If you can imagine it, someone will do it and things will get better. My posts are too often gloomy or alarmist. And that is against my nature. Today’s blog begins with some good news, and ends with an admonition to not get too comfortable.
- Mafia boss is caught in Sicily – Mafia members have always felt safe if they can make it to Sicily. But the biggest boss’s time ran out. The New York Times has the story,
After 43 years on the run, Bernardo Provenzano, the alleged boss of all bosses of the Sicilian mafia, was arrested today by Italian police officers in a farmhouse near Corleone, the hilltop town made famous by Mario Puzo’s Godfather novels.
According to law-enforcement officials the 73-year-old Mr. Provenzano ran a vicious Mafia family that dominated organized crime on the island of Sicily for decades, leaving behind a long trail of blood, in murdered prosecutors, reporters and investigators. He has already been sentenced at least six times in absentia to life in prison as a member of the so-called Mafia Cupola responsible for coordinating the mob’s strategies.
A British girl is thought to have become the first heart transplant patient in the UK and possibly the world to have had her donor organ removed and her own heart re-started, a London hospital said on Thursday.
Hannah Clark from south Wales had a heterotopic transplant operation — known as a “piggyback” because the donor heart is placed next to the original organ — 10 years ago.
By ANDREWPOLLACK. Published: April 13, 2006
When her hairdresser asked her last fall whether she would continue wearing her hair long, Elizabeth Sloan broke down crying. Unbeknown to the hairstylist, Ms. Sloan had recently had a breast tumor removed and was expecting to begin chemotherapy, which would probably mean losing her hair.
But later that day, Ms. Sloan received the results of a new $3,500 genetic test, which indicated that her cancer probably would not come back even if she skipped chemotherapy.
Then late last year, her story was publicized by a leading Chinese journalist, turning one woman’s quest for compensation into a national cause célèbre for a new class of advocates who are using the country’s legal system to fight for social justice.
Ms. Liu’s experience, all but unimaginable as recently as two or three years ago, is increasingly common in China, where a once totalitarian system is facing growing pressure from a population that is awakening to the power of independent organization. Uncounted millions of Chinese, from the rich cities of the east to the impoverished countryside, are pushing an inflexible political system for redress over issues from shoddy health care and illegal land seizures to dire pollution and rampant official corruption.
Ms. Liu first sought help in November, after hearing rumors that she was about to be arrested here in her hometown in this dismal region of northern China for protesting her infection at the local Communist Party headquarters. She met with an employee of the blood bank in Xingtai who had publicly accused it of distributing contaminated blood to her and more than a thousand others.
He took her to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the country’s most famous site, where the crowds of people who show up from all over China each morning to watch the flag-raising ceremony provide a measure of anonymity.
A recently retired two-star general who just a year ago commanded a U.S. Army division in Iraq on Wednesday joined a small but growing list of former senior officers to call on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign.
“I believe we need a fresh start in the Pentagon. We need a leader who understands teamwork, a leader who knows how to build teams, a leader that does it without intimidation,” Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Germany-based 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, said in an interview on CNN.
In recent weeks, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton and Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni all spoke out against Rumsfeld. This comes as opinion polls show eroding public support for the 3-year-old war in which about 2,360 U.S. troops have died.
If you can imagine it, someone will do it and things will get worse. These are relatively old stories but they are included here to refresh memories about the current administration’s capacity to do the unimaginable. Do not forget that these things are going on currently. Believe it!
- Governmental paralysis remains in Iraq – With a call for a meeting of Parliment next week, all parties are still frozen in place over naming the new Prime Minister. Reuters says that the Shiites are making new demands. To quote from the story,
Fresh demands from the Shi’ite Alliance over the creation of an Iraqi government on Wednesday threatened to prolong a political paralysis that Washington says is playing into the hands of insurgents.
Acting parliament speaker Adnan Pachachi said Iraqi leaders would discuss a national unity government at the next session on Monday and was optimistic of a breakthrough before then in spite of the Shi’ite Alliance’s reluctance to drop its choice of Ibrahim al-Jaafari for prime minister.
“I spoke to the heads of all the political blocs and I sensed a true intent from all to push the political process forward,” Pachachi said. “From now until the 17th of this month, we believe there will be an agreement on some of the problems.” Elections for the new government ended four months ago and the United States and Britain have been pressing Iraqi leaders to agree on who will lead it, fearful the widening vacuum emboldens insurgents seeking to undermine the political process.
- Administration Hawks discuss nukes for Iran – We couldn’t imagine that the runup to Iraq was built on false assertions, that we were “softened up” for the invasion of Iraq. But now we can imagine being “softened up” for an invasion of Iran. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo says it perfectly in his Monday post, and Atrios echos the thought.
- Citizen civil liberties are being violated – The GAO reports that privacy rights are not protected under the NSA domestic intelligence gathering program. According to CNET News,
April 5, 2006 10:38 AM PDT
Government agencies that use private-sector databases to pull up information on American citizens without their knowledge often do it in violation of privacy regulations, a major new federal report has found.
The Government Accountability Office reviewed federal use of “information resellers” such as ChoicePoint and LexisNexis and found that 91 percent of spending from major federal agencies was for law enforcement or terrorism-related investigations.
Of eight examples of agency use the GAO gave, fully half did not abide by federal fair information rules. Those include principles such as data quality, use for limited purposes, security safeguards, and accountability.
To quote TPM,This post is, hopefully, nothing more than stating the obvious. But let’s just put down for the record that when President Bush calls recent reports of White House plans to attack Iran “wild speculation” that means absolutely nothing.
It’s not just that the president has now earned a well-deserved reputation for lying. It is because he and his chief aides lied to the country about a more or less parallel situation — the build up to war on Iraq — only four years ago. We now know that the fix was in on the Iraq War as early as September/October 2001. And the president and his crew kept up the charade that no decisions had been made long after those claims became laughable.
The good news outweighs the bad in this post, only because I chose to make it so. This is not a good time for the good old USA. But, since I am naturally an optimist, the nation has enough strength and resilience to persevere. We will need every bit of it.