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September 21, 2003 Odd and Ends

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Objectivity, software and fried potato sticks...

Item 1:
Christiane Amanpour of CNN last week gave an interview to Tina Brown regarding press coverage of the war in Iraq.  Amanpour was speaking of the perhaps one-sided reporting from the war prior to May 1st, the day when we declared the war over.  Before that, were we getting only the government line?  And was that a bad thing?

"I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. Certainly television and perhaps my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News.  And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did."
    -- Christiane Amanpour, saying CNN dropped the ball

"Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda."
    -- Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti
Christiane Amanpour says the Fox folks were just government stooges - foot soldiers.  Irena Briganti said that's better that than being an enemy agent.

This is an interesting view of the function of news reporting.  Support the government or be considered a supporter of the enemy.  The only two choices?   Well, perhaps objective reporting is an unattainable ideal.  Or at least it is these days. 
Now it is absolutely undesirable
The left wants to hear, mostly, what is going wrong, to make a larger point.  The right wants to hear, mostly, what is going right, to make a larger point. 
If you want to know what happened, you have to wade through a lot of slant and work hard at extracting what might be the facts.  So it's little wonder people don't much follow the news - that is "the news" in the traditional sense: this happened, these folks say this about it, and these other folks say that about it.  It's too hard to get there from here.

Item 2:
I like this.  Now that things are as they are in the West Bank and Gaza, we can learn much from Sharon and his crew.  Or not.  Well, we bought ourselves our own West Bank when created our new American colony.  Might as well learn from the experts.

The United States wants to use the Israeli military's "occupation training software."

I worked for many years in "Training and Organizational Development" for a company that, in the eighties and nineties, made more that three-quarters of all the gizmos orbiting the earth - relaying television signals, tracking the weather, and taking pictures of things no one wanted anyone to see.  We used these sorts of training tapes and software. 
But I remember as much as we showed "model behaviors" and discussed how to learn them, much of what we taught - leadership and management skills - was a function of personality and not a "skills set."   I would guess this software mentioned below is not the answer to getting thing a bit more stable in Baghdad.  But it couldn't hurt.
U.S. wants Israeli military's occupation training software
Matthew Rosenberg, Associated Press Writer   Thursday, September 18, 2003 JERUSALEM (AP) -

In an apparent search for pointers on how to police a hostile population, the U.S. military that's trying to bring security to Iraq is showing interest in Israeli software instructing soldiers on how to behave in the West Bank and Gaza, an Israeli military official said Thursday.

Using animated graphics and clips from movies like "Apocalypse Now," the software outlines a "code of conduct" for avoiding abuse of civilians while manning roadblocks, searching homes and conducting other activities, said Lt. Col. Amos Guiora, head of the School of Military Law.

Israeli troops have frequently faced criticism from Palestinian and human rights groups. Two weeks ago, Amnesty International said in a report that Israeli military checkpoints and curfews violate Palestinians' human rights.

U.S. soldiers have also faced criticism in Iraq, where they have been accused of using excessive force.

In a reflection of tensions in Iraq, guerrillas ambushed two U.S. military convoys Thursday, wounding two soldiers. And a nervous American patrol shot at a wedding party late Wednesday, killing a 14-year-old boy and wounding six other people after mistaking celebratory gunfire for an attack, witnesses said.

Guiora told The Associated Press that U.S. military officials had recently seen the software, which was developed this year, and expressed interest. As a result, he said, the military is now working on an English version for them.

A U.S. official with the Embassy in Tel Aviv would say only that American officers have seen the Israeli software and considered it useful.

Guiora said the software was developed after military lawyers found themselves giving dry lectures to disinterested audiences of troops.

"There are complicated issues. The fact that this (software) is so user-friendly, that it has the movie clips, the sounds, the animation -- we felt this was the best way," he said.

Israel's military has set up dozens of roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza to keep suicide bombers out of Israel. But Palestinians say the travel restrictions unfairly make life a misery for millions. In some cases, sick Palestinians heading to hospitals have died at roadblocks.

Human rights groups have also accused troops of using excessive force and said soldiers are often confused about the rules-of-engagement.

The "code of conduct" includes principles such as not shooting at anyone who is surrendering, showing respect for religious and cultural artifacts and providing medical care to anyone injured -- conditions permitting.
Item 3:
It's Bob Ney, Republican-Ohio versus Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat-Texas - and who will win?  Will we ever forgive the French for telling us to slow down?  Probably not.
September 16, 2003  Lawmaker Wants 'French' Back in Fries
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With America needing all the help it can get in Iraq, it's time to swallow our pride and give the French back their fries, a House lawmaker said in a letter to her colleagues.
House Republican leaders last March, angered by French opposition to U.S.  plans to take military action against Iraq, ordered that all restaurants in the House replace the french fries on their menus with "freedom fries." But now, said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, we need to bring the French back to the table.
"President Bush is now urging that all parties put aside 'past bickering.' Delays in rebuilding international good will are costing Americans lives in Iraq, and billions of dollars to the American taxpayers," Lee wrote last week in a letter first reported by the congressional newspaper Roll Call. "A symbolic start to that effort would be reinstating foods in the House cafeterias and dining halls and their traditional 'American' names-french toast and french fries."
The House should show civility and respect as Secretary of State Colin Powell embarks on the difficult task of garnering international support for efforts to stabilize Iraq, Jackson Lee said, adding that the President's chef, "after months of dodging the question," recently acknowledged to the chefs of other world heads of state that french fries were never taken off the White House menu.
But House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who initiated the menu change with Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., said they'll continue to fight for their freedom fries.
Ney said that the day after Jackson Lee wrote her letter the French came out with an untenable timetable for elections in Iraq, confounding U.S. efforts to win United Nations backing for the reconstruction effort. "They were noncooperative and arrogant then," before the war, "and they are again noncooperative and arrogant," Ney said. "I haven't seen a huge change."
Ney said that was originally a gesture toward the French "has become an international food fight. It means something to a lot of people."
"The whole premise behind the gesture was to support our troops in Iraq," said Lanier Swann, spokeswoman for Jones. "The congressional passion in support of them has not waned and the French position has not changed."