Friday, March 28, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Colombia offers Farc hostage deal

Colombia has offered to release jailed Farc rebels if they first hand over former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and other hostages.

Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo said that if some captives were liberated, it could begin the process of exchanging rebels for hostages.


Announcing the “humanitarian” offer, Mr Restrepo told a news conference: “The legal basis for a humanitarian exchange has been established and we have reduced the requirements as much as possible.

“The government has joined the national and international cry that the life of Ingrid Betancourt be saved. We cannot run risks in this case and there is no more time to wait.”

Betancourt has been in the FARC’s custody for going on six years and is reportedly quite ill:

She is said to have hepatitis B and a tropical skin disease.

The Colombian government is making a concession here, as the FARC has demanded prisoner releases in the past (amongst other things). One suspects that the combination of recent FARC prisoner releases coupled with the the damage that they have sustained of late (i.e., the death of two of their seven member secretariat) means that the government thinks that they are more susceptible to negotiation at the moment.

For the sake of Betancourt and others in captivity, we can only hope so.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Iraq extends militiamen deadline

A statement from Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s office read: “All those who have heavy and intermediate weapons are to deliver them to security sites and they will be rewarded financially. This will start from March 28 to April 8.”

For those keeping score at home, the deadline for fighting to cease was set at 72 hours earlier in the week.

Using my finally honed political science powers, I would come to conclusion that this maneuver likely means that the Maliki government has realized that it cannot enforce the original deadline. Of course if that is true, it likely can’t enforce the new deadline, either.

Further, one suspects that like guns-for-cash programs aimed at gangs in the US, that the Iraqis will collect some weapons. But, just as weapons exchange programs in US inner cities do not make gang violence disappear, neither will this offer end the violence or cause the Mehdi Army to vanish in a puff of smoke.

Still, there is some positive indication that some local leaders have turned in fighters to the government:

UK military spokesman Maj Tom Holloway said: “A number of local sheikhs have handed in militia members and ammunition and explosives, and the prime minister is hoping to extend the window of opportunity to others.”

It seems unlikely in the extreme, however, that surrender/being turned over by local shiekhs is the likely fate of those currently fighting in Basra, especially given that the current uprising is mostly the work of Sadr’s Mehdi Army. Sadr has made statements about a peaceful resolution, but

aides to Mr Sadr on Friday told the BBC that no talks with the government were yet in prospect.

It is possible that Maliki’s original threat of crackdown led to capitulation (and I am sure that many will interpret it as such), but given the anemic nature of the Maliki government along with the chimeric natural of the Iraqi state, it would be foolish to accept at this stage the notion that it all it took was a stern threat from the PM to stem the tide of violence.

Indeed, if there was a real possibility of a serious reversal, it would be more likely that a cease fire would be forthcoming, not an announcement that fighting will likely continue for another week and a half at least (which is essentially what the extension of the deadline will end up to be).

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Thursday, March 27, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Woman says TSA forced piercings removal

A Texas woman who said she was forced to remove a nipple ring with pliers in order to board an airplane called Thursday for an apology by federal security agents and a civil rights investigation.


Hamlin said she told the woman she was wearing nipple piercings. The women then called over her male colleagues, one of whom said she would have to remove the jewelry, Hamlin said.

Hamlin said she could not remove them and asked whether she could instead display her pierced breasts in private to the female agent. But several other male officers told her she could not board her flight until the jewelry was out, she said.

She was taken behind a curtain and managed to remove one bar-shaped piercing but had trouble with the second, a ring.

“Still crying, she informed the TSA officer that she could not remove it without the help of pliers, and the officer gave a pair to her,” said Hamlin’s attorney, Gloria Allred, reading from a letter she sent Thursday to the director of the TSA’s Office of Civil Rights and Liberties.

While I will allow that this is only one side of the story, my initial reaction is to believe Ms. Hamlin’s tale. Indeed, TSA policy could easily lead to the scenario above:

On its Web site, the TSA warns that passengers “may be additionally screened because of hidden items such as body piercings, which alarmed the metal detector.”

“If you are selected for additional screening, you may ask to remove your body piercing in private as an alternative to a pat-down search,” the site says.

Hamlin would have accepted a “pat-down” had it been offered, Allred said.


TSA spokesman Dwayne Baird said he was unaware of the incident. There is no specific TSA policy on dealing with body piercings, he said, “as long as it doesn’t sound the alarms.”

If an alarm does sound, “until that is resolved, we’re not going to let them go through the checkpoint, no matter what they’re wearing or where they’re wearing it.”

I certainly feel safer.

At least the terrorists didn’t win this one since we showed our resolve.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Because baby seals make a tasty part of a balanced breakfast!

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By Steven L. Taylor

The situation in Iraq continues to worsen as fighting in Basra continues.

Via the NYT: Thousands in Baghdad Protest Basra Assault

In direct confrontation with the American-backed government in Iraq, thousands of supporters of the powerful Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia took to the streets of Baghdad on Thursday to protest the Iraqi Army’s assault on the southern port city of Basra, as intense fighting continued there for a third day.


The Iraqi Army’s offensive in Basra is an important political test for the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and for American forces eager to demonstrate that the Iraqi units they have trained can fight effectively on their own. President Bush sought to portray the fighting in a positive light on Thursday, declaring the offensive by Mr. Maliki’s government a “bold decision.”

The ability of this President to see the situation in Iraq in such an unrealistic, and indeed deluded, way is quite unsettling. While I understand the need for politicians to spin any given situation as much to their advantage as possible, there is a distinct difference between trying to put the most positive possible interpretation on an event and outright denial. If armed rebels took control of roughly half of a major American city,1 I can’t imagine any sane person describing a counter-assault by US security forces in terms such as “bold move.”

More from Bush’s comments:

In a speech at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, Mr. Bush said Mr. Maliki’s decision to wage the offensive “shows his leadership and his commitment to enforce the law in an evenhanded manner.”

“Iraqi forces planned this operation, and they deployed substantial extra forces for it,” the president said. He said the offensive “builds on the security gains of the surge and demonstrates to the Iraqi people that their government is committed to protecting them.”

While I will grant that if somehow the Iraqi government is able to get control of this situation that it will be an important signal that there has been actual state building in Iraq, we are well beyond the point where we should be happy that the Prime Minister is committed to evenhanded law enforcement or the fact that Iraqis planned an executed and operation all by their lonesome.

  1. The NYT describes the situation in Basra thusly: “As much as half of the city remained under militia control, hospitals in some parts of the city were reported full, and the violence continued to spread. Clashes were reported all over the city and in locations 12 miles south of Basra.”. []
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By Steven L. Taylor

This could actually be interesting.

In one corner: Mike Gravel (via the NYT‘s The Caucus): Gravel to Run for Libertarian Nod

Fed up with being excluded from the debates and otherwise marginalized, former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska announced today that he will seek the Libertarian Party nomination for president.


Skyler McKinley, a Gravel spokesman, said that Mr. Gravel would try to pursue the Libertarian nomination at the party’s convention, which will be held in Denver on May 22-26.

I must confess, when I think “Gravel third party run” I don’t think “Libertarian Party” (more “Green Party” to be honest).

In the other corner (perhaps), Bob Barr (via the AJC‘s Political Insider): Bob Barr thinking ‘very serious’ thoughts about a presidential race, Iraq, and torture

On an Internet site called Anti-War Radio, former Georgia congressman Bob Barr confirmed on Wednesday that he’s “very seriously” looking at joining the race for the White House as a Libertarian — and had harsh words for both the Iraq war and for the Bush Administration’s defense of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Barr may be best known for his role in the Clinton impeachment during his time in the US House of Representatives. However, since leaving Congress in 2024 he has been active with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Libertarian Party and has been quite critical of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 policies in terms of both foreign policy and domestic security.

h/ts to James Joyner for the Gravel story and Andrew Sullivan for the Barr story.

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By Steven L. Taylor

According to El Tiempo, the Colombian congress has a number of pending legislative items, but is making slow progress: 260 proyectos discutirá el Congreso en sesiones ordinarias, tras pobres resultados en las extras

La reforma incluye severos castigos para los partidos que permitan la inscripción de candidatos relacionados con los grupos armados ilegales.

También será la oportunidad para definir el mapa político del 2024, pues en esta reforma se incluyó un artículo que podría permitir la escogencia a través de una consulta de un solo candidato presidencial que represente a los cinco partidos uribistas.

En la actualidad, estas consultas se pueden hacer, pero solo para escoger el candidato de un solo partido.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Puerto Rican governor faces 19 counts – Yahoo! News

Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila was charged Thursday with 19 counts in a campaign finance probe, including conspiracy to violate U.S. federal campaign laws and giving false testimony to the FBI.


The defendants in Puerto Rico, Washington and the Philadelphia area are accused of conspiring to illegally raise money to pay off Acevedo’s campaign debts from his 2024 campaign to be the U.S. island territory’s nonvoting member of Congress.

It’s tough being an executive these days, what with prostitutes, threesomes, affairs, drugs, and corruption all swirling around various governors and mayors these days…

Of tangential interest is the fact that Acevedo is a superdelegate currently pledged to Obama.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Tuscaloosa News: Senate committee rejects campus gun bills

The state Senate Education Committee rejected legislation Wednesday that would have allowed students and professors to carry firearms on college campuses.

Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, sponsored three bills in response to campus shootings last April at Virginia Tech, where a suicidal student shot and killed 32 people, and in February at Northern Illinois University, where a former graduate student killed himself and five others.

Two of the bills would have allowed students and professors to carry firearms under certain conditions, and the other would have prohibited state-supported colleges and universities from adopting policies to prevent professors from carrying firearms.

The state’s public universities, which currently ban guns on campus, opposed the legislation.

As I have noted before (such as here, amongst other places), the notion that the solution to campus shootings is armed students and faculty is misguided, if anything because, as an official from Jacksonville State University noted

‘The probability of an accidental shooting is much higher than the need to have one to protect yourself.’

And, indeed:

Gordon Stone, executive director of the Alabama Higher Education Partnership, which lobbies on behalf of Alabama’s 13 public universities, said emotions can run high on campuses, and guns don’t need to be added to the mix.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via WaPo: Argentine Export Policy Hits a Roadblock

For the past two weeks, Argentina’s agricultural producers have been on strike, protesting export taxes on soybeans that have jumped from about 27 percent to more than 40 percent since Fernández de Kirchner took office in December. Argentina is the world’s third-largest exporter of soybeans, behind the United States and Brazil.

Farmers and their supporters have blocked roads and ports throughout the country, and some supermarkets have run out of such staples as beef and milk. The shortages have dragged the whole country into the fray.

In a speech to the nation late Tuesday, Fernández de Kirchner ruled out the possibility of government concessions. The higher taxes are designed to keep more agricultural products in Argentina, protecting domestic supply and curbing inflation. The increased revenue would pay for infrastructure improvements, she said.

And so the game of chicken is on. Who will blink first, the government or the farmers? Given that the farmers’ actions are directly affecting the population by keeping food off the shelves in Argentina, I am going to bet on the farmers.

Boz has more on the subject here.

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