailed them a heads up).
The Terrorist Box Set
British authorities today charged eight of the individuals captured in the thwarted jetliner terror attack with "conspiracy to murder". Police are said to have recovered eight martyrdom videos, one for each failed Jihadi, from computers seized in recent days.
(Hat Tip: Hot Air)
Somewhere in the Suicidal Terrorist's Best Practices Handbook, it must read, "On the off-chance your mission fails, make sure you leave behind evidence that will guarantee you'll spend the rest of your inadvertently prolonged life behind bars."
What's a CourtTV Programmer To Do?
Saddam Hussein's 2nd trial begins today, in which he'll be held to account for his genocidal efforts to extinguish the entirety of Iraq's Kurdish minority. In the grim Anfal campaign, Saddam did successfully wipe out somewhere between 50,000 and 180,000 human beings, with the help of his northern commander and co-defendant Ali Hassan al-Majid, aka "Chemical Ali". This mass murder has gone unanswered for 17 years.
Meanwhile, former schoolteacher John Mark Karr sits in a Los Angeles jail, awaiting transfer to Boulder, Colorado, where he'll be tried in a 10-year old murder case.
Not to say the belated prospective resolution to the JonBenet case isn't newsworthy, but in the grand scheme of things, does it seem reasonable that (according to the scientific Google News story counting method) it commands nearly 3 times the media bandwidth as Saddam's genocidal reckoning?
Everyone have a great weekend! To launch you into your repose, enjoy this frivolous medley of fresh web droppings, beginning with:
- Las Vegas anti-craps law is not what you might think. (HT: Drudge)
- Sen. Hillary Clinton poisons campaign contributors.
- Not newsworthy: Terrorism is bad. Newsworthy: Hollywood A-listers agree.
- Chocoholism is no laughing matter.
- Turns out that picture of Castro was Photoshopped after all.
- Snakes. Planes. Awesome.
That Carpet Really Tied the Cabin Together
Randy at RightWinged is a little PO'd by fellow Vermonter, Catherine "Sky Peeer" Mayo, the woman whose bizarre and threatening antics caused the terrorism scare on board United 923 on Wednesday, forcing the London-to-Washington flight to divert to Boston.
Despite the stain she inflicts on the great state of Vermont, Randy's been following her trail, unearthing a strange prehistory involving pre-9/11 Pakistan, internet dating, and the hilarity of sexual oppression.
Mid-air Bomb Scare? (False Alarm)
Bryan at Hot Air is tracking updates on a British jetliner reported by Fox News to have landed in Italy following possible reports of a bomb on board.
Update: From Breitbart:
A British passenger plane to Egypt diverted to a southern Italian airport Friday after the pilot reported that a bomb was suspected to be on board, Italian aviation officials said. All passengers disembarked and were safe, state police at the airport said.
The Excel Airways Boeing 767 requested an emergency landing in Brindisi Friday because of what was described as a suspected bomb, the Italian air traffic agency ENAV said.
The plane was flying from London's Gatwick airport to Hurghada, Egypt, ENAV said.
Italy's Air Force said it had sent an F-16 to intercept the plane before it landed.
Excel Airways is the "World's leading charter airline". I just tried to charter myself a seat from Gatwick to Hurghada on Excel and found that the troubled flight in question is either XLA 5048 or XLA 5246.
(Good deal - £28 one way, with only a week's notice.)
Update: A note
According to Italian authorities, a note, written in English, claiming a bomb was on board, was recovered. It wasn't specified whether this note was the original source of the scare or something discovered in the subsequent investigation.
Update: More details from BBC:
The head of police in Brindisi, Salvatore De Paulis, said the discovery of the note prompted the pilot to make an emergency landing.
Matthew Masters, a passenger on the plane, said the pilot had announced about two hours into the flight that there could be a bomb on board.
Mr Masters said there were fire engines around the plane and everyone had been searched.
Update: False alarm.
A bomb threat scrawled on a sick bag caused a British passenger plane from London to Egypt to be diverted to southern Italy on Friday, but police said it appeared to be a false alarm.
"It is all over," said a spokeswoman for Excel. "The checks have gone on and once it is all cleared the passengers are going back onto the aircraft and it will resume its journey -- sooner rather than later, we hope."
But was the bout of air sickness that presumably inspired the passenger to withdraw the bag from the seatback also a false alarm? Let's hope, for investigators' sake.
United 923 Update: Not Terrorism, Per Se
A self-described peace activist responsible for the diversion of a London-to-Washington flight Wednesday acted bizarrely for hours, made references to al Qaeda and hijack training flights, and was restrained by two passengers after she urinated in the aisle.
According to an affidavit and passenger accounts, [part-time Pakistan resident Catherine C.] Mayo began pacing the plane from the front to aft lavatory and asked a flight attendant, "Is this a training flight for United Flight 93?" -- the flight hijacked on September 11, 2001, that crashed into a Pennsylvania farm field.
Mrs. Mayo demanded to speak with an air marshal, saying the contents of her bag would be of interest. Her bag contained a screwdriver, body lotion, several cigarette lighters and a bottle of water. The affidavit did not say how she smuggled the items on board, despite being screened twice at London's Heathrow Airport.
When confronted by the captain, Mrs. Mayo made a reference to bomb assembly, saying, "There are six steps to building some unspecified thing."
"She made reference to being with people associated with two words," the affidavit said. "She stated that she could not say what the two words were because the last time that she had said the two words she had been kicked off a flight in the United Arab Emirates."
The captain ordered her restrained, and the passengers and a flight attendant tackled her and placed her hands in plastic cuffs.
Described by her attorney as "just barely lucid", Mayo does sound a tad deranged. Still, it's not as though she was ranting and raving and pulling her hair out. Relieveing oneself mid-cabin is kind of out there, but beyond that, she seemed simply intent on toying with the passengers and flight crew, trying her best to convince them (with the help of a bagful of contraband smuggled onto the plane) that she was planning to blow up the plane.
I'm skeptical of the "Oops, I'm nuts" defense based on the information out so far.
Mrs. Mayo told passengers she was an undercover reporter testing security to see whether she could sneak restricted items on board.
As a columnist for the Daily Times of Pakistan, Mrs. Mayo criticized President Bush -- calling him "a president not elected by the people"-- and the war in Iraq. "The folksongs of the 1960s will never be written again because of President George Bush. He has hampered the liberties of my country in the name of September 11. Songs now can only talk of patriotism they cannot mention peace," she wrote.
Seems pretty pre-meditated and rationally motivated to me.
London-Washington Flight Diverted
Karol's got lots more on the aftermath over at MichelleMalkin.com.
Get a load of the 5-day chart for the Nasdaq, the S&P 500, and the Dow Jones Industrials (blue, green, and red, respectively).
Between this week's duet of tame inflation readings, oil dropping like a stone (off roughly 10% in the last couple weeks), and some some happy earnings reports, all the pieces have fallen into place to spark a monster rally on Wall Street, particularly monstrous in the tech-heavy Nasdaq, where stocks are up more than 5% in less than four trading sessions.
Toothpaste-Free Zones Bristling With Stolen Guns
One nice side effect of the disrupted terror plot that sought to bring down multiple jetliners bound for U.S. cities is the encovering of another grave (and bizarrely unreported) threat brewing at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.
Several handguns have been stolen from bags checked by police officers, military personnel and others on United Airlines flights departing O'Hare International Airport, sparking concern that the weapons are loose in what is supposed to be a secure part of the airport.
Since the beginning of the year, there have been "a handful" of firearm thefts from luggage being handled by United personnel, Chicago police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.
Isn't a "handful" of guns just one gun? Anyway...
Bags containing guns also have disappeared, authorities said.
News of an investigation surfaced days after new security restrictions were placed on airports across the nation in the wake of British authorities foiling what they said was a plot to blow up U.S.-bound airplanes.
As it turns out, it's our airports' primary line of defense that is cited as the likely perpetrators, who are in perfect position to know which bags to, ahem, rifle through in order to find firearms.
Experts said there are generally two sources of such thefts: airline employees or Transportation Safety Administration baggage screeners. Stealing from checked luggage is a problem that dates back decades, Laird said.
People checking in luggage carrying a gun must declare their weapon with a ticket agent. Stealing the gun could be as easy as a ticket agent notifying a baggage handler below about which bag to open, Laird said.
The other possibility, experts said, is that TSA screeners who X-ray or inspect bags by hand could be pocketing the guns.
The *good* news is that the theifs may simply be fencing the weapons elsewhere for a little fast cash. The more disturbing scenario is the idea that a number of firearms are stashed in various secure location at O'Hare, waiting to be collected for a grimmer, more calculated purpose.
Determining which is the case begs the question of whether these incidents have clustered at a single airport 1) because it's the busiest airport in the country, B) because some aspect of that airport's security oversight is more slipshod, allowing these incidents to go undetected, or III) because of a grim, calculated purpose requiring co-location of multiple stashed weapons.
Of course Option III would require that multiple security personnel be complicit in (or at least duped into) such a scheme, but I'll make the TSA a deal. I'll put away my tinfoil hat if they find a way to effectively handle what I naively assume to be a high-priority task like preventing frequent firearm theft in airports.
How about more cameras trained on security personnel? Or full TSA-style "supplemental screening" searches of all screeners and handlers at the conclusion of their shifts. Or RFID tag requirements on any military or police firearms to be transported in checked baggage. How about we make theft of a firearm in an airport a crime punishable by life in prison? Yes, that's a little beyond the purview of the TSA, but it's a fine idea nonetheless.
You'll get in a heap of trouble just for uttering the word "gun" in a secure area of an airport. For stealing a gun in an airport, an act that could well serve as precursor to any number of hijacking scenarios, it seems like the penalty ought to be sufficiently severe that it would dissuade even the boldest of crooks who are just out to make a fast buck.
NYC Releases Additional 9/11 Emergency Calls
Later today, New York City authorities will release the audio from an additional 1,600 emergency calls placed on 9/11, following delays blamed by the FDNY on "poor management".
The voices of firefighters, including at least 19 who died, will be made public Wednesday after the city recently discovered more than 1,600 previously undisclosed emergency calls from September 11th.
Most of the communications coming out will be FDNY dispatches, but they will also include 10 calls made to 911 from people inside the Twin Towers.
The calls will only feature the voices of emergency dispatchers, although one will have the voice of Melissa Doi, a woman trapped in the south tower. Sections of her tape were heard during the Zacarias Moussaoui trial. Here’s an excerpt of that four-minute recording:
Doi: I can't see because it's too high.
911 Operator: It's very hot? No fire for now and no smoke, right? No smoke right?
Doi: Of course there's smoke.
911 Operator: Ma'am, ma'am, you have to stay calm.
Doi: There is smoke, I can't breathe.
911 Operator: Okay, stay calm with me, okay. I understand.
Doi: I think there is fire because it's very hot.
911 Operator: Okay.
Doi: It's very hot everywhere on the floor.
911 Operator: Okay."
In March, 130 emergency calls placed the morning of September 11th to the FDNY and EMS were released, totaling roughly 2.5 hours of recordings. I excerpted and posted links to the audio and transcripts of these calls at the time.
Watch this space for updates once the tapes have been released.
The local CBS affiliate has posted the audio.
9/11 Audiotapes Released
London-Washington Flight Diverted
A "disturbance" by a female passenger has forced a flight from Heathrow to Washington, D.C. to be diverted to Boston's Logan Airport.
Fighter jets escorted a diverted London-to-Washington, D.C., flight to Boston's Logan airport Wednesday after a distraught passenger pulled out a screw driver, matches, Vaseline and a note referencing al Qaeda, an airport spokesman said.
Fighters were launched, and "trailed" the plane, CBS News reports, and there was no "chemical threat." State Police and federal agencies took control of the plane after it landed.
Allahpundit, who notes that today was the intended date for the disrupted liquid explosive terror plot, is providing real-time updates at Hot Air.
Update: CNN asks a good question. Regardless of whether this was terror or just a lone nut, how’d she get vaseline and matches through the screeners at a British airport? Here’s a better question: why was it left to the crew to confront the passenger? There wasn’t a federal air marshal on a flight from London to Washington? On the very day the attacks were supposed to have occurred?
Last Friday, the day after word of the thwarted plot broke, NBC's Washington affiliate identified United 923 as a likely target for such a plot (though UAL 923 is one of only 4 flights the carrier makes from London to Washington each day).
Passengers on United Flight 923 from London's Heathrow Airport arrived safe, sound and largely unconcerned about their security Thursday evening at Dulles International Airport, even though their flight may have been a prime target in a foiled terrorist plot.
United was reportedly one of three airlines targeted by the terrorists, and Dulles is a hub for United's international flights.
Another interesting update from Allah:
Update: Heads up, ladies: no more gel bras on airplanes.
Where will this gelatinous slope take us?
July CPI - Oh Aren't You the Most Precious Little Inflator
More tame economic data comes our way today with the Labor Department's release of the July Consumer Price Index. The gauge of retail inflation came in at 0.4%, right where economists were predicting. The core number, excluding food and energy, was 0.2%, less than the 0.3% expected.
Following yesterday's quite tame wholesale inflation data, this completed a two-day mollification of investors, offering compelling evidence that inflation is sufficiently contained to keep the Fed's rate hiking guns holstered for the time being.
On the happy news, the major stock indices piled additional gains onto yesterday's big upward move.
Ooh Ooh, That Smell (What Happened To the Syrup?)
In New York City, residents of Queens and Staten Island have been suffering an olfactory abomination, so serious it's caused several victims to be hospitalized.
More than 100 residents of Staten Island and about a half-dozen in Queens complained about a gas odor permeating in their neighborhoods on Tuesday.
The U.S. Coast Guard, as well as fire and utility officials, were trying to locate the source of the odor. Mariners in the area also called about a strange, gaseous smell.
About seven people were transported to area hospitals after complaining of headaches and nausea, said Lt. Thomas Kane, a spokesman for the Fire Department.
Of course, this isn't the first time this week an unidentified odor has befouled its inhalers into hospitalization.
What happened to the good old days when Gotham's spontaneous smellbinding involved nothing more offensive than the sweet sugary embrace of phantom maple syrup?
This Nation Is So Ready...
According to 183 mayors, not that ready.
During a media forum held at the National Press Club in Washington (DC) July 26, The United States Conference of Mayors released a major new emergency preparedness/homeland security survey, which found that more action is needed on key issues such as interoperable communications, evacuation planning, and pandemic flu preparedness.
The survey revealed a number of key findings:
- 80 percent of cities felt they had not received sufficient funding from the federal government to allow their first responders to talk with one another.
- While 73 percent of the cities with populations over 300,000 had recently created or updated an evacuation plan, only 56 percent of cities on average had done so.
- 72 percent of all cities had not been assigned a Principal Federal Official to work with them in the event of a disaster. However, when the largest cities were surveyed, 60 percent responded yes.
- Though 69 percent of cities had been contacted by federal or state governments to discuss possible pandemic flu outbreaks, only 30 percent of cities felt they were prepared to handle such an outbreak on their own for the first few days (and possibly weeks), before federal assistance would be made available.