What is your HOP level?

An interesting article in NY Magazine discusses conspiracy theories and the secret history of 9/11. As well as mentioning a few of the suspicious facts about what happened that day, it cites a score to categorize just how far along the conspiracy theory path you are: the HOP level. Me, I’m about a Level 3.5. Everyone has to have a theory, and here’s mine: Consider the October surprise conspiracy. Whether that conspiracy is true or not, the Iran-Contra scandal is at the level of documented fact, and it’s hard to deny that the sudden freeing of the hostages immediately after Reagan took office was a vital popularity boost for an otherwise unpopular president.

“Inappropriate”

Reuters: U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq filmed themselves kicking a gravely wounded prisoner in the face and making the arm of a corpse appear to wave, then titled the effort “Ramadi Madness” after the city where it was made. The video, made public on Monday, was shot by Florida National Guard soldiers. They edited and compiled it into a DVD in January 2004, with various sections bearing titles such as “Those Crafty Little Bastards” and “Another Day, Another Mission, Another Scumbag.

Dirty Money for PBS

If you watch New Hampshire Public Television (WENH) for a while, chances are you’ll see an advertisement stating that the programming is sponsored by BAE Systems of New Hampshire. The TV ad shows happy smiling families playing baseball to raise money for the American Cancer Research Fund, and ends with the slogan “BAE Systems: A Global Company With A Local Heart”. Heartwarming stuff. Unless, of course, you know who BAE Systems actually are.

Medical ethics and US torture

This month’s edition of The Lancet features an extensively footnoted article by Dr Stephen Miles which describes some of the issues of medical ethics in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. A few lowlights: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) found that the medical system failed to maintain internment cards with medical information necessary to protect the detainees’ health as required by the Geneva Convention; this reportedly was due to a policy of not officially processing (ie, recording their presence in the prison) new detainees.

Reality catches up with Bush

Choice statistics from last week’s CBS poll of the average American: 61% disapprove of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq. 65% believe the country is heading in the wrong direction. 81% think the torture at Abu Ghraib was unjustified. 51% think the Pentagon tried to cover it up. 20% think the Bush administration has increased jobs, 49% think they’ve decreased jobs. There’s more in this week’s poll: 80% thought Bush was either “hiding something” or “mostly lying” in his statements on Iraq.

D’ohh!

Five months before the September 11 attacks, US military planners suggested a war game to practise a response to a terrorist attack using a commercial airliner flown into the Pentagon, but senior officers rejected the scenario as “too unrealistic”. Details emerged yesterday in an email leaked to a public policy watchdog group. In the email, written a week after the attacks, a special operations officer discussed the exercise with his colleagues.

In case you missed it…

Authorities have located weapons of mass destruction. Actual weapons of mass destruction, enough illegal chemical weapons to kill thousands of Americans. The weapons were located on American soil. For years, William Krar lived with his common-law wife Judith Bruey in New Hampshire. Krar first came to the attention of police in 1985, when he was arrested in New Hampshire for impersonating a police officer. In 1989, he started fighting back against the Federal government in the traditional New Hampshire style—he stopped paying taxes.

OJ’s hunt for the real killers

US News: On the evening of February 1, two dozen American officials gathered in a spacious conference room at the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Va. The time had come to make the public case for war against Iraq. For six hours that Saturday, the men and women of the Bush administration argued about what Secretary of State Colin Powell should—and should not—say at the United Nations Security Council four days later.

Statshot

Number of body bags ordered by the Pentagon for the first Gulf War: 16,000. Number of body bags ordered by the Pentagon for the upcoming war on Iraq: 77,000.

Warnography

I saw Time and Newsweek on the newsstand in Harvard Square. Let’s face it, we all knew what this week’s cover picture was going to be. But just for once, I’d have liked to have been surprised. I’d have liked them to do something tasteful, something which treats the subject with dignity and sorrow, rather than exploiting it. But no, we got big lurid photographs of planes flying into buildings and exploding in a searing fireball of aviation fuel.