Archive for December 14th, 2006

Following up on a column in yesterday’s Washington Post by Dana Milbank, Keith Olbermann devoted item #4 of his Countdown on MSNBC last night to Tony Snow. With alarming frequency of late, Snow has been responding to many White House correspondents’ questions with a simple “I don’t know.”

Olbermann collected some of Snow’s recent “I don’t knows” and looped them together.

This summer, RAW STORY reported on the lengthy delay between Snow beginning at the White House and the issuance of the security clearance he required to sit in on important White House briefings.

An excerpt of Olbermann’s MSNBC show is provided below.
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Oil jumps after OPEC sets fresh supply cut

Cartel has agreed to cut oil output by 500,000 barrels a day, or 2 percent, but not until February.

LONDON (Reuters) — Oil prices jumped on Thursday morning on OPEC’s decision to cut oil output by 500,000 barrels a day beginning in February.
Front-month January contracts for U.S. light crude climbed $1.07 to $62.43 a barrel in electronic trading, on top of a 35-cent gain on Wednesday.

In London, Brent crude for January delivery rose $1.09 to $62.42 a barrel.
The U.S. government reported Wednesday that crude stocks fell 4.3 million barrels last week as imports declined, while the International Energy Agency said industrialized countries’ crude stocks fell 40 million barrels in October – a trend that continued last month as well.

The numbers strengthened the position of OPEC delegates who preferred to enforce the last cut before adding a new one.

“We are satisfied with the decision we took in Doha,” Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheikh Ali al-Jarrah al-Sabah told reporters, referring to OPEC’s emergency gathering in October.

Oil has fallen from a mid-July peak of $78.40 but is still historically high at triple the price at the end of 2001.

Higher Asian demand coupled with worries over supply from Iraq, Nigeria, Iran and Russia helped fuel the rally.


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China pushes back against Paulson

The U.S. is trying to press free-market goals on the world’s most populous country. But Chinese leaders have their own ideas, as Fortune’s Nina Easton reports.

Beijing (FORTUNE) — Senior U.S. officials, led by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, arrived inside the Stalinist-style Great Hall of the People Thursday morning, briefed and breakfasted and eager to offer guidance to Chinese leaders on how to become a “responsible stakeholder” in the global economy.

But Vice Premier Wu Yi had other ideas. Like an impatient schoolmistress, she opened this historic gathering with a lecture to the Americans. Her talk was one part history lesson (China’s has 5,000 years experience as a global citizen) and one part 21st century civics lesson (the goal is a “socialist harmonious society”), with no sign that her regime sees any need for major economic reform.

“We have had the genuine feeling that some American friends are not only having limited knowledge of, but harboring much misunderstanding about, the reality in China,” she began, striking a less than diplomatic note. “This is not conducive to the sound development of our bilateral relations.”

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The Associated Press is reporting that Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) is “in critical condition” after surgery. AP added that “the U.S. Capitol physician said Johnson underwent successful brain surgery for an arteriovenous malformation, a condition which causes arteries and veins to grow abnormally large.”

A late report at CBS notes the following:

Johnson underwent surgery late Wednesday. There has been no word on the nature of the surgery, which lasted past midnight, or on Johnson’s condition.Sources close to the situation, speaking before the surgery was made public, tell CBS News the situation is definitely not good.

Various news outlets initially indicated that the Senator may have suffered a mild stroke. Earlier, a call from RAW STORY to Johnson’s office was not returned, but his office did issue a statement to the press relating that Johnson was taken to George Washington Hospital for evaluation.

Concerns are rising that the Democrats’ new Senate power is at risk, should Johnson be too incapacitated to perform his duties. If he were to be forced into retirement, the US Constitution delegates the task of appointing a replacement to South Dakota lawmakers, who often turn that task over to the governor. The governor of the state, Mike Rounds, is a Republican, and both houses of the state legislature are dominated by Republicans.

However, in the case of South Dakota, the decision falls to Rounds, whose appointment would serve as senator until a special election held between 80 and 90 days after the vacancy.

A different statute, though, says that the election would take place in 2008, adding that, “The general election laws shall apply unless inconsistent with this chapter.”

It is unclear at this time which of these seemingly conflicting procedures takes precedence over the other.

A statement from Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who is slated to be Senate Majority Leader in the 110th Congress, reads, “Senator Johnson is a dear friend to me and to all of us here in the Senate. Every member of the United States Senate sends our best to him and to his family at this difficult time, and we wish him a full recovery.”

Johnson will turn 60 on December 29.

GOP Rep. Mike Castle, Delaware’s lone House representative, suffered two minor strokes during the 2006 election season, but recovered sufficiently to retain his office. Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) has been diagnosed with leukemia, but continues to work.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story indicated that the governor’s appointed replacement would serve until the 2008 election. That information, reported by other news agencies as well, can not be verified. RAW STORY regrets the error.


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An item in today’s edition of the Evans-Novak Political Report today claims that Karl Rove, known to some as “Bush’s Brain,” will not continue participating in national politics beyond his tenure inside the current White House.

The report indicates that much of the national media overlooked the White House political strategist’s appearance at a recent Washington, DC, speaking engagement. At the event, he apparently told the audience he was a “former political consultant” and would stay out of the game of politics. The Evans-Novak report read this statement as news of Rove’s retirement, and that he will not return to political consulting once he leaves the White House.

The report offers no answer to the question of whether Rove will leave the White House prior to the end of President George W. Bush’s presidency at the beginning of 2009.

The full item can be accessed at the website of Human Events, which hosts the Evans-Novak Political Report.


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Police: Gunmen kidnap dozens in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Gunmen in military uniforms kidnapped dozens of people Thursday from a major commercial area in central Baghdad, the second mass abduction in the capital in a month.

The attackers drove up to the busy al-Sanak area in about 10 sport utility vehicles and began rounding up shop owners and bystanders. Two police officers said 50 to 70 people were abducted.

The al-Sanak area — one of the capital’s main commercial districts — holds stores selling auto spare parts, agricultural equipment and the small power generators that are ubiquitous in Baghdad due to severe power shortages.

The stores are owned by a mix of Shiites, Sunnis and others and it was not immediately clear why the area was targeted. But suspicion fell on militias, which are believed to have infiltrated police forces and have killed hundreds in sectarian violence, personal vendettas and kidnappings for ransom.

After victims in previous mass kidnappings were rounded up, the culprits those belonging to one or the other Islamic sect.

Mohammed Qassim Jassim, a 37-year-old owner of a clothes store in the area, said the attack started about 11 a.m.

“We heard cars and shootings in the area and then we saw gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms and driving SUVs who were snatching people from the shops and street. It took like 20 minutes for them to fan out and control the area.”

Iraqi security forces sealed off the area and were interviewing witnesses, while panicked store owners closed their shops and fled the area.

A spokesman for the Defense Ministry, which oversees the army, said the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, is in charge of the area, but stressed the difficulties in controlling the distribution of uniforms.

“Anyone can buy military or police uniforms from the market although we have issued orders to confiscate these uniforms and punish the owners,” spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said. “This issue (uniforms) can’t be controlled as each soldier has more than one uniform.”

AP Television News footage showed boarded and locked store fronts with the blue dome of a Shiite mosque in the background. Few people were on the street of what is usually a bustling area.

Meanwhile, officers were on high alert Thursday after receiving tips that militants were moving bombs into the Shiite Sadr City slum.

A car bomb killed two policemen who were trying to defuse it in Sadr City Wednesday night.

Four civilians were wounded in the blast at 11:30 p.m. on al-Fallah St. in the sprawling district in eastern Baghdad, police Capt. Mohammed Ismail said. He said explosives experts successfully defused a second car bomb in the same area.

Another police officer said authorities had stepped up security in Sadr City after receiving tips that 10 car bombs had entered the area and militants were trying to smuggle more in.

The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said the number of police patrols and checkpoints had been increased and police were intensifying searches of cars entering the district.

The Interior Ministry confirmed that it had received tips about car bombs aimed at Sadr City from people calling into a terror hot line.

Sadr City, which houses some 2.5 million people, is a stronghold of the Mahdi Army, a militia that is loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and has been blamed in some of the country’s worst sectarian violence.

Elsewhere in the capital Thursday, gunmen stormed a boys’ school in the southwestern Alam neighborhood, killing a Shiite guard, police said.

Two mortar shells also landed on a rural area on the edge of the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Dora in southern Baghdad, wounding three people and causing a huge fire, police said.

The capital has seen a series of attacks since a Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra set off a cycle of retaliatory violence between the majority sect and disaffected Sunnis, who were dominant under Saddam Hussein but lost power with his ouster.

On Nov. 14, suspected Shiite militiamen in Interior Ministry commando uniforms abducted scores of men from an office that handles academic grants and exchanges for the Higher Education, which is predominantly Sunni Arab. Several of those kidnap victims apparently were later released, although there were conflicting accounts about how many people were involved.

Many victims of other past kidnappings have been found among the dozens of bullet-riddled bodies that turn up daily on the streets of Baghdad, often bearings the signs of torture.


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