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September 2004

Private Military Rivalries

First, a little background about why this is so interesting: Executive Outcomes is considered the ur-private military firm; the new corporate model upon which many others are based: military services could be contracted from businessmen with databases, not from ragtag "dogs of war." When South Africa outlawed that sort of company, Executive Outcomes, located in South Africa, closed up shop. Though there was a network of companies thought to be affiliated with EO, the British PMF Sandline is widely considered the be EO reborn. Sandline closed up shop in April.  However, until recently, if you typed into your browser, you were automatically forwarded into the site of a US company, Northbridge Services Group. The original Executive Outcomes site was actually at (link via the WayBack Machine). So it is my impression that Northbridge has been trying to pass itself off as one of the EO spin-offs. There was some overlap in personnel between EO and both companies.

So here's the new story:

Federal prosecutors say Pasquale John DiPofi  -- described in court proceedings as a security contractor, mercenary and bodyguard for entertainers -- threatened a French businessman who was trying to collect a $23-million debt the government of Sierra Leone owed to a company that provided military assistance during the country's civil war in the 1990s.

DiPofi was arrested at Detroit Metro Airport on Sept. 4 after returning from a 2 1/2 -month trip to Iraq. . . .

According to the criminal complaint, Executive Outcomes, a private military company in South Africa, contracted with the government of Sierra Leone in 1995-97 to provide military equipment, security and training during the African nation's civil war. The company was to receive $30 million.

DiPofi, a married father of two, was president of the U.S. arm of the now-defunct company. He also is a director of Northbridge Services Group Ltd., a British-based private military company.

When the government of Sierra Leone failed to pay Executive Outcomes, the complaint said, the company asked a sister firm, Executive Outcomes of Panama, to collect the debt. It hired Michael Grunberg of Paris  to try to negotiate with Sierra Leone.

In January 2001, Executive Outcomes sued the government in a Sierra Leone court. Although both sides agreed to settle the dispute for $23 million, the government didn't pay. Later, the Sierra Leone government produced documents from Executive Outcomes of Mt. Clemens and its president, DiPofi, which said he was the person to whom the debt was owed.

The criminal complaint said Grunberg and a London law firm later discovered that DiPofi and others had submitted fraudulent documents to the government of Sierra Leone to discredit Grunberg and bolster DiPofi's claim.

In August 2002, Grunberg received an anonymous fax at his home in Paris warning him that he had underestimated his adversaries and should be concerned.

A few days later, he received an envelope containing seven color photos of the interior and exterior of his  homes in England.

The same day, Grunberg received a phone call on his private line warning him to settle the differences with "the other party."

"Don't be greedy," the caller said. "If you have not made contact by Friday, then I will make my move. I have been with you for two months, and it will be swift and you won't know anything about it."

Grunberg contacted the police and hired bodyguards.

First of all, though the article doesn't mention Sandline. Grunberg was rather recently affiliated with Sandline. I would guess that Grunberg's attorney mentioned in the article is Richard Slowe of S. J. Berwin, through whom Grunberg threatened to sue me a while back. Slowe was also the attorney Sandline used to sue the Government of Papua New Guinea when they didn't pay their Sandline bill.

Though, in  my personal opinion, Grunberg is a vain, irritating man*, if  DiPofi operates as described in the allegations, he should be in jail now, not out on bail. It sounds like Grunberg was lucky not to wake up with a horsehead in his bed. I find it noteworthy that a Director of Northbridge is accused of using mafia tactics to intimidate a business rival.

See also the US Department of Justice.

UPDATE: Here is another (AP)version of the story, suggesting that DiPofi's Executive Outcomes had nothing in common with the South African comapny of that name except the same name:

Two Michigan men tried to defraud the government of Sierra Leone and a private military company of $23 million, according to a federal indictment.

Eastpointe police Officer Christopher Belan, 40, and New Baltimore security contractor Pasquale DiPofi, 33, were indicted Tuesday, the Detroit U.S. attorney's office said.

The men tried to trick Sierra Leone officials into believing that DiPofi's company was owed $23 million for providing military equipment, security and training during the west African nation's civil war in 1995-97, the indictment said.

DiPofi owned the now-defunct Executive Outcome Inc., based in Mount Clemens. His company had the same name as a South African company that did the work for Sierra Leone.

The indictment said Executive Outcomes of South Africa was to receive $30 million for its work in Sierra Leone.

A British company, Audax Trading Ltd., contacted the Mount Clemens company, mistakenly believing it to be the company that had done the work in Sierra Leone, and offered to help collect the payment, the indictment said.

DiPofi and Belan gave Audax and Sierra Leone's government fraudulent documents to justify their claim for payment, the indictment said.

That this Michigan company would just happen to have the EO name and that its owner would just happen to be a director of the PMF Northbridge seems to me far too mich of a coincidence. What I am curious about is whether Di Pofi's company had already been trying to give the impression of affiliation with Tony Buckingham's Executive Outcomes, or whether DiPofi's company was in fact an offshoot. Given the byzantine financial network surrounding such companies, this is a much more complex question than it appears. I wonder what DiPofi's legal defense will have to say about the matter.
* Check out Grunberg's letters of complaint linked to from this page and you'll see what I mean.

The Fantasy & Reality of a Wireless Household

I spent the past two days trying to get an actual network going in the house. It seemed wise not to blog it blow by blow, since that would have involved a lot of cursing. When I came to bed sime time after midnight night before last, I said to David something like "Wireless networks don't actually exist. It's all done with wires."

Also, there were little side trips, like learning not to install OS X 10.2.8 on the kids' iMac because it causes the machine to freeze frequently.

Give the vintage of our Macs, and that we are not going to run out and replace all five of our computers, the good solution seems to be wires. The question is no longer how am I going to get the wireless connection to Peter's room to be less flaky, but rather how am I going to string a 100 ft. ethernet cable so it isn't a trip wire.

Howard Dean, Blonde Goddesses, etc.

Lately -- in the push for maintaining Democratic unity -- I have not found a whole lot of writing out there that mirrors my own thinking about the state of the presidential election. But Peter Beinart's piece in Time Magazine, If Howard Dean Were the Candidate really strikes a nerve in this household.

If Dean were the nominee, flip-flops wouldn't be the issue; Iraq would. The former Vermont Governor opposed the war from the start, and his rationale was as simple as Kerry's was convoluted: Saddam was not a threat. Of course, Dean would have had other general-election vulnerabilities. Republicans would have branded him the second coming of peacenik George McGovern. But Dean could have retorted that he (unlike Kerry) backed the first Gulf War. They would have ridiculed his lack of foreign policy experience. But there's an advantage to not having 20 years of Senate votes to defend, as Kerry has learned. (That's part of the reason Governors usually make stronger presidential candidates than Senators.)

Then there's Vietnam. In the primaries many of those Democratic voter-pundits figured Kerry's heroic service would reassure general-election voters that he was tough enough to lead the country after 9/11. But at best, Vietnam has proved a wash. After weeks of G.O.P.-orchestrated attacks on Kerry's war record, the Los Angeles Times in late August asked registered voters how his Vietnam service affected their vote. Twenty-three percent said it made them more likely to support Kerry, 21% said it made them less likely, and 53% said it had no effect.

And in a subtler way, Dean's lack of a war record might have actually helped him. For the Kerry campaign, Vietnam has been a crutch, an all-purpose response to any foreign policy attack. Partly as a result, Kerry's team didn't use the Democratic Convention to develop a compelling national-security message, a mistake it is frantically trying to remedy now. Dean, because he couldn't talk about Vietnam, might have focused on other things — like Bush's failure to get tough with the Saudis or fund homeland security — that Americans care more about than whether Lieutenant Kerry deserved his Bronze Star.

(Via Technorati.)

MEANWHILE, several newspaper articles about blogging have been making waves. The New York Times Magazine article strikes a blow for female bloggers. Its author does not wonder where all the female bloggers are. Rather, he makes me wonder how Wonkette got him to stop following her. In his article, female bloggers are slim blonde goddesses of Scandinavian descent who know how to find the best hours d'oeurves and liquor, whereas male political bloggers are argumentative nerds in rumpled clothes.

The other piece making waves in Billmon in the LA Times: Blogging Sells, and Sells Out. It seems to me that the effect Billmon describes is attributable not so much to commercialization, as to the presidential election. In this polarized environment, political blogging has become much tamer, more atuned to what the campaigns want us to say. Some have even gone so far as to discuss how we could try to be more "on message." (This last bit, I won't even link to, since its author was so well-meaning and I found the sentiment so appalling.) We don't sell out for the small payments for ads on our blogs, but I think significant tradeoffs in candor are being made in order to maintain party unity.

Gregory Wales - Theresa Whelan Meeting Was Scheduled for the Initial Date Set for the Equatorial Guinea Coup

The Guardian has more on the Gregory Wales - Theresa Whelan conversations including a fascinating bit on the timing of Wales's meeting with Whelan:

Equatorial Guinea official sources claim that last November, when the plot was in its early stages, an Old Etonian mercenary, Simon Mann, paid Mr Wales about $8,000. . . .

A few days after the alleged payment, Mr Wales went to Washington to a dinner and conference organised by an influential group of US "private military companies", the IPOA (International Peace Operations Association). . . .

IPOA's members include MPRI, a company formed by retired generals. MPRI had already been allowed to compile a survey of Equatorial Guinea's military weaknesses on President Obiang's behalf, overcoming initial objections by the Clinton administration that it would help prop up a dictator.

MPRI persuaded the Pentagon it would be in the US national interest to allow the survey to be done, although the company never went ahead with a planned contract to strengthen Mr Obiang's army.

Mr Wales made his first contact with Ms Whelan at the dinner. The following January his firm, the Sherbourne Foundation, was paid another $35,000 by the coup plotters, according to Equatorial Guinea.

Mr Wales then organised another meeting at the Pentagon with Ms Whelan. This came on the eve of the day originally planned for the coup, February 19. The Pentagon says the meeting in "mid-to-late February" ranged over many African topics, and that Mr Wales's hints were so general that they did not call for any action to be taken. . . .

The February 19 plan is said to have been aborted after a hired aircraft broke down. The plotters then acquired an old former US Air National Guard Boeing, built to a military specification, that was flown over from Kansas with a crew from Florida for a second coup attempt. But the seller, the US firm Dodson Aviation, says there was no US government involvement in the deal.

I wonder about time zones: Did Wales already know about the plane breaking down before he went into the meeting? That seems likely. But that is a detail I'd like to have nailed down.

IN AUGUST, British intelligence services allowed as how they knew about the coup plot in advance, but with a different spin:

British intelligence services helped to foil a coup plot in Equatorial Guinea which led to the arrest of the son of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, a newspaper reported here on Sunday.

"Britain co-operated with South Africa in gathering information about the planned coup and helped to put a stop to it, but its intelligence agencies are happy to let the South Africans take the credit," the Independent on Sunday quoted an unnamed source as saying.

This earlier piece aslo discusses the Wales-Whelan connection. (I missed this because I was out of travelling and Internet range when this came out.)

Equatorial Guinea Coup Plotters Tipped Off the Pentagon

This is hot stuff: Some of my regular readers may remember back in March when I discussed and linked to a November speech by Theresa Whelan, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for African affairs in the context of a discussion of whether the US had any advance knowledge of the Equatorial Guinea coup plot. The October 4th International edition of Newsweek, just up on the web, is reporting that British security consultant named Gregory Wales went up to Whelan after the speech and set up a February meeting in which he tipped her off about the coming coup attempt.

The International Peace Operations Association has a lot more clout at the Pentagon than the name might suggest. Calling itself an "association of military-service provider companies," it's the closest thing in Washington to a lobbying group for soldiers of fortune. At the outfit's annual dinner last November, the guest speaker was Theresa Whelan, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for African affairs, from the policy directorate headed by Douglas Feith, the controversial under secretary of Defense. Whelan's topic: the U.S. government's increasing use of private military contractors, especially in Africa.

That evening and its aftermath are raising awkward new questions about a botched coup attempt this year in sub-Saharan Africa's third largest oil producer. . . .

The Pentagon insists it had no advance knowledge of any plot against Obiang. Nevertheless, the audience at Whelan's speech included a British security consultant named Gregory Wales—now one of six defendants in a lawsuit filed by Obiang's attorneys in London against the alleged plotters. Wales gave Whelan his card after the speech, and later called to request a face-to-face chat. The meeting came in mid- to late February, according to a Defense official, who says, "Mr. Wales mentioned in passing, as part of a larger unrelated discussion of African issues, that there might be some trouble brewing in Equatorial Guinea. Specifically, he had heard from some business associates of his that wealthy citizens of the country were planning to flee in case of a crisis." The official adds that Wales's mention of Equatorial Guinea was "such a general remark about one troubled country in a troubled region, there was no reason to follow up on it, and Ms. Whelan did not."

This is one of the few journalistic attempt to trace the US roots of the coup attempt. I wonder what will come of it.

Thylacines in Iran

In my referrer logs I found a fascinating search query involving thylacines in Iran. The thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger, is thought to be extinct. It never lived in Iran. It was native to Tasmania and, in the more distant past, Australia. What could the author of this query have had in mind? Secret private zoos in Iran housing thylacines and other extict species, keeping them hidden away from the world? A further look at the query reveals that it originated from, the Department of Justice's Federal Bureau of Prisons. From which side of the bars did the query originate?

Soviet-Era Space Shuttle in Bahrain Sold to a German Museum

This sounds like the kind of story Bruce Sterling would write: The German magazine Spiegel has a couple of news stories about a Soviet-era shuttle prototype, the Buran 002, that surfaced in Bahrain and has now been purchased by a German museum, the Sinsheim Automotive and Technical Museum. [Spiegel links in German.]

"Wir haben Ende 2003 einen Kaufvertrag abgeschlossen", erklärte Michael Walter, 41, Geschäftsführer des Sinsheimer Museums, gegenüber SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Sobald der Shuttle auf das Schiff verladen ist, gehört er uns." ["We went to contract on the sale at the end of 2003," explained Michael Walter, 41, Business Manager of the Sinsheim Museum, to Spiegel Online. "As soon as the shuttle is loaded onto the ship, it's ours."]

(Click here for Spiegel's photos.) Apparently, a businessman had it shipped to Australia as a tourist attraction for the Sydney Olympics, but didn't sell many tickets. Somehow, the shuttle made its way to Bahrain via Singapore. Here is an English language discussion of the shuttle from

The Soviet Union had six active and several test Burans. The location of most of them is unknown. After the single flight in 1988, the program quickly ran out of funds, as the Soviet Ministry of Defense realized the lack of purpose for the system, compared to its tremendous cost. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the program was essentially shut down and, in 1993, the head of NPO Energia, Yuri Semenov, publicly admitted that the project was dead.

MEANWHILE, a cosmonaut who flew the Buran was beaten up by police in a racist attack:

Two Moscow policemen beat up a Russian cosmonaut who had a “Chechen” surname, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported on Friday.

The incident took place near the Vykhino metro station in south-east Moscow on Thursday night. Colonel Magomed Tolboyev was stopped by two police sergeants for a routine document check. After the law enforcers saw the colonel’s name, which suggests he is of Caucasian Muslim descent, they started beating him up. The beating stopped only after passers-by called the police station. Before leaving the attackers said: “Get away from here, you black, and tell your kinsmen we will strangle all of you, whatever the cost.”

Colonel Magomed Tolboyev is a distinguished test pilot; he bears the country’s top honorary title Hero of Russia. During his space career Tolboyev was commander of Russia’s first and only space shuttle — the Buran.

(Thanks Karen.)

See also BoingBoing.

Quantum Teleportation

Sometimes I am struck by the pure poetics of scientific language. I am charmed by this title and first line fromt he new issue of Nature. There's a whole anthology waiting in these:

Demonstration of a quantum teleportation network for continuous variables

Quantum teleportation involves the transportation of an unknown quantum state from one location to another, without physical transfer of the information carrier.

UPDATE: Michael at Articulatory Loop has names me Nerd of the Week for this post. : )

The Democrats and the Backbone Question, Part 2

The Democrats caved in yesterday to the spend & don't tax Bush administration:

NYT: Deal in Congress to Keep Tax Cuts, Widening Deficit

Putting aside efforts to control the federal deficit before the elections, Republican and Democratic leaders agreed Wednesday to extend $145 billion worth of tax cuts sought by President Bush without trying to pay for them.

At a House-Senate conference committee, Democratic lawmakers abandoned efforts to pay for the measures by either imposing a surcharge on wealthy families or closing corporate tax shelters.

"I wish we could pay for them, but this is a political problem and we have people up for re-election,'' said Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. "If you have to explain that you voted for these tax cuts because they benefit the middle class and against them because of the deficit, you've got a problem.''

Fearful of being attacked as supporters of higher taxes, Democrats said they would go along with an unpaid five-year extension of the $1,000 child tax credit; a four-year extension of tax breaks intended to reduce the so-called marriage penalty on two-income families; and a six-year extension of a provision that allowed more people to qualify for the lowest tax rate of 10 percent.

Senator John Kerry , their party's presidential nominee, has said he supports extension of the tax reductions, though he would roll back Mr. Bush's tax cuts for the top 2 percent of income earners, families with annual incomes above $200,000. . . .

The result of the reversal on the part of the Democrats and the Republican moderates is likely to be a tax measure that will last longer and increase federal deficits more than a two-year extension that Republican Senate leaders offered this summer. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that debt will climb by $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years, and that making all Mr. Bush's tax cuts permanent would cost an additional $1.9 trillion by the end of 2014.

Spineless beyond belief. Just spineless.

While opening the mail this morning, I discovered that the Democratic party's September fundraising campaign is called the "Don't Yeild an Inch" Campaign. Someone forgot to tell congress.

UPDATE: This evening's AP story, which frames the tax cut as a cut for the middle class, also includes the alarming sentence:

The tax package also includes provisions to extend 23 expiring tax breaks, generally for one year, at a cost of $12.97 billion.
Note that this is the figure for ONE YEAR, whereas the earlier figures are calculated for a cost over ten years. Bloomberg has more details on the specifics.

The Democrats and the Backbone Question

I have been somewhat mystified as to why invidious comparisons of the presidential candidates Viet Nam era military records have taken on such a central role in this presidential campaign. As I was driving home from dropping Elizabeth off at preschool, it came to me, encoded in the phrase "vestigial spine." You know, I'd almost forgotten -- most Democratic politicians have almost no spine, so accustomed are they to trying hard to look like moderate Republicans. The military service issue is the pipe cleaner that can be wound round the vestigial spine to make it look like a real Backbone.

This morning, I received an email from MoveOn directing me to this speech given by John Kerry last night, telling me what a fine speech it was. But when I read it, I trip over passages like this one:

In fighting the war on terrorism, my principles are straightforward. The terrorists are beyond reason. We must destroy them. As president, I will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defeat our enemies. But billions of people around the world yearning for a better life are open to America’s ideals. We must reach them.

To win, America must be strong. And America must be smart. The greatest threat we face is the possibility Al Qaeda or other terrorists will get their hands on a nuclear weapon.

I'm all for putting a stop to terrorism. But first of all, look where defining our opposition to terrorism as a war has gotten us: into several non-figurative wars. Secondly, I am uncomfortable with the phrase "terrorists are beyond reason." While I don't think we should negotiate with terrorists, or spend a lot of time wondering why certain mass murderers hate whom they hate, there is a dehumanizing subtext to the phrasing. Since he has not defined "terrorist," this is a fairly expansive dehumanization. Following with the sentence "We must destroy them" underlines the dehumanizing subtext of the previous sentence. And what about he choice of the verb "to destroy"? Not "destroy their networks," but "destroy them." Why didn't he just say kill them? "Destroy" is a euphemism used to describe the killing of animals. Then he juxtaposes these terrorists with those who are "open to American ideals." The people of the world deserve a life without terrorism whether or not they are receptive to American deals or ideals. Selectively arming militias and providing vast seed capital for private military startups will not deliver them from terrorism.

Then we come to the next paragraph, which is I think the more problematic of the two. He starts out "America must be strong." I'm all for a strong America, by which I mean an America furnished with a military of appropriate strength and skill to protect our country. This is being dismantled by the forces of privatization by people who believe we can buy strength on the open market whenever necessary. But I don't think that's what Kerry means by a strong America. I thinks he means that if he were to have chosen to invade some place like Iraq, he would have had sufficient military force not to screw it up. As nearly as I can tell, Kerry has carefully avoided the privatization issue. (And as for the next sentence, who could argue with "America must be smart."?)

I have to wonder if he really believes "The greatest threat we face is the possibility Al Qaeda or other terrorists will get their hands on a nuclear weapon." That seems to me a failure of imagination. Imagine instead a world in which military force is mostly privatized and is available for hire to whatever entity has the money; and that this privatization extends to nuclear weapons production; a world in which there are dozens of organizations analogous to Al Qaeda, competing organizations with private goals uncoupled from the common good that nation states have some obligation to provide for. Competing multinational private organizations with armed with nuclear weapons seems to me a worse scenario.

But returning to the subject of backbone, how many of the notions in these two paragraphs originate in part from the desks of Karl Rove and Karen Hughes? How much of Kerry's rhetoric on Iraq and on teorrorism boils down to I would have done what he said he'd do, not what he did. It seems to me that the military service issue has loomed so large so as to distract us from the fact that Kerry still lacks the backbone to stand up to the Republican machine.

There was a fair amount of talk in the blogosphere recently about putting on one's game face in order to win this one. I will, but my game face will not be a smiley face. At this point I'm not so much afraid Kerry is going to lose, but rather that if he wins we will still be stuck with so much of the hard right's ideological framework.

Here are links to get you into my existing blog stuff in its old incarnation

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Blog reconstruction update

I've got all my blog entries through mid-June uploaded to my MT-3 install (and therefore now with functional comments and reachable through the search function). The previous blog files are all still right where they were, but the comment function and search functions don't work.

Men in Black

When doing the pictures for the next issue of NYRSF, I came across this great shot of Stephen Dedman, John Clute, Neil Gaiman, and Terry Pratchett riding the up escalator -- the many attitudes of men in black:

David took lots of great pictures at the Worldcon, but I think this one is the best. UPDATE: Neil says:

As I was going up the escalator, on the friday morning at Worldcon, in company with several shady types I'd bumped into in the dealers' room on the way (viz. and to wit, S. Dedman, J. Clute and T. Pratchett OBE), I noticed that, across the hall, on the escalator going down, was a mysterious figure whose face was obscured by a camera. He was pointing the camera at us. Then the camera came down, revealing the cheerful face of uber-editor David Hartwell. He waved. I waved back.

"That photo'll never come out," I thought, with the prescience and prophetic ability that has made me the talk of the SF-and-futurological community over the years.

The photo is quite wonderful. . . . It looks a bit like it's waiting for the caption competition, or for me, Steve, John and Terry to have a high-profile reunion and release our first CD in decades.

Here's the table of contents of the new issue, which I think is an especially good one:

ISSUE #194 October 2004
Volume 17, No. 2 ISSN #1052-9438


Ariel Haméon: The Singularity Ate My Homework and Other Reasons I Can't Predict the Future: 1
Iain Emsley: Fantasies of England: 6
David V. Griffin: At the Whitney: 14
Adrian Pocobelli: "Pre-Uterine Claims": Cultural Contexts and Iconographic Parallels in Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition: 18

Two Views: Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, reviewed by Farah Mendlesohn and John Clute: 1
Amy Thomson's Storyteller, reviewed by Greg L. Johnson: 10
Richard K. Morgan's Broken Angels, reviewed by Paul Kincaid: 12
Jim Butcher's Storm Front, reviewed by Carol Pinchefsky: 12
Peter F. Hamilton's Pandora's Star, reviewed by David Mead: 16
Brian Rosebury's Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon, reviewed by Jenny Blackford: 17
Bruce Sterling's The Zenith Angle, reviewed by James L. Cambias: 21
Bruce Sterling's Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next Fifty Years, reviewed by Damien Broderick: 22

Predict the Future! (4); some Screed (23); and an editorial (24).

Under Construction!

This weblog is undergoing major surgery. (I got fed up with the volume of comment spam that was getting through MT-Blacklist and am doing something about it.) The page you were expecting to see here has been renamed to make way for this new index page. It is here.

Comments except for on new posts are currently out of service. Sorry.

Thatcher Reticent Out of Concern for EQ Human Rights

Here's an entertaining development in the Equatorial Guinea coup plot scandal:

Equatorial Guinea's "appalling human rights record" was a strong motivating factor in Mark Thatcher's reluctance to answer questions from the country's prosecuting authorities, one of his lawyers said on Monday.

This from a man who does business in Sudan.


Private Jailers Found Guilty in Afghanistan

From CNN:

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- An Afghan court has found three Americans guilty of torturing Afghans in a private jail, a case that comes on the heels of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal in Iraq.

Jonathan K. "Jack" Idema, a former Green Beret and the alleged ringleader of the operation, received a 10-year jail term on Wednesday.

Brent Bennett, an Idema associate, got a 10-year jail term and Edward Caraballo, a journalist, received an eight-year-term. The court sentenced four Afghan accomplices to lesser terms.