Wednesday, November 30, 2005

IRANIAN PRESIDENT is loonier by the day; now he's saying there was a halo when he spoke to the UN's general assembly. A loon is a bad thing in itself, but when a loon is developing nuclear weapons, well, it's time to panic (via LGF)

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FINALLY, a current European leader with a spine! (excluding Blair, of course)

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PAMELA, of Atlas Shrugs, was at what probably was Oriana Fallaci's last speech; as you know, she's dying of cancer. A very powerful post that you simply have to read.

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MICHAEL TOTTEN has a great photo essay from the Hizbullah-controlled zone in the Lebanese-Israeli border. Don't miss it.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

FRENCH PM Dominique de Villepin is interviewed by Christiane Amanpour on CNN, and Pieter Dorsman sees him better positioned than ever for the presidential race in 2007.

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THE WHITE PHOSPHORUS brouhaha refuses to die, no matter how many people have rebuked it. Italian blogger Wellington L'Antieroe writes about it in English here and here. I'm adding him to my blogroll!

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"MOM, I WANT TO BE ANTI-FRANCOIST", Pablo Molina writes, witty as usual.

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Spain agreed Monday to sell 12 military planes and eight patrol boats to Venezuela in a $2 billion deal that the United States has threatened to block.

The State Department repeated reservations about the sale because the planes and boats carry U.S. parts and technology, but Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono joined Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in saying the sale should not concern Washington.

"Is there some rule that prohibits this sale? ... There is no international embargo," Bono said at the signing ceremony.

Spain is selling 10 C-295 transport planes and two CN-235 patrol planes, as well as four ocean patrol boats and four coast patrol vessels. It is Spain's largest-ever defense deal.

Bono said neither the boats nor transport planes were armed and that the patrol planes were only equipped for self-defense.

"This is not a warplane," he said.

Chavez also criticized Washington for trying to hold up the sale.

"Venezuela was a colony of the U.S. empire for a long time. Today we're free, and the world should know it," Chavez said, repeating his frequent criticism that in past decades the United States held sway over the oil-producing country.

"We in Venezuela don't have to be giving any explanation, much less under imperialist pressure."

Last week, the U.S. ambassador to Spain, Eduardo Aguirre, said Washington could refuse to allow U.S. technology to be transferred to Venezuela, and State Department spokesman Sean McCormack repeated concerns about the sale on Monday.

"We are currently looking at technology licensing issues," he said. "There hasn't been any final conclusion on that question yet."

Venezuelan Navy Vice Adm. Armando Laguna said the boats and planes would be delivered within seven years, and any U.S.-made parts could be replaced easily with others made in Europe.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

A DETAILED ANALYSIS of civilian casualties in the Iraq war (via LGF). It uses the data from Iraq Body Count, that so many people take as gospel, and they reach a quite different conclusion.

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BLOGGERS ARE PRESSURED, and not only in China, apparently (via Around the World in 80 Days).

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THE MYTH of the Scandinavian model, by the Brussels Journal.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

IS A BLANKET BAN on torture a good idea? Charles Krauthammer writes about it, and the McCain legislation proposal. I'm not sure I agree with him completely; I do in the ticking-bomb scenario, but I'm not so sure in the other exception he defends; read the article in full to see what it is. But what I'm sure of is that, even if it was true that torture doesn't work because the information obtained is not reliable, as many people say (which too simplistic, but I accept for the sake of the argument), the threat of torture does work. And if there's a blanket ban of torture (a ban that would not be followed in extreme scenario, let's not be naif here), the incentive to sing like a canary before the interrogation turns harsher is removed, an incentive that really helps to get useful information without actually torturing anybody.

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SUCH A nice guy:
Saddam Hussein may be fighting for his life in court but he still mesmerises Abu Hussein, a former torturer and hangman for the toppled leader who executed hundreds of Iraqis with the noose or the bullet. "I cry every time I think that he is on trial. I pray for his strength and freedom. Saddam must come back to rule Iraq," he told Reuters in an interview on Friday. "I am ready to return to my job if Saddam comes back."

"A firing squad is more compassionate because people usually died immediately. But hanging is cruel because it can take time to die. If they don't die, we started over again," he said.

[...] Deserters from Iraq's war with Iran faced the firing squad. Prisoners who had insulted Saddam were hanged because it was crueller, said Abu Hussein, who declined to give his full name. Prisoners in red uniforms and with black hoods over their heads were asked if they had a last request as the noose was tightened.

[...] Death always came after weeks of torture. "Sometimes we would hang them upside down and beat their feet with clubs. Or we would electrocute them," he said. "One of the worst things was putting 10 people in a one-square-metre room for weeks. They had a brief break every day and were allowed the toilet every three days," he said. Three executions were carried out each Monday and Thursday. One day Saddam's feared son Uday showed up and asked about eight political prisoners standing nearby. He ordered their immediate execution, said Abu Hussein. Abu Hussein, a father of three, said watching men writhe in agony as they died sometimes made him cry. But he said nobody could afford to defy orders in Saddam's Iraq. "We would have been killed on the spot. One time this executioner was one hour late in hanging someone and he was himself hanged. What could we do? All of this had a toll on us," he said.

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DR. DEMARCHE changes address; from now he won't be at his site but at American Future, a great blog that you must read.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

LET'S ALL PRAISE and support the noble fight of the glorious insurgents!
The Iraqi army said on Thursday it had seized a number of booby-trapped children's dolls, accusing insurgents of using the explosive-filled toys to target children.

The dolls were found in a car, each one containing a grenade or other explosive, said an army statement.

The government said that two men driving the car had been arrested in the western Baghdad district of Abu Ghraib.

"This is the same type of doll as that handed out on several occasions by US soldiers to children," said government spokesperson Leith Kubba.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

FOUR MEMBERS of OSM Pajamas Media editorial advisory board (Adam Bellow, Tammy Bruce, Cliff May and Glenn Reynolds) are chiming in a blogjam about the site's launch, the name change, and with impressions and ideas on the future direction. It's just started live and will last one hour; you can see it here.

UPDATE. While you're at it, look at the top of your screen; there's a surprise.

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Spanish police have arrested 10 people suspected of setting up a support network for an Islamic extremist group thought to be linked to al-Qaeda.

The suspects were detained in and around the Spanish cities of Alicante, Murcia and Granada.

Spain's interior minister alleged that the cell "gave logistical support and finance" to the Algerian-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.

He said they were not linked, at this stage, to the 2004 Madrid bombings.

Nor were they thought to be planning any sort of repeat of those attacks.
UPDATE. For what it's worth, Debka thinks that this is bigger than it seems.

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VENEZUELA'S WORRYSOME EXPORT: revolution, writes Melana Zyla Vickers. And Zapatero is selling military planes and ships to Chavez.

UPDATE. The US hints it may block the deal, since the ships and planes contain American technology.

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STRATEGYPAGE on Iraq, the media and the internet:
If it weren't for Internet access to troops, expatriates and Iraqis in Iraq, you would think that coalition military operations in Iraq were a major disaster, and that prompt withdrawal was the only reasonable course of action. But the mass media view of the situation is largely fiction, conjured up in editorial offices outside Iraq, with foreign reporters in Iraq (most of them rarely leaving their heavily guarded hotels) providing color commentary, and not much else. So what do the troops and Iraqis say?

[...] [L]astly, we have the major differences between the media version of what's going on, and the military one. The media are looking for newsworthy events (bad news preferred, good news does not sell, and news is a business). The military sees it as a process, a campaign, a series of battles that will lead to a desired conclusion. The event driven media have a hard time comprehending this process stuff, but it doesn't really matter to them, since the media lives from headline to headline. For the military, the campaign in Iraq has been a success. The enemy, the Sunni Arabs, have been determined and resourceful. But the American strategy of holding the Sunni Arabs at bay, while the Kurds and Shia Arabs built a security force capable of dealing with the Sunni Arab terrorists, has worked. But that's good news, and thus not news. But every terrorist attack by Sunni Arabs is news, and gets reported with intensity and enthusiasm.

But in the end, process usually wins. News events are often turned into obstacles. Journalists understand that their audience generally has no memory for past reporting that was inaccurate. What is of the moment takes precedence in peoples minds. Politicians play the same game, rewriting history freely, secure in the knowledge that their followers will go along with the revisions, and their opponents will have to play the news event game to score any points with the undecided. Human nature being what it is, the majority of the population pays little attention to the buzz of news, unless, like an outstanding TV or radio commercial, some journalist comes up with an event that registers big time. This changes perceptions, for a while at least, and often creates an artificial reality in the minds of many. This time, it isn't quite working that way. The troops can email back their experiences promptly, and this causes a disconnect in many people, between what they see in the news, and what they are hearing from people who are in the middle of it all. How all this will play out is as yet unknown, which is what makes it so interesting. There's more going on in Iraq than a war.
Here's another piece also by StrategyPage on the subject.

(barretina tip: reader Charles Calthrop)

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

SOMETIMES you can only say one thing, even though it's Glenn's trademark:

Heh. Have fun clickin'.

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DON'S MISS this fantastic photo essay by Michael Yon.

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"NEW U.N. SCHEME: Alliance of Civilizations"; it's Claudia Rosett's latest. Read it in full.

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WAS MOHAMMED ATTA really in Prague before 9/11, meeting Iraq's embassy intelligence man? Edward Jay Epstein has been investigating.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

PERHAPS you've been following the controversy surrounding OSM's name. Legally speaking, it was very clear that trademark vs domain was different, but the whole thing became too much of a problem and brought publicity problems; some critics were indeed making very good, thought-provoking points, but others were clearly jumping not a shark, but Moby Dick. So the decision has been taken: we're going back to Pajamas Media. Roger Simon and Charles Johnson explain it:
Once upon a time, some friends who met in the casual atmosphere of the blogosphere (us) got together and decided it would be groovy to start a blog company. "We could call it Pajamas Media," we said, referring to the now-famous quote by whatshisface, who disparaged bloggers as a bunch of guys sitting around in their sleepwear. Well, we were as surprised as anyone when we managed to raise a significant amount of capital to form said company.

At our swanky launch party in the Rainbow Room at New York’s Rockefeller Center on November 16, we changed out of our "pajamas" both literally and figuratively. We went from being to OSM™ Media, LLC, the OSM being short for Open Source Media. And oh, what a drubbing we took. Many, many readers pointed out to us that OSM™ was an oxymoron; the open source tech community expressed concern; and a very fine gentleman named Christopher Lydon at Open Source ( politely pointed out that we might be trampling on his space. (We’re sending him a pair of warm, fuzzy slippers, a heartfelt apology, and his name back, as we speak.)

All of which, as it turns out, has led us to make a change for the better. We are re-assuming our identity as Pajamas Media. (Just give us a few days to sort the technical issues out.) In short, the whole experience of being caught with our pajamas down has been a bit embarrassing, but in the end, when we realized we could get our beloved name back, we were overjoyed. So a warm, hearty thanks to all of you who expressed your displeasure with our phony identity.

So how did this happen in the first place? Back at the beginning, certain, shall we say, paternalistically minded parties (i.e., the guys in suits) decided that we should act like grownups, and being as yet somewhat immature—at least as businesspeople--we did as we were told.

Which is how, one day, we ended up sitting around a conference table listening to representatives from a "branding" company. What followed is still a bit of a nightmarish blur, but it involved a PowerPoint presentation on the history of names, and such probing questions as, "If you were an animal, what animal would you be?" (Which is how we almost ended up as Jellyfish Media.)

Enough said. So, in the spirit of "open source," we thought we’d tell you the real story behind the reason for our name change. And hope that our corporate parents will be satisfied with good grades and healthy revenue.

The change will be effective soon.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY of dictator Francisco Franco's death was largely a non-event here; this country has changed too much, fortunately. Of course, there were a bunch of lowlifes who demonstrated, with the Roman salute and all. Saying that there were "hundreds of them", as the AP reports, is being very kind. And the anti-fascist march was bigger. No one gave a damn about them. As it should be.

UPDATE. More on the anti-fascist demonstration here; there were more than 2,000 people marching in homage to the last men executed by the Franco regime a short time before his own death: they were 2 from ETA and 3 from the leftist radical group FRAP. No matter what one thinks about the death penalty, the guys were hardly freedom fighters. There were many people who really fighted for freedom; arguably, very few compared to what people claim now. Just as in France apparently no one was a Nazi collaborator, the same amnesiac process has taken place here: even people who were working for the regime now present themselves as brave anti-Franco revolutionaries, or something.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

JOINING the party?:
President Robert Mugabe has said Zimbabwe will process recently discovered uranium deposits in order to resolve its chronic electrical power shortage, state radio said Sunday.

Mugabe, who has close ties with two countries with controversial nuclear programs, Iran and North Korea, made the announcement Saturday, the radio station reported.

It was not clear how Mugabe intended to use any uranium deposits since the country does not have a nuclear power plant.
UPDATE. On the nuclear front, though, this is much more worrying, at least in the short term.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

YET MORE POLLING WOES for Zapatero, even when they are from a government-owned polling organization (yes, there's such a thing in Spain):
The conservative opposition People's Party (PP) is just two points behind the governing Socialist Party (PSOE) in voter intention in a survey conducted by the government polling agency CIS. Since the PSOE won the March 14, 2004 election, this is the smallest difference between Spain's two largest parties. In July, according to the CIS, the difference was 5.5 points.

[...] The Zapatero administration is at its lowest point since it took power a year and a half ago. Widespread unhappiness at the proposed new Catalan statute and controversy over the proposed education bill are eroding citizen confidence in the Zapatero administration. Other surveys taken by private polling firms published in the newspapers La Vanguardia and La Razon actually place the PP above the PSOE in voter intention.

[...] Citizens' trust in Zapatero is clearly falling. 38.2% of those surveyed have "a lot of" or "some" trust in him, much less than the 56.6% who have "little" or "no" trust in him. The CIS survey, taken between October 21 and 28, said that 25.4% consider Zapatero's performance "very good" or "good," while 36.1 said it was "average," and 24.4% said it was "bad" or "very bad."
The silver lining for Zapatero is that the opposition leader, Mariano Rajoy, has still worse numbers. Just imagine where the PP would be with a more popular candidate...

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JEAN-BERNARD MÉRIMÉE, a prototype of French establishment personality and former ambassador to the UN (told you about him here), has confessed taking Saddam's money.

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THE NEW IRANIAN PRESIDENT is ruffling some feathers inside the country's regime heaviweights:
Iran is facing political paralysis as its newly elected president purges government institutions, bringing accusations that he is undertaking a coup d'état.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's clearout of his opponents began last month but is more sweeping than previously understood and has reached almost every branch of government, the Guardian has learned. Dozens of deputy ministers have been sacked this month in several government departments, as well the heads of the state insurance and privatisation organisations. Last week, seven state bank presidents were dismissed in what an Iranian source described as "a coup d'état".

An informed Iranian source with first-hand knowledge of all the main political and clerical figures in the country said: "Ahmadinejad is defying everybody. He does whatever he wants and considers it to be right. This is not how things are done in Iran."

The upheaval at the highest government levels in Tehran follows the dismissal of four senior ambassadors and has raised questions about Iran's ability to conclude negotiations on its nuclear programme which are due to come to a head at a UN meeting in Vienna next week.

Mr Ahmadinejad drew international condemnation after he made comments about wiping Israel off the map. Concern about the government's isolationist stance has been increased by claims from Tony Blair that Iran is aiding bombmakers attacking British troops in south-east Iraq.

Growing resistance inside Iran to Mr Ahmadinejad, who was unexpectedly elected in June, is coming from several senior figures and sections of the media. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who was runner-up in the election, denounced the purge and, in comments reported by Iranian news agencies, suggested the president should be reined in.

"A tendency in Iran is trying to banish competent officials and it is harming the country like a plague," Mr Rafsanjani said. "Our society has been divided into two poles and some people are behaving aggressively." Hassan Rohani, sacked as Iran's senior nuclear negotiator, told Tehran newspapers that the negotiations with the west were being mishandled. The former president Mohammad Khatami also voiced concern that Mr Ahmadinejad was exceeding his powers.
(via Protein Wisdom)

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

REMEMBER THE STRANGE BACKPACK linked to the March 11 terrorist attacks in Madrid I wrote about some time ago? Well, it gets even worse:
The autopsies on those killed in the Madrid train bombings of March 11, 2004, did not discover shrapnel of terrorist origin, according to a Libertad Digital [Spain Herald's parent publication] exclusive. PP spokesman Eduardo Zaplana will again demand that the March 11 investigating committee be reopened. He expressed his thanks for "the investigative work that some media outlets do by themselves, and they will keep asking questions. The administration is not cooperating because it has something to hide."

According to the official version, the backpack-bomb found in the Vallecas police station, which provided all the clues for the first arrests, is exactly the same as those that blew up in the trains. In its interior it had a mobile phone connected to a mass of explosive full of nails and screws, to serve as shrapnel.

However, Libertad Digital has confirmed that no terrorist shrapnel was found in the bodies, only fragments of the train cars themselves. The police reports included in the court's summary avoid mentioning the subject of the fragments in the bombs, without saying what evidence had been collected at each train and not mentioning the autopsies. Several sources told Libertad Digital that the autopsies show clearly that the March 11 bombs did not contain shrapnel because none was found in the bodies. This means that the backpack found in Vallecas was never on the train.
Like I said: one of the main pieces allowing people to cry "Aznar lied" may have been a red herring, a plant.

And Libertad Digital's editor is already getting death threats, the last one a veiled one by none other than a Spanish judge.

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IT'S NOT ONLY BUSH who has problems in the polls:
According to the newspaper La Vanguardia, the PP would now defeat the PSOE in a general election, 42.5% 40.1%. For the second weekend in a row a survey directly connected the controversy over the proposed reforms to the Catalan statute of autonomy to the loss of votes for the PSOE, the Socialist Party. Last week, according to the newspaper El Mundo, the PSOE had lost nearly a million votes since its victory on March 14, 2004. This week La Vanguardia printed a survey saying that the People's Party (PP) has caught up with the PSOE by means of taking away one of every ten voters.

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WHY IS IT that I'm not surprised?
Spain's Socialist prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is to push for the lifting of an arms embargo against China despite human rights protests against the Asian giant.

The move came after the state visit of the Chinese president Hu Jintao to Spain looked set to further boost bilateral ties between the countries.

Hu and Zapatero signed a series of accords that their aides described as marking a "watershed" in bilateral relations.

During talks at Zapatero's office in Moncloa Palace, the two leaders stressed their shared commitment to intensifying business links between the two countries, pointing to some EUR 900 million worth of deals recently concluded by Spanish companies in China.
Never mind what Amnesty International says, eh?

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REMEMBER JOSEPH STEPHANIDES, the only UN official fired for his implication on UNSCUM (the Oil-For-Food fraud)? He's been reinstated already. I guess it was unfair for him to be the only one fired while all others were keeping their posts...

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A summit focusing on narrowing the digital divide between the rich and poor residents and countries opened Wednesday with an agreement of sorts on who will maintain ultimate oversight of the Internet and the flow of information, commerce and dissent.

The World Summit on the Information Society had been overshadowed by a lingering, if not vocal, struggle about overseeing the domain names and technical issues that make the Internet work and keep people from Pakistan to Canada surfing Web sites in the search for information, news and buying and selling.

Negotiators from more than 100 countries agreed late Tuesday to leave the United States in charge of the Internet's addressing system, averting a U.S.-EU showdown at this week's U.N. technology summit.

U.S. officials said early Wednesday that instead of transferring management of the system to an international body such as the United Nations, an international forum would be created to address concerns. The forum, however, would have no binding authority.
Don't miss what Claudia Rosett wrote this morning about this.

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WELL, EVERYTHING'S READY for the launch of Pajamas Media, actually under its new and final name that I can announce now: OSM.

The launch event, at the Rainbow Room in New York's Rockefeller Center, will start at 10 am EST (4 pm Central European Time), with live comments by Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds and Pulitzer Prize winner Judith Miller, which will follow a live debate between David Corn of The Nation, Larry Kudlow of CNBC's "Kudlow & Company", John Podhoretz of The New York Post and Claudia Rosett, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, and a special audiocast appearance by noted Baghdad blogging brothers Mohammed and Omar Iraq the Model.

Style maven Tom Julian and Manolo the Shoeblogger will also lead a panel discussion on the topic "Are Blogs the New Black?"

I'll also be there, in a video appearance; some circumstances have kept me in Barcelona during this eventful day. But well, I will follow everything (and you too, if you want) via the live audio feed, available both in Windows Media and Real Media formats. So, tune in, it's gonna be fun!

UPDATE. It's going great! now there's a brief pause so I thought I'd let you know in case you're interested that Ed Driscoll is liveblogging every detail of the event. In fact, he's not the only one; virtually everyone has a laptop in front of them. So much that only two minutes after my video was shown, I got several emails and IMs by people there! On the picture front, GayPatriot has a couple of them already up.

UPDATE II. More pictures over at Solomonia.

UPDATE III. That's it for now; after Judith Miller (with Glenn) and Senator Cornyn (from Washington) have spoken, in both cases generating a lively discussion. In a while, everybody to the party at the W hotel. No, no audio feed from there...

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

THE EGYPTIAN BLOGGER who had been arrested some days ago has been released. Good.

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NO, THERE NEVER WAS any kind of link whatosever between al-Qaeda and Saddam's regime; not only this, they hated each other so much that they would have never considered the possibility of doing anything together. That's probably why al-Zawahiri, number 2 of the terrorist organization, was in Iraq in 1999 to attend the Popular Islamic Congress after being summoned by al-Douri (who was alive back then). And it's also the reason why, around that time, al-Zarqawi entered into the country and started building the first terrorist cells. So says former prime minister Allawi, based on documents found in Saddam regime's file cabinets.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

DENNIS PRAGER asks five questions that non-Muslims would like answered. Read it in full.

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MORE FODDER for Spanish superstar judges:
On the Spanish island of Majorca, the police quietly opened a criminal investigation in March after a local newspaper reported a series of visits to the island's international airport by planes known to regularly operate for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Now, it has emerged that an investigative judge in Palma has ordered the police inquiry to be sent to Spain's national court, to consider whether the C.I.A. was routing planes carrying terrorism suspects through Majorca as part of its so-called rendition program.

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GATEWAY PUNDIT has a roundup of violence erupting not only in France -like that was a new thing-, but to Belgium, Greece, Germany and the Netherlands. Wonder when Spain will join the party.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

RESURRECTING FRANCO (no, not Franco Alemán; the other Franco, the real one) as a straw man as a way of covering the growing discontent with Zapatero's policies; that's the accurate observation by Robert Latona in a superb article in Spiked:
Three decades after his far from untimely passing, Spaniards dust off their memories of former dictator Francisco Franco. But this time he's coming back as a panto villain, in hopes of drawing a torrent of boos and hisses to distract a public that is becoming increasingly critical of Spain's ruling leftists.

There's something stirring inside the tomb, and a whiff of nastiness sours the air. Should we fear the return of the undead - or is it a case of Resurrection Men digging up a corpse for their own nefarious purposes? The question is one that bears asking as Spain prepares for the thirtieth anniversary, on 20 November, of Generalissimo Francisco Franco's death - after 39 years as Head of State, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and caudillo de España by the grace of God, to go by his official titles.

Prime minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero may actually welcome the anniversary as a pretext for convincing people (including a disgruntled segment of his own Socialist Party) that no matter how much of a muddle he may get the country into, things could actually be a good deal worse, as indeed they were under a dictatorship still alive in the memories of many Spaniards. The more fuss made over Franco, the more emphatically the point gets driven home.

Not that we need worry about generals plotting to reinstate archaic political arrangements meant to ensure that the caudillo kept on calling the shots for as long as he lasted, or Parkinson's spasms of thuggery from residues of the far right. Zapatero should only be so lucky. With its spoof news bulletin 'Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead', the satirical American TV show Saturday Night Live not only enriched the repertory of catchphrases, but also anticipated most Spaniards' coolly dismissive final word on the squeaky-voiced, ruthless little man whose obsessive notions of socio-political rectitude and national destiny had circumscribed their lives.

Barely a decade after his death, relics and remnants of the Spain that Franco thought he had left 'securely tied down' were flooding the flea markets in cities convulsed by hedonistic self-indulgence - as people played catch-up on previous taboos and no-go areas long forbidden to them by a regime that had implemented the moral doctrine of the Catholic Church as state policy. As the British novelist Anthony Burgess observed on a 1985 visit to Barcelona, 'to the young, Franco has the same kind of reality as Snow White's stepmother'.
(via JJ Merelo). After the second million man march against the Socialist government education plans yesterday, (the first one was back in June, against the suspicion that there's some kind of negotiations between Zapatero's administration and the terrorist group ETA), punctuated by several a bit smaller ones, and with a poll published today in the currently pro-Socialist newspaper La Vanguardia showing the Socialist party now trailing behing the PP (link in Spanish; free reg. req.), agitating the straw man will be an ever bigger temptation for Zapatero. It will work only with those already converted, of course; the only concern is that it will rarify the political atmosphere even more.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

THAT THE MARCH 11 terrorist attacks in Madrid were a consquence of Aznar's support of Bush and the war in Iraq is an article of faith by most people, in Spain and abroad. You know, one of "those animated cartoon characters who, after being flattened, blown up, or pushed over a cliff, always spring back to life with their bodies perfectly intact. Perhaps, like those cartoon characters, this allegation simply cannot be killed off, no matter what," to use Norman Podhoretz's words.

It won't be certainly killed by this:
A Syrian man believed to be a key figure in Osama bin Laden's terrorist network in Europe has been linked to a bomb attack on a Madrid restaurant 20 years ago in which 18 people were killed.

Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, who is believed to have been arrested last week in Pakistan, has already been linked to the 7 July terror attacks on London.

Nasar, a 47-year-old Syrian with Spanish nationality, has now been identified by a person is in Spain's witness protection programme as being involved in the bomb attack in 1985.

The attack on the El Descanso restaurant killed 18 people and injured about 100.

The Islamic terrorist organisation Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility at the time.
They were preemptively responding to the war in Iraq they just knew was going to happen 18 years after, of course.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the last senior member of Saddam Hussein’s regime still at large, died today, according to a statement released by the ousted Baath Party.

If confirmed, his death could represent a big blow to the insurgency. Al-Douri was sixth on the list of America’s most wanted Iraqis with a $10 million reward for his capture. He was the Ace of Clubs on the US military's deck of most-wanted Iraqis.

After more than two and half years on the run, during which he is believed to have helped organise the insurgency against US forces, the veteran Baathist leader succumbed to a long battle against leukaemia.

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SORRY FOR the lack of posting these last couple of days, been busy with both professional and personal matters. I'll try to return to regular pace as soon as possible, I promise!

Meanwhile, and though it's two days old, I just saw this fascinating analysis of how the British and French press have been reporting on the riots in France.

UPDATE. And then read this and you'll know why the Paris-based journalist I like best is John Vinocur.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

MAJOR EXPLOSION in Amman, Jordan. Not clear if it's been in the Radisson or the Hyatt hotel; CNN and FoxNews are on this right now, but the details are sketchy. Nothing on Google News yet, I only found this blog post.

UPDATE. Reuters reports there's 5 people dead; CNN broadcast is saying it might be 10.

UPDATE II. CNN is saying it's been 3 explosions; in the Radisson, in the Hyatt and in a third hotel whose name I couldn't understand.

UPDATE III (Nov 10, 7.30 am CET). The third hotel was the Days Inn. The reports are saying there's 57 dead and more than 110 wounded; authorities have little doubt that al-Qaeda is behind this.

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DON'T MISS this piece by Norman Podhoretz about who is lying about Iraq:
Among the many distortions, misrepresentations, and outright falsifications that have emerged from the debate over Iraq, one in particular stands out above all others. This is the charge that George W. Bush misled us into an immoral and/or unnecessary war in Iraq by telling a series of lies that have now been definitively exposed.

What makes this charge so special is the amazing success it has enjoyed in getting itself established as a self-evident truth even though it has been refuted and discredited over and over again by evidence and argument alike. In this it resembles nothing so much as those animated cartoon characters who, after being flattened, blown up, or pushed over a cliff, always spring back to life with their bodies perfectly intact. Perhaps, like those cartoon characters, this allegation simply cannot be killed off, no matter what.

Nevertheless, I want to take one more shot at exposing it for the lie that it itself really is. Although doing so will require going over ground that I and many others have covered before, I hope that revisiting this well-trodden terrain may also serve to refresh memories that have grown dim, to clarify thoughts that have grown confused, and to revive outrage that has grown commensurately dulled.
There's a lot more after this.

UPDATE (Nov 10.). Link was bad, sorry.

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AN ARAB-AMERICAN journalist notes that many of the misunderstandings between the US and the so-called Arab street stem from the myopic view and botched reporting by the Arab media's Washington correspondents, who rarely venture outside the Beltway and so they don't really know to explain to their home audiences how America's political life and society really work.

David Kaspar's Medienkritik, where I saw the article, says that this is exactly what also happens in Germany. And in Spain, I should add. It's a EU-wide phenomenon.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

HANS VON SPONECK, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq who became famous when he resigned in 2000 as a protest for the sanctions against the Baathist regime and then even more famous with his anti-war stance, was apparently in Saddam's payroll too.

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MICHEL PAJON, the Socialist mayor of Noisy-le-Grand, near Paris, is appalled:
“Women have been made to stop on the streets of my town. They were dragged from their cars by their hair, they were practically stoned and their cars were set ablaze... The situation is absolutely dramatic and inacceptable. This is a real scandal. I sound the alarm bell in my town. If the state is incapable of defending us, we will have no choice but to defend ourselves. My town has a psychiatric hospital which has been attacked with molotov cocktails. This is beyond comprehension. I have never seen anything like this in my entire life. I do not ask for the resignation of the Interior Minister [Nicolas Sarkozy]. I want him to do his job. At the moment he is not doing his job.

Send in the army? I do not know, for a socialist to say that the army has to intervene is an inconceivable admission of defeat, but what I can say is that one cannot abandon the people like this. At some point we need to know whether this country still has a state.”
Paul Belien also writes about the incidents in Belgium and says that, just as in France, the media are downplaying the incidents.

UPDATE. Much more on the MSM 'makeup' over at No Pasarán!.

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Joseph A. Wilson IV: The French Connection:
There are an amazing number of French fingerprints all over the Plame-Wilson affair. While it is not easy to penetrate the dark fog of lies, there is a highly consistent pattern pointing to French government involvement with a Watergate-style assault on the American Presidency, fronted by Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

In 2002 French intelligence forged the notorious document claiming that Saddam tried to obtain Niger uranium. The Italian middle man, Rocco Martino, later confessed to French involvement in open court. Rocco Martino might sound like a small-time mafia hood from the Sopranos. Actually, he works at times for Italian military intelligence. The truth about the French connection came out when Martino confessed in court that the French had given him the forged document to peddle to various intelligence agencies. The Italians and French have had a furious war of words ever since then about who was responsible for the forgery.

The FBI just leaked a claim that Rocco did it just for the money. That is very doubtful. The French naturally deny any responsibility, but the forged document was dropped on the public at exactly the time that Dominique de Villepin, then Foreign Minister, was in New York trying to make Colin Powell believe that France was prepared to help overthrow Saddam. The French forgery was a stink bomb, designed to be exposed in public as soon as Colin Powell publicly accepted it.

At the very same time the Niger forgery showed up, France’s Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, was sand bagging Secretary Powell at the UN by pretending to support American efforts against Saddam – even as he got ready to pull out the rug in a surprise press conference. Reporter Kenneth Timmerman told Brit Hume for FoxNews that:

“Our administration thought that the French were with us, that French had dispatched their top general to Centcom, Chirac had promised the president (to support the United States against Saddam). Villepin the foreign minister had promised Powell. They said they were with us, and they weren’t. ...”

“So then de Villepin goes outside at noontime. ... Powell is actually watching Fox News… as de Villepin goes on TV … And that’s when he announces to the world that France will never ever support the use of force against Saddam Hussein. ... Powell’s jaw dropped to the floor….”

It was a carefully planned ambush.
(via Roger Simon) There's a lot more. Certainly, this is just a theory with no hard evidence, at least at this point. But remember, for less than that quite a few people decided that the Iraq war was done under the instructions of Halliburton, Cheney's former company...

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Monday, November 07, 2005

BEWARE IF YOU GET an email message from Kofi Annan!

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IS THE VIOLENCE spreading beyond France's border? Well, so far they've started to burn cars in Berlin; there's real worries that more locations will start erupting soon.

UPDATE. While I was writing this short post a Fox News reporter, live from Paris, just mentioned not one, but to incidents in Berlin, and another in Brussels, near its train station. I have done a quick search on Google News and there's nothing yet.

UPDATE II. Don't know how long ago exactly the Brussels and the second Berlin incident took place, but a commenter in my Spanish blog alerted me that the Corriere Della Sera has an article about them; in Italian, of course.

UPDATE III. Just a short mention about Brussels here.

UPDATE IV. More, by Paul Belien at the Brussels Journal.

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THE ALLEGED PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE between Arabs, Christian and Jews in Middle Age Spain, during the Moorish domination of the Iberian Peninsula, is a persistent myth, Jihad Watch's Hugh Fitzgerald writes:
The myths about Islamic Spain (known collectively as the "myth of Andalusia") have their origins in the romantic writers of the early 19th century. Just as Sir Walter Scott, venturing beyond Scotland, painted a completely fictional portrait of the "noble Saracens" tutoring the Christians in chivalrous behavior, so the myths of wonderful tolerant Andalusia owe their existence to two highly imaginative works by convincing writers: "Tales of the Alhambra" by Washington Irving and "Le Dernier des Abencerages" by Chateaubriand. The latter, of course, thought nothing of making things up even about his own life -- some of his entirely fictional trips are set down as fact in "Memoires d'Outre-Tombe."

The apotheosis of this is the dreamy effort of Maria Rosa Menocal, entitled "Ornament of the World," which purports to be about Cordoba, where "three faiths" worked harmoniously blah-blah-blah a lesson and hope for our age blah-blah-blah Maimonides blah-blah-blah. Now the first thing to know about this impressionistic fantasy is that it completely ignores, does not even mention in its bibliography, any of the major scholarly works on Muslim Spain -- including those of Evariste Levi-Provencal, of Dufourcq, of Bousquet, of many others. It ignores a good deal else as well, including Maimonides' own words: "...the Arabs have persecuted us severely, and passed baneful and discriminatory legislation against us...Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase, and hate us as much as they..."

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

HAVE YOU SEEN how Google translates "Fidel Castro" from Spanish to English? Fidel I castrate. Give it a try.

Heh. As a forum participant writes (I saw this on a referrer in my statistics), "a bit more literal than it needs to be."

Or not!

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IT'S NOT ONLY Paris burning, or the whole France, for that matter. For several days, Denmark second biggest city, Århus, has suffered violent clashes between young Muslims and the police. The local press has been covering them since they started, but the international media has been conspicuously absent. Like I'm shocked, yeah.

Read this and this, too.

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ONE WOULDN'T THINK SO after reading most of the media, but Iraq's economy is booming if compared to what it was before the war. True, the starting point, under Saddam, was very low so it was difficult it would deteriorate, but nevertheless it's a contrast to what the Cassandras are constantly saying.

(via blog in Spanish Freelance Corner)

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FEEDING THE COFFERS of American military industry!

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THE OTHER DAY I told you about the peculiar chomskyite way of being anti-capitalist. He's not the only one. Michael Moore, the guy who said he doesn't one one single share of these evil corporation that Bu$hitler works for. And he's right, he doesn't own a single one. He owns thousands of them, even two thousand shares of... Halliburton!

(Via Ideazione's blog)

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IF IT WAS INTELLECTUALLY RESPECTABLE to compare New Orleans and Somalia, or some other place in the Third World, can we say now that Paris looks like Baghdad, or will they chastise us saying it's a wild exaggeration -which it arguably is-?

EU Rota wonders, while he puts US liberals' favorite econopundit, Paul Krugman, in front of his own words.

Don't miss this analysis by Craig Smith in the International Herald Tribune that I also saw at EU Rota, who notes that it has been 'sweetened' for the New York Times, IHT's parent newspaper.

UPDATE. Meanwhile, there's the theory that the wave of violence is partially explained by France's opposition to the Iraq war. Not as wild as it may sound to some people.

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BLOGGER WAS A NIGHTMARE YESTERDAY; I could only upload one post in my Spanish blog, and then for the rest of the day it was impossible. Furthermore, both of my blogs were unaccessible pretty much all day. Seems fixed now, but I'll keep my fingers crossed, even if it makes typing much more difficult...

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Friday, November 04, 2005

THINGS LIKE THIS leaves you speechless:
A handicapped woman was doused with petrol and set on fire by youths during another night of rioting in Paris.

The 56-year-old suffered third degree burns to 20% of her body in the attack.

Witnesses said a youth poured petrol over the woman and then threw a Molotov cocktail on to the bus she was travelling on in the suburb of Sevran.

Other passengers were able to flee but she was unable to escape because of her disabilities.
Can you imagine the media and the US Democrats if something like this had happened in New Orleans?

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THE VIRUS that is really spreading fast and threatening to become a worldwide epidemic of devastating consequences is not avian flu. It's extreme Islamism, writes Victor Davis Hanson in what probably is today's required reading. Like most, if not all Fridays.

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ANOTHER CAUSE that Zapatero has decided to drop: that of the opposition in exile to the Equatorial Guinea ruler.

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WAS IT REALLY HIM? Pakistani officials deny it was the March 11 perpetrator who was nabbed?
The Pakistani police have captured a leading al-Qaeda suspect and killed another, but the authorities have denied media reports that the suspect is a Syrian, Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, who is wanted in connection with the 2004 Madird train bombings. Pakistan's information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has said that the men were Arab but that he was not the al-Qaeda operative that the media had been speculating about.

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VIA ROGER SIMON I see that Michael Ledeen has written about the pro-Israel demonstration in Rome a couple of days ago (you can see pictures here).

It's a good sign that people in Europe are finally starting to react in favor of the only democracy in the Middle East -oops, make that "one of the only two democracies in the Middle East"-. In Madrid there's also a demonstration planned for next Friday 11, in front of Iran's embassy, though I'm afraid that unlike Rome's there won't be much representation of leftists and even Muslim groups; I hope I'm wring, but I guess there'll be only the usual suspects.

UPDATE. More on Rome's demonstration.

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THE CIA should be investigated for the Wilson / Plame kerfuffle, argues Victoria Toensing (non-free article, via Powerline and my buddy Golan of HispaLibertas) There are reasons, as she concludes, to consider that the CIA's conduct on the matter "is either a brilliant covert action against the White House or inept intelligence tradecraft.". Her reasons:
• First: The CIA sent her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger on a sensitive mission regarding WMD. He was to determine whether Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake, an essential ingredient for nonconventional weapons. However, it was Ms. Plame, not Mr. Wilson, who was the WMD expert. Moreover, Mr. Wilson had no intelligence background, was never a senior person in Niger when he was in the State Department, and was opposed to the administration's Iraq policy. The assignment was given, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, at Ms. Plame's suggestion.

• Second: Mr. Wilson was not required to sign a confidentiality agreement, a mandatory act for the rest of us who either carry out any similar CIA assignment or who represent CIA clients.

• Third: When he returned from Niger, Mr. Wilson was not required to write a report, but rather merely to provide an oral briefing. That information was not sent to the White House. If this mission to Niger were so important, wouldn't a competent intelligence agency want a thoughtful written assessment from the "missionary," if for no other reason than to establish a record to refute any subsequent misrepresentation of that assessment? Because it was the vice president who initially inquired about Niger and the yellowcake (although he had nothing to do with Mr. Wilson being sent), it is curious that neither his office nor the president's were privy to the fruits of Mr. Wilson's oral report.

• Fourth: Although Mr. Wilson did not have to write even one word for the agency that sent him on the mission at taxpayer's expense, over a year later he was permitted to tell all about this sensitive assignment in the New York Times. For the rest of us, writing about such an assignment would mean we'd have to bring our proposed op-ed before the CIA's Prepublication Review Board and spend countless hours arguing over every word to be published. Congressional oversight committees should want to know who at the CIA permitted the publication of the article, which, it has been reported, did not jibe with the thrust of Mr. Wilson's oral briefing. For starters, if the piece had been properly vetted at the CIA, someone should have known that the agency never briefed the vice president on the trip, as claimed by Mr. Wilson in his op-ed.

• Fifth: More important than the inaccuracies is the fact that, if the CIA truly, truly, truly had wanted Ms. Plame's identity to be secret, it never would have permitted her spouse to write the op-ed. Did no one at Langley think that her identity could be compromised if her spouse wrote a piece discussing a foreign mission about a volatile political issue that focused on her expertise? The obvious question a sophisticated journalist such as Mr. Novak asked after "Why did the CIA send Wilson?" was "Who is Wilson?" After being told by a still-unnamed administration source that Mr. Wilson's "wife" suggested him for the assignment, Mr. Novak went to Who's Who, which reveals "Valerie Plame" as Mr. Wilson's spouse.

• Sixth: CIA incompetence did not end there. When Mr. Novak called the agency to verify Ms. Plame's employment, it not only did so, but failed to go beyond the perfunctory request not to publish. Every experienced Washington journalist knows that when the CIA really does not want something public, there are serious requests from the top, usually the director. Only the press office talked to Mr. Novak.

• Seventh: Although high-ranking Justice Department officials are prohibited from political activity, the CIA had no problem permitting its deep cover or classified employee from making political contributions under the name "Wilson, Valerie E.," information publicly available at the FEC.
UPDATE (Nov. 6): The article is now available for free here.

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AN EGYPTIAN BLOGGER has been arrested apparently for his criticism towards Islam and Mubarak (see the banner on top of his page):
According to his family, his arrest might be a result of his writings. His brother said that Abdolkarim has a tense relation with Islamists in his hometown of Alexandria. He added that the Islamists might be the ones behind filing a complaint against his brother.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

ONE OF THE TOP CULPRITS of the March 11 massacre in Madrid apparently has been arrested in Pakistan.

Interestingly, he's the same guy who reportedly had been hiding in Venezuela under the protection of a Chavist official (link in Spanish) until a TV interview with Johan Peña, a former agent of Venezuela intelligence service, was aired. A very good source there told me back then that Setmarian quicky fled the South American country after the broadcast.

UPDATE. You can see the TV interview with Johan Peña here.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

PEAKTALK remembers it's exactly one year ago today that Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

CHOPPIN OFF the head of stock market speculators is so far just a possibility, but running with a truck over a 8-year old's right arm for stealing some bread unfortunately isn't. Warning: the images are very disturbing (barretina tip: Golan)

UPDATE. LGF has this too.

UPDATE II (Nov. 2). Apparently there might be a more benign explanation; some people allege that it was merely some kind of street performance. Unfortunately I can't access the link since it's disconnected for the day because of excess bandwith (Barce-lanche? well, I guess LGF might have helped a bit...) Will keep you posted.

UPDATE III. The link works now, and it does seem that it's some street performance -a weird one, but not a punishment. LGF has a confirmation.

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A BIG, BIG HUG for Cathy Seipp.

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