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Anna Nicole Smith Gets 12 Times As Much Coverage as Walter Reed

"Fox News is being criticized for spending more time covering the death of Anna Nicole Smith than the scandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. According to the website ThinkProgress.org, Fox News devoted 12 times more coverage to Anna Nicole Smith on Friday than Walter Reed."
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Report: 1 Million Iraqis May Flee in 2007

(AP, 2/16/07)

GENEVA - Unrelenting violence and insecurity in
Iraq could cause as many as 1 million Iraqis to flee their homes this year, the world's migration body said Friday.

"The numbers of people that are being displaced are increasing every day," said Jemini Pandaya, spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration. "The security situation is not improving. It's not changing."

Pandaya said the organization's estimate was made "on the assumption that security conditions will continue much as they are."

The possibility of neighboring countries, such as
Syria, closing their borders would mean even more of the displaced would only be able to get as far as other parts of Iraq.

On Thursday, the U.N. refugee agency appealed to the European Union to do more to protect refugees fleeing Iraq, saying the war was the cause of the biggest displacement of people in the Middle East in recent history.

"The humanitarian situation is grave and deteriorating. States should respond to the protection needs of Iraqi asylum seekers on their territory," said Madeline Garlick, a spokeswoman for the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Brussels.

That appeal came a day after Washington announced it will allow about 7,000 Iraqis into the United States this year — up from 202 in 2006 — and will pay more to help Iraq's neighbors cope with the surge of refugees.

As the bloodshed in Iraq has increased, European governments have come under increasing pressure to open their doors to asylum-seekers. Many are worried that an escalation in violence in 2007 could generate a fresh wave of refugees.

The U.N. appeal came as the EU announced it would contribute $13 million more for Iraqi refugees. About 60 percent will go to help those who have fled to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
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Honest, It Wasn't Abe (Washington Post, 2/15/07)

During House floor debate on the Iraq War resolution Thursday, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) fell into a trap that's caught plenty of other Iraq war supporters -- misquoting Abraham Lincoln as advocating the hanging of lawmakers who undermine military morale during wartime.

"Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged," Young quoted the 16th president as saying.

Young certainly added a sizzle to an otherwise fairly bland debate by raising the specter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her party faithful being arrested for opposing President Bush's troop surge.

The only problem: Lincoln never said such a thing. It was actually J. Michael Waller in a piece he wrote for Insight magazine in December of 2003. Waller later told Annenberg's FactCheck.org that the "supposed quote in question is not a quote at all, and I never intended it to be construed as one."

Annenberg counted 18,000 subsequent references to the Lincoln "quote" by people who typically support Bush's war policy and, moreover, oppose critics of the president's war policy.
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The Daily Show for Conservatives

(Slate, 2/15/07)

The Fox News Channel makes its latest foray into the realm of farce and fake news on Sunday night with the premiere of The ½ Hour News Hour (10 p.m. ET). According to the elevator pitch, it's The Daily Show for conservatives. A brief segment of the show popped up on YouTube this week, and though it must have been intended as what we blue-state pansies would call an amuse-bouche, it looks more like a determined bid to lower expectations. The mind strains to conceive of political humor that might be less humorous—or, ultimately, less political. Hannity and Colmes trying "Who's on First"? Dennis Kucinich taking sledgehammer in hand to try Gallagher's act? Jimmy Fallon attempting a Thurmond-length filibuster?

The anchors of the News Hour are parked, "Weekend Update"-style, at a desk on a set evocative of The Colbert Report. He is Kurt Long; she is Jenn Robertson. His jacket bunches at the shoulder, and her hairstylist has acted with malice. The look is in keeping with the ostentatiously humble Fox News aesthetic—a signal that the on-air talent isn't putting on airs, that you're watching something as homey as the leading morning show in Tucson. Kurt leads off the leaked segment thusly: "Illinois Senator Barack Obama admits that as a teenager he sometimes used cocaine. This news sent Obama's approval rating among Democrats plummeting to an all-time low of 99.9 percent." This gets some in-studio laughter, and Kurt forges ahead. "But, in a related story, Senator Obama has just been endorsed for president by former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry."

It happens that there's an actual joke in there, and The ½ Hour News Hour flubs it in eight or nine ways. On purely technical grounds, there's the glitch of the control room flashing its graphic of Barry at least two beats before the host reads his name and also the plain fact that 99.9 is not a funny number. You can nearly feel the missed opportunities—for the line to get pleasurably offensive with drug lingo or to turn back on the teller—whizzing past.
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Love During a Time of War

(AlterNet.com, February 14, 2007)

Former Marine Sgt. Ty Ziegel, wounded in Iraq in December 2004 by a suicide car bomber, stands with his high school sweetheart, Renee Kline, at a photo studio on the morning of their wedding day, October 7, 2006.

(picture available to view here)

Renee has continued to support her husband, who returned home to Illinois after undergoing 50 surgeries and 19 months of rehabilitation.

The photo, taken by Nina Berman, won a 1st prize in the World Press Photo Awards last week. To see more pictures of Ziegel and his wife, visit www.ninaberman.com.

Anyone seeking to help should send donations to www.fisherhouse.org, an organization that aids military families and has helped Ty and his family during his rehabilitation.
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via Democracy Now (2/15/07) :

"The United States has finished next to last in a UN survey of child welfare in the world’s wealthiest countries. The US is ranked at number twenty, behind only Britain."
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Vermont State Legislature Calls for Iraq Withdrawal

(Democracy Now!, 2/14/07)

"As the House debate continues, Vermont has become the first state to pass a resolution calling for a troop withdrawal from Iraq. On Tuesday, lawmakers in the Vermont State Legislature’s House and Senate approved measures calling for the immediate and orderly withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Vermont has lost more soldiers per capita than any other state in the nation.

Meanwhile in Iowa, the Iowa State Senate has approved a measure opposing the troop escalation in Iraq."
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Army Giving More Waivers in Recruiting (New York Times, 2/14/07)

The number of waivers granted to Army recruits with criminal backgrounds has grown about 65 percent in the last three years, increasing to 8,129 in 2006 from 4,918 in 2003, Department of Defense records show.

During that time, the Army has employed a variety of tactics to expand its diminishing pool of recruits. It has offered larger enlistment cash bonuses, allowed more high school dropouts and applicants with low scores on its aptitude test to join, and loosened weight and age restrictions.

It has also increased the number of so-called “moral waivers” to recruits with criminal pasts, even as the total number of recruits dropped slightly. The sharpest increase was in waivers for serious misdemeanors, which make up the bulk of all the Army’s moral waivers. These include aggravated assault, burglary, robbery and vehicular homicide.

The number of waivers for felony convictions also increased, to 11 percent of the 8,129 moral waivers granted in 2006, from 8 percent. Waivers for less serious crimes like traffic offenses and drug use have dropped or remained stable.

The Army enlisted 69,395 men and women last year.

While soldiers with criminal histories made up only 11.7 percent of the Army recruits in 2006, the spike in waivers raises concerns about whether the military is making too many exceptions to try to meet its recruitment demands in a time of war. Most felons, for example, are not permitted to carry firearms, and many criminals have at some point exhibited serious lapses in discipline and judgment, traits that are far from ideal on the battlefield.

(full article here)
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Ex-Official: Bush Advisers Want Excuse to Attack Iran (Democracy Now, 2/12/07)

"Newsweek is reporting that at least one former White House official contends that some Bush advisers secretly want an excuse to attack Iran. The administration's former National Security Council director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs -- Hillary Mann – said: 'They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something [America] would be forced to retaliate for.'

Newsweek is also reporting that the U.S. is likely to send a third Navy carrier to the Persian Gulf. This comes as the Guardian newspaper reports US preparations for an air strike against Iran have reached an advanced stage. The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the US to mount an attack by the spring."
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