You can see more of Thierry's fine work at: www.astrophoto.fr/
Monday, May 18, 2009
You can see more of Thierry's fine work at: www.astrophoto.fr/
Gulf News catches up with him on his trip to Dubai for the Arab Media Forum to ask about those revelations as well as issues concerning Barack Obama, Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Egypt.
GULF NEWS: You have spoken about an assassination unit that reported to Cheney called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). There have been allegations that this unit was responsible for former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri's assassination.
SEYMOUR HERSH: I can't verify [that]. What I said was, and what I have written more than once, is that there's a special unit that does high-value targeting of men that we believe are known to be involved in anti-American activities, or are believed to be planning such activities.
In Cheney's view this isn't murder, but carrying out the "war on terror". And in the view of me and my friends, including people in government, this is crazy. The vice president is committing a crime. You can't authorise the murder of people. And it's not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's in a lot of other countries, in the Middle East and in South Asia and North Africa and even central America.
In the early days, many of the names were cleared through Cheney's office. One of his aides, John Hanna, went on TV and acknowledged that the programme exists, and said killing these people is not murder but an act of war that is justified legally.
The former head of JSOC has just been named the new commander in charge of the war in Afghanistan, which is very interesting to me.
About Hariri, what I've always maintained - I was in the position of seeing and interviewing President Bashar Al Assad on the day Hariri was killed in February 2005 - it seemed clear to me that he knew nothing about it. But I never wrote anything about it, even the fact that I was there, because I had no empirical or factual basis for knowing whether he was involved or not, and I never did. And I decided to wait for the investigations and they have come up with no concrete evidence that Syria did it. Despite the fact that one of the earlier investigators speculated that he did, he didn't know.
Could JSOC have been responsible?
No. Hariri, America. No. Impossible. There was no reason. JSOC's responsibility was to go after what they call high-value targets.
Can you name the Middle East countries they operated in?
No. I can't, so I've said that there were 12 countries and I think there's many more, but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to make good guesses. I certainly know they've operated in Iraq and Afghanistan. They've talked about that. The point is that the men doing their jobs often don't like what they're doing. They're professionals and are very skilled at what they do. Some are Navy Seals who have been trained to do underwater stuff. What are they doing running around mountain ranges hurting people?
I don't fault the men but the leadership, the president who thinks that "war on terror" means he can call for anyone's death based on what I think is often fraudulent evidence. This is painful for me in a way because I get a lot of people in the military who are very angry at me for doing this. But that's my job.
How closely is the new US administration looking at your revelations.
Publicly they don't say anything at all. It's obvious I have credibility because I've written things that have turned out right. My colleagues at the press corps often don't follow up, not because they don't want to but because they don't know who to call. If I'm writing something on the Joint Special Operations Command, which is an ostensibly classified unit, how do they find it out? The government will tell them everything I write is wrong or that they can't comment. It's easy for those stories to be dismissed. I do think the relationship with JSOC is changing under Obama. It's more under control now.
By Jeff Kunerth
As sure as the True Believers are they will escape this earth when the Rapture arrives, Witter is just as certain he will be left behind to deliver their mail. He has committed blasphemy to make sure.
"Anyway you look at it, I'm screwed. It's too late for me," said Witter, a 24-year-old computer software engineer who wears long sideburns and hip black-framed glasses.
Witter started his website -- postrapturepost.com -- as a joke, a satiric jab at those who see things like the swine flu, economic collapse and the election of a liberal president as sure signs the end is near.
But then he started receiving orders for his merchandise. Since 2005, Witter said he has sold more than 200 items, most of them T-shirts and coffee mugs, and many of those (he admits) to friends and fellow atheists.
Among the best sellers are the line of I-Told-You-So cards, which sell for $8. Some of those who ordered the cards -- Witter suspects they are not true Christians -- are willing to pay extra to have them sent early as Christmas cards.
Witter doesn't have a stack of cards or letters with Post-Rapture messages in a dresser drawer or safety deposit box. All the messages are stored in his computers, encrypted to protect their privacy and backed up by a fail-safe system. His website might be all in jest, but when it comes to his paying customers, Witter is a responsible entrepreneur. He doesn't share the contents of the messages with his friends over beers or mock those who take this whole end-of-the-world business more seriously than he does.
He concedes that delivering on his promise to hand-deliver the cards and letters entrusted to him may be difficult. Witter has read all the books of the popular "Left Behind" series, so he knows what to expect. Covered with boils, he will have to fight his way through perpetual darkness, clouds of insects, and meteors falling from the sky to deliver the mail.
"Your hope lies with me. I am your mailman," he vows. "I'll do my best come Hell or high water to deliver those letters."
Many of the foods we love were named for their creator or for the inspiration of the recipe. So many foods and recipes we take for granted and don't even realize have a namesake. Here are ten foods that owe their name and fame to one person's name. Feel free to mention any others you can think of in the comments.
Helen Porter Mitchell (1861-1931) began her opera career and became a famous singer under the stage name Nellie Melba. While staying at the Savoy Hotel in London in 1897, Auguste Escoffier invented Melba Toast in her honor (this is very thinly sliced and toasted bread which is served usually with soups). A great fan of Melba, Escoffier had invented Peach Melba for her four years earlier (1893). It was during this period of time working at the Savoy, that Escoffier and César Ritz met. Just one year later the two would team up to create the first Ritz Hotel.
Crêpes Suzette (thin pancakes covered with orange liqueur and sometimes set alight) were invented by the famous French chef Auguste Escoffier in honor of the renowned French actress (and Baroness) Suzanne Reichenberg (1853-1924). While this is the most likely origin of the dish (as Escoffier almost single-handedly invented modern French cuisine), other stories claim it was invented by a 15 year old assistant chef serving Queen Victoria's son. This is most unlikely as an assistant chef would not have been given the chance to cook for royalty.
The Salisbury Steak was created by James Salisbury in 1886 as a treatment for many afflictions such as gout, bronchitis and tuberculosis. He believed that well-done ground beef should be eaten three times a day and a glass of hot water be taken before and after each meal. While the medicinal properties can certainly be argued, the fame of this food cannot. During the World Wars, many Americans petitioned for the hamburger to be renamed Salisbury Steak, but efforts ultimately failed.
New York socialite Lemuel Benedict returned to his hotel, the Waldorf-Astoria, after a long night of drinking and asked the maitre d'hotel for a specific hangover remedy. His request included a piece of toast, a poached egg, bacon and hollandaise sauce. He received his order but an English muffin was substituted for toast and ham for bacon and Eggs Benedict was born. The jury is still out on its ability to cure a hangover.
Robert Cobb was the owner of the famous Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood. One lonely night in 1936 he created the Cobb Salad out of necessity. That evening all the employees and guests had gone home and he needed to provide dinner to Sid Grauman of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, so he made a quick salad out of leftovers from the refrigerator. He was so pleased with his results that he added it to the menu.
Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld has always answered his detractors by claiming that history will one day judge him kindly. But as he waits for that day, a new group of critics—his administration peers—are suddenly speaking out for the first time. What they're saying? It isn't pretty
By Robert Draper
on the morning of Thursday, April 10, 2003, Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon prepared a top-secret briefing for George W. Bush. This document, known as the Worldwide Intelligence Update, was a daily digest of critical military intelligence so classified that it circulated among only a handful of Pentagon leaders and the president; Rumsfeld himself often delivered it, by hand, to the White House. The briefing's cover sheet generally featured triumphant, color images from the previous days' war efforts: On this particular morning, it showed the statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down in Firdos Square, a grateful Iraqi child kissing an American soldier, and jubilant crowds thronging the streets of newly liberated Baghdad. And above these images, and just below the headline secretary of defense, was a quote that may have raised some eyebrows. It came from the Bible, from the book of Psalms: "Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him…To deliver their soul from death."
This mixing of Crusades-like messaging with war imagery, which until now has not been revealed, had become routine. On March 31, a U.S. tank roared through the desert beneath a quote from Ephesians: "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." On April 7, Saddam Hussein struck a dictatorial pose, under this passage from the First Epistle of Peter: "It is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men."
(To see Bush-administration intelligence cover sheets, visit GQ.com's exclusive slideshow).
These cover sheets were the brainchild of Major General Glen Shaffer, a director for intelligence serving both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense. In the days before the Iraq war, Shaffer's staff had created humorous covers in an attempt to alleviate the stress of preparing for battle. Then, as the body counting began, Shaffer, a Christian, deemed the biblical passages more suitable. Several others in the Pentagon disagreed. At least one Muslim analyst in the building had been greatly offended; others privately worried that if these covers were leaked during a war conducted in an Islamic nation, the fallout—as one Pentagon staffer would later say—"would be as bad as Abu Ghraib."
But the Pentagon's top officials were apparently unconcerned about the effect such a disclosure might have on the conduct of the war or on Bush's public standing. When colleagues complained to Shaffer that including a religious message with an intelligence briefing seemed inappropriate, Shaffer politely informed them that the practice would continue, because "my seniors"—JCS chairman Richard Myers, Rumsfeld, and the commander in chief himself—appreciated the cover pages.
But one government official was disturbed enough by these biblically seasoned sheets to hold on to copies, which I obtained recently while debriefing the past eight years with those who lived them inside the West Wing and the Pentagon. Over the past several months, the battle to define the Bush years has begun taking shape: As President Obama has rolled back his predecessor's foreign and economic policies, Dick Cheney, Ari Fleischer, and former speechwriters Michael Gerson and Marc Thiessen have all taken to the airwaves or op-ed pages to cast the Bush years in a softer light. My conversations with more than a dozen Bush loyalists, including several former cabinet-level officials and senior military commanders, have revealed another element of this legacy-building moment: intense feelings of ill will toward Donald Rumsfeld. Though few of these individuals would speak for the record (knowing that their former boss, George W. Bush, would not approve of it), they believe that Rumsfeld's actions epitomized the very traits—arrogance, stubbornness, obliviousness, ineptitude—that critics say drove the Bush presidency off the rails.
by Ron Moore
In his weekly WorldNetDaily column Pat Boon begins and ends an open letter to President Obama with a positive and one hopes sincere pledge to pray for him. Then the column devolves into an odd defense of torture claiming that:
Jesse Ventura: You Give Me a Water Board, Dick Cheney and One Hour, and I'll Have Him Confess to the Sharon Tate Murders
On Larry King Live Jesse Ventura takes on the Bush administration chickenhawks and Rush Limbaugh, and defends Colin Powell. After being waterboarded himself in the SERE program, Ventura makes no bones about it. Waterboarding is torture. I'd like to see Hannity have Ventura on his show to debate the issue.
King's reaction to Ventura's straight talk on how terrible of a President W was is amusing. He's shocked...just shocked I tell you, that anyone would talk so badly about our former President.
KING: Joining us now, Jesse Ventura, former wrestler, former governor of Minnesota, former Navy SEAL, the author of "Don't Start The Revolution Without Me." That book is now out in paper back. Welcome to have you back, Jesse. There you see the cover of the book. How's Obama doing?
JESSE VENTURA, FMR. GOV. OF MINNESOTA: Too early to tell, Larry, really. In my opinion, George Bush is the worst president in my lifetime.
KING: Have an opinion, will you?
VENTURA: I will. I will. And he's the worst president in my lifetime. So Barack Obama, President Obama inherited something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. You know? Two wars, an economy that's borderline depression. So it's far too early to judge him 100 days in. I think if you have me back about two years from now, I can give you a much better of how he's doing.
KING: He poked fun at himself at the White House correspondents' dinner Saturday night. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Finally, I believe that my next 100 days will be so successful I'll be able to complete them in 72 days. And on the 73rd day, I will rest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He's very likable.
VENTURA: Oh, yes.
VENTURA: Very intelligent, which is a change from our previous president.
KING: All right already with Bush.
VENTURA: No, I live in Mexico now, Larry. So I do a lot of reading. I don't watch much TV. This year's reading, I covered Bush's life. I covered Guantanamo and a few other subjects. And I'm very disturbed about it.
I'm bothered over Guantanamo because it seems we have created our own Hanoi Hilton. We can live with that? I have a problem. I will criticize President Obama on this level; it's a good thing I'm not president because I would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture. I would prosecute the people that did it. I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law.
KING: You were a Navy SEAL.
VENTURA: That's right. I was water boarded, so I know -- at SERE School, Survival Escape Resistance Evasion. It was a required school you had to go to prior to going into the combat zone, which in my era was Vietnam. All of us had to go there. We were all, in essence -- every one of us was water boarded. It is torture.
KING: What was it like?
VENTURA: It's drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you -- I'll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.
KING: Even though you know it's not going to happen -- even though before it, you know you're not going to drown.
VENTURA: You don't know it. If it's -- if it's done wrong, you certainly could drown. You could swallow your tongue. You could do a whole bunch of stuff. If it's it done wrong or -- it's torture, Larry. It's torture.
KING: A lot of things to go into, Jesse. What do you make of the Cheney/Limbaugh --
VENTURA: I don't have a lot of respect for Dick Cheney. Here's a guy who got five deferments from the Vietnam War. Clearly, he's a coward. He wouldn't go when it was his time to go. And now he is a chicken hawk. Now he is this big tough guy who wants this hardcore policy. And he's the guy that sanctioned all this torture by calling it enhanced interrogation.
Hired by the Center for Bioethical Reform, the "abortion plane" plane trails a banner with a picture of a dead fetus and the words, "10 Week Abortion." The group's other banner reads, "Abortion is terror." How crazy is this? So crazy that even David Brody, Christian Broadcasting Network commentator, thinks it's a terrible idea:
Surely, there has GOT to be a better way of communicating the pro-life message. Is abortion a nasty thing? Yes. But if you're trying to win people to your side of the argument these tactics don't seem very helpful to the cause.
But "reasonable" doesn't seem to be in the CBR wheelhouse. Wonkette recently posted a letter sent to a student who dared to complain about the abortion plane, being understably weary of seeing pro-life messages advertised on campus like they were, you know, Captain Morgan's Rum. The response letter the student received is a jaw-dropper. You can read the whole hot mess here, but we'll quote the money line:
The sewers of South Bend are literally running red with the blood of Notre Dame's children. We are going to figuratively pry open the manhole covers and force the entire university community to smell the stench of death. … Every time they look at that diploma, framed on their wall, we want them to see a dead baby.
...OK, then. Have a blessed day!
It's impossible to say to yourself how did we get there? Who are we? Who are these people that sent us there?
- Seymour Hersh
Dick Cheney has been doing a lot of talking lately. From his most recent barrage of public statements, we have gleaned that he loves Rush Limbaugh, doesn't much care for Colin Powell, believes President Obama is about to sell the Sixth Fleet to the Taliban for pennies on the dollar and thinks torture is a nifty and effective tool that saves lives and defends freedom. Really, this isn't anything we haven't heard before from our growly, snarly, face-blasting former vice president. But it does beg the question: What the hell is he up to? NPR's Ron Elving posited the question in a Wednesday article titled "What is Dick Cheney Trying to Accomplish?"
"The man whom many consider the most powerful veep in history had already been far more vocal and visible than most of his predecessors in retirement," wrote Elving. "This week in particular, the former No. 2 has been out there almost daily, doing talk shows and giving a formal address to the American Enterprise Institute on the importance of interrogation techniques widely considered to be torture. Along the way, he is also unburdening himself of opinions on everything else, from tax policy to the fate of the GOP to the choice of a commanding general in Afghanistan. Once known for his reticence and low profile, the man from Wyoming is suddenly his party's most prominent national figure and audible voice. He is having his catharsis, and having it abundantly."
As for his motives, Elving states his belief that Cheney's sudden whirlwind tour of every television, radio and newspaper in America has a three-pronged purpose: 1) He is a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool, neocon, true believer, who insists on defending the use of torture because he believes it actually works; 2) He is defending the legacy of the administration he basically ran single-handedly for eight years; and 3) He is now liberated from the constraints of White House PR concerns and can speak as freely as he likes.
Mr. Cheney is not the only one who has been out in the public eye defending the practices of the former administration. His daughter, Liz Cheney, went off like an old barrel of TNT on the cable news shows, going so far as to invoke 9/11 (like father, like daughter) and accuse Obama of supporting terrorism for even considering the release of photographic evidence of the American use of torture against detainees. "I have heard from families of service members, from families of 9/11 victims," she said, "when did it become so fashionable for us to side with the terrorists?"
The Cheney clan is not known for their restraint when it comes to launching a verbal carpet-bombing campaign, but even for them, this is flame-thrower language. Ron Elving's explanation is almost certainly accurate, but only to a point. His analysis leaves off the one central and defining motive behind Cheney's thunderous defense of himself and the activities of his administration.
He was scared, I think.
He was scared the real stuff is going to come out.
He was scared of the universal damnation that will come down upon him if the truth comes out.
Finally, I believe he was scared of going to prison.
Zachary Boyd fights the Taliban in 'I love NY' boxer shorts after forgetting his combat trousers
The world's best-equipped army has revealed one of the more closely guarded and, one must hope, private items in its armoury – pink underpants.
Scrambling to raise himself from sleep during a Taliban attack high in the Afghan hills, Zachary Boyd, a soldier with the First Brigade, grabbed his automatic gun, helmet and bulletproof jacket.
But in his haste he left behind his combat trousers – showing to the world that below the belt he was fighting in nothing more protective than "I love NY" boxer shorts.
Boyd, pictured looking through the sights of his automatic rifle, also has a red T-shirt peeking out from under his flakjacket, and sandals. Alongside him is a colleague in trainers who at least had the apparent foresight to sleep in an appropriately coloured T-shirt.
An embedded war photographer, David Guttenfelder, took the image in the hills above the Korengal Valley, Kunar, four days ago. Thanks to the power of the internet and front-page exposure in the New York Times, it is fast threatening to become an icon of conflict photography.
It seems like we've heard this story before.
Four U.S. contractors affiliated with the company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide fired on an approaching civilian vehicle in Kabul earlier this month, wounding at least two Afghan civilians, according to the company and the U.S. military.
The off-duty contractors were involved in a car accident around 9 p.m. on May 5 and fired on the approaching vehicle they believed to be a threat, according to the U.S. military. At least some of the men, who were former military personnel, had been drinking alcohol that evening, according to a person familiar with the incident. Off-duty contractors aren't supposed to carry weapons or drink alcohol.
The incident occurred as the U.S. is facing rising outrage from Afghan leaders over civilian casualties from U.S. air strikes. For Xe, which is the name Blackwater chose earlier this year to distance itself from its controversial security work in Iraq, the shooting comes as the Obama administration and Defense Secretary Robert Gates reconsider the role of military contractors, a practice that boomed during the Bush administration.
Anne Tyrrell, a spokeswoman for Xe, the parent company of Paravant, said the company was aware of the incident in Afghanistan involving the four contractors, but was unable to provide specific details for legal reasons.
She said Xe is also conducting its own investigation.
Tyrrell said Xe has terminated the contracts with the four involved for failure to follow standards and regulations set by Xe and all four have been instructed by Xe not to leave the country without the permission of the Department of Defense, Tyrrell said.
-- Stephen C. Webster
We're getting close — so close you can almost smell the stench of the rottenness. To be honest, I had pretty much given up hope for any sort of real justice in response to Bush Administration torture. Sure, a lot of dust was being kicked up, a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth: but actual substantive justice — a judge, a jury an accounting for the crimes committed? It just didn't seem to be in the cards.
It didn't seem to be in the cards that is until, just maybe, right now.
What's changed? Perhaps everything. And, if so, that change has come in two parts.
Part one: The GOP screwed up. They pushed too hard, particularly in their attacks on Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress. Their calculation, of course, was that by accusing the Democratic congressional leadership of complicity in torture, they would scare off the Democrats. Who can blame them? When have the Democrats ever shown any backbone before? But this time it backfired. Instead of quaking in fear, Pelosi and other Democrats struck back — accusing the CIA and the Bush Administration of lying to them.
This left the Republicans in Congress in the soup. They have become so habituated to attack politics that they're utterly incapable of remaining silent — even when silence is their only possible friend. So, instead, they're striking back themselves, defending Bush and the CIA. But by doing so they are now unwittingly (or is it dimwittingly?) playing right into the hands of those of us demanding investigations. By jumping squarely into the scrap, accusing the Democrats of deceit, thus raising whole new issues that need to be investigated, they make it much more likely that congressional investigations into torture will actually occur and that they will be vigorously pursued.
And based upon what we're learning now, the results of any such investigations are likely to be explosive to the degree of a supernova.
Part two: At the same time all this is happening, an already massive, but still evolving, body of evidence strongly suggests that we're on the verge of uncovering the Rosetta stone to Bush era torture: the code to understanding everything that's happened. The explanation, at long last, for why senior Bush Administration officials were so insistent on pursuing "enhanced interrogation techniques," even in the face of the nearly unanimous opposition of intelligence professionals. The answer too to why they would push so hard for torture's use when all of history had proven that any information extracted in that fashion would be inherently unreliable. And here also, finally, is an arguably rational, though monstrously evil, motive to explain why Cheney was so insistent on torturing even suspects who were already cooperating in interrogations.
What this growing body of evidence indicates — the Rosetta stone that finally makes everything make sense — is that producing reliable intelligence was never the actual goal of the torture anyway. The Bush Administration's true goal was something else altogether — to produce coerced confessions "establishing" a false link between al-Qaeda and Iraq.