Friday afternoon garden blogging
Continue reading Friday afternoon garden blogging
If it was Central's basketball team and it was a white student from Duke, the school would be shut down, the team would be arrested, the school would be under investigation, CNN would have the story by now, and it would be in every newspaper in the country. The city would be in an uproar. It would ruin the reputation of the school.
At their meeting, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair candidly expressed their doubts that chemical, biological or nuclear weapons would be found in Iraq in the coming weeks, the memo said. The president spoke as if an invasion was unavoidable. The two leaders discussed a timetable for the war, details of the military campaign and plans for the aftermath of the war.
Without much elaboration, the memo also says the president raised three possible ways of provoking a confrontation. Since they were first reported last month, neither the White House nor the British government has discussed them.
"The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours," the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."
It also described the president as saying, "The U.S. might be able to bring out a defector who could give a public presentation about Saddam's W.M.D," referring to weapons of mass destruction.
A brief clause in the memo refers to a third possibility, mentioned by Mr. Bush, a proposal to assassinate Saddam Hussein. The memo does not indicate how Mr. Blair responded to the idea.
Mr. Sands first reported the proposals in his book, although he did not use any direct quotations from the memo. He is a professor of international law at University College of London and the founding member of the Matrix law office in London, where the prime minister's wife, Cherie Blair, is a partner.
Mr. Jones, the National Security Council spokesman, declined to discuss the proposals, saying, "We are not going to get into discussing private discussions of the two leaders."
At several points during the meeting between Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair, there was palpable tension over finding a legitimate legal trigger for going to war that would be acceptable to other nations, the memo said. The prime minister was quoted as saying it was essential for both countries to lobby for a second United Nations resolution against Iraq, because it would serve as "an insurance policy against the unexpected."
The memo said Mr. Blair told Mr. Bush, "If anything went wrong with the military campaign, or if Saddam increased the stakes by burning the oil wells, killing children or fomenting internal divisions within Iraq, a second resolution would give us international cover, especially with the Arabs."
Running Out of Time
Mr. Bush agreed that the two countries should attempt to get a second resolution, but he added that time was running out. "The U.S. would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would twist arms and even threaten," Mr. Bush was paraphrased in the memo as saying.
The document added, "But he had to say that if we ultimately failed, military action would follow anyway."
"To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink.'
In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush's public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.
But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.
"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.
"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin."
The timetable came at an important diplomatic moment. Five days after the Bush-Blair meeting, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was scheduled to appear before the United Nations to present the American evidence that Iraq posed a threat to world security by hiding unconventional weapons.
Although the United States and Britain aggressively sought a second United Nations resolution against Iraq — which they failed to obtain — the president said repeatedly that he did not believe he needed it for an invasion.
Stamped "extremely sensitive," the five-page memorandum, which was circulated among a handful of Mr. Blair's most senior aides, had not been made public. Several highlights were first published in January in the book "Lawless World," which was written by a British lawyer and international law professor, Philippe Sands. In early February, Channel 4 in London first broadcast several excerpts from the memo.
Since then, The New York Times has reviewed the five-page memo in its entirety. While the president's sentiments about invading Iraq were known at the time, the previously unreported material offers an unfiltered view of two leaders on the brink of war, yet supremely confident.
The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.
The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.
Q I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?
THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --
Q Everything --
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.
Q -- everything I've heard --
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. No President wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true. My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th. We -- when we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people. Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen. You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy. But we realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life. And I'm never going to forget it. And I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people that we will do everything in our power to protect our people.
Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy. And that's why I went into Iraq -- hold on for a second --
Q They didn't do anything to you, or to our country.
THE PRESIDENT: Look -- excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al Qaeda trained --
Q I'm talking about Iraq --
THE PRESIDENT: Helen, excuse me. That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted. That's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.
I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences --
Q -- go to war --
THE PRESIDENT: -- and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.
Labels: Church signs
Labels: Church signs
For nearly two decades, Kurds have gathered peacefully in this mountainous corner of northern Iraq to commemorate one of the blackest days in their history. It was here that Saddam Hussein's government launched a poison gas attack that killed more than 5,000 people on March 16, 1988.
So it came as a shock when hundreds of stone-throwing protesters took to the streets here Thursday on the anniversary, beating back government guards to storm and destroy a museum dedicated to the memory of the Halabja attack.
The violence, pitting furious local residents against a much smaller force of armed security men, was the most serious popular challenge to the political parties that have ruled Iraqi Kurdistan for the past 15 years. Occurring on the day the new Iraqi Parliament met for the first time, the episode was a reminder that the issues facing Iraq go well beyond fighting Sunni Arab insurgents and agreeing on cabinet ministers in Baghdad.
. . .
By all appearances, the attack on the Halabja Monument was an authentic expression of popular rage. The crowd contained young and old, men and women. Most seemed to view the museum — which was inaugurated in September 2003 at a ceremony attended by Colin L. Powell, then the secretary of state — as the prop of an unjust government.
"That monument over there has become the main problem for Halabja," said Bakhtiar Ahmad, nodding at the museum, with its distinctive yellow crown-shaped roof. "All the foreign guests are taken there, not to the city."
Nearby, Tara Rahim, a quiet 19-year-old dressed in a neat black cloak and head scarf, said she had come to honor her sister Zara, killed in the 1988 attack, and to stop the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan from taking advantage of the anniversary.
"Kurdish officials used Halabja to gather money," she said, standing with a group of eight other identically dressed young women. "Millions of dollars has been spent, but nothing has reached us."
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Thursday it had launched its biggest air offensive in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.
A military statement said the operation involving more than 50 aircraft and 1,500 Iraqi and U.S. troops as well as 200 tactical vehicles targeted suspected insurgents operating near the town of Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad.
The statement said "Operation Swarmer" was launched on Thursday morning and is "expected to continue for several days as a thorough search of the objective area is conducted."
Samarra was the site of a bombing attack last month on a Shi'ite shrine that set off sectarian reprisals and pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.
Labels: Church signs
The Boston Archdiocese's Catholic Charities said Friday it would stop providing adoption services because of a state law allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children.
The social services arm of the Roman Catholic archdiocese, which has provided adoption services for the state for about two decades, said the law runs counter to church teachings on homosexuality.
"At all times we sought to place the welfare of children at the heart of our work."
In a 2003 document, the Vatican said gay adoption was "gravely immoral," and that children placed in such homes "would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood."
By a 47-36 margin, people favor Democrats over Republicans when they are asked who should control Congress.
While the gap worries Republicans, it does not automatically translate into GOP defeats in November, when voters will face a choice between local candidates rather than considering Congress as a whole.
Secretary Tippett forwarded your recent email requesting funding
for the Durham East End Connector (TIP project U-71) to me and
asked that I respond. Planning and environmental studies for the
project are currently underway. Unless unexpected complications
arise we should finish this process in 2008, allowing for us to
initiate right of way acquisition activities in 2010 as is
currently scheduled in the Transportation Improvement Program.
Based on this schedule, the earliest possible date for start of
construction would be 2012. The actual start of construction;
however, is dependent on availability of funds.
All urban loop projects, such as the East End Connector, must
compete with nine other loops statewide for severly limited
funding. Recently, the Legislature has added more than
$2.5 billion in eligibility to the loop program, but provided no
additional revenue to address this increase in program cost.
These additions included a complete redefinition of the Durham
loop to include projects totaling $400 million by Durham's own
estimate. This is nearly three and a half times the estimated
cost for the original Durham loop that was rejected by the
community. Because of the limited budget and numerous additions
to the loop program, we currently project that the loop program
can be completed no earlier than 2030.
The budgets and schedules for all loop projects are currently
under review. I am sure that the Board of Transportation will
take the importance of this project to the Durham community into
account as they set funding priorities for the annual loop
program budget of roughly $150 million.
Thank you for your interest in our transportation program.
Calvin Leggett, P.E.
Manager, Program Development Branch
Contending that women have more options than they do in the event of an unintended pregnancy, men's rights activists are mounting a long shot legal campaign aimed at giving them the chance to opt out of financial responsibility for raising a child.
The National Center for Men has prepared a lawsuit — nicknamed
Roe v. Wade for Men — to be filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Michigan on behalf of a 25-year-old computer programmer ordered to pay child support for his ex-girlfriend's daughter. The suit addresses the issue of male reproductive rights, contending that lack of such rights violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.
The president of the National Organization for Women, Kim Gandy, acknowledged that disputes over unintended pregnancies can be complex and bitter.
"None of these are easy questions," said Gandy, a former prosecutor. "But most courts say it's not about what he did or didn't do or what she did or didn't do. It's about the rights of the child."
I don't care how much trouble "Crash" had getting financing or getting people on board, the reality of this film, the reason it won the best picture Oscar, is that it is, at its core, a standard Hollywood movie, as manipulative and unrealistic as the day is long. And something more.
For "Crash's" biggest asset is its ability to give people a carload of those standard Hollywood satisfactions but make them think they are seeing something groundbreaking and daring. It is, in some ways, a feel-good film about racism, a film you could see and feel like a better person, a film that could make you believe that you had done your moral duty and examined your soul when in fact you were just getting your buttons pushed and your preconceptions reconfirmed.
So for people who were discomfited by "Brokeback Mountain" but wanted to be able to look themselves in the mirror and feel like they were good, productive liberals, "Crash" provided the perfect safe harbor. They could vote for it in good conscience, vote for it and feel they had made a progressive move, vote for it and not feel that there was any stain on their liberal credentials for shunning what "Brokeback" had to offer. And that's exactly what they did.
Labels: Church signs
The World Baseball Classic got off to a low-key debut, with limited crowds turning out for the Asian round of the 16-nation extravaganza hoped to reinvigorate a sport under threat from soccer.
Only a few thousand spectators took seats in the 55,000-capacity Tokyo Dome as South Korea beat Taiwan 2-0 to launch the 18-day affair that will carry on to the United States and Puerto Rico.
But more fans turned out to make the downtown stadium half full in the evening as regional powerhouse Japan took on underdogs China on the first day of the three-day WBC Pool-A round robin.
The top two from each pool will advance to the second round with the United States heavily favored ahead of other powerhouses such as the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Japan.
The event -- launched with a ceremonial first pitch by legendary Japanese slugger Sachio Kinugasa -- was organized by US Major League Baseball which is seeking to emulate soccer's World Cup.
Soccer's main event won legions of Asian fans four years ago when it was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.
"Soccer is more popular because of the World Cup finals in 2002," said Lee Min-U, 27, a South Korean student who was part of a 120-strong cheering squad.
"But this will be a turning point. If South Korea goes to the final many people in South Korea will become baseball fans," he said.
The quadrennial Classic may also signal some form of global future for America's national pastime after it was axed from the 2012 Olympics for reasons including a lack of international appeal.
A mixed-race British mom gave birth to twins recently — one of each. No, not a boy and a girl. Two girls — one black, the other white. The odds of such a birth are about a million to one, experts said.
"It was a shock when I realized that my twins were two different colors," Kylie Hodgson, 19, told London's Daily Mail. "But it doesn't matter to us — they are just our two gorgeous little girls."
image copyright Gary Roberts