Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Lebanon puts army on alert

Associated Press

Fearing that the massive bombing that claimed the life of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri yesterday might plunge the nation back into "the political violence of its 1975-90 civil war," Lebanon has cancelled all troop leaves and placed its army on alert. According to police, 13 people died in the attack, with "about 120" others injured.

» NY Times: U.S. seems sure of the hand of Syria, hinting at penalties

Posted by Jack Stark at 6:40 AM | |

Bloggers and journalists

Online Newshour

The Newshour's Terence Smith discusses Eason Jordan's resignation from CNN with Jim Geraghty of National Review, Jay Rosen of New York University and David Gergen of Harvard's Kennedy School. Gergen: "There was a vigilante justice kind of quality here of people who were going after Eason Jordan not because of what he said but because of what he represented, and that is he represented CNN. And there are those who wish to paint CNN as this liberal media outlet in contrast to Fox and they want to beat up on him for that reason. Frankly I think that there has been a quality of vigilante justice here which has gone -- has been excessive. I think it's very -- it's been a cruel fate for Eason Jordan to be caught in effect in the culture wars that are going on in the country." Geraghty: "There are a lot of bloggers out there. I wouldn't doubt that there are some who decided well, this is a great way to attention to get traffic to my blog. But I can't say I really buy into this argument that this is one mistake or one slip in the tongue because at a conference in Portugal last fall, Eason Jordan said that several journalists were taken to the Abu Ghraib Prison complex and been tortured there. I'm wondering why I didn't see that on CNN. If he's got these kinds of evidence behind these stories, he should come out and show it. And the other thing which I'll admit a lot of people took into this story was his comments about not reporting everything he knew about Saddam Hussein in a run-up before the Iraq War. I admire him for coming out and saying this. But it's one of those things where he kind of came into this controversy with a black mark on his record that a lot of people caused them not to cut him slack they might have otherwise done." Rosen: "I have to disagree with David Gergen a little bit in that his only mistake was not speaking a little bit carelessly. He made a second mistake after that, which was not to communicate very well at all, not to enter into dialogue with people online, not to give any interviews except for one to Howard Kurtz late in the game, not to really respond until pressed further and to sort of keep adding to statements that weren't very illuminating in the first place."

» Shafer: 'I Would Have Fired Eason Jordan'
» Johnson: Internet serves as proving ground

Posted by Jack Stark at 5:16 AM | |

Monday, February 14, 2005

Airport screener misses butcher knife in purse


Katrina Bell was preparing to board her flight Saturday at Newark's Liberty International Airport when she realized that she was still carrying the butcher knife she'd placed in her purse before a recent blind date. "My first thought was, 'They're going to think we're terrorists,'" says Bell's sister and traveling companion, Tikisha Bell Gowens. But the sisters, who immediately reported the incident to airport security officials, were not charged. And the screener who allowed Bell to reach the gate with the knife "was removed from the checkpoint and will undergo remedial training." Says Bell Gowens: "Suppose someone else had this knife and their motive was to hijack the plane? Come on, now. We had a butcher knife. How do you miss that? How many years do you need to get this right?"

Posted by Jack Stark at 5:20 PM | |

Friday, February 11, 2005

Mugabe blasts Rice and Blair at election campaign launch

The Scotsman

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe opened his reelection campaign today with sharp attacks on UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a rally in Harare. "The white man is the slave master to her. She says Zimbabwe is one of the five or six outposts of tyranny. Ah well, she has got to echo her master's voice," he said of Rice, adding that a "girl born out of slave ancestry should know ... that the white man is not a friend." With regard to the prime minister, Mugabe promised to make this the "anti-Blair election," and said that it was "time to bury Blair and his puppets." Mugabe, who is currently under US and European sanctions due to violence and voting irregularities in the 2002 elections, "predicted a resounding victory for his party," according to The Scotsman. "We have never fought a political battle and lost it," he told supporters.

» BBC News: Mugabe launches election campaign
» Zimbabwe's top female athlete found to be a man

Posted by Jack Stark at 5:01 PM | |

Playwright Arthur Miller dies at 89

New York Times

Legendary playwright Arthur Miller, best known for the Broadway dramas Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, died in his home Thursday night of congestive heart failure at the age of 89.

» NY Times: Arthur Miller, legendary American playwright, is dead at 89
» Harold Pinter: My friend Arthur Miller

Posted by Jack Stark at 1:02 PM | |

Don't call us

New York Post/Page Six

Page Six is reporting that the producers of the new Monica Crowley/Ron Reagan talker on MSNBC were unaware of Crowley's habit of referring to NY Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as "Madame DeFarge" on her WABC Radio show until they invited the senator to appear on the MSNBC program's premiere. "The senator will not be available now or in the foreseeable future," they were quickly informed by the former First Lady's staff. "How about when hell freezes over?" asks Page Six.

Hat Tip: TVNewser

Posted by Jack Stark at 10:50 AM | |

Senate passes overhaul of rules for class-action lawsuits

New York Times

The US Senate voted 72-26 yesterday to move a significant percentage of class-action lawsuits from state to federal courts, "handing President Bush and his supporters in the business world a major legislative triumph," according to New York Times reporter David Stout. The bill's supporters say that it will "stop lawsuit abuses," while opponents claim that a 1985 ruling that bars federal courts from hearing some class-action cases means that it will effectively deny courtroom access to "a wide range of injured plaintiffs." The bill now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass by a wide margin.

» Outside the Beltway: 'It's hard to defend the current class action system....'
» Political Animal: Classless action

Posted by Jack Stark at 9:22 AM | |

Spray to boost female sex drive

BBC News

A testosterone spray developed by Australian company Acrux has been shown to significantly increase the sexual satisfaction of both post-menopausal women and those with a low libido. The potential downsides? Beard growth, hair loss, greasy skin and acne.

Hat Tip: Boing Boing

Posted by Jack Stark at 8:58 AM | |

Ailing Democrats put their faith in Dr. Dean

Washington Post

The Washington Post's Dan Balz writes that two questions were in the air at yesterday's Democratic National Committee meeting in Washington: Can incoming chairman Howard Dean "cure what ails the party, or is Howard Dean symptomatic of why those ailments may be so difficult to cure?" Grassroots activists tend to believe the former, as Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin explains: "Despite the disappointment and frustration of the election outcome, the core assets that were developed in 2004 are still quite strong and vibrant. [Those activists] see Dean as the kind of person who will continue building a strong grass-roots party that's better able to take on the Republicans." GOP leaders, on the other hand, say that they suspect the latter. "This is akin to [the idea] that you've got to get sicker before you get better. This is the final stage before they realize they've got to start taking vitamins and get healthy again. . . . It's reflective of a problem they have, which is they haven't arrived with a positive, proactive vision," says Bush strategist Matthew Dowd. For his part, the Democrats' man of the hour argues that the party should fight for its core principles. "The real message of my campaign was stand up for what you believe in and pursue the politics of conviction," Dean says. "That's frankly why George Bush was successful, because he gave the appearance that he had some deep-seated convictions. If you want to excite people in politics . . . you've got to be a party of convictions."

» Brownstein: Democrats aren't giving Bush a break this term
» The Moderate Voice: Howard Dean the apparent shoo-in
» CS Monitor: Democrats find a defiant voice [Hat Tip: Roth]
» PoliBlog: Democrats have to find a way to go beyond saying 'no'

Posted by Jack Stark at 8:11 AM | |

Abbas moves to shore up ceasefire

BBC News

In the wake of yesterday's mortar attacks on several Jewish settlements by Hamas, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has fired three of his security chiefs, and is calling on militants to honor the new ceasefire agreement with Israel. But Hamas leaders sound noncommittal: "We will sit with... Abbas, listen and evaluate the results of the Sharm al-Sheikh summit and then we will determine our final position which will be based on the national interest of our people," says spokesman Mushir al-Masri. Abbas is expected to press his case in talks with militant leaders later today.

» NY Times: Israeli response to attacks 'relatively low-key'
» Krauthammer: Why the Palestinians came to the table

Posted by Jack Stark at 7:29 AM | |

Thursday, February 10, 2005

At Churchill Museum, sharing private views of a public man

Washington Post

According to the Washington Post's Glenn Frankel, one of the "more intriguing" aspects of Wednesday's press event at the new Winston Churchill Museum in London was the opportunity it presented to talk to people who had known and worked with the man. "He was difficult, he was impatient, he was demanding -- but never impossible," recalls Elizabeth Nel, one of Churchill's wartime secretaries, who goes on to describe a dressing down she once received over a minor clerical error. "He thought I was crying. And he looked at me and said, 'Oh you mustn't mind me. We're all toads beneath the harrow.'" The museum is scheduled to officially open today, with a ceremony presided over by Queen Elizabeth II.

Posted by Jack Stark at 4:00 PM | |

UPDATED: Franken NOT to run for Senate

Taegan Goddard's Political Wire

Political Wire is reporting that comedian and Air America talk show host Al Franken will announce his candidacy to replace retiring Democratic Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota later today. More details as they become available.

UPDATE: Franken not running for Senate

Posted by Jack Stark at 1:54 PM | |

Detainees accuse female interrogators

Washington Post

According to anonymous Pentagon sources, an investigation led by Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III has confirmed allegations that female interrogators in the US facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, used "sexually suggestive tactics" to break down the defenses of Muslim detainees. Church's as-yet-unreleased report is expected to assert that the use of these tactics, including "provocative touching" and the smearing of possibly fake menstrual blood on detainees, "may have been part of the fabric of Guantanamo interrogations, especially in 2003." An unnamed Pentagon official says, "They [the interrogators] are trying to find the key that will get someone to talk to them. Using things that are culturally repulsive is okay as long as it doesn't extend to something prohibited by the Geneva Conventions." But detainee representative Michael Ratner tells the Post, "They're exploiting religious beliefs to break them down, to destroy them. What they're doing, it reminds me of a pornographic Web site -- it's like the fantasy of all these S&M clubs."

Posted by Jack Stark at 1:31 PM | |

9/11 report cites many warnings about hijackings

New York Times

A previously undisclosed report of the 9/11 commission alleges that the Federal Aviation Administration did not properly follow up on "dozens of intelligence reports that warned about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda" in the months leading up to the September 11 attacks. "The fact that the civil aviation system seems to have been lulled into a false sense of security is striking not only because of what happened on 9/11 but also in light of the intelligence assessments, including those conducted by the F.A.A.'s own security branch, that raised alarms about the growing terrorist threat to civil aviation throughout the 1990's and into the new century," the report states. F.A.A. spokeswoman Laura J. Brown tells the Times, "We had a lot of information about threats. But we didn't have specific information about means or methods that would have enabled us to tailor any countermeasures." The report concludes: "Throughout 2001, the senior leadership of the F.A.A. was focused on congestion and delays within the system and the ever-present issue of safety, but they were not as focused on security."

» BuzzMachine: The October surprise ... five months late
» Rantingprofs: More on the FAA Pre-9/11

Posted by Jack Stark at 9:45 AM | |

HP ousts CEO Fiorina, high-profile tech icon

Los Angeles Times

Hewlett-Packard Co. fired its "rock star" CEO, Carly Fiorina, yesterday for what the company's board of directors termed poor "execution." Once dubbed "the most powerful woman in business" by Fortune magazine, Fiorina oversaw HP's controversial acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp in 2002, and "came to personify her company the way Bill Gates is synonymous with Microsoft Corp. and Steve Jobs embodies Apple Computer." HP stock rose 7 percent yesterday on news of Fiorina's departure.

» AP: Wayman replaces Fiorina at Hewlett-Packard
» Slate: Good riddance, Carly!
» Wandering Mind: Risky to be a CEO . . .
» NY Daily News: From 'darling' to media target
» Gillmor: What Hewlett-Packard's board should do next

Posted by Jack Stark at 8:52 AM | |

Virtual jihad


Newsweek is reporting that radical Islamic websites around the world are now encouraging users to wage cyberwar against their enemies. "Almost every [Islamic extremist] Web site has a section on how to do jihad over the Internet," notes SITE Institute head Rita Katz. These sections, Newsweek says, are "alarmingly specific," and include "detailed attack instructions and list as apparent potential targets e-mail addresses of Israeli political groups, police and government offices and politicians, including Natan Sharansky, the conservative cabinet member and former Soviet dissident who has become a favorite of President Bush."

Hat Tip: The Roth Report

Posted by Jack Stark at 8:06 AM | |

Prince Charles to marry Camilla

BBC News

Prince Charles and longtime paramour Camilla Parker Bowles will wed on April 8, 2005 in a civil ceremony at Windsor Castle. The prince tells reporters that he and the future Duchess of Cornwall are "absolutely delighted" to be tying the knot.

Posted by Jack Stark at 7:07 AM | |

N. Korea admits to nuclear weapons, suspends talks

Associated Press

In a statement released Thursday, North Korea acknowledged for the first time that it possesses nuclear weapons, and announced that it would not cooperate with international efforts to restart disarmament talks. "We had already taken the resolute action of pulling out of the NPT [nonproliferation talks] and have manufactured nukes for self-defence to cope with the Bush administration's evermore undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the DPRK [N. Korea]. Its nuclear weapons will remain a nuclear deterrent for self-defense under any circumstances." U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responded cautiously. "I think we just have to first look at the statement and then we need to talk with our allies. The North Koreans have no reason to believe that anyone wants to attack them. They have been told they can have multilateral security assurances if they will make the important decision to give up their nuclear weapons program. So there is really no reason for this, but we will examine where we go next."

» Full text of the North Korean statement
» National Review: Despotism’s furthest shore
» Boing Boing: North Korean propaganda posters
» Daniel Drezner: What is Kim Il Sung's Kim Jong il's game

Posted by Jack Stark at 7:01 AM | |

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

After California, more states eye stem cell research


Several states, including New Jersey, Wisconsin and New York, are hoping to join the "new gold rush" in stem cell research by enacting legislation similar to the $3 billion referendum passed by California voters last November. University of Wisconsin-Madison Alumni Research Foundation spokesman Andrew Cohn explains, "Everyone’s rushing to put together a stem cell program. People recognize that this field of study has incredible potential, not only to cure disease, but also as an economic tool." Merchant banker G. Steven Burrill agrees, but warns that patience will be required. "We are still in the early stages of stem cell research and development, and so most of this will develop initially in academic institutions. It takes time for a new technology to come to the marketplace."

Posted by Jack Stark at 5:16 PM | |

Iraq to try Hussein aides in spring; some may face death

New York Times

Iraqi prosecutors are planning to bring as many as 12 of Saddam Hussein's former associates to trial later this year, including Barzan al-Tikriti, former head of the mukhabarat secret police, and Ali Hassan al-Majid, aka Chemical Ali. Iraqi officials tell the New York Times that at least two of the trials will be televised, and that the death penalty will be sought "for those among the 12 judged guilty of the worst crimes."

Posted by Jack Stark at 4:58 PM | |

The best years of our lives

The Weekly Standard

In a review of David Castronovo's Beyond the Gray Flannel Suit, Loyola College professor Brian Murray argues that the "lost and transformative" decade of the 1950s is insufficiently appreciated these days, particularly in terms of the novels and short stories it produced. "In fact," he writes, quoting Castronovo, "American literature of the 1950s 'now asserts special claims to greatness,' drawing energy from a decade that was far from being 'smug and absorbed with its own splendors.'"

Hat Tip: Arts and Letters Daily

Posted by Jack Stark at 11:59 AM | |

Rice chides Europeans over Iran nuclear talks


US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thinks the Europeans have not been tough enough in their nuclear nonproliferation talks with Iran. "The Iranians need to hear that if they are unwilling to take the deal, really, that the Europeans are giving ... then the Security Council referral looms," she told Fox News today. "I don't know that anyone has said that as clearly as they should to the Iranians." French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier responds, "We need the confidence and the support of the United States in this very delicate phase we are in. And that's what the message is that we conveyed to Condi Rice."

» Rice clarifies: 'I think the message is there. The Iranians need to get that message.'

Posted by Jack Stark at 11:38 AM | |

Sistani 'not seeking Islamic law'

BBC News

A spokesman for Iraq's most powerful Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, is denying reports that the ayatollah would now support efforts to write Sharia law directly into the country's new constitution. According to the BBC, "Mr. Khafaf said the speculation was baseless," and that Ayatollah Sistani's "position had not changed" -- "it was up to the elected representatives of the people in the new National Assembly to decide the details."

» Captain Ed: 'Sistani has no intention of seeing a theocracy arise'

Posted by Jack Stark at 9:33 AM | |

UPDATED: Va. bill sets fine for low-riding pants

Associated Press

The fashion police will be out in force in Virginia if some state legislators have their way. The House of Delegates passed a bill yesterday mandating a fifty dollar fine for people caught displaying their underwear in a "lewd or indecent manner." Though some members objected that the bill unfairly targets young blacks, it was approved 60-34, and will now go to the state Senate for further action.

UPDATE: Va. Drops Baggy Pants Bill

Posted by Jack Stark at 8:39 AM | |

Karl Rove's White House role expands


President Bush's chief political strategist will have a much larger role in the policy-making process in the president's second term, the White House announced yesterday. As deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove is expected to coordinate policy between the National Economic Council, the White House Domestic Policy Council, the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council. "He is one of the president’s most trusted advisers who has played an integral role in strategy and policy development for a long time," says presidential spokesman Scott McClellan.

» Flashback: Why Are These Men Laughing?

Posted by Jack Stark at 7:52 AM | |

Microsoft still patching software security holes

Washington Post

Microsoft Corp. has released "critical" security updates for some of its most widely-used products, including Windows XP, Internet Explorer, MSN Messenger, Windows Media Player and Microsoft Office. Users are advised to visit the company's website for more information.

» Firefox, others at phishing risk
» Microsoft to buy anti-virus software firm
» Spyware for Firefox coming this year?

Posted by Jack Stark at 6:54 AM | |

Powerful Republicans worry about Bush budget cuts


Congressional Republicans are expressing their concerns about the deep domestic spending cuts in the new Bush budget. "The Congress doesn't have to stick to these priorities. There are some programs in there I have heartburn about," says New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg. Maine's Olympia Snowe is more pointed: "How long do you have?" she responded, when asked if she "had problems" with the White House's budget proposals. Even Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist sounds dubious. "The president's priorities are reflected in that budget. You will see the reflection of the Senate's priorities and the House over the next several weeks," he says.

» Republicans raise possibility of Bush veto to pass budget
» Analysis: Why this budget battle has an epic tone
» Medicare drug aid cost soars to $720B

Posted by Jack Stark at 5:54 AM | |

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Poll: Wealthy should bolster Social Security


According to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, "more than two-thirds" of the American people believe that the wealthy should contribute more to, and receive less from, the Social Security system. Moreover, 55% call President George W. Bush's privatization proposal "'a bad idea' -- the same percentage as a month ago, before the president began his campaign for the plan."

» Yglesias: Liberals 'actually mad' about media coverage of Social Security
» Brooks: Mr. President, let's share the wealth

Posted by Jack Stark at 4:41 PM | |

For the worst of us, the diagnosis may be 'evil'

New York Times

Are predatory killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy sick ... or evil? A growing number of psychiatrists are beginning to believe the latter. "We are talking about people who commit breathtaking acts, who do so repeatedly, who know what they're doing, and are doing it in peacetime," says Dr. Michael Stone of Columbia University. Adds Dr. Robert Hare, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver: "There is a group we call lethal predators, who are psychopathic, sadistic, and sane, and people have said this is approaching a measure of evil, and with good reason. What I would say is that there are some people for whom evil acts - what we would consider evil acts - are no big deal. And I agree with Michael Stone that the circumstances and context are less important than who they are."

Hat Tip: Boing Boing

» AP: Idaho teen scalped after slight

Posted by Jack Stark at 4:15 PM | |

Bush: Congress must spend budget wisely

Associated Press

In a speech to the Detroit Economic Club this morning, President George Bush declared, "It is essential that those who spend the money in Washington adhere to this principle — a taxpayer dollar ought to be spent wisely or not spent at all," and called on Congress to join with him "to bring real spending discipline to the federal budget." But AFL-CIO chief economist Ron Blackwell sees things differently: "I don't think that the series of proposals that he's putting forward are responding to the very unbalanced and stagnant economic figures from the point of view of working families. He's responding to his friends in business -- they want the lawyers off their back, they want tax rates lower, they want less regulation."

» Bush: Holding three jobs 'uniquely American'
» Claim: Bush budget hides $40 billion in defense spending

Posted by Jack Stark at 2:18 PM | |

Israeli and Palestinian leaders pledge to halt attacks

New York Times

In strikingly broad language, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas agreed today to "cease all acts of violence against all Palestinians and Israelis everywhere." According to Abbas, "The calm which will prevail in our lands starting from today is the beginning of a new era."

» Drum: Peace in the Middle East? Maybe
» In the Bullpen: There's always hope

Posted by Jack Stark at 1:34 PM | |

Monday, February 07, 2005

Coming tomorrow: Stark Offerings

"Freedom of the press," A.J. Liebling once mordantly remarked, "is guaranteed only to those who own one."

Thanks to the rise of the Internet and simple blogging tools, that familiar quotation has been transformed in recent days from truism to truth. The kind of truth that's meaningful and real and tangible for every free man and woman on the planet.

Hence, Stark Offerings, a daily newswire that claims no particular insight into the people, places, events and ideas it covers, and arrives in your browser without patron or pedigree. It's just one man exercising his right to say, Hey, take a look at this. It's interesting. Or funny. Or important. Or worthwhile. Or ... well, whatever. Which is probably the oldest, and perhaps still the best, working definition of journalism around.

That's all there is to this little project. It's neither new nor groundbreaking in any way -- Matt Drudge and others have been doing the same sort of thing, and better, for years. And it certainly won't put its author on the road to fame and fortune. But it's here and it's unique and starting tomorrow it will be serving up a Lucullan feast of news, opinion and miscellany each and every day.

Bon appetit!

Posted by Jack Stark at 9:07 AM | |