Sunday, November 30, 2008

WHILE WE MOURN the horrific carnage in Mumbai, it's easy not to notice things like this, but they happen:
Mobs have burned homes, churches and mosques, and the death toll rose to more than 300 in a second day of sectarian violence in Africa's most populous nation.

Sheikh Khalid Abubakar, the imam at the Jos, Nigeria's main mosque, said more than 300 bodies were brought there Saturday, and 183 more could be seen near the building waiting to be interred.

Those killed in the Christian community would not likely be taken to the city mosque, raising the possibility that the total death toll could be much higher. The city morgue wasn't immediately accessible Saturday.

Police spokesman Bala Kassim said there were "many dead," but couldn't cite a firm number.

Fighting began Friday between supporters of the region's two main political parties following the first local election in the town of Jos in more than a decade. The violence expanded along ethnic and religious lines, with Hausa Muslims and members of Christian ethnic groups doing battle.

MUMBAI TERROR, DAY 5 -- THE AFTERMATH: A few updates on the latest developments overnight (see yesterday's coverage here):

2:52 am EST: Captured terrorist speaks (Daily Mail):
The only terrorist captured alive after the Mumbai massacre has given police the first full account of the extraordinary events that led to it – revealing he was ordered to ‘kill until the last breath’.

Azam Amir Kasab, 21, from Pakistan, said the attacks were meticulously planned six months ago and were intended to kill 5,000 people.

He revealed that the ten terrorists, who were highly trained in marine assault and crept into the city by boat, had planned to blow up the Taj Mahal Palace hotel after first executing British and American tourists and then taking hostages.

Mercifully, the group, armed with plastic explosives, underestimated the strength of the 105-year-old building’s solid foundations. . . . 

Once inside Nair Hospital, Kasab, who suffered only minor injuries, told medical staff: ‘I do not want to die. Please put me on saline.’
3:33 am EST: India's Home minister resigns (NDTV):
Home Minister Shivraj Patil has resigned owning moral responsibility for the Mumbai attacks that left almost 200 people dead and the entire nation angry over the latter part of this week.

Patil sent his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday.
3:37 am EST: Taj Mahal hotel owner -- 'We had warning' (CNN)
The Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, India, temporarily increased security after being warned of a possible terrorist attack, the chairman of the company that owns the hotel said Saturday.

But Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata said those measures, which were eased shortly before this week's terror attacks, could not have prevented gunmen from entering the hotel.

"If I look at what we had ... it could not have stopped what took place," Tata said in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria that will air Sunday.

"It's ironic that we did have such a warning, and we did have some measures," Tata said, without elaborating on the warning or when security measures were enacted. "People couldn't park their cars in the portico, where you had to go through a metal detector."

However, Tata said the attackers did not enter through the entrance that has a metal detector. Instead, they came in a back entrance, he said.
3:41 am EST: Mumbai local helped terrorists (Times of India):
Azam Amir Kasab, the only Pakistani terrorist nabbed alive, has revealed names and addresses of at least five people from the city who helped the terror operation.

Sources said that help like, providing shelter, taking them around and showing places, passing information on police stations and
nakabandhis were given by these locals.
3:50 am EST: Death toll could soar to 300 (Telegraph):
The official death toll stood last night at 195, but authorities acknowledge that scores of bodies have not been included in the total. At least 22 of the dead are not Indian nationals, including a Briton, five US citizens and six Israelis. At least 295 people have been injured. Of those, 23 are foreigners, including several Britons.

A final death toll will not emerge until the end of operations to ensure the hotel rooms and corridors are cleared of booby traps. However, S Jadhav, from Mumbai's disaster management unit, predicted the figure would approach 300. 
3:59 am EST: India fury at Pakistan growing (Guardian):
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated last night after it was claimed that the only terrorist to have survived three days of deadly battles in Mumbai was from Pakistan, and that his nine fellow Islamist militants were either from that country or had been trained there.

The claims about responsibility for the attack, in which almost 200 people were killed, came from leaked police accounts that gave details of the interrogation of Azam Amir Kasab, 21, said to have been the man pictured at Mumbai's main train station carrying an assault rifle and grenades.

According to the reports, which could not be independently verified, Kasab said that the operation was the responsibility of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a jihadist group based in Pakistan, and its aim was to 'kill as many as possible' in what was intended to be India's 9/11.
4:07 am EST: Anger at politicians (Reuters):
Indians blazed criticism against their political leaders on Sunday after the attacks in Mumbai which killed almost 200 people, saying their bickering and ineptness was at least partly responsible.

As commandos gunned down the last of the militants, TV channels were divided between covering the operations and an outpouring of venom against both the ruling Congress party-led coalition and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
4.38 am EST: The Headline of the Day Award goes to: "Forget who came by boat, worry on who came by vote" (Commodity Online)

6:01 am EST: Won't keep down (Times UK)
Leopold Café, the Bombay landmark beloved of locals and backpackers alike, reopened this morning in a gesture of defiance to the suspected Pakistani militants who attacked this and nine other sites around the city last week.
8:17 am EST: Pakistan denies, tension not abated (Sky News):
Pakistan has "categorically denied" any involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks . . . . India has said it has proof of Pakistani links to the bloodshed, and claims the sole survivor of the gunmen - Mohammad Ajmal Qasam - is from the country.

But Wajid Hasan, Pakistan's high commissioner to London, told Sky News it was a "very confusing situation" and stressed it was important not to get involved in the "blame game".

Asked whether Pakistan feared the Indian reaction to the massacre, he said "we have got to get ready and prepare for any eventuality" and his country would not "take it lying down".

Pakistan has warned it would move troops to the Indian border if tensions rose between the nuclear-armed rivals.

An official in Islamabad said the next one to two days would be crucial for their relations.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

HOW GOOD it is to have the name "Obama:"
Nicanor Obama began to realize he might be on to a good thing when he didn't get a speeding ticket not long ago. After stopping the 28-year-old for a little lead-footing near the Verizon Center, a District police officer looked at his driver's license and put the citation book away.

"He said, 'Well, I'm going to let you go because you have the Obama name' " is how the Arlington County resident recalled the encounter.

Since Election Day, his moniker has sparked goodwill, from nightclub freebies to hearty handshakes from fellow students at the University of the District of Columbia, where he studies political science. "I'm not related to the president, but I think Obama is a good name to have right now."

MORE PROGRESS in Iraq: an Iraqi journalist with the NYT's Baghdad bureau writes,
I was the only Shiite praying among dozens of Sunnis who attended
Friday prayers at Umm al-Qura mosque. It was something I wouldn’t have
dared to do a couple of years ago or less; not even in my dreams.

Keep reading.

SCATALONIA: "Some of the world's most curious Christmas traditions can be found in Catalonia, where the idea of holiday cheer seems to involve some of life's more basic bodily functions."
Here are two factoids that one wouldn't necessarily expect to find in the same Wikipedia entry: "the infant Jesus is God in human form" and "everyone defecates."

But if you navigate to the entry attempting an explanation of the fecal-centric Catalonian tradition known as
el caganer, that is exactly what you'll find. Indeed, the tradition is a much-loved element of the Christmas celebration in Catalonia, despite its somewhat obscure beginnings.
An amusing piece at Der Spiegel on one of the most particular trait of how us Catalans celebrate Christmas: it's so familiar to me, seeing it since I was a kid, that sometimes you don't realize how weird it is until you read stories like this.

The caganer is a must-have in Nativity scenes at many people's homes, which are still being done, especially in homes with children. And the caganer follows the times, so every year there's popular people depicted at that 'private moment'. For example, this year there's an Obama:

No, unlike this one, this is not offensive; look at the gallery and you'll see that everybody is depicted...

COMMUNIST theorist Antonio Gramsci converted to Catholicism in his deathbed...

THIS is the perfect gift for himbos, Helen: mantyhose!

MUMBAI TERROR, DAY 4: All major operations are basically over, with terror targets under control, according to local authorities [see previous day coverage]. We'll be following the developments overnight...

3:02 am EST: Siege at Taj Mahal hotel over, officials say (BBC):
Police commissioner Hassan Gafoor said the hotel was now under their control. "All combat operations are over. All the terrorists have been killed."
3:34 am EST: Police going in (NYT):
Soldiers were still combing the hotel, going room to room in search of remaining gunmen, but the siege appeared finally to have ended, J. K. Dutt, director general of the National Security Guard, an elite commando force, said in the news conference at 9 a.m. Firefighters were permitted to begin pouring water over the flames that had burned out of control in the hotel’s lower floors for as much as an hour while the commandos battled the terrorists.

3:51 am EST: Death toll rises to 195 dead, 295 wounded -- for now (FNC):
Shantaram Jadhav, an official at Mumbai's disaster control office, says 195 people have been killed and 295 wounded. Jadhav says "the death toll is likely to rise because there are still bodies in our vans that are being brought into hospitals."
4:01 am EST: Internal structure of some floors of the Taj Mahal in danger (NDTV):
The sixth floor of the hotel is completely gutted in fire and can't be reached. So, the commandos are finding it pretty hard to sanitise the floor.

However, all four terrorists inside the hotels have been killed and no one was caught alive, sources said.

Two of the hotel staffers have also been rescued and the security forces are now destroying ammunition in the hotel.

Meanwhile, Karmabir, the general manager of Taj who lost his wife and children, is still at work.

The sources also said that the internal structure around the fourth and the sixth floor of the Taj may be in danger, sources added.

Earlier, describing Saturday's operation, NSG chief J K Dutt said that a fire had been started in the hotel by NSG commandos to smoke out terrorists. However, the mopping up operation still on.
4:11 am EST: Heroes -- Lowly hotel staff saved hundreds of wealthy guests, sacrificing own lives (Times UK):
Among the workers there were some whose bravery and sense of duty led them to sacrifice their own lives, witnesses said.

Prashant Mangeshikar, a guest, said that a hotel worker, identified only as Mr Rajan, had put himself between one of the gunmen and Mr Mangeshikar, his wife and two daughters.

“The man in front of my wife shielded us,” Mr Mangeshikar said. “He was a maintenance section staff member. He took the bullets.”

4:19 am EST: Pakistan foreign minister cuts short India visit (Times of India):

Distressed over widespread charges of involvement of Pakistan in the Mumbai terror attacks, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi cut short his four-day visit to India and abruptly left for Islamabad on Saturday morning. . . .
Qureshi, who started his visit to India Wednesday on a positive note, was "quite upset" about what he saw as India's "insinuations" pointing to the involvement of Pakistan-based terrorists in audacious terror strikes at in Mumbai.
4:29 am EST: Up to 7 terrorists were British (Daily Mail UK):
As many as seven of the terrorists may have British connections and some could be from Leeds and Bradford where London's July 7 bombers lived, one source said.

Two Britons were among eight gunmen being held, according to Mumbai's chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. At least nine others are reportedly dead.
4:36 am EST: Killers were well prepared (WaPo):
Indian intelligence officials said the gunmen who launched the coordinated attacks appeared well trained and well prepared. The assailants seemed familiar with the layouts of the two hotels and the Jewish center, giving them a tactical advantage over the police and Indian army troops sent in to dislodge them.

"This is a big-scale operation, but it is not beyond the capability of Lashkar-i-Taiba," said the intelligence officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the nature of his work. "The person we have caught is a foot soldier; he is from Pakistan's Punjab," the officer said, referring to a region divided by the India-Pakistan border.

"He has clearly said he is with Lashkar and that he was trained," the officer said. "They came via a ship. They hijacked a boat called Kuber, shot the man in charge on the boat. They were carrying a CD with the photographs of all the targets of the site, details. It is clear that they were determined to target India's iconic locations and deter foreign investment."
4:41 am EST: US transition + Thanksgiving + cricket -- a look at the attack's timing could shed light on authorship (Sky News)

Shortly before the terrorists moved into their targets in South Mumbai, a black and yellow taxi, with three passengers and enough ammunition to bring down a dome, sped in the direction of the airport. Instead of taking a slip road that would have taken the passengers straight to the airport, the driver took the flyover which bypassed the airport, only to get stuck at a red light.

At rush hour, the lights stayed red for long, at which the passengers berated the driver and asked him to cut the traffic lights. The driver moved on, but the wait turned out to be a minute or two too long. The car exploded. All that was found was a severed head and parts of three human legs. Had the terrorists' plans of coinciding a blast at the airport with the attacks on the Taj and Oberoi hotels succeeded, the death toll of 26/11 would have been much bigger than it already is.
5:28 am EST: Focus on Pakistani group (NYT):
American intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Friday that there was mounting evidence that a Pakistani militant group based in Kashmir, most likely Lashkar-e-Taiba, was responsible for this week’s deadly attacks in Mumbai.

The officials cautioned that they had reached no firm conclusions about who was responsible for the attacks, or how they were planned and carried out. Nevertheless, they said that evidence gathered in the past two days pointed to a role for Lashkar-e-Taiba or possibly another group based in Kashmir, Jaish-e-Muhammad, which also has a track record of attacks against India.
6:07 am EST: Bad timing, bad judgement: Bollywood actor Imraan Khan's t-shirt at movie premiere in Mumbay, Nov. 26. (Yahoo News picture)

7:12 am EST: 15 Attackers (WaPo):
Indian officials said they now believe that at least 15 gunmen carried out the operation after reaching Mumbai by sea. After an interrogation of one of the attackers, Indian intelligence officials said they suspected that a Pakistani Islamist group, Lashkar-i-Taiba, was responsible. An Indian intelligence document from 2006 obtained by The Washington Post said members of the group had been trained in maritime assault. 
9:01 am EST: Nariman House victims may have been dead since Wednesday (The Lede @ NYT):
The Holtzbergs’ nanny, who took the couple’s toddler son Moshe from the building soon after the attacks started, told investigators that she saw the rabbi and his wife lying on the floor covered in blood when she left.

At least six, and possibly seven, other victims were killed in the Mumbai headquarters of Jewish group Chabad, people involved in the investigation said. Chabad officials have identified two of the dead as Leibish Teitelbaum, a rabbi from Brooklyn living in Israel, and Bentzion Chroman, an Israeli with dual American citizenship.

The identities and number of the remaining victims were still unknown as of Saturday afternoon. One person who had been in the building said some of the victims’ faces were unrecognizable after the attacks. Many of the bodies were found covered in a Jewish prayer shawl.
11:12 am EST: Bad Intelligence Helped Mumbai Attacks Succeed (Sky News):
While terrorism experts say Indian special forces performed with remarkable bravery and professionalism in their battle with the terrorists, they believe the attacks should — and could — have been thwarted by better intelligence.

Friday, November 28, 2008

WORLD'S oldest person dies: Edna Parker was 115.

MUMBAI DAY 3: the situation is still unresolved in all the scenarios, with special forces storming in to root out the terrorists. As I did yesterday (see here), I'll be tracking the events overnight (U.S. time)...

3:02 am EST: Police launch attack on Jewish center, Nariman House (CNN)
A helicopter, making three passes in 40 minutes, dropped about two dozen soldiers onto the building's roof. The first drop happened about 7:10 a.m. local time Friday (8:40 p.m. ET Thursday), CNN sister station CNN-IBN reported. After the last drop, five or six heavy explosions and small-arms fire could be heard.
3:33 am EST: Hostages freed from the Oberoi hotel; some still in Taj Mahal (NYT)
News agencies reported late Friday morning that about 20 foreigners -- some carrying luggage -- had been freed from one of the hotels, the Oberoi. At the same time, an army general, N. Thamburaj, was quoted as saying two hostages were still being held in the other hotel that had come under siege, the Taj Mahal Hotel and Tower The general said he expected all anti-terrorist operations in Mumbai to be over by midafternoon.
3:51 am EST: False alarm at train station (CNN-IBN):
"The situation is normal. Someone heard some noises and started running which created panic. It was not firing. There was a commotion, but we have checked there has been no firing. Railway services are normal now," K Sharma, Commissioner, Railway Security, said.

He denied reports that three gunshots had reportedly been fired at the GT Hospital near the station.
4:03 am EST: A British magnate described the attack to the media minutes before being killed (Guardian)

4:16 am EST: Not 100% over at the Taj Mahal hotel (Sky News)
Two explosions and gunfire have been heard at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel where an anti-terrorist operation is in full swing.

The army says at least one gunman is still alive and is thought to be holding a number of hostages. [Video here]

Commandos involved in the operation to free hostages described the terrorists as "showing no remorse, firing at anyone who moved". [Video here]
4:26 am EST: Video --surfaced yesterday-- of terrorists in killing spree (Gateway Pundit)

4:46 am EST: Terrorist 'mothership' found (Times UK):
The investigation into the terror attacks that have killed at least 125 people in Bombay are focussing on a fishing vessel that was found off the city's coast with one dead body on board, security sources say.

It is thought that the vessel was used by the terrorists before they climbed aboard a smaller boat to land at Colaba, the popular tourist area that suffered the worst strikes and where gunmen are hostages still holed up in two luxury hotels.
4:51 am EST: India's Foreign Minister accuses Pakistan (AP):
"According to preliminary information, some elements in Pakistan are responsible for Mumbai terror attacks," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee tells reporters in the western city of Jodhpur. "Proof cannot be disclosed at this time."
4:56 am EST: Spasiva! Terrorists let go 17 Russian hostages after checking passport (Hindu Business Line)

4:57 am EST: Oberoi cleared (Economic Times):
The head of India's commando unit said on Friday that his men had taken "full control" of the Oberoi Trident hotel after killing the last of two terrorists.

Over 140 hostages, many of them foreigners, were rescued from the hotel. Some of the guests were carrying luggage with Canadian flags on and were taken away in cars without speaking to reporters.
5:13 am EST: Fresh fighting at Taj Mahal (NDTV):
There have been two fresh, huge blasts at the Taj hotel and firing has resumed. NSG says three-four terrorists are in Taj Heritage wing with few hostages.

Army has said that the NSG is in contact with one terrorist in the old wing of Taj and that the operation in Taj is in final stages Army has also said that some guests may still be inside the Taj.
5:21 am EST: Reporting the commando operation at Nariman House with a Blackberry (The Lede)

5:37 am EST: India’s Suspicion of Pakistan Clouds U.S. Strategy in Region (NYT):
The terrorist attacks in Mumbai occurred as India and Pakistan, two big, hostile and nuclear-armed nations, were delicately moving toward improved relations with the encouragement of the United States and in particular the incoming Obama administration. . . . attacks as devastating as those that unfolded in Mumbai — whether ultimately traced to homegrown Indian militants or to others from abroad, or a combination — seem likely to sour relations, fuel distrust and hamper, at least for now, America’s ambitions for reconciliation in the region.
5:41 am EST: 24 more dead bodies retrieved from Trident-Oberoi hotel, one terrorist arrested (Newspost)

5:48 am EST: Pakistan president Zardari blames "non-state actors" (Reuters)

5:59 am EST: Hollywood actor Michael Rudder among the injured (Bollywood World News):
A representative of Synchronicity told the Canadian Press that Montreal-based actor Michael Rudder was shot when terrorists stormed one of the hotels in Mumbai.

The representative said Rudder underwent surgery in an intensive care unit after three gunshot wounds.

Rudder, who has acted alongside Johnny Depp and Eddie Murphy in many Hollywood movies and was nominated for a Genie award for best-supporting actor in 1989 for the film Buying Time, is said to be now recovering.
6:07 am EST: Death toll jumps to 143 (AP):
Indian commandos on Friday ended a siege at Mumbai's Trident-Oberoi hotel while explosions and gunfire continued intermittently at the Taj Mahal Hotel, according to reports.

Police said 24 more bodies have been found in the series of attacks that have ripped through Mumbai over the past two days, according to the Associated Press. The new figure brings the death toll in India's commercial and entertainment capital to at least 143.

Among the dead were reportedly as many as four Australians, a Japanese man, an Italian, a Briton and a German.
6:19 am EST: Operation inteinsifies at Nariman House (CNN-IBN live b'cast; no link yet)

6:29 am EST: Large blast heard at Taj Mahal (CNN USA live b'cast, no link yet)

6:41 am EST: Battle of the Taj escalating yet again (Sky News):
Heavy gunfire has intensified at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel where an anti-terrorist operation is said to be "in full swing".
6:48 am EST: British link? (Telegraph):
Two British-born Pakistanis were among eight gunmen seized by Indian commandos who stormed buildings to free hostages, Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister of Mumbai, reportedly said.
7:14 am EST: Battle raging at the Taj Mahal hotel and at the Jewish center (CNN):
Standoffs continued at the Taj Mahal Hotel -- where one gunmen is still holed up -- and the Chabad House, where several Jewish people are reportedly being held hostage by two to three gunmen, police said.
8:08 am EST: Police says siege at Jewish center has ended (FNC):
Commandos emerged from building with their assault rifles raised as a crowd outside the building cheered. There was no word on the fate of the hostages believed to be inside.
8:33 am EST: Pakistan intel to collaborate in investigation (NYT):
In a significant development, Pakistan said on Friday it was prepared to send its intelligence chief, Ahmed Shuja Pasha, to India to share information in the investigation into the attacks.
8:52 am EST: Two Virginians confirmed dead (AP):
A spokeswoman with the Synchronicity Foundation said Friday Alan Scherr and his 13-year-old daughter, Naomi, were killed while they were in a cafe in Mumbai.
8:57 am EST: Last one standing at the Taj (CNN):
One gunman is still holed up at the Taj Mahal Hotel, shooting and throwing grenades at security forces, Commissioner of Mumbai Police Hasan Gafoor told CNN-IBN. "There is one terrorist who is still shooting, and throwing grenades at the security forces," he said. "Hopefully, also, we should be able to succeed in another short while."
9:01 am EST: Terrorists kill 5 hostages at the Jewish center (CNN-IBN):
""We had taken over the second floor of the house when grenade was launched from above. Three hostages were killed by terrorists before they moved upstairs. NSG commandos moved upstairs to kill two terrorists on the fourth floor. Terrorists killed two hostages in this floor," NSG Director General Jyoti Krishan Dutt said.
9:19 am EST: Is al-Qaeda behind the attacks? (Haaretz):
Experts say organized orchestration of Mumbai attacks could not have been carried out by local group.
9:33 am EST: Fresh explosion at Taj Hotel, encounter still on (CNN-IBN):
Fire has erupted in the first floor Banquet House of Taj Hotel after an explosion.

Earlier, an AFP correspondent and three other people have been injured in crossfire at the Taj Hotel.

Firing is on at the hotel as the commando operation to secure the hotel enters the final stage.
9:46 am EST: French couple among the Oberon dead (M&C):
According to the report, the two were among 24 bodies found in the hotel when commandos seized control of it from the attackers. The couple, who were not identified, had earlier been reported as missing.
9:50 am EST: An administrative note: Barcepundit is now at the top of Memeorandum. Thanks to all readers and everyone who linked; I wish it was in a happier occasion, though...

9:58 am EST: Pure horror -- Death toll climbs to 155 (India Info Online):
The number of dead in the audacious terrorist attacks in Mumbai since Wednesday night has gone up to 155, while the number of injured are more than 300, Maharashtra deputy chief minister and state home minister R.R. Patil said on Friday.
10:10 am EST: State Dept. confirms the death of 2 Americans. (FNC)

10:47 am EST: Counting the Hours in Room 2324 (NYT):
Survivors of the siege of the Oberoi Hotel, exhausted but safe on Friday afternoon, told how they barricaded themselves in a room and endured 36 hours of terror after attackers invaded the luxurious seaside hotel on Wednesday night.
10:58 am EST: Attributes Suggest Outside Help (WaPo):
Officials in India, Europe and the United States said likely culprits included Islamist networks based in Pakistan that have received support in the past from Pakistan's intelligence agencies.

Analysts said this week's attacks surpassed previous plots carried out by domestic groups in terms of complexity, the number of people involved and their success in achieving their primary goal: namely, to spread fear.
11:02 am EST: Big explosions, fire breaking out at Taj Mahal hotel (CNN live b'cast, no link yet)

11:10 am EST: Terrorists in Mumbai Did Dry Runs (Annie Jacobsen @ Aviation Nation)

11:26 am EST: Rabbi, wife among dead in Mumbai Jewish center (CNN website screen alert)

11:39 am EST: Welcome to the age of celebrity terrorism (Paul Cornish @ Chatham House):
Quite apart from the scores murdered and the hundreds injured, what the Mumbai terrorists really wanted was an exaggerated and preferably extreme reaction on the part of governments, the media and public opinion. In these terms, the attackers received as much attention as they could possibly have hoped for, and the Mumbai outrage can only be described as a very significant terrorist success. . . .

Welcome to the age of celebrity terrorism. The invitation to the world's D-list malcontents reads as follows: no matter how corrupt your moral sense, how contorted your view of the world, how vapid and inarticulate your ideas, how talentless you are and how exaggerated your grievance; an obsessive audience with nothing better to do will watch your every move and turn you into what you most want to be, just before your death.
11:58 am EST: Rabbi, wife confirmed dead (AP):
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has confirmed that a New York rabbi and his wife are among the dead in the India terrorist attack.

A spokesman, Rabbi Zalman Schmotkin, says Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, have been killed in Mumbai. They ran the movement's local headquarters, which was one of 10 sites attacked.

The couple's toddler son, Moshe Holtzberg, was taken out of the center by an employee, and is now with his grandparents.
12:33 pm EST: Final assault at Taj? (NDTV)
Latest reports says that there is heavy firing and explosions in Wasabi restaurant in the Taj. One terrorist is left and he is firing at NSG.

The level of battle now seems to indicate a last assault at the Taj. There is still confusion over the total number of militants inside the hotel, but there seem to be no hostages or guests inside with them. It may, thus, be a matter of time before the NSG storms the hotel.

The Army said that the NSG was in contact with one terrorist in the old wing of Taj and that the operation in Taj was also in final stages.

There was also report of one injured militant inside the Taj hotel.

According to NSG Director General: "One injured terrorist is still inside Taj hotel. The stage seems to be set for a final operation there and the media has been asked to refrain from doing any live broadcasts from outside the hotel."

There are reports of six terrorists holed up inside the Taj hotel. There are repeated gunfires and flashes of fire at the window of the room on the first floor. The battle is now fully raging.
1:05 pm EST: Analysis -- How Mumbai attacks differ from past terror strikes (Bill Roggio @ Long War Journal)

1:17 pm EST: Planning started 6 months ago (NDTV):
An arrested terrorist has revealed that the Mumbai terror attack operation was planned about six months ago.

Investigators are examining satellite phone and GPS found on trawler seized in Arabian Sea.

Sources have told NDTV that data from GPS revealed terrorists sailed from Karachi harbour on November 12 or 13. Their phone was used to call Lashkar commander Yusuf Muzamil in Muzaffarabad.
NOTE: Wrapping up for the day over here; thanks to all visitors and linkers (Instapundit, Classical Values, Andrew Sullivan, DailyKos, and more). Check back tomorrow!

SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE: Coverage continues here...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

FROM THE bad taste department:

It's this week's cover of Spain's satirical magazine El Jueves. The blurbs read: "Look at the pendulum and repeat with me: Everything's fine... everything's fine..."

No further comment.

OBAMA head faking right, while driving left?

MORE DOUBTS about Tim Geithner, Obama's pick for Treasure secretary:
Mr. Geithner, the job of the New York Fed is to -- now I am quoting its own web site -- 'supervise and regulate financial institutions in the Second District [Wall Street]. Its primary objective is to maintain safe and competitive U.S. and global banking systems.' You have been in your current post since 2003 and during that time the U.S. financial system has come close to complete disintegration. Why do you deserve a promotion?

IRAQI PARLIAMENT approves U.S. security pact:
For Iraq and the United States, the pact’s passage through Parliament by a large majority — more than 140 of some 200 lawmakers present voted in favor — marks a watershed moment, heralding an increase in Iraqi sovereignty over American and other foreign troops on its soil.

The pact, which took more than a year to negotiate, consists of two documents: a Status of Forces Agreement defining the rules under which American forces will operate, and a wider Strategic Framework Agreement outlining a broad bilateral view looking toward the future.
Great news.

YOU CAN'T HIDE these days:
An Australian restaurateur left holding a hefty unpaid bill when five young diners bolted used the popular social network website Facebook to track them down -- and they got their just desserts.

MASSACRE in Mumbai: Amit Varma was there. I'm glad he's ok.

More than 100 people still held hostage.

More witnesses reports @ CNN.

Map of where the attack took place (Guardian)

Big roundup on how the new and the old media were covering, @ The Moderate Voice.

Live streaming @ CNN-IBN.


4:02 am EST: Death toll as of now: 101 dead, 287 injured.

4:16 am EST: Who's behing the attacks, and why? (Reuters)

4:22 am EST: New explosion heard at the Oberoi hotel, surrounded by commando forces. (Sky)

4:25 am EST: Casualties among foreigners (Telegraph):
Hundreds of tourists were held hostage in two luxury hotels in the city. Local reports said among the dead foreigners were a British national, a 41-year-old Japanese man and a 49-year-old Australian.

Among the wounded are travellers from Australia, the United States, Spain, Norway, Canada and Singapore. Seven British citizens have been injured.
4:31 am EST: Situation apparently ended at the Taj Mahal hotel (BBC):
Police chief AN Roy is quoted by Reuters news agency as saying hostages at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel have now been rescued, although there are still an unknown number of guests in the rooms.

Witnesses outside the Taj Mahal said civilians could be seen running from the hotel, some with suitcases. Ambulances were also reported to be arriving.
4:35 am EST: 'Free our Mujahideen,' terrorists demand (Times UK):
The gunmen holding dozens of hostages in two of Bombay's luxury hotels are demanding the release of 'Muhajideens' held in Indian jails before they free their prisoners.
4:51 am EST: al-Qaeda link disputed (NYT):
Global terrorism experts with experience in South Asia said that, based on the tactics used in the attacks, the group was probably not linked to Al Qaeda.

“It’s even unclear whether it’s a real group or not,” said Bruce Hoffman, a professor at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the author of the book “Inside Terrorism.”

“It could be a cover name for another group, or a name adopted just for this particular incident,” he said.
5:13 am EST: Who are the Deccan Mujahideen? (CNN)
Both the intelligence community in India and the United States think the Deccan Mujahideen may be affiliated with one of two organizations that have carried out attacks in India in the past: the Indian Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.
5:45 am EST: Domestic Indian terrorism with a global twist (Guardian):
While terrorism is common in India, the Mumbai attacks suggest a group with outside influences – and careful planning.
6:03 am EST: Standoff battles on, even at the Taj Mahal hotel (NDTV):
Despite Maharashtra Police's claims that there is no hostage-like situation at Taj, reports say fresh explosions have been heard at the Taj hotel and there are around 40-50 people still trapped inside the hotel.

Around 10-12 terrorists are still holed up in Trident hotel and have taken many hostage. Some of them are Israeli and Canadian nationals.
6:18 am EST: Uh oh -- Pakistan connection? (AP)
The Indian navy says its forces are boarding a cargo vessel suspected of ties to the Mumbai attacks that killed 101 people.

Navy spokesman Capt. Manohar Nambiar said Thursday that the ship, the MV Alpha, had recently come to Mumbai from Karachi, Pakistan.
6:44 am EST: Big roundup of blog reaction from the Middle East @ Global Voices.

6:56 am EST: PM hints (Reuters):
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Thursday that the attacks in Mumbai which killed more than 100 people were well-planned and probably had "external linkages".
7:07 am EST: Situation still raging on (CNN):
A standoff continued at the Oberoi Hotel, where about 100 members of a specialized unit of the Indian police undertook an operation to rescue four to five foreigners hostage on the 19th floor.
7:23 am EST: Battle at the Orthodox Jewish HQ (UPI):
Police were surrounding Nariman House, the headquarters of the Orthodox Jewish group, Chabad Lubavitch. Gunmen had seized the facility late Wednesday night. Officials were uncertain how many hostages, if any, were inside.
7:34 am EST: Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holzberg allegedly one of the hostages; childen free (The Moderate Voice)

7:46 am EST: 80 people still held hostage. (Telegraph)

8:07 am EST: Status of Mumbai Jewish Center Still Unclear (NYT):
Early local television news reports said that [Rabbi Gavriel] and his wife were unconscious in the building, but that has not been confirmed by the group or by Indian officials. The Rabbi’s son and his nanny have been evacuated. Vartika Sethi, spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, said early Thursday afternoon that the embassy was still “trying to gather information” and did not have a “clear picture” of what is happening.
8:32 am EST: Blasts heard accross Mumbai (Telegraph):
Witnesses in the Indian financial capital said a fresh round of firing was heard as commandos prepared to storm the Trident-Oberoi, a luxury hotel where as many as 200 people are believed to be trapped.

Police earlier said all of the foreign hostages had been freed from another five-star hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, but AN Roy, the police chief of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, said as many as 100 guests remained trapped inside their rooms.

Witnesses also reported continuing explosions and gunfire at the landmark hotel as a trickle of bodies and hostages were seen emerging from the building.
08:47 am EST: Decissive assault launched (Zee News):
More than 50 commandoes have entered the Taj, even as people continue to be evacuated from the Oberoi hotel.

Fresh reports coming in from the Taj hotel indicate that wife and two kids of the General Manager of the Taj hotel have been killed in the crossfiring.

It is not clear how many survivors are still held hostage in the premises. There are reports that some guests are still trapped in their rooms but are not stepping out in fear. With this shocking news of the carnage at the Taj, the final toll of those killed will way surpass the current reported at 101. Another 300 are injured.

Around 400 people have been evacuated from the Taj hotel, and 78 have been evacuated from the Oberoi.

The action so far has left 6 foreigners, 14 police personnel and 5 terrorists dead. Two terrorists have been apprehended so far, with one being identified as Abu Ismail from Faridkot, Pakistan.

In the meantime, commandos are readying for a final assault to put the entire siege to an end. Sound of a series of explosions is being heard intermittently for the past hour.

Also, five loud explosions have been heard from the Oberoi Hotel, even as the NSG engages holed up terrorists.

Similarly at the Nariman House in Colaba, many people are feared to be taken as hostages. This is a place that is mostly frequented and used by Israelis and Jews. An special NSG team specialised in the managing hostage crisis, has moved to Nariman house with rocket launchers and bazookas to flush out the terrorists still holed inside and to free trapped Israeli hostages.
08:51 am EST: External link unlikely, attack most probably by homegrown group (Jason Burke @ Guardian)

09:23 am EST: Death toll jumps to 125, including at least 6 foreigners; 327 were wounded. (CNN)

09:47 am EST: Bollywood shaken. (Mangalorean)

09:51 am EST: Gunfight (Fox News):
Commando teams are engaged in a gunfight with terrorists on the eight floor of the Oberoi-Trident. The battle broke out as commandos were conducting room-to-room searches.

NDTV reports gunfire and explosions at the Taj Mahal and Oberoi Trident hotels, and the release of some hostages.

Bodies reportedly are being removed from the hotels, and among them are an Australian, Japanese and British nationals.

A senior State Department official told FOX News that it could not yet confirm any American casualties.

Meanwhile, Indian police reportedly are negotiating with gunmen holding hostages at the ultra-orthodox Jewish Chabad Lubavitch Center.

There were unconfirmed reports that some of the hostages at the Oberoi Trident hotel are Israeli nationals.
09:57 am EST: Cheering as the 7th Cavalry arrives (Reuters):
Helicopters buzzed overhead and crowds cheered as the commandos, their faces blackened, moved into the Trident-Oberoi, where 20 to 30 people are thought to have been taken hostage and more than 100 others were trapped in their rooms.
10:51 am EST: Crisis not yet over (CNN):
Shortly after authorities said the siege had ended at the Taj Mahal hotel, two explosions were heard, similar to the six blasts heard earlier. It was not immediately clear what caused any of the explosions. Witnesses said continuous gunfire could be heard at the hotel. . . . A few blocks away, at the Hotel Oberoi, a major fire raged Thursday night through one floor there, CNN's sister network in India . . . . British authorities told CNN that at least three or four terrorists are holding hostages in both the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels.
11:15 am EST: Indian commandos raid hotels (AP):
About 10 to 12 gunmen remain holed up inside the hotels and a Jewish center, a top Indian general said. The remaining gunmen appeared to have been killed or captured, Maj. Gen. R.K. Huda told New Delhi Television. . . . Officials said eight militants were also killed.

Dozens of people were being held hostage at the hotels, as well as a nearby Jewish center, by the well-trained and heavily armed gunmen, authorities said.
11:26 am EST: All terrorists at Taj Mahal hotel killed (CNN-IBN):
The National Security Guard has declared an all-clear at the Taj Mahal hotel where a fierce gunbattle was on between the forces and terrorists for the past 20 hours.

The NSG says all terrorists at Taj have been killed that it will comb the premises very carefully.

Earlier, a huge explosion was heard from inside the hotel.
11:30 am EST: Flames shooting off the Oberoi hotel (EuroNews):
It is feared up to 100 people may be trapped or taken hostage inside a luxury Indian hotel following an attack by Islamic militants.
11:45 am EST: Bush speaks with Indian PM Singh. (Fox News)

12:24 pm EST: Pakistan denies any involvement (Press Trust of India)

12:51 pm EST: State Department confirms 3 Americans wounded; US government has no information that any U.S. citizens died in the attacks. (Fox News)

1:46 pm EST: Standoffs at both the Oberoi and the Taj Mahal are nearing to an end, CNN International reports in their live broadcast (no link yet)

NOTE: Situation is still fluid, but I have to stop this for today, since I have a commitment. After all, the point was to update through the night in the US, so that readers could be up to speed on what happened when they logged in the morning. Now there's many websites and blogs keeping up on what's happening. So thanks the many readers for stopping by (and thanks Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, John Hinderacker of Power Line, Eric Scheie of Classical Values and Michael Ledeen of The Corner for linking) Please come back tomorrow morning and check the home page to read whatever happens overnight as well, if the crisis continues...

UPDATE (Friday Nov. 28): Roundup continues here...


Freedom From Want, Norman Rockwell (1943)

A bit corny? Perhaps, but I love it...

UPDATE. Jules Crittenden has a few things to be thankful for in a troubled world.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

SOME "scientific consensus," part LXVIII.

YOU were right, Glenn; as soon as Obama got elected, the media would change its tune on Iraq. Lo and behold: for CNN, it's not a war anymore, it's a humaniarian mission!

UPDATE. Welcome, readers coming from Instapundit; make yourselves at homepage!

WE EUROPEANS like to criticize the US (and Bush!) because they don't respect international law, unlike us.

Many of President-elect Barack Obama's supporters hope he will scrap the Bush administration's skeptical attitude toward international law and take a more European approach. This is presumably to bring us in line with what these supporters regard as more enlightened practices abroad.

In fact, Europe's commitment to international law is largely rhetorical. Like the Bush administration, Europeans obey international law when it advances their interests and discard it when it does not.

Consider the case of Yassin Abdullah Kadi and the al Barakaat International Foundation. A United Nations Security Council resolution has ordered nations to freeze the assets of Mr. Kadi, a resident of Saudi Arabia, and the foundation, and to take other sanctions against those suspected of financing al Qaeda and related organizations.

On Sept. 3, the European Court of Justice ruled that the Security Council resolution was invalid. The duty to comply with the U.N. Charter, it declared, "cannot have the effect of prejudicing [regional] constitutional principles." In doing so, the ECJ followed its advocate general's argument that "international law can permeate [the European Community] legal order only under the conditions set by the constitutional principles of the Community."

In other words, European countries must disregard the U.N. Charter -- the most fundamental treaty in our modern international legal system -- when it conflicts with European constitutional order.
Read the rest.

THOMAS SOWELL thinks that all the economic catastrophism and hysteria is just an excuse:
Barack Obama says that we have to "jolt" the economy. That certainly makes sense, if you take the media's account of the economy seriously-- but should the media be taken seriously?

Amid all the political and media hysteria, national output has declined by less than one-half of one percent. In fact, it may not have declined even that much-- or at all-- when the statistics are revised later, as they very often are.

We are not talking about the Great Depression, when output dropped by one-third and unemployment soared to 25 percent.

What we are talking about is a golden political opportunity for politicians to use the current financial crisis to fundamentally change an economy that has been successful for more than two centuries, so that politicians can henceforth micro-manage all sorts of businesses and play Robin Hood, taking from those who are not likely to vote for them and transferring part of their earnings to those who will vote for them.
UPDATE. Like I said.

GEEKS will salivate over this: this web shows a map where can track satellites in real time. You can even look where the toolbox lost in space by the astronaut the other day is at any moment...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

SOME DOUBTS on Geithner in the New York Times, no less:
"We have only two things to say about Tim Geithner, who we do not know: AIG and Lehman Brothers," said Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analytics. "Throw in the Bear Stearns/Maiden Lane fiasco for good measure," he said, referring to the site of the New York Federal Reserve, where many rescue discussions took place.

"All of these 'rescues' are a disaster for the taxpayer, for the financial markets and also for the Federal Reserve System as an organization. Geithner, in our view, deserves retirement, not promotion."


"He was in the room at every turn of the crisis," said another executive who participated in several such confidential meetings with Geithner. "You can look at that both ways."

While Henry Paulson Jr., the current Treasury secretary, has taken a drubbing for the changeable nature of the government's efforts to bolster the financial industry — some of which clearly contradicted each other — Geithner has managed, for the most part, to remain unscathed. He's been widely praised as a bright, articulate out-of-the box thinker who is a bailout expert, to the extent anyone can truly be an expert at fast-changing emergencies.

Behind the scenes, Geithner was the point person for weeks of sleep-deprived Bailout Weekends. It was Geithner, not Paulson, for example, who put together the original rescue plan for the American International Group.

And, of course, Geithner also oversaw and regulated an entire industry whose decline has delivered a further blow to an already weakened American economy. Under his watch, some of the biggest institutions that were the responsibility of the New York Fed — Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and most recently, Citigroup — faltered. While he was one of the first regulators to smartly articulate the potential for an impending disaster, a number of observers question whether he went far enough to stop the calamity.

Perhaps what has most people on Wall Street stirring is Geithner's role in the fall of Lehman. At the time of its bankruptcy, he, along with Paulson, appeared to be the most vocal in supporting the government's refusal to bail out the firm, according to people involved in various meetings. With hindsight, many in the financial industry blame a deepening of the global financial crisis on the government's decision to let Lehman crumble.

BWAHAHAHA: "Obama Names Bill Clinton to Presidential Post." Iowahawk's must-read.

ANOTHER myth busted:
During the campaign, Barack Obama often bragged about how his campaign got funded by small donors rather than the usual big-money activists in both parties.  Indeed, he used that justification for breaking his pledge to adopt public financing for the general election, claiming that his fundraising better represented the modest grassroots.  However, a study by the Campaign Finance Institute says that the percentage of small donors to Obama’s campaign was roughly the same as the 2004 effort by George W. Bush.

FULL-LENGTH TV is coming to Facebook.

BAILOUT costs more than Marshall Plan, Louisiana Purchase, moonshot, S&L bailout, Korean War, New Deal, Iraq war, Vietnam war, and NASA's lifetime budget -- combined!

I'd add "so far..."

ONLY 32% of voters say the Guantanamo prison camp should be closed, according to a new Rasmussen survey.

Monday, November 24, 2008

PIRACY v. Private Equity: a comparison.

A SHORT HISTORY of the bagel.

AS I SAID yesterday, the honeymoon between Obama and his worshippers may not last long: not only he seems to have picked Hillary Clinton for State. Now he's signaling that he plans to delay tax-cut rollback for the wealthy.

Europeans are starting to get nervy.

UPDATE. Jules Crittenden has more.

UPDATE II. Ed Morrissey @ Hot Air too.

WORSE is yet to come, warns IMF's chief economist.

DID OBAMA make a mistake hiring Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State?
In the office block in downtown Washington where Barack Obama's White House transition team are at work, there is no time for breaks.

Lunch is taken at desks. Staff need a good reason to go out at all.

But a little after lunch on Wednesday two Obama aides went to a local coffee shop to talk. Both were veterans of the campaign, hailed as the best organised and most disciplined in US history, which has made their boss the first black president.

Both had come to believe, in the crucible of the campaign, that Mr Obama's judgment was superior to their own. But when they met on Wednesday they agreed on one thing: "He's making a mistake." As one of the participants told a friend later that night: "She'll do a good job but she'll do it for herself, not for Barack. I can't bear the drama again."

She, of course, is Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, figurehead of Democratic women, presidential candidate with 18 million votes and now would-be Secretary of State.

THE FRENCH LEFT has devised a way to distract media attention away from President Nicolas Sarkozy – female mud-wrestling, The Independent writes:
In the red corner, we have Martine Aubry, the Lille bruiser, who "won" the party's leadership contest by 0.05 per cent of the vote. In the white corner, we have Ségolène Royal, the Poitou hellcat, who accuses her opponent's camp of "cheating" and "stealing" victory.

No contest between the Left and Right has been fought with more invective and more dirty tricks than this riveting contest between the Centre-Left and the Centre-Left. The poisonous hatred between the two camps was apparent long before the vote of Socialist party members on Friday night split almost exactly 50-50.

The problem is not the narrowness of Friday's vote, nor the evidence of voting irregularities. Such practises have long plagued France's alternative "party of government". (As one party official explained: "In the North, there are genuine members with fake cards. In the South, there are genuine cards held by fake members.") The real problem is that personal relations between the camps have grown so venomous that a de facto schism seems inevitable. A formal split into two parties of the centre-left is unlikely in the short term. It is no longer inconceivable.

OBAMA'S cabinet centrist, but not yet bipartisan.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

MARK HALPERIN says that pro-Obama media bias was more intense in the 2008 election than in any other national campaign in recent history. "It's the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war . . . . It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage," he added.

Now this is a lame explanation:
New York magazine's John Heilemann, one of Halperin's co-panelists, offered another reason for all the positive press coverage Obama received.

"The biggest bias in the press is towards effectiveness," said Heilemann, who is authoring a book on the 2008 race along with Halperin.

"We love things that are smart."

Because Obama's campaign was generally so well run, he argued, the press tended to applaud even his negative tactics.

"We'll scold you for being negative," Heilemann said, "but if it seems to be working, the tone of your coverage becomes more positive."
So, taking this to an extreme jsut for the argument's sake, it means that if the Obama campaign had managed to round and execute all Republican-registered voters before the election, the tone of the coverage would have also "become more positive" because it'd have worked since there would be no one to vote for the GOP, right? Because what counts is not whether the tactics are right or not, but whether they work. Nice.

QUICK, who said this?
One of the things we clearly want to do with these prisoners is to have an ability to interrogate them and find out what their future plans might be, where other cells are located; under the Geneva Convention that you are really limited in the amount of information that you can elicit from people.

It seems to me that given the way in which they have conducted themselves, however, that they are not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention. They are not prisoners of war. If, for instance, Mohamed Atta had survived the attack on the World Trade Center, would we now be calling him a prisoner of war? I think not. Should Zacarias Moussaoui be called a prisoner of war? Again, I think not.
Bush? Rumsfeld? Cheney? Any other blood-thirsty neocon?

No, it was Eric Holder, Attorney General-to-be in the Obama administration. Looks like Zapatero's prediction may not last long...

UPDATE. Welcome, Instapundit readers; make yourselves at home!

FRONTLINE will air a very interesting documentary on Hugo Chávez tonight, the day of the local elections in Venezuela. It's already available online here, if you want to get a head start.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

WHY 2008 is nothing like 1929:
Instead of workers with 5 o'clock shadows asking, "Brother, can you spare a dime?" we have clean-shaven financial-services executives asking congressmen if they can spare $100 billion. More substantively, the economic trauma the nation suffered in the 1930s makes today's woes look like a flesh wound.

"By the afternoon of March 3, scarcely a bank in the country was open to do business," FDR said in his March 12, 1933, fireside chat (now available on a very cool podcast at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s Web site). In 1933, some 4,000 commercial banks failed, causing depositors to take huge losses. (There was no FDIC back then.) The recession that started in August 1929 lasted for a grinding 43 months, during which unemployment soared to 25 percent and national income was cut in half. By contrast, through mid-November 2008, only 19 banks had failed. The Federal Reserve last week said it expects unemployment to top out at 7.6 percent in 2009. Economists surveyed by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank believe the recession, which started in April 2008, will be over by next summer. (Of course, back in January the same guys forecast that the economy would grow nicely in 2008 and 2009.) But don't take it from me. Take it from this year's Nobel laureate in economics. "The world economy is not in depression," Paul Krugman writes in his just-reissued book The Return of Depression Economics. "It probably won't fall into depression, despite the magnitude of the current crisis (although I wish I was completely sure about that)."

So what's with all the speakeasy-era speak?
Keep reading.

REAL REBUILDING in Ramadi. Even the New York Times notices.

TODAY is Victory in Iraq Day.

By every measure, The United States and coalition forces haveconclusively defeated all enemies in Iraq, pacified the country, deposed the previous regime, successfully helped to establish a new functioning democratic government, and suppressed any lingering insurgencies. The war has come to an end. And we won.

What more indication do you need? An announcement from the outgoing Bush administration? It's not gonna happen. An announcement from the incoming Obama administration? That's
really not gonna happen. A declaration of victory by the media? Please. Don't make me laugh. A concession of surrender by what few remaining insurgents remain in hiding? Forget about it.

The moment has come to acknowledge the obvious. To overtly declare a fact that has already been true for quite some time now. Let me repeat:

And since there will never be a ticker-tape parade down Fifth Avenue in New York for our troops, it's up to us, the people, to arrange a virtual ticker-tape parade. An online victory celebration.

Saturday, November 22, 2008 is the day of that celebration: Victory in Iraq Day.

Friday, November 21, 2008

INTERESTING PICTURES of the presidential residence on the second and third floors in the White House. Not often seen by regular people, unless by me (no, I don't stay overnight in the Lincoln Bedroom; I'm not Chinese). They're not too recent -- mainly from the LBJ, Nixon and Ford era, although there's one of the day Laura Bush hosted Michelle Obama when the First Lady in waiting went to visit.

YOU MAY THINK that it's no big deal if Time Inc. contractually agreed to cover Angelina Jolie and her family positively in exchange for the pictorial exclusive of his kids. It's just celebs and Tinseltown, right?

Wrong. Journalistic ethics aside (I know, I know, but bear with me) it may be so in strictly private issues. But then you think what happens if she stars in a movie and her acting sucks; will any publication belonging to Time Inc. say so? (note to Hollywood execs: hire her; she'll get great reviews!)

And more importantly: if a big magazine is keen to do this on a relatively frivolous topic, what would they be willing to do on a really important topic? Say, electing a president?

HOW DETROIT drove into a ditch: "The financial crisis has brought the U.S. auto industry to a breaking point, but the trouble began long ago. Paul Ingrassia on disastrous decisions, flawed leadership and what the Motor City needs to do to survive."

YUCK: what it's like to test NASA's new recycled water. Recycled from urine and sweat, that is.

CRY FOR THEE, ARGENTINA: Senate has approved the nationalization of $23 bn in private pension funds.

DUBAI in pictures. Amazing country (via London-based Spanish blogger Albert Esplugas)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

IRAN is said to have enough nuclear fuel for one atomic bomb:
The figures detailing Iran's progress were contained in a routine update on Wednesday from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been conducting inspections of the country's main nuclear plant at Natanz. The report concluded that as of early this month, Iran had made 630 kilograms, or about 1,390 pounds, of low-enriched uranium.

Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that the milestone was mostly symbolic, because Iran would have to take additional steps. Not only would it have to breach its international agreements and kick out the inspectors, but it would also have to further purify the fuel and put it into a warhead design — a technical advance that Western experts are unsure Iran has yet achieved.

"They clearly have enough material for a bomb," said Richard Garwin, a top nuclear physicist who helped invent the hydrogen bomb and has advised Washington for decades. "They know how to do the enrichment. Whether they know how to design a bomb, well, that's another matter."

Iran insists that it wants only to fuel reactors for nuclear power. But many Western nations, led by the United States, suspect that its real goal is to gain the ability to make nuclear weapons.

IT DOESN'T seem to end, does it:
European stock markets quickly slipped into negative territory Thursday following similar tumbles across Asia a day after Wall Street finished at its lowest point since spring 2003 on concerns over ailing U.S. auto industry.
General Motors' headquarters. Concerns over the U.S. auto industry's future has added to economic uncertainty.

Major markets in London, Paris and Frankfurt were all down 1 to 3 percent. But the selloff was more brutal in Asia and Pacific markets, where Tokyo's Nikkei index shed 6.9 percent on Thursday.
UPDATE. Uh oh: a graphic comparison between four bad bear markets. So far it's going worse than '29 (via Spanish blogger Jorge Valín)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ANOTHER adult stem cell breakthrough, and in Barcelona, no less:
Doctors have given a woman a new windpipe with tissue engineered from her own stem cells in what experts have hailed as a "milestone in medicine."

The breakthrough allowed Claudia Castillo, 30, to receive a new section of trachea -- an airway essential for breathing -- without the risk that her body would reject the transplant.

Castillo was given the stem cell surgery, the controversial branch of medicine that some say could lead to human cloning, after suffering a severe lung collapse.

The condition, caused by long-term tuberculosis left Castillo, a Colombian now living in Barcelona, unable to carry out simple domestic duties or care for her two children.

The only conventional option was a major operation to remove her left lung, a risky procedure with a high mortality rate.

GOSH: al-Qaeda's No. 2, al-Zawahiri, has released an audio message calling Obama "House Negro." How 'nice' of him.

WAY TO GO, GUYS: Big Three CEOs Flew Private Jets to Plead for Public Funds. It's amazing how stupid some people can be.

That George W Bush's foreign policy has been a total failure is now taken for granted by so many people that one usually hears it stated as a simple truth that need not be argued at all.

It has happened before. When President Harry S Truman said in March 1952 that he would not seek re-election, most Americans could agree on one thing: that his foreign policy had been a catastrophic failure. In Korea his indecision had invited aggression, and then his incompetence had cost the lives of some 54,000 Americans and millions of Korean civilians in just two years of fighting—on both counts more than ten times the number of casualties in Iraq. Right-wingers reviled Truman for having lost China to communism and for his dismissal of the great General Douglas MacArthur, who had wanted to win it back, with nukes if necessary. Liberals despised Truman because he was the failed shopkeeper who had usurped the patrician Franklin Roosevelt's White House—liberals always were the snobs of US politics.

Abroad, Truman was widely hated too. The communist accusation that he had waged "bacteriological warfare" to kill Korean children and destroy Chinese crops was believed by many, and was fully endorsed by a 669-page report issued by a commission chaired by the eminent British biochemist Joseph Needham. Even more people believed that Truman was guilty of having started the cold war by trying to intimidate our brave Soviet ally, or at least that he and Stalin were equally to blame.

How did this same Harry Truman come to be universally viewed as a great president, especially for his foreign policy? It is all a question of time perspectives: the Korean war is half forgotten, while everyone now knows that Truman's strategy of containment was successful and finally ended with the almost peaceful disintegration of the Soviet empire.

For Bush to be recognised as a great president in the Truman mould, the Iraq war too must become half forgotten. The swift removal of the murderous Saddam Hussein was followed by years of expensive violence instead of the instant democracy that had been promised. To confuse the imam-ridden Iraqis with Danes or Norwegians under German occupation, ready to return to democracy as soon as they were liberated, was not a forgivable error: before invading a country, a US president is supposed to know if it is in the middle east or Scandinavia.

Yet the costly Iraq war must also be recognised as a sideshow in the Bush global counteroffensive against Islamist militancy, just as the far more costly Korean war was a sideshow to global cold war containment. For the Bush response to 9/11 was precisely that—a global attack against the ideology of Islamic militancy. While anti-terrorist operations have been successful here and there in a patchy way, and the fate of Afghanistan remains in doubt, the far more important ideological war has ended with a spectacular global victory for President Bush.

Of course, the analogy with Truman is far from perfect: the Soviet Union was a state, not a state of mind. But even so, once Bush's victory is recognised, the errors of Iraq will be forgiven, just as nobody now blames Truman for having sent mixed signals on whether Korea would be defended. Of course, the Bush victory has not yet been recognised, which is very odd indeed because it has all happened in full view.
Edward Luttwak in the liberal British magazine Prospect. Do me a favor: read the whole thing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NOW that's nerdy... (via BB)

UPDATE. How about that (also via BB): a man carves a carrot an plays it like a clarinet.

WATCHING too much TV lately? That's just sad, man. No, literally:
Unhappy people watch significantly more television compared with happy people who are more socially active, vote more and read more, U.S. researchers say. . . .

The study, published in the Social Indicators Research, also notes that TV watching requires very little activity compared with other leisure activities. TV viewers don't have to go anywhere, dress up, find company, plan ahead, expend energy, do any work or pay for anything, the researchers said.