Saturday, October 22, 2005

Morning copy 10.22.2005

Rafik Hariri

The Times of London has this incredible story:

THE United Nations withheld some of the most damaging allegations against Syria in its report on the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, it emerged yesterday.

The names of the brother of Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, and other members of his inner circle, were dropped from the report that was sent to the Security Council.

The confidential changes were revealed by an extraordinary computer gaffe because an electronic version distributed by UN officials on Thursday night allowed recipients to track editing changes.

The mistaken release of the unedited report added further support to the published conclusion that Syria was behind Mr Hariri’s assassination in a bomb blast on Valentine’s Day in Beirut.

Another story in the Times of London:

Intercepted telephone conversations give some measure of the mood among Syrians and their Lebanese allies as they plotted Hariri’s downfall and eventual removal.

“We are going to send him on a trip. Bye, bye Hariri,” said Mustafa Hamdan, the former head of Lebanon’s Presidential Guard, who was arrested earlier this year. Another, identified as “X” says: “May he (Hariri) rot in hell.”

Various witnesses report that Mr al-Assad threatened to “break Lebanon over Hariri’s head” in an angry encounter before the decision was taken to assassinate him.

A .pdf of the report.

AP reports Hariri's son wants an international trial.

Bush is pushing for quick U.N. action, New York Times.


The Los Angeles Times has former government officials coming out of the woodwork:

Soon after the invasion, Raphel said, it became clear that U.S. officials "could not run a country we did not understand…. It was very much amateur hour."

Her views appeared as part of an oral history project on the website of the congressionally funded U.S. Institute of Peace. Raphel's account is one of a number that have appeared on the website this year as former officials who were among the first sent into post-invasion Iraq have begun to publicly assess the first two years of the U.S. mission.

Although the officials' views vary widely — and some are positive about the U.S. effort — the accounts make clear that many of the veteran diplomats who were the first to be sent to Iraq had misgivings about the effort from the beginning, with their views foreshadowing criticisms that followed months and even years later.


Hans Blix in the Boston Globe:

''I've never maintained that the [Bush] administration deliberately misled" the public, said Blix, who headed the inspection team before the US-led military action in Iraq. ''I think they misled themselves, that we can see. And then they misled the world."

Senator Carl Levin's plan for Iraq in the Los Angeles Times:

"I believe we should tell the Iraqis that if they fail to reach such a solution by the timeline they have set forth, we will consider a timetable for the reduction of U.S. forces," he told the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "I use the word 'consider' because we must reserve the right to look at the facts as they exist at that time."

Levin spoke at a time of growing anxiety among congressional Democrats and Republicans about the war's course, the apparent absence of a clearly defined exit strategy and an erosion of confidence in President Bush's leadership on the issue.

Rory Carroll's account of his abduction, in the Guardian:

In agreement with my Iraqi colleagues, the plan, if cornered, was for me to leg it. With a gun at my head that was not an option. I was bundled out and thrown into a Honda. I glimpsed Omar sprawled on the ground, an AK-47 trained on him.

We sped away, the Land Cruiser leading. A man in police uniform in the front passenger seat pointed a pistol while my neighbour in the rear seat handcuffed my wrists behind my back and shoved my head into his lap. "OK, OK," he said. It was not OK.

Angling my head it was possible to see sagging powerlines, crumbling houses, sheep grazing on rubbish, traffic. I waved a foot to try to catch the attention of a trucker. It was rammed back on to the floor. The driver, stocky and stubbly, turned with a toothy grin and said "Tawhid al-Jihad". Otherwise known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaida in Iraq, the beheaders of Ken Bigley. I stopped breathing.


Ahmad Chalabi, the deputy prime minister, waited with a smile at his palm-fringed compound. Elements of Moqtada al-Sadr's movement had snatched me, ostensibly to gain leverage for friends detained by the British in Basra, he said, though some wanted to sell me to jihadists.

He said his lobbying had clinched the release. "We got you out just in time." It was over. I slumped into a seat. An aide fished a can of beer from his jacket pocket. "I think you'll be wanting this."

Great read! Glad he is OK

Juan Cole:

Rory Carroll, Baghdad correspondent of The Guardian, has been released unharmed. Yaaay! One thing this episode demonstrates is that even hard line Iraqi factions can sometimes be negotiated with, which is at least a somewhat hopeful sign.

New York Times

Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post:

New York Times executives "fully encouraged" reporter Judith Miller in her refusal to testify in the CIA leak investigation, a stance that led to her jailing, and later told Miller she could not continue at the paper unless she wrote a first-person account, her attorney said yesterday.

The comments by Robert Bennett came as Executive Editor Bill Keller accused Miller of apparently misleading the newspaper about her dealings with Vice President Cheney's top aide, signaling the first public split between Miller and the management of a newspaper that had fully embraced her in the contentious legal battle.

The Los Angeles Times' story:

Keller said it now seemed apparent that Miller had misled the newspaper's Washington bureau chief when she initially denied talking to anyone in the White House about the case. "I missed what should have been significant alarm bells," Keller wrote in the e-mail to his staff.

Harriet Miers

David G. Savage in the Los Angeles Times has a must-read on this nominee:

"That's a terrible answer. There is no proportional representation requirement under the equal protection clause," said New York University law professor Burt Neuborne, a voting rights expert. "If a first-year law student wrote that and submitted it in class, I would send it back and say it was unacceptable."

Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, also an expert on voting rights, said she was surprised the White House did not check Miers' questionnaire before sending it to the Senate.

"Are they trying to set her up? Any halfway competent junior lawyer could have checked the questionnaire and said it cannot go out like that. I find it shocking," she said.

This hearing could be contentious and divisive for the GOP (another reason to withdraw this nomination). From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 - Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican on the Judiciary Committee and a former judge, took exception on Friday to comments by Senator Arlen Specter, the committee chairman, that Harriet E. Miers, the Supreme Court nominee, needed a "crash course on constitutional law."

Mr. Cornyn, on Capitol Hill with a group of lawyers from Texas who support her confirmation, said, "I personally find that not only false but condescending and really inappropriate."


It soon becomes a Gmail PR entry, but it has one interesting anniversary:

Posted by Paul Buchheit, Gmail Engineer

It's difficult to pin down the exact origin of email, but in October 1971, an engineer named Ray Tomlinson chose the '@' symbol for email addresses and wrote software to send the first network email.


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