Friday, March 12, 2004

TODAY'S TOP FIVE: You Lived to See It - "Britney Spears' Video Suicide" is a Real Headline

Mourning in Spain A day after the worst terrorist attacks in Spanish history, nobody is sure who did it: Was it the Basque ETA? I think that's unlikely. ETA usually operates on a much smaller scale, and tries to minimize civilian casualties. Also, the way that Aznar's Popular Party has been so quick to pin the blame on ETA is suspicious: One of the central issues in the general elections next week is greater autonomy for the Basque and Catalan regions. If it turns out ETA did the bombing, that would totally discredit the drive for more independence, an outcome fervently hoped-for by the Popular Party. If, on the other hand, this bombing is the work of a jihadi group in response to Spain's support for the Iraq war, that could seriously hurt Aznar's fortunes in the elections.

Entrepreneurial Enterprise, Iraq-Style One of the many underreported stories in the U.S. is the wave of kidnappings in Iraq since the fall of Saddam: Apparently, this is how people in Baghdad make money. There are now two kidnappings a day on average in Baghdad, with the average ransom being about $25,000. One reason that you probably haven't heard about this? So far, criminal gangs are only kidnapping Arabs. Don't worry, though: The Interim Administration is on top of it. "Kidnapping [of] a westerner is our biggest fear," says Jerry Burke, the United States special adviser to Baghdad's police.

Alger Hiss You Ain't Knowing my fair share of news reporters and Congressional press secretaries, I wasn't surprised by the news that a former news reporter and press secretary has been arrested and charged with spying for Saddam. You know why I wasn't surprised? Because the government contends that, from 1999 to 2002, Saddam only paid the alleged spy $10,000. Ten grand! Yep, that's truly someone who has had to live on newspaper and press secretary salaries before.

The Greatest Threat to Freedom Since Saddam: Tortured American POWs In a move that can only be called "borderline insane," George W. Bush is blocking the release of compensation for American troops who were tortured by Iraqi forces during the first Gulf War. It's a complicated story, but a court awarded the troops the money from Iraq's assets; now that we have access to those assets, though, Bush refuses to allow them to be used, and has even utilized portions of the USA PATRIOT Act against the former prisoners of war. "I terrifically sympathize with their personal situation and what they went through," a Justice Department lawyer says, "but the use of the courts and damages remedies interferes with the president's conduct of foreign policy."

Terror Alerts: Another Thing the Administration Can't Do Right According to a preliminary report obtained by the Associated Press, many state and local agencies have been finding out about changes in the terror alert level (you know, the rainbow of terror colors) from the press. This came out on Wednesday; a day later, the bombing in Spain happened. Amtrak found out about it not from the Department of Homeland Security, but from the news radio. Just in case you want to beef up security on American trains, dudes.

-Consider Arms