Monday, May 23, 2005

Newsweek Dress

Princess Di is Wearing a New Dress

"We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst." --- Mark Whitaker, Newsweek magazine editor, in a written apology for the magazine having inaccurately reported that U.S. military interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had flushed a prisoner’s copy of the Koran down a toilet, the reporting of which led to outbursts of violence all over the Islamic world from the Gaza Strip to the Java Sea.

Call them the "Newsweek riots" since there’s no way around the fact that Newsweek incited them. That’s not to absolve the rioters themselves of responsibility, but why antagonize a rabid dog? It was all so unnecessary, but for some inexplicable reason the big media outlets these days seem locked in an irreversible death march off the cliff of responsible journalism.

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The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"

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The "captors" of Janet Arvizo's kids, whom Arvizo called "the killers" on the stand, not only bought them books, but paid to replace their lost schoolbooks as well.

And they did this during what turned out to be the Arvizo family's last week at Michael Jackson's Neverland Valley Ranch in March 2003.

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At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.

Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.

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"24" (search) plans to end its fourth heart-stopping season with a bang Monday night — a two-hour finale filled with suspense and surprises.

"It's my favorite season-ender — it's just been the most fun and, I think, the most surprising end. I'm not gonna tell you who dies, or if someone dies. But I will say it's a surprise," Howard Gordon, executive producer of "24," told FOX News.

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Yet the Bagram file includes ample testimony that harsh treatment by some interrogators was routine and that guards could strike shackled detainees with virtual impunity. Prisoners considered important or troublesome were also handcuffed and chained to the ceilings and doors of their cells, sometimes for long periods, an action Army prosecutors recently classified as criminal assault.

Some of the mistreatment was quite obvious, the file suggests. Senior officers frequently toured the detention center, and several of them acknowledged seeing prisoners chained up for punishment or to deprive them of sleep. Shortly before the two deaths, observers from the International Committee of the Red Cross specifically complained to the military authorities at Bagram about the shackling of prisoners in "fixed positions," documents show.

Even though military investigators learned soon after Mr. Dilawar's death that he had been abused by at least two interrogators, the Army's criminal inquiry moved slowly. Meanwhile, many of the Bagram interrogators, led by the same operations officer, Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, were redeployed to Iraq and in July 2003 took charge of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison. According to a high-level Army inquiry last year, Captain Wood applied techniques there that were "remarkably similar" to those used at Bagram.

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Moviegoers turned out in full force for the final chapter of the "Star Wars" saga, which took in $158.5 million since its opening to shatter three-day and four-day box office records.

"Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith" grossed $124.7 million from Thursday to Saturday, according to studio estimates Sunday. That's higher than the three-day record set by the first "Spider-Man," which took in $114.8 million in May 2002 — though "Star Wars" had a lower Friday-Sunday take than the Tobey Maguire (search) film.

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Military spokesmen maintained that both men had died of natural causes, even after military coroners had ruled the deaths homicides. Two months after those autopsies, the American commander in Afghanistan, then-Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, said he had no indication that abuse by soldiers had contributed to the two deaths. The methods used at Bagram, he said, were "in accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques."

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A TV movie set to air Tuesday night about billionaire real-estate mogul Donald Trump (search) had better be accurate — or The Donald is going to sue ABC.

"I hope the overall tenor of the movie is accurate, or I'll sue their a--es off," vowed Trump, who had nothing to do with "Trump Unauthorized" (search) and doesn't plan on watching it until it airs at 9 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.

"It sounds like a real beauty," he said. "It sounds like 'Desperate Housewives' all over again."

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Nor were the rules of engagement very clear. The platoon had the standard interrogations guide, Army Field Manual 34-52, and an order from the secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, to treat prisoners "humanely," and when possible, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. But with President Bush's final determination in February 2002 that the Conventions did not apply to the conflict with Al Qaeda and that Taliban fighters would not be accorded the rights of prisoners of war, the interrogators believed they "could deviate slightly from the rules," said one of the Utah reservists, Sgt. James A. Leahy.

"There was the Geneva Conventions for enemy prisoners of war, but nothing for terrorists," Sergeant Leahy told Army investigators. And the detainees, senior intelligence officers said, were to be considered terrorists until proved otherwise.

The deviations included the use of "safety positions" or "stress positions" that would make the detainees uncomfortable but not necessarily hurt them - kneeling on the ground, for instance, or sitting in a "chair" position against the wall. The new platoon was also trained in sleep deprivation, which the previous unit had generally limited to 24 hours or less, insisting that the interrogator remain awake with the prisoner to avoid pushing the limits of humane treatment.

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Viewers are still talking about Sunday night's "Desperate Housewives" finale, which answered some questions (the mystery of Deirdre and Dana) and created others (will George be punished for Rex's death?).

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Sergeant Loring, then 27, tried with limited success to wean those interrogators off that approach, which typically involved yelling and throwing chairs. Mr. Leahy said the sergeant "put the brakes on when certain approaches got out of hand." But he could also be dismissive of tactics he considered too soft, several soldiers told investigators, and gave some of the most aggressive interrogators wide latitude. (Efforts to locate Mr. Loring, who has left the military, were unsuccessful.)

"We sometimes developed a rapport with detainees, and Sergeant Loring would sit us down and remind us that these were evil people and talk about 9/11 and they weren't our friends and could not be trusted," Mr. Leahy said.

Specialist Damien M. Corsetti, a tall, bearded interrogator sometimes called "Monster" -he had the nickname tattooed in Italian across his stomach, other soldiers said - was often chosen to intimidate new detainees. Specialist Corsetti, they said, would glower and yell at the arrivals as they stood chained to an overhead pole or lay face down on the floor of a holding room. (A military police K-9 unit often brought growling dogs to walk among the new prisoners for similar effect, documents show.)

"The other interrogators would use his reputation," said one interrogator, Specialist Eric H. Barclais. "They would tell the detainee, 'If you don't cooperate, we'll have to get Monster, and he won't be as nice.' " Another soldier told investigators that Sergeant Loring lightheartedly referred to Specialist Corsetti, then 23, as "the King of Torture."

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Some of the same M.P.'s took a particular interest in an emotionally disturbed Afghan detainee who was known to eat his feces and mutilate himself with concertina wire. The soldiers kneed the man repeatedly in the legs and, at one point, chained him with his arms straight up in the air, Specialist Callaway told investigators. They also nicknamed him "Timmy," after a disabled child in the animated television series "South Park." One of the guards who beat the prisoner also taught him to screech like the cartoon character, Specialist Callaway said.

Eventually, the man was sent home.

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With Newsweek still reeling from its forced retraction of the Quran-in-the-toilet story, the magazine is now under fire for publishing what some see as staunchly anti-American covers in foreign editions.

For instance, while a Japanese edition of Newsweek dated Feb. 2 published a cover story featuring an American flag in a trash can under the headline, "The day America died," and the international edition featured a photo of President Bush with the headline, "America Leads ... But Is Anyone Following?," the U.S. edition cover story was an "Oscar Confidential" featuring Hilary Swank, Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio.

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When the detainees were beaten or kicked for "noncompliance," one of the interpreters, Ali M. Baryalai said, it was often "because they have no idea what the M.P. is saying."

By the morning of Dec. 2, witnesses told the investigators, Mr. Habibullah was coughing and complaining of chest pains. He limped into the interrogation room in shackles, his right leg stiff and his right foot swollen. The lead interrogator, Sergeant Leahy, let him sit on the floor because he could not bend his knees and sit in a chair.

The interpreter who was on hand, Ebrahim Baerde, said the interrogators had kept their distance that day "because he was spitting up a lot of phlegm."

"They were laughing and making fun of him, saying it was 'gross' or 'nasty,' " Mr. Baerde said.

Though battered, Mr. Habibullah was unbowed.

"Once they asked him if he wanted to spend the rest of his life in handcuffs," Mr. Baerde said. "His response was, 'Yes, don't they look good on me?' "

By Dec. 3, Mr. Habibullah's reputation for defiance seemed to make him an open target. One M.P. said he had given him five peroneal strikes for being "noncompliant and combative." Another gave him three or four more for being "combative and noncompliant." Some guards later asserted that he had been hurt trying to escape.

When Sgt. James P. Boland saw Mr. Habibullah on Dec. 3, he was in one of the isolation cells, tethered to the ceiling by two sets of handcuffs and a chain around his waist. His body was slumped forward, held up by the chains.

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Is Newsweek magazine anti-American?
No, its coverage tends to be pro-U.S.
No, it plays no favorites
No, though it's possible a handful of reporters and editors are anti-American
No
Yes, but no moreso than the rest of the so-called mainstream media
Yes, but much moreso in its foreign editions than the U.S. version
Yes, though it claims to play no favorites
Yes, Newsweek is among the worst of the anti-American media

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"It looked like he had been dead for a while, and it looked like nobody cared," the medic, Staff Sgt. Rodney D. Glass, recalled.

Not all of the guards were indifferent, their statements show. But if Mr. Habibullah's death shocked some of them, it did not lead to major changes in the detention center's operation.

Military police guards were assigned to be present during interrogations to help prevent mistreatment. The provost marshal, Major Atwell, told investigators he had already instructed the commander of the M.P. company, Captain Beiring, to stop chaining prisoners to the ceiling. Others said they never received such an order.

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In fact, Mr. Habibullah's autopsy, completed on Dec. 8, showed bruises or abrasions on his chest, arms and head. There were deep contusions on his calves, knees and thighs. His left calf was marked by what appeared to have been the sole of a boot.

His death was attributed to a blood clot, probably caused by the severe injuries to his legs, which traveled to his heart and blocked the blood flow to his lungs.

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When one of the First Platoon M.P.'s, Specialist Corey E. Jones, was sent to Mr. Dilawar's cell to give him some water, he said the prisoner spit in his face and started kicking him. Specialist Jones responded, he said, with a couple of knee strikes to the leg of the shackled man.

"He screamed out, 'Allah! Allah! Allah!' and my first reaction was that he was crying out to his god," Specialist Jones said to investigators. "Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny."

Other Third Platoon M.P.'s later came by the detention center and stopped at the isolation cells to see for themselves, Specialist Jones said.

It became a kind of running joke, and people kept showing up to give this detainee a common peroneal strike just to hear him scream out 'Allah,' " he said. "It went on over a 24-hour period, and I would think that it was over 100 strikes."

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Sunday, May 22, 2005 4:08 p.m. EDT

Clinton Criticized for Charging Charity

Volunteer groups in Ireland are criticizing ex-President Bill Clinton for charging a suicide prevention charity $125,000 for a 40-minute speech Monday night.

"Any initiative that contributes to the prevention of suicide is very welcome," said Pat Buckley, spokesman for a group of Irish suicide support groups, in an interview with the Irish Examiner.

"But the money it will cost for Bill Clinton to make this keynote speech would fund a lot of counseling for the bereaved and those at risk of suicide in places like Cork, Limerick or Kerry."

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When Mr. Dilawar was unable to sit in the chair position against the wall because of his battered legs, the two interrogators grabbed him by the shirt and repeatedly shoved him back against the wall.

"This went on for 10 or 15 minutes," the interpreter said. "He was so tired he couldn't get up."

"They stood him up, and at one point Selena stepped on his bare foot with her boot and grabbed him by his beard and pulled him towards her," he went on. "Once Selena kicked Dilawar in the groin, private areas, with her right foot. She was standing some distance from him, and she stepped back and kicked him.

"About the first 10 minutes, I think, they were actually questioning him, after that it was pushing, shoving, kicking and shouting at him," Mr. Ahmadzai said. "There was no interrogation going on."

The session ended, he said, with Sergeant Salcedo instructing the M.P.'s to keep Mr. Dilawar chained to the ceiling until the next shift came on.

The next morning, Mr. Dilawar began yelling again. At around noon, the M.P.'s called over another of the interpreters, Mr. Baerde, to try to quiet Mr. Dilawar down.

"I told him, 'Look, please, if you want to be able to sit down and be released from shackles, you just need to be quiet for one more hour."

"He told me that if he was in shackles another hour, he would die," Mr. Baerde said.

Half an hour later, Mr. Baerde returned to the cell. Mr. Dilawar's hands hung limply from the cuffs, and his head, covered by the black hood, slumped forward.

"He wanted me to get a doctor, and said that he needed 'a shot,' " Mr. Baerde recalled. "He said that he didn't feel good. He said that his legs were hurting."

Mr. Baerde translated Mr. Dilawar's plea to one of the guards. The soldier took the prisoner's hand and pressed down on his fingernails to check his circulation.

"He's O.K.," Mr. Baerde quoted the M.P. as saying. "He's just trying to get out of his restraints."

By the time Mr. Dilawar was brought in for his final interrogation in the first hours of the next day, Dec. 10, he appeared exhausted and was babbling that his wife had died. He also told the interrogators that he had been beaten by the guards.

"But we didn't pursue that," said Mr. Baryalai, the interpreter.

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