Monday, April 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via Sen. Johnson Now Recovering at Home

Sen. Tim Johnson, who suffered a debilitating brain hemorrhage in December, has left a rehabilitation center to continue his recovery at his home in northern Virginia.

The transition from a full-time rehabilitation facility to outpatient and home care puts Johnson, D-S.D., one step closer to returning to full-time Senate duties. While Johnson has started to handle paperwork, cosponsor legislation and receive briefings, his staff and his doctors have refused to speculate on when he might be able to return to the Capitol.

“He’s at a point where rehab is the focus . . . five days a week,” said Julianne Fisher, Johnson’s press secretary.

Good news—indeed, remarkable news. That he appears headed back to the Senate is nothing short of amazing.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Is it just me, or is it a little late for George Tenet to be making himself out to be the Guy No One Listened To (But Who Should Have Been)?

I haven’t waded into all of his claims at this point, so maybe I will change my views, but it would seem that if Tenet knew what should have been done, perhaps he could have made his argument more forcefully at the time? At a minimum, perhaps he shouldn’t have accepted a medal for his service to the administration?

More later, no doubt.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the London Times: Climate change hits Mars

Mars is being hit by rapid climate change and it is happening so fast that the red planet could lose its southern ice cap, writes Jonathan Leake.

Scientists from Nasa say that Mars has warmed by about 0.5C since the 1970s. This is similar to the warming experienced on Earth over approximately the same period.

Since there is no known life on Mars it suggests rapid changes in planetary climates could be natural phenomena.

The mechanism at work on Mars appears, however, to be different from that on Earth. One of the researchers, Lori Fenton, believes variations in radiation and temperature across the surface of the Red Planet are generating strong winds.

In a paper published in the journal Nature, she suggests that such winds can stir up giant dust storms, trapping heat and raising the planet’s temperature.

I usually stay out of the global warming discussion because I am not an environmental scientist. Still, if Mars is experiencing similar warming to the Earth during the same period of time, it does at least raise the question of whether some solar systemic issues might be at work rather than terrestrial ones.

Of course, it could be coincidence. Still it is interesting.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Methinks that the DC press corps is salivating over this one (via ABC’s the Blotter): D.C. Madam Wants Washington Clients to Testify:

The woman charged in a federal indictment with running a high-class Washington, D.C. call girl service says she plans to call her prominent clients to testify at her trial.

Jeane Palfrey, dubbed the D.C. Madam, says among those she will call to testify are Randall Tobias, who resigned Friday as deputy secretary of state after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of Palfrey’s escort service.

Tobias said he “had some gals come over to the condo for a massage” but denied any sex was involved.

Also on Palfrey’s list of customers who could be potential witnesses are a Bush administration economist, the head of a conservative think tank, a prominent CEO, several lobbyists and a handful of military officials.

And this may qualify as one of the lamest explanations I have heard in a while:

Tobias said he “had some gals come over to the condo for a massage” but denied any sex was involved.

Yep, that’ll fly.

Of course, I must confess, while I find the whole thing to be personally unacceptable, I am not really sure why it is illegal–consenting adults and all that…

Not to mention that there are better uses for tax dollars and prosecutor’s/judge’s time than worrying about whether some middle aged man got a “massage” from someone willing to provide said service for a fee. Again, I have moral objections to the enterprise and would hardly recommend such a career, but what the exact public harm is is unclear to me and always has been.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Turkish stocks and currency slump

Turkey’s main stock index and its currency, the lira, have tumbled amid fears that the army will block the government’s pick for president.

The main ISE National 100 index had lost 4% by late afternoon trading, while the lira was down 2.4%.

Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in Istanbul over the weekend to protest against the candidacy of Abdullah Gul.

Protesters in support of secularism in Turkey are concerned that Mr Gul has remained loyal to his Islamic roots.

It is not surprising that a coup threat would upset the markets, given that markets tend to dislike uncertainty. This is interesting, however, as the business sector has been opposed to a Gul Presidency. However, the overall market seems to think that a coup is worse for business than Gul’s election.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Wolfowitz to face Bank directors

Embattled World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz is to fight for his job in front of a panel of bank directors.

Mr Wolfowitz will defend himself against accusations that he pushed through a huge pay package for his girlfriend without the Bank’s consent.

The committee will then report to the Bank’s 24 representatives, who will decide on the president’s fate.

Mr Wolfowitz has apologised for his actions, vowing to stay on to complete what he called “important work”.

Quite frankly, there are times when it is time to throw in the towel. When one comes into a job such as this one with the goal of reducing corruption as one’s main theme and gets caught up in scandal over one’s girlfriend’s pay, then it is time to step down.

It isn’t as if, to date, his tenure as President of the Bank has been remarkable—indeed, as best as I can tell it has been thoroughly undistinguished.

And when you have to hire a high-powered attorney in the process of saving your job, it probably is a signal that you are in a lot of trouble:

Mr Wolfowitz will appear at Monday’s meeting flanked by Washington lawyer Robert Bennett, who is famous for helping former president Bill Clinton settle sexual harassment charges in 1998.

Mr Bennett will not be allowed to speak on his behalf, but has made it clear that Mr Wolfowitz will argue the decision to relocate his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, to the US State Department in 2024 was signed off by the board’s ethics committee.

He will also state that Ms Riza’s salary increase to almost $200,000 (£100,000) “was well within the parameters” of the World Bank’s salary and benefits structure.

“We want to make a presentation to them to show that this conflict-of-interest allegation is absolutely false,” Mr Bennett said.

My guess is that Wolfowitz is toast.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: Migraines linked with brain damage:

People with migraines also may be suffering from some brain damage as brain cells swell and become starved of oxygen — a finding that may help explain why migraine sufferers have a higher risk of stroke, researchers reported on Sunday.


Two studies, including one published last week in the Archives in Internal Medicine, show that people who have migraines are more likely to have heart attacks.

A 2024 study in the British Medical Journal found that migraine sufferers are twice as likely to suffer a stroke as people who do not have the headaches.

Hardly seems fair, really.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Turkish poll crisis goes to court

The first round of the election in parliament ended in disarray on Friday amid a dispute about the number of deputies present for the vote.

The secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP), which boycotted Friday’s vote, said it would challenge the election in court because a quorum of MPs had not been obtained – a charge the AK (or Justice and Development Party) denies.\


If the court upholds the CHP position and cancels the presidential election, the ruling would trigger an early general election.

The business elite has called for an early general election to calm the tensions.

The AK, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has an overwhelming majority in parliament.

That strikes me as a curious set of events: the lack of quorum for the presidential selection leads to new legislative elections. Regardless, N\new elections may end up be a way for the court to try and avoid a military coup.

Of course, if the AK is already the majority party in the legislature, one wonders if new elections will remedy the problem or not. While it is clear that there is a great deal of support for maintaining a clearly secular state in Turkey, there must be some significant support for the AK and their view, else the AK would not be in a position that it currently is in.

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Sunday, April 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Huge rally for Turkish secularism

Hundreds of thousands of people have rallied in Istanbul in support of secularism in Turkey, amid a row over a vote for the country’s next president.

The protesters are concerned that the ruling party’s candidate for the post remains loyal to his Islamic roots.

The candidate, Abdullah Gul, earlier said he would not quit despite growing criticism from opponents and the army.

Mr Gul failed to win election in a first round parliamentary vote which opponents say was unconstitutional.

Opposition MPs boycotted the vote. They are also challenging its validity in the Constitutional Court.

An interesting series of developments in Turkey, to be sure.

Given that the AK (Gul’s party) has had the majority of seats in parliament and their leader has been Prime Minister, it isn’t as if there isn’t a track record as to how Gul (who has had a prominent role at Foreign Minister) might behave. While it is clear that many Turks understandably value the secular nature of their democracy, I continue to wonder if the threat to democracy isn’t greater from another military coup than it is from a Gul presidency.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the NYT: Uneasy Alliance Is Taming One Insurgent Bastion

Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. With the tribal leaders’ encouragement, thousands of local residents have joined the police force. About 10,000 police officers are now in Anbar, up from several thousand a year ago. During the same period, the police force here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, has grown from fewer than 200 to about 4,500, American military officials say.

At the same time, American and Iraqi forces have been conducting sweeps of insurgent strongholds, particularly in and around Ramadi, leaving behind a network of police stations and military garrisons, a strategy that is also being used in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, as part of its new security plan.

This is heartening news, to be sure. It does show that one of the keys in a society like Iraq’s is connection to local sheiks–moves that should have been done back in the beginning.

Some basics of the situation:

The Ramadi region is essentially a police state now, with some 6,000 American troops, 4,000 Iraqi soldiers and 4,500 Iraqi police officers, including an auxiliary police force of about 2,000, all local tribesmen, known as the Provincial Security Force. The security forces are garrisoned in more than 65 police stations, military bases and joint American-Iraqi combat outposts, up from no more than 10 a year ago. The population of the city is officially about 400,000, though the current number appears to be much lower.

To help control the flow of traffic and forestall attacks, the American military has installed an elaborate system of barricades and checkpoints. In some of the enclaves created by this system, which American commanders frequently call “gated communities,” no vehicles except bicycles and pushcarts are allowed for fear of car bombs.

This is clearly a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend:

Al Qaeda’s fighters began to use killing, intimidation and financial coercion to divide the tribes and win support for their agenda. They killed about 210 people in the Abu Ali Jassem tribe alone and kidnapped others, demanding ransoms as high as $65,000 per person, Sheik Badawie said.

For all the sheiks’ hostility toward the Americans, they realized that they had a bigger enemy, or at least one that needed to be fought first, as a matter of survival.

The council sought financial and military support from the Iraqi and American governments. In return the sheiks volunteered hundreds of tribesmen for duty as police officers and agreed to allow the construction of joint American-Iraqi police and military outposts throughout their tribal territories.

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