Tuesday, 18 December 2007


Ken Berwitz

Do you think the title of this blog has a typo?  That I accidentally put the last two words together? 

Trust me, I didn't.  It says what it is supposed to say.  And here, courtesy of the Associated Press is why I spelled it as I did.  As usual, the bold print is mine:

By MARGARET WEVER, Associated Press Writer2 hours, 6 minutes ago

Authorities have closed the investigation into the disappearance of Natalee Holloway and do not have evidence to charge anyone, the prosecutors' office said Tuesday.

The three young men who were last seen with the Alabama teenager have all been notified that they will not be charged, the Public Prosecutor's Office said.

"The public prosecutor's office and the police have gone the extra mile and have exhausted all their powers and techniques in order to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the girl," it said.

The three suspects a Dutch college student and two Surinamese brothers were seen leaving a bar with Holloway the night she disappeared in May 2005. Police re-arrested them last month in a last-ditch effort to solve the case, but prosecutors said the men did not provide any new information under interrogation.

Holloway's mother, Beth Twitty, was "terribly disappointed" that the case was closed and has been on an emotional roller coaster in recent weeks, said Sunny Tillman of Birmingham, Ala., a spokeswoman for the mother.

"She was very hopeful the last couple weeks and she went down there and met with the prosecutor," Tillman said. "He told her face to face that he had new and incriminating evidence and that made her hopeful.

"So now, in light of this today, it's just so perplexing," she said.

An attorney for two of the suspects, brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, said prosecutors presented transcripts of online chat sessions that the suspects had with friends as new evidence.

"They tried to call it new, but it didn't have any incriminating points against our clients," attorney David Kock said. "It's like trying to say the Loch Ness monster exists."

In their statement, prosecutors said they still believe the three were involved in the disappearance, but cannot prove a crime was committed because Holloway's body was never recovered.

Prosecutors said they could reopen the case "if new serious evidence were to be found." The statute of limitations is six years for involuntary manslaughter and 12 years for homicide, they said.

Tillman, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, said the possibility of the case being reopened leaves a glimmer of hope for the family, which is now awaiting results from a deep-water search scheduled to begin Tuesday.

"It's quite ironic that the case has been closed on the same day the deep-water search was supposed to start," she said. "It's ironic that first the prosecutor says the case won't be closed until Dec. 31 and then boom the day the water search starts, the case is over."

Holloway, of Mountain Brook, Ala., was scheduled to return home with fellow high school classmates celebrating their graduation when she disappeared. She was 18 at the time.

One of the suspects, Joran Van der Sloot, has said he left her alone on a beach the night she vanished but does not know how she vanished.

No trace of Holloway has ever been found despite extensive searches involving hundreds of volunteers, Aruban soldiers, FBI agents and even Dutch F-16 jets with special equipment.

"This whole case was botched from the get-go and it's terribly disappointing that it has come to this," Tillman said.

"There was so much hope and the rug was pulled out from under the family once again," she said. "They pulled the rug out again and again and again and it's just hideous." .

I'm no lawyer.  Despite my sister, brother, sister in law and grandfather being lawyers, I somehow escaped.  But I don't think it takes much of a lawyer to see how ridiculously this case has been handled by Aruban authorities right from the git-go.

Look, I don't expect the Aruba police force to be very proficient at murder investigations such as this one.  Why should they be?  Aruba isn't New York;  it's not like they have a lot of on-the-job experience with disco parties that become murder cases.

But it seems to me that, when you don't have a lot of experience with something this important, you seek out people and/or organizations who do.  The Aruban authorities imperiously disdained any such assistance until it was too late and the trail was cold as ice.

Hubris is no substitute for professionalism, and professionalism includes a willingness to seek and accept help when it is needed. 

What is it called when a police force does not to do so?  Please refer to the title of this blog.


Ken Berwitz

Not to dump on Hillary Clinton again, but John Hinderaker at www.powerline.org has written an interesting, thought-provoking piece on her electability today which is well worth your attention.  Here it is:

Many Voters Still Not Buying Hillary

Hillary Clinton has always had an electability problem. In the current campaign cycle, she has presented herself to a national audience for the first time as candidate rather than wife. Recent headlines suggest that she is working at making herself more likable. So far, though, it appears that many voters are able to resist Hillary's appeal:

Forty percent of Americans say they would vote to keep Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton from winning the presidency, more than twice the total for their No. 2 "anti-" pick, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

In a new Fox 5-The Washington Times-Rasmussen Reports survey, 64 percent of Republicans, 42 percent of third-party or independent voters, and 17 percent of Democrats said the candidate they most want to keep from the White House is Mrs. Clinton.

The eye-opener there is that 42% of independents, and even some Democrats, are dead set against Mrs. Clinton.

It would be interesting to study the poll's internals, which I haven't yet had the opportunity to do. This bit of demographic data, however, is striking. It shows the percentage of respondents who most want to block Hillary, broken down by race:


Hillary needs to do much better among African-Americans than that. Worse, it appears that she has a serious problem with Hispanic voters, who presumably make up a large majority of the "other" category.

There's a long way to go before November, but Hillary's unpopularity with many Americans has persisted for a long time and will not easily be overcome. Indeed, one could speculate that as voters hear more of Hillary in the coming months, their negative perceptions are more likely to be reinforced than allayed..


Keeping in mind that I am highly skeptical of all political polling (as you should be), if these data are anything near accurate Ms. Clinton is in a world of trouble.

I can't imagine any candidate winning with so high a percentage of voters proactively wanting him/her to lose.  But, even more tellingly, that percentage of Black voters jumps out at me.

In the 2004 election the Democrat, John Kerry, received approximately 93% of the Black vote.  And he lost.

If Hillary Clinton were to get 78% of the Black vote (still a huge majority), she would not only lose the election, but would lose 3 - 6 major states that Senator Kerry won in 2004.  Further this would be a disaster of cataclysmic proportions to many Democratic nominees running for Governor or Senator within those states.

To lose the difference between 7% (in 2004) and, if these data are correct, 22% in 2008, would mean losing some number of states with major inner cities that traditionally put Democrats over the top.  They could include New York, Pennyslvania, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, etc. 
And if Black voters are not pulling the lever for Ms. Clinton, there is good reason to suspect that at least some of them may not be pulling the lever for her fellow Democrats as well. 
Bottom line?  The Democratic Party which, not so long ago, "knew" it would be sweeping both presidential and congressional votes next year, had better start thinking long and hard about what Ms. Clinton's effect could be on their prospects.


Ken Berwitz

I would be hard pressed to tell you which of those three is less of a suprise to me.  But in case you have any lingering illusions about the United Nations, this article in today's Washington Post should forever dispel them:

Washington Post

U.N. Finds Fraud, Mismanagement in Peacekeeping
Task Force Says 'Multiple Instances' of Corruption Have a Cost of $610 Million

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 18, 2007; Page A06

UNITED NATIONS -- A U.N. task force has uncovered a pervasive pattern of corruption and mismanagement involving hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts for fuel, food, construction and other materials and services used by U.N. peacekeeping operations, which are in the midst of their largest expansion in 15 years.

In recent weeks, 10 procurement officials have been charged with misconduct for allegedly soliciting bribes and rigging bids in Congo and Haiti. It has been the largest single crackdown on U.N. staff malfeasance in the field in more than a decade

The task force has issued a series of public and confidential reports charging that corruption has spread from U.N. headquarters -- where three officials have been convicted in bribery schemes -- to the far reaches of its growing peacekeeping efforts. The task force has also cast a spotlight on the United Nations' repeated failure to take action against officials long suspected of wrongdoing, allowing them to carry out criminal schemes in one U.N. mission after another.

"The task force identified multiple instances of fraud, corruption, waste and mismanagement at U.N. headquarters and peacekeeping missions, including ten significant instances of fraud and corruption with aggregate value in excess of $610 million," said one report by the task force, headed by a former federal prosecutor in Connecticut, Robert Appleton.

The new corruption cases highlight the limits of reforms imposed since the early 1990s, when a previous buildup of peacekeeping missions led to reports of rampant corruption in Cambodia, Somalia and the Balkans. In response, in 1994 the United Nations created the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), but it has a poor record of holding corrupt officials to account.

The recent investigation in Congo revealed "widespread and inherent corruption" throughout the mission's purchasing department. One official targeted in the probe, Abdul Karim Masri, had emerged unscathed from repeated OIOS inquiries into his activities over more than a decade.

The task force charged that Masri, 54, engaged in an "extensive pattern of bribery" during his seven years in Congo, according to a confidential account of the probe.

The unit alleged that Masri accepted a $10,000 bribe from a boating company, steered a lucrative catering contract to a friend, and persuaded one U.N. contractor to paint his apartment and swimming pool at no cost and another to give him a steep discount on a Mercedes-Benz. It also described an effort by Masri to solicit a kickback from a construction executive on a $5.5 million contract to refurbish an airfield in eastern Congo.

"We are the ones deciding the case," Masri told him, according to the account of a meeting at Masri's Kinshasa home. "It's in our hands."

Masri declined repeated requests by e-mail to comment on the findings, saying that U.N. rules do not permit him to "deal with the press." He referred questions to U.N. staff counsel Edwin Nhliziyo, a retired U.N. auditor who served with Masri in Congo.

"He has denied all these allegations," Nhliziyo said. "If the U.N. has the evidence to back all of this stuff up, that is fine. At this point it's just allegations, and he is innocent until proven guilty."

In Haiti, the United Nations charged five employees with misconduct after the task force established that they had steered a $10 million-a-year fuel contract to a Haitian company, Distributeurs Nationaux S.A., according to U.N. officials and confidential documents. The task force has been unable to prove that the five profited from the scheme, citing its lack of authority to subpoena bank records, but it recommended that the case be referred for criminal prosecution by authorities in Haiti or the United States.

To paraphrase that funny line delivered by Daddy Warbucks in the great show Annie "$610 million here, $610 million there, eventually that can run into some real money".

After the oil for fraud scandal, and the ease with which kofi annan and his at-least-as-corrupt son (among many others) walked away with no punishment, just money, I would like to think most people understand just how dissolute and dishonest the UN is.  If adding this to the mix doesn't convince you, you must be one of those people whose answer to everything is "Let the UN do its work".

Well, this is the work the UN does.  How do you like it?


Ken Berwitz

Within the article below is the latest in a series of remarkable claims being made by former, and possibly future, co-president Bill Clinton.  It comes to us from www.cnn.com:.

Bill Clinton: George H.W. Bush will help President Hillary

ORANGEBURG, South Carolina (CNN) Former President Bill Clinton said Monday that the first thing his wife Hillary will do when she reaches the White House is dispatch him and his predecessor, President George H.W. Bush, on an around-the-world mission to repair the damage done to America's reputation by the current president Bush's son, George W. Bush.

"Well, the first thing she intends to do, because you can do this without passing a bill, the first thing she intends to do is to send me and former President Bush and a number of other people around the world to tell them that America is open for business and cooperation again," Clinton said in response to a question from a supporter about what his wife's "number one priority" would be as president.

A spokesman for the George H.W. Bush was not immediately available to comment on whether the former president would chip in some diplomatic help after his son leaves office next year.

Clinton and the elder Bush, rivals in the 1992 presidential election, have grown chummy in recent years, often traveling and appearing at public events together. In 2005, they started a charity to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

UPDATE: The Republican National Committee issued this statement in response to Clinton's comments:

"In 2009, a Republican president will be working with our friends and allies abroad to continue to keep our nation safe," said RNC spokesman Danny Diaz. "The American people expect our leaders both current and former to present serious solutions to the very real challenges confronting our nation." .

Leave it to Bill.  Is he now claiming that George H. W. Bush is on the Hillary team? 

Has anyone asked the elder Mr. Bush how he feels about this supposed mission, the announcement of which is supposed  to help Ms. Clinton defeat her Republican opponent next year (assuming, of course, that she's the nominee)?  

And has anyone asked the elder Mr. Bush how he feels about the idea of traveling with The First Laddy so that he can apologize to world leaders for how badly his son botched everything?

You would have to be lobotomized and/or on drugs to believe Mr. Bush would ever do such a thing.

This is right up there with Mr. Clinton's claim that he was never in favor of military action against Iraq (a demonstrable lie) and that he never inhaled.

Personally I think it is proof positive that Bill Clinton not only has inhaled, but that he may have done so very, very recently.

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