NYT Researcher to be Freed after 18 months in Chinese Prison

Zhao YanZhao Yan, the New York Times research based in Beijing who was greatly overshadowed by the comparatively brief jail term served by NYT reporter Judith Miller, will be released after 18 months in isolation in a Chinese prison.

The New York Times reports that Zhao has been found not guilty of one charge and may be released within days. Reporters Without Borders:

Zhao, 42, who had been held in custody by state security for 18 months, was facing charges of “divulging state secrets”, an offence punishable by the death penalty, and of “fraud”.

He had been accused of giving the news of the political retirement of Jiang Zemin to his newspaper before it was made known officially. The New York Times has always maintained that the news had not come from Zhao.

“We are absolutely delighted at the announcement of the imminent release of Zhao Yan,” the organisation said. “They have finally accepted the innocence of a brave man who became the scapegoat of a government which scorns investigative journalism”.

Can’t think of a better way to close out Sunshine week — an annual call of attention to current threates to open government — than the news of Zhao’s release. He was awarded for Reporters Without Borders.

The War Against South Park

tom cruise south park
First, Chef jets the set (video), supposedly because he’s insulted by the show’s depiction of religion (namely, HIS religion: Scientology).

Now, it’s on. From AP:

“South Park” has declared war on Scientology. Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of the animated satire, are digging in against the celebrity-endorsed religion after a controversial episode mocking outspoken Scientologist Tom Cruise was yanked abruptly from the schedule Wednesday ? with Internet rumors it was covert warfare by Cruise that led to its departure.

For complete coverage: “Tom Cruise is a Jackass,” “The Power of the Cruise

South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, for their part, took one giant step for mankind with this signed statement to Variety:

“So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!”

UPDATE: Even the Washington Post is up in arms… L.A. Times is crying “Closetgate!” …we promise to stay on top of this and all other breaking news…

Daily Illini Editor Fired

As he largely expected, Daily Illini editor-in-chief Acton Gorton was fired last night for his role in publishing the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons last month. Quite pathetic that a public university would take such drastic action.

Gorton told AP:

“If I can be fired, what will other students think who maybe want to challenge the status quo?” […] “This is a bad precedent.”

Is this any way to pretend nothing ever happened or is it just an example of bad bureacracy?

Obama Guns Down Cheney, Bush in Jokefest

All reports from the D.C. Press Corps is that the Saturday night’s annual roast at the Gridiron Club produced some of the funniest remarks of the year from Bush, Cheney and the White House All Stars (considering, of course, only those remarks intended to be funny).

But, as a native Illinoisian, I can’t pass up this opportunity to reprint some of the classic lines delivered by freshman Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), as gleaned from Chicago Tribune White House reporter and blogger Mark Silva.

I’ll print some highlights, but do yourself a favor and read the entire wrap.Condoleezza Rice strums a charango embossed with a coca leaf presented to her by Evo Morales

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was absent this year, as she was in South America to get up to speed with newly elected Bolivian President and former coca farmer Evo Morales en route to the swearing-in ceremony for Chilean President Michele Bachelet.

None of this kept Obama from throwing a bone at Rice:

“You know, the president promised a muscular foreign policy. And anyone who’s seen the Condi Rice workout tapes knows he means business.”

Cheney, as could be expected, was railed upon by everyone, including his boss protege, Dubya. But Barack was relentless:

“The truth is, I’m terrified to be here. Not because you’re such a tough audience, but because they’re serving drinks. I’m standing about 30 yards from the vice president, and I’m a lawyer. The only thing that could make this more dangerous is if he considered me a friend.

“Mr. vice president, I know you came here expecting to be a target, which, it turns out, may prove easier for you than shooting at one,” […] “You’ve taught us a valuable lesson. “Aim higher.”

Kind Tribune blogger Silva did not stop there, reproducing Obama’s further rips on Dick and Lynne.

Before launching into song (“If I Only Had McCain” – recounting the recent tension reported in the press between himself and the Republican Senator from Arizona, Obama referenced the Grammy he won in February:

“I’ll tell you, that Grammy was a big surprise. I thought, for sure Jack Abramoff would win for his rendition of ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.'”

Three 6 Mafia with Jack Abramoff

Ironically, Bush found much humor in this line, eliciting a “big belly laugh” Silva noted parenthetically, despite the president’s contention that he doesn’t even know who Abramoff is.

The Sun-Times has an equally expansive report in their blog. For more B-Rock, see the transcript or video from Sunday’s lame interview by Face the Nation’s Bob Schieffer.

Bloggers Campaign to Free Jill Carroll

Curt Hopkins, founding director of the Committee to Protect Bloggers, passed me a note as part of a call-to-blogs to help free Jill Carroll by disseminating a video PSA plea for her safe release.

The video is here (Arabic). Translation is here.

It shouldn’t be necessary to remind readers of this blog that 28-year-old Christian Science Monitor journalist Jill Carroll was kidnapped January 7.

A late February deadline set by her captors passed quietly and there has been no confirmation of her whereabouts or well-being, although optimism remains strong. The Christian Science Monitor announced last week that it has “reinvigorated its Iraqi media campaign” to free Carroll.

[technorati tag: blogjill]