A heartbroken Bronx soldier was racing home from Iraq last night after his wife and mother-in-law perished in a blaze allegedly set by a firebug with a grudge.
While Roberto Cruz boarded a plane in Baghdad, police questioned a 15-year-old who suffered severe burns to his hands and face in yesterday's fire - and reeked of gasoline.
Cruz's wife, Maria Cruz, 20, and her mother, Brenda Cassanova, 41, were killed in the predawn inferno that gutted the Westchester Square building. The fire also critically injured a 2-year-old boy and a teenager.
The story goes on to say that there was a previous arson attempt in November at this same building. They are questioning some one.
"Someone was angry at someone, and two people died because of it," a police source said.
Investigators focused on a teenage neighbor who told police he was walking to a mosque for prayers when he spotted the fire and raced into the burning building to rescue victims.
Officials are suspicious about his story because he smelled strongly of gasoline. They were investigating his claim that he picked up the odor in the hallway where the blaze started.
Mmm. Curious? More here and here.
Godspeed to Mr. Cruz and thanks for your service.
A good "What If?" column from The Australian. As in "What if we didn't take down Saddam?"
People of goodwill and fair mind who opposed the liberation of Iraq would do well to end the year contemplating this question: In what shape would the world be starting 2004 if we had adopted their preferred option of acquiescing yet again to Saddam Hussein?
If the US and its allies had not taken action after Iraq had defied the UN Security Council for the 17th time, Hussein's strength as a leading, rogue figure in the Middle East would have been enhanced.
The international community's New Year gift to the world would have been an emboldened Hussein, still sponsoring terrorism in the Middle East, still running covert chemical and biological weapons programs, still harbouring nuclear ambitions and still threatening his neighbours. His mass graves would have remained undiscovered and he would now be a lightning rod like never before for anti-Western sentiment and action.
The power and influence of the US and its Western allies would have been seriously weakened. Our will to provide a stable and secure international environment would have been tested and found wanting. We would have turned our backs on the people of Iraq, the future of the Middle East and global efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The UN would have ensconced itself as nothing more than a debating society unwilling to enforce its own resolutions. UN Security Council resolution 1441, which passed unanimously in November 2002, explicitly recognised "the threat Iraq's non-compliance with council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security". It threatened "serious consequences" if Iraq again failed to comply.
Over at LGF they were following Air France Flight 68 to LAX that had been intercepted by the US Air Force. The plane landed without incident. No major news coverage, yet.
LGF reader Shiplord Kirel relays some interesting info from his scanner:
If you’re in California and have a scanner, tune to 271.0 Mhz.
NORAD and FAA radio traffic indicates that NORAD intercepted Air France flight 68 over the US earlier this evening and has escorted it across the country.
No media coverage that I can find.
This is the same Paris to LA Air France flight that was grounded last week as an anti-terrorist precaution.
AF 68 on final to LAX right now, F-16s sticking close.
After describing the harrowing experience of being carjacked at gunpoint by 3 masked men as an entire convoy of Iraqis just watched, Harry de Quetteville, has some serious concerns about whether the Iraqis will be ready for self-government and whether the Coalition is properly preparing them.
In this miasma of inaction, the lead roles of the national drama are being filled by an assertive handful of self-interested parties keen to fix things in their favour. The low-level, often inter-ethnic, conflict that bedevils Iraq is as much about staking a claim to post-coalition power as driving the infidels from the country.
And just as they watched passively for years while Saddam Hussein's brutal ultimate in nanny states made every decision for them, so Iraqis are watching and waiting now, as Ahmad Chalabi and his fellow exiles, Jalal Talabani and his fellow Kurds, Ayatollah Ali Sistani and his fellow Shia, and the largely Sunni resistance, or muqawma, jockey for power.
For its part, the Coalition Provisional Authority says it is keen to prepare Iraqis for the day it ceases to exist. But it is in fact doing the contrary, shielding them from any genuine legislative say-so while collapsing the time-frame for a handover of power. The result, next June, will be a destructively abrupt introduction of 26 million Iraqis to a transitional assembly, a mish-mash of self-rule after 35 disfranchised years under the Ba'athists.
Stage-managing the gradual and orderly transformation of the Iraqi people from spectators to players in their national drama has proved too unwieldy and sluggish for the coalition, and plans for a constitution and democratic elections have been postponed for the assembly to deal with in 2005.
Between next summer and those elections, as American and other coalition soldiers hole up or ship out, Iraqi citizens will be forced to learn, untutored, how to play their part in the new democratic script. Without the kind of benign direction the coalition once promised, which is needed to effect the country's transformation into a stable state, they will inevitably fluff their lines and turn, faction by faction, to those ethnic leaders who can prompt them. Depending on the lines they are fed, the result may just be a farce, but could turn out to be a tragedy.
Now if a Democrat made this kind of reasoned and well-thought criticism I would be relieved. This kind of "dissent" should be what the party out of power should be conveying to the administration and the rest of America. It's not shrieking, it's not talk of "miserable failures." I don't think anyone who supports this mission would just tune out this kind of criticism. We need this kind of information and if more Democrats and Republicans called attention to problems--like adults--and provided some suggestions on how to improve what we're doing this whole thing would be a lot easier. But I guess the reason why Dean's up and Lieberman's down is that the "Democratic base" was against this war to begin with and don't even care about whether or not we leave behind a free and democratic Iraq.
But the Democrats who are in Congress are really failing in their duties as elected officials by pulling stunts like Kucinich's disgusting ad using our war dead as campaign slogans or floating conspiracy theories like Jim McDermott. Grow up and do your fucking job. If you disagree with this president then say so but do it like a fucking United States Congressman--not a spoiled teenager who has to have the BMW back by midnight. Have some respect for yourself, your country, and the millions of Americans who don't agree with you that Bush is Hitler and Osama bin Laden is George Washington and America is something we should all be ashamed of.
Is this de Quetteville guy running for anything? I might vote for him. Is he even American? Where does he stand on Prescription Pills for the Elderly?
The 2003 Military Times Poll has been released. We should have a gauge on our servicemembers feelings on things. I would think that it is relevant to point out that the poll was taken in late November and early December, before Saddam was caught. They also compare the military results with civilian results using this CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taking at around the same time.
Despite a year of constant combat casualties and long, grinding overseas tours, men and women in uniform strongly back President Bush and his policies in Iraq, according to a Military Times Poll.
But the poll indicates support for administration policy in Iraq is not much higher in the military than among U.S. civilians. Both military members and civilians, poll results show, are more likely to voice approval for the president’s overall performance than for his Iraq policies.
The poll also found overwhelming sentiment that more than two years of combat have stretched the military so thin that its effectiveness has eroded.
MOSUL, Iraq – Two second-tier Ba’ath Party leaders in northwest Iraq handed over weapons Dec. 29 to Coalition Forces with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
The two Farahs, once answerable to the close circle of senior Ba’athists around Saddam Hussein, turned in 48 AK-47 rifles, 59 magazines, and a bag of loose 7.62-millimeter ammunition to Tallafar police.
Also continuing to turn over weapons were fourth-tier Firqa Ba’athists.
The Tallafar chief of police reported that two Firqas turned in one AK-47 rifle each after hearing that Ba’ath Party personnel were turning in weapons. They said they wanted to be helpful, according to the report.
ESPN's Page2 has a relatively new feature called Writers' Bloc that falls just short of actually being a blog. This one is on WHAT MOMENT FROM 2003 WILL WE STILL REMEMBER IN 2023?
The Washington Post misspelling the name of National Spelling Bee winner Sai R. Gunturi as "Guntari" twice in a story.
Croatian skier Ivica Kostelic telling a magazine that he admired Hitler and that "Nazism was a healthy system for ambitious people."
There's like a dozen writers offering snippets like these as well as longer "posts." They really should turn this into a real blog. Just let it run all day and night as a group blog, modeled on The Corner or The Volokh Conspiracy. Think about it--a trade rumor, an arrest, a disputed call--sports are perfect for blogging. It's like how sports radio exploded 10-15 years ago. Every heartbroken Cubs fan, obnoxious Yankee fan, die-hard Mets fan wanted some one to talk about the teams and games that they loved. Sports radio is huge. In the political sphere, talk radio hit, mostly with conservative hosts, and now all the people who were callers into Rush, Hewitt, etc. have blogs, publishing their thoughts.
Sports is obviously different in many respects but ESPN has always tried to cultivate a cutting-edge image, that's why Page2 exists in the first place. Most of the writers are young (I know, Hunter S. Thompson, I said "most") and don't confine their columns to strictly scores and players but other random things going on in the sports world. I know there are already sports blogs out there, but ESPN would be foolish not to jump on this. They already have the stable of posters. I think this Writers' Bloc thing is just a test for the real blog they will start soon. Not to sound too much like Jeff Jarvis but this is the way news/media/opinion is heading. ESPN should get on this. Quickly. And Bill Simmonsmust have access to post.
I went to the Islanders 3-1 win last night over the Devils. It was a pretty good game and it's nice to see the Isles playing well again.
"You know how it works. Sometimes they start questioning themselves," said Islanders defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who leads the NHL with a plus-23 rating. "And when a bee smells blood, he just goes for the jugular."
Aucoin is attempting to become hockey's Yogi Berra. I have exalted this brilliant quote to be my new header.
There are no last straws in Africa. There lives are broken, one by one, seriatim, and the world goes on.
The truly dangerous thing about President Bush is that he wants to bring these lost continents back onto the planet. "And we believe that freedom -- the freedom we prize -- is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind." Even at the cost of making them like Americans, free, crass and prosperous. That is a less comforting proposition to the capitals of Old Europe than maintaining the Third World as an ethnographic zoo which pays graft to the zookeepers.