Hard News by Russell Brown

Globe agog

So Downing Street has quietly told John Kerry it hopes he wins November's US presidential election. It's hardly surprising. With the exception of Israel, Australia and Italy, there probably isn't a sovereign government in the world that feels any different. Of course, we don't get to vote - just look on agog and uneasy.

This week's Zogby poll of New Yorkers casts an interesting light on all the cynical 9/11 blather at the Republican conference. Half of the New York City residents polled said they believed that the American leadership "knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act." Nearly a third of those identifying themselves as Republicans expressed the same belief. Two thirds of New Yorkers want another investigation of the attacks.

The case of Ed Schrock - the extreme-conservative (and publicly anti-gay) US congressman who announced the withdrawal of his candidacy this week after Blogactive.com released a recording of him seeking sex on a gay phone sex line - has revved up the "outing" debate in America. Blogactive has now effectively outed former New York mayor Ed Koch by slamming him for "supporting G. W. Bush and the most homophobic platform in American history."

Both the practice of outing and more particularly the use of tapes from what its users presumed was a confidential service are controversial, but Blogactive says that members of Congress and "highly placed officials in the Bush Administration" will be next for the treatment: "The time has come for these gay homophobes to step up or be outed ... Schrock is the first ... more will follow."

Blue Lemur has some background on the Schrock affair.

This just in: Conrad Black looted his listed media company Hollinger to the tune of $US400 million in what a new report describes as a campaign of "corporate kleptocracy". And who let him do it? Why, the White House's favourite war profiteer, Richard Perle. Is there anyone in that crowd who isn't crooked, negligent or both?

A Boston Globe editorial explains some of the activities that are the subject of the current FBI investigation at the Pentagon and expresses the view that the issue is more one of chaotic freelance operations and rampant agendas under the current leadership than serious espionage. It's still fairly mind-boggling.

Intriguingly, it appears that this isn't the first time the FBI has had cause to investigate the neocon cabal at the centre of the affair - and now earlier probes into the activities of Perle, Wolfowitz and Feith are being reviewed.

In serious bling news, check out P Diddy's diamond-encrusted iPod. It's one of the new HP-branded 'Pods, but the others don't come with diamonds.

Meanwhile, the new iMac G5, unveiled this week in Paris, is the topic of hot debate in the Mac world. Some people love it, some people hate and a lot of people are noting its thematic resemblance to the iPod. All I know is that I've been waiting for this puppy and I'm buying one as soon as they're available.