Hard News by Russell Brown

Death of the video store guy

The Atlantic Monthly presumably had its Zarqawi backgrounder, The Short, Violent Life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: How a video-store clerk and small-time crook reinvented himself as America’s nemesis in Iraq in the works and hauled it out in response to yesterday's happy news. It's an extremely interesting story, albeit one that lends little credence to the idea that a crucial pillar of either the insurgency or al-Qaeda has been taken out.

Nonethless, IraqPundit is understandably cheered by the news that the Jordanian who slaughtered so many Iraqis is gone. Meanwhile, Salam Pax muses on things that can get you killed, including wearing shorts and having the wrong surname:

Life seems to have lost its value and we are shutting up and shutting down because of fear. This is about how when everyone came to destroy what was wicked they killed what was good as well.

And a post this week from Riverbend also notes an accelerating process of ethnic cleansing:

According to people working and living in the area, around 15 police cars pulled up to the area and uniformed men began pulling civilians off the streets and from cars, throwing bags over their heads and herding them into the cars. Anyone who tried to object was either beaten or pulled into a car. The total number of people taken away is estimated to be around 50.

This has been happening all over Iraq- mysterious men from the Ministry of Interior rounding up civilians and taking them away. It just hasn’t happened with this many people at once. The disturbing thing is that the Iraqi Ministry of Interior has denied that it had anything to do with this latest mass detention (which is the new trend with them- why get tangled up with human rights organizations about mass detentions, torture and assassinations- just deny it happened!). That isn’t a good sign- it means these people will probably be discovered dead in a matter of days. We pray they’ll be returned alive…

There’s an ethnic cleansing in progress and it’s impossible to deny. People are being killed according to their ID card. Extremists on both sides are making life impossible. Some of them work for ‘Zarqawi’, and the others work for the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. We hear about Shia being killed in the ‘Sunni triangle’ and corpses of Sunnis named ‘Omar’ (a Sunni name) arriving by the dozen at the Baghdad morgue. I never thought I’d actually miss the car bombs. At least a car bomb is indiscriminate. It doesn’t seek you out because you’re Sunni or Shia.

The heartfelt rant from Faiza (the mother of A Family in Baghdad) is compulsory reading too.

How odd that the British Home Office should be smoking crack. Well, how else would you explain its proposal to set a supply threshold for cannabis possession - five grams - that is only a third of that for pure amphetamines? If this lunatic order is adopted, Johnny English could be caught with less than a fifth of an ounce of pot, but still be theoretically liable to 14 years imprisonment for dealing.

For God's sake, there are millions of ordinary Britons who will be in possession of such a quantity once or more this year. It's a retail deal. Was it a typo or something? They might be a little closer to the mark with 50 grams.

I'm working up to a longer post about alcohol and drugs and kiddy drunks turning up to hospital, with a bit of history, but the news on how the Swiss experiment in liberalising drugs laws is settling out is interesting for now. Oh, and Boing Boing has a look at the good old days of the non-presecription Benzedrine Brand of Amphetamine Inhaler. And there's a whole gallery of images of legal highs from when they really were the shit.

No Right Turn has a reaction and a roundup on the shocking verdict in Tim Selwyn's sedition case - making particular note of silence from anyone in Parliament. You don't have to like or admire Selwyn to see this verdict as a terrible precedent, but I wonder if he made a bad call going for a jury trial. It might be that a judge would have seen off the sedition charge as the throwback it really is.

Rachael Dippie, the marketing manager of the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary was politely in touch to point out that I was wrong yesterday in saying that the sactuary supporters were "seeking a hell of a lot of money - as much as the three successful applicants put together":

To date there have been five recipients - Stadium Southland ($1m), Dunedin Chinese Gardens ($3.7m), Oparara Valley ($1.8m), Auckland Showgrounds ($4.7m) and Maungatautari Ecological Trust ($5.5m). Therefore our request of $6m wasn't out of the ballpark, with the largest application received by Internal Affairs was for $7m.

Philip Lyth was similarly polite:

Some feedback from an active (five years plus) volunteer involved with the Karori Sanctuary. Gotta differ from you on raging sense of entitlement and feckless Aucklanders - we might have to agree to differ there. When I'm on duty as a guide talking to visitors, I make sure I give credit where credit is due for places like Maungateretere and Tiritiri. Similar projects are happening all over the country.

But also we've got a world class place. It is right in the middle of the city between Karori and Brooklyn, 3 km fm Parliament, and has literally dozens of native species - kiwi, kaka, hihi (stitchbirds), saddleback, tuatara - have returned to Wellington because of the Sanctuary. The visitor and education centre is worthwhile (tho' I would say that) and the fundraising effort has been going on for some time now - the Fund money would be part of a package.

How about giving sanctuary.org.nz a plug?

There's a torrent for Jonathan Freedland's interesting interview with Al Gore, about Gore's global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth. (There's also a Mininova torrent alleged to be the movie itself, but it's bogus.)

Anyway, I have a lot of work to do today (and then I'm on The Panel with me old mucker Richard Langston) before I can down tools and head off to the D4's farewell gig, then spend the rest of the weekend watching sport.