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Lazy Friday Mid-Morning News and Views: Happy New Year Edition

Ice sculpture, Boston Common: Michaelangelo sculpting David

Happy New Year, fellow Conflucians! I hope everyone finds a way to enjoy the first full day of 2010. I’m kind of glad the holiday season is drawing to a close. I always get a little lethargic at this time of year. I can’t believe I actually slept until 9:00 this morning! So what’s happening out there in the world, newswise?

Last night cities around the world celebrated the beginning of the second decade of the 21st Century. Here in Boston, there were ice sculptures on the Boston Common, and Fenway Park has been turned into a hockey rink. Last night the Boston Bruins had a light practice at Fenway yesterday; and if all goes well, they will play the Philly Flyers there this afternoon at 1:00.

The lead story in the news today seems to be the bombing in Afghanistan that killed eight Americans, seven of them CIA agents. The Wall Street Journal reports that the suicide bomber who penetrated several layers of security at the U.S. Compound in Khost Province may have been helped by “a CIA informant.”

On Wednesday, CIA officials had invited the attacker onto the base with the hopes of recruiting him as an informant. They used an Afghan intermediary to arrange the meeting. The attacker arrived, wearing an Afghan army uniform, officials said.

The assault shows a strategy the insurgency has increasingly employed here in recent months: using the uniforms and vehicles of the Afghan army and police to carry out attacks.

At times, militants strike with the help of sympathizers in the Afghan forces. In November, an Afghan police officer opened fire on Western forces, killing five British soldiers, and a similar incident happened in early December. Insurgent sympathizers in the police force helped plan both attacks, Afghan officials said.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack (video)

The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti reports that this bombing demonstrates the increased role of the CIA in Afghanistan.

The deaths of seven CIA operatives at a remote base in the mountains of Afghanistan is a pointed example of the civilian spy agency’s transformation in recent years into a paramilitary organization at the vanguard of America’s far-flung wars.

The CIA operatives stationed at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost Province, where Wednesday’s suicide bombing occurred, were responsible for collecting information about militant networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and plotting missions to kill the networks’ top leaders. In recent months, US officials said, CIA officers at the base had begun an aggressive campaign against a radical group run by Sirajuddin Haqqani, which has claimed responsibility for the deaths of dozens of US troops.

Even as the CIA expands its role in Afghanistan, it is also playing a greater role in quasi-military operations elsewhere, using drone aircraft to launch a steady barrage of missile strikes in Pakistan and sending more operatives to Yemen to assist local officials in their attempts to roll back Al Qaeda’s momentum in that country.

Just more evidence that the US is beginning to resemble the Roman Empire in its last days.

Charlie Savage has a piece in The New York Times about the dismissal of all charges against Blackwater guards who shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad On September 16, 2007. Judge Ricardo M. Urbina wrote in his opinion that the Justice Department had “inappropriately relied on” statements given by the men shortly after the shootings, arguing that these statements had been coerced by the State Department.

On Friday morning in Iraq, most people had not yet heard about the ruling, but some were confused as to how charges could have been dropped despite what many Iraqis regard as overwhelming evidence. So far, the reaction in Iraq has been shocked disbelief.

Ali Khalaf, a traffic police officer who was on duty in Nisour Square when the Blackwater guards opened fire and aided some of the victims afterward, was furious.

“There has been a cover-up since the very start,” he said. “What can we say? They killed people. They probably gave a bribe to get released. This is their own American court system.”

Some of the victims had been burned so badly, he said, that he and others had to use shovels to scoop their remains out of their vehicles.” I ask you, if this had happened to Americans, what would be the result? But these were Iraqis.”

Sahib Nassir’s 26-year-old son, Mehdi, a taxi driver, was shot in the back and died during the incident. He said he was stunned to hear that the charges had been dismissed because he had been preparing to testify at a the trial. “How could they release them?” he asked. “There is evidence. There are witnesses.”

{sigh…} I’m sure this will really help the Obama administration’s efforts to convince Iraqis that U.S. troops and contractors are there to help Iraqis and bring peace, freedom, and democracy to their country.

In Iran, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi warned the government in Tehran that

it will not be able to put down the reform movement by force, and says he is not afraid to become a martyr.

In a statement posted on opposition Web sites – Mousavi’s own Kaleme site and Jaras – Friday, the reformer said Iran is in the midst of a “serious crisis.”

Mousavi warned that jailing or killing opposition leaders will not calm the situation. He also called on the government to adopt a five-point plan, which includes freeing political prisoners and establishing new, transparent election laws.

Hey, we’d love to get some election reform in the the U.S. too. When will we take to the streets to demand it?

The LA Times has a story on hundreds of new laws in California: California ushers in new laws limiting trans fats, the paparazzi and more

Starting today, restaurants face strict limits on cooking with artery-clogging trans fats; people wanting plastic surgery in California must get a physical first; dairy farmers are barred from cutting cows’ tails; and the law gets tougher on mortgage fraud.

Penalties for betting in office pools are reduced, but there are new fines for watching a dogfight, engaging in human trafficking and providing minors with nitrous oxide.

And paparazzi will pay more if they break the law to get celebrity photos — a bill championed by actress Jennifer Aniston, who is sometimes pursued by groups of photographers who weave in and out of traffic and run red lights.

The Legislature also gave Californians two new official days of recognition: March 30, to show appreciation for Vietnam veterans, and May 22, to remember slain gay-rights leader Harvey Milk.

But they still won’t allow same-sex couples to get married. Odd.

The new year always brings many stories about the people who died in the year that just ended, and this year is no exception.

The Boston Globe: Recalling the many we lost: A lasting impact on history and culture hails John Updike, Ted Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Robert McNamara, Andrew Wyeth, Walter Cronkite, Frank McCourt, William Safire, Claude Levi-Strauss, and many more.

A number of celebrities died in 2009, including Michael Jackson, Farah Fawcett, Brittany Murphy, Patrick Swayze, Ed McMann, and David Carradine. One gossip site includes Tiger Woods’ career in their list of top five deaths in 2009.

OK, that’s about all I’ve got for this morning. What stories are you reading, and what are you remembering about 2009?



47 Responses

  1. Have a wonderful New Year’s day, everyone! I wish I could have seen the blue moon last night, but it was overcast here. Maybe tonight I can get a gimpse of it.

  2. There’s a great argument going on down in myiq’s post, and I missed it cuz I was struggling to find news. Why can’t I snap out of my holiday lethargy?!

  3. Good morning and happy New Year, bb.
    Thanks for the great roundups you provide.
    I hope 2010 is a great year for you.

  4. Happy New Year and New Decade!

    In memory of Frank McCourt, who died on July 19, 2009:

  5. Dec. 31 (Bloomberg) — The Mayo Clinic, praised by President Barack Obama as a national model for efficient health care, will stop accepting Medicare patients as of tomorrow at one of its primary-care clinics in Arizona, saying the U.S. government pays too little.

    More than 3,000 patients eligible for Medicare, the government’s largest health-insurance program, will be forced to pay cash if they want to continue seeing their doctors at a Mayo family clinic in Glendale, northwest of Phoenix, said Michael Yardley, a Mayo spokesman.


    Happy New Year, Boomer and TC

    • I got a Medicare surprise yesterday when they said that they will not pay for my Pap smear this year. They said that I had been advised in writing that they pay for Pap smears only every two years. That was the first I had heard of it.
      They only pay for bone density tests every two years also, even though I have bone loss.
      WTH, I might die of something they do cover.

    • Nice.

  6. Prospero Ano Nuevo a todos! Bb, I did you 1/2 better–slept till 9:30 this morning.

    On the CIA bombing–idiots. That’s the same tactic Al Qaida used to assassinate Ahmed Sheikh Massoud. You’d think there’d be a certain amount of caution about who they let into the compound.

    But I forget–this is the same agency that blew off the UndiBomber’s father. And we’re all safer just exactly how?

  7. Today’s date is 01/01/10. Cool.

  8. U.S.-led soldiers massacre civilians in Afghanistan–including handcuffing eight school children together and then shooting them.

    • The allegations of civilian casualties led to protests in Kabul and Jalalabad, with children as young as 10 chanting “Death to America” and demanding that foreign forces should leave Afghanistan at once.

      Yes, please. Let’s leave at once.

      • In my dreams, we leave the Mideast, bring home everything and everybody we have there, cut off paying them for anything, and close the doors on their coming here.

    • I believe it is ‘alleged’ and they are ‘accusing’ but there are no facts to support the allegations. I agree on getting out, but I am also aware of the way the Taliban manipulate information with the objective of motivating hate among the very poor and up their recruitment.

      • Unfortunately, there is a solid record of American atrocities–Fallujah, the rape of Amir Qasib and the murder of her family, Abu Ghraib–that make the accusations credible. Apparently the eyewitnesses are all conveniently dead.

        • The Taliban are also the nuts that execute women, just on rumors that they have shown a bit of skin or on mere gossip that they did something bad. I still want facts and I do remember all the dead women on the basis of their findings (mainly rumors). Funny how they feel they can rape the women they take into custody based on these rumors, then the women are killed or kill themselves.

          • True, but not applicable to this case, unless you’re suggeting that the schoolkids wereTaliban rapists and murderers.

            “Y does it/something just as bad too!” isn’t a credible defense of X.

    • That reminds me of what I woke up to this morning on the BBC. It wasn’t only the Blackwater dismissal, but also a story of how, in certain US prisons, female detainees are forced to give birth in handcuffs/shackles.

    • Hamid Karzai demands US hand over gunmen who killed childrenTimes Online (Free subscription) | yesterday

      President Karzai’s security chiefs have demanded that America should hand over the gunmen behind a night raid in eastern Afghanistan that government investigators and the United Nations say killed at least eight schoolchildren.

      This is not looking good… 😦

    • Afghan tensions rise amid civilian and CIA deaths – 01 Jan 010 (at the end this report says ‘NATO’ forces, not Americans)

  9. Tiger will recover from this. He’s obviously under the strict orders of his management team to keep a severely low profile. Much of his money is made overseas from endorsements of major resorts and products.

    He will suffer more in divorce court.

  10. Obama’s fall among Independents continues Economist/YouGov Poll

    Barack Obama’s approval rating at the end of 2009 marks an all-time low for him in the Economist/YouGov poll, and it is the first time more Americans disapprove than approve of the way he is handling his job. Mr Obama began his term with a 61% approval rating, while only 17% of Americans disapproved. As 2009 ends, only 45% approve of the way Mr Obama is handling his job, while 47% now disapprove.

  11. I’m remembering 2009 like this:

    • That scumbag, Nelson, previously said that he wouldn’t vote for a final bill that excluded that deal. My, my, how quickly they fall, when they are down in the polls.

      I wish the AGs would pursue the constitutionality of the mandate provision.

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