Jill Carroll is Free

I’ve been awaiting the end of this saga with some trepidation and am relieved to relay the best-case scenario!

AP documents her release this morning:

Swathed in an Islamic headscarf and visibly well after three months as a hostage, the 28-year-old reporter was whisked inside by astonished staff of the Iraqi Islamic Party, before media colleagues and U.S. officials were called to come and fetch her.

“I’m happy to be free. I just want to be with my family,” she said upon her release this afternoon, 82 days after being taken hostage in an ambush in which her translator was killed.
News of her release comes one day after an emotional statement from Carroll’s twin sister Katie, broadcast on al-Arabiya.

Jill is in good health and stated that she was “treated very well.” The identity of her captors and the circumstances leading to her release remain unclear at this point. Despite the United States’ blanket refusal to “negotiate with terrorists,” Carroll’s release was constantly demanded at rallies, vigils, and from leaders throughout the (Arab, Muslim and Western) world over the last few months.

Handoff to Natasha Tynes’ blog for all the latest.

Show me the $$$

Facebook, the MySpace-like social networking website based on University-affiliations, is on the block and seeking more than a few dimes.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg took Facebook live just two years ago, while a sophomore at Harvard. After recently turning down an offer for $750 million and seeing Facebook’s growth stagnate, he is now seeking up to $2 billion for the popular website, according to BusinessWeek.

Om Malik still believes he should have sold out when the money was on the table as Facebook will be hardfought to compete with the anomaly that is MySpace.

While MySpace continues making headlines as the detective’s best friend, Facebook may be best known locally for exposing the profile of Holly Ashcraft, the USC student convicted of murder for abandoning her newborn in a dumpster near campus last fall.

But many college campuses are already committed to adjusting to a campus culture future dominated by sites such as MySpace and Facebook.

UC Berkeley administrators told the Contra Costa Times:

“…Because students are so far ahead of us, we have a lot of catching up to do.” […] “If we don’t,” added student-development director Jerlena Griffin-Desta, “we’re missing a whole shift in the culture.”

MySpace fetched nearly $600 million last year when Rupert Murdoch swallowed it whole. Facebook’s audience is not nearly as huge, however, as noted at TechCrunch, it is used by 85% of all college students.

$2 billion is a ridiculous amount of money for a social networking site, but, alas, not three weeks ago Viacom announced its interest in combatting Rupe mano-a-mano.

Card Finally Folds

For what could be any of a plethora of good reasons, Andrew Card, President Bush’s White House adviser for over five years has officially resigned.

His replacement, Joshua Bolten – currently Director of the president’s Office of Management and Budget – is described as the fourth wheel in the Rove and co. policy machine in this 2001 Slate article. Card has wanted out for about a month — apparently it took some time to find a new monkey to replace. The Washington Post:

…Card approached Bush earlier this month about the possibility of stepping down and then two had several discussions about the idea. Card then went with Bush to Camp David last weekend, where they settled on a decision and timing. (via firedoglake)

Andy Card will forever be remembered as the man who first notified the president of the 9/11 attacks without adding a qualifier to the effect of “no shit, seriously” — allowing the commander in chief to finish reading a book about (donkeys?) to an elementary school class in Florida (see video).

Dismissing Card is a good place to begin retooling, suggests Liberal Avenger, alongside an insanely hilarious photo. But is a legitimate shake-up in the White House truly under way, or are they just passing the time? Mark Halperin writes: “keep waiting….” Steve Clemons reveals that if Ma Baba Bush still calls the shots, she’s “ready to roast a few of her son’s staff members alive on a pig spit.”

McCain-Kennedy Immigration Bill Passes

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday passed immigration reform legislation proposed by Sens. McCain (R-Ariz.) and Kennedy (D-Mass). In an apparent victory for pro-immigration demonstrators, the bill would upend the H.R. 4437 Sensenbrenner anti-immigration bill that was approved by the House in December and will be discussed on the Senate floor as soon as Tuesday.

“All Americans wanted fairness and they got it this evening,” said Sen. Ted Kennedy.

By approving the measure 12-6, the Republican-controlled Senate panel demonstrates a shake-up on the right, in which the president, who had originally skewed the party far from the center, now is surrounded by GOP members to his right and left. In regards to historical immigration reform, this is a positive twist, pending its impact on the House-passed Sensenbrenner bill. Marc Cooper describes it as:

…A huge and welcome political victory for immigration reform advocates who have been working to bring national policies into line with some pretty stark realities. For the first time in 20 years, we see at least one house of congress inching out of the hypocrisy and denial that has characterized U.S. border and immigration policy.

Joe Gandelman’s covered immigration issues for over a quarter-century. He compares the current legislation to a failed Reagan-era proposal, presents historical arguments and links to a breadth of blogged opinion on the topic here at his excellent site The Moderate Voice.

At least 20,000 students walked-out of LAUSD schools in protest Monday (FOX nearly doubles the figure), and surely some were passionate about more than just skipping class (photos).

LA Times photo
Today’s vote dramatically broadens the proposed immigration bill on the eve a bound-to-be contentious debate on the Senate floor, where as even Senate Judiciary Committee chair Arlen Specter, one of four Republicans to approve the legislation, admits it may be severly altered.Multimedia PostScript: President Bush enhanced his centrist (or maybe just confused) position on the issue with a visit to a naturalization ceremony, available in full color at the White House website. WaPo has a fundraising-thermometer type graphic of illegal immigrants here.

If It Looks Like a Civil War…

Remember the made-for-Saturday-Night-Live Iraqi Information Minister? Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf became the most laughed-about character in the early days of the 2003 Iraqi invasion, when he declared — with bombs dropping in the background — “I triple guarantee you, there are no American soldiers in Baghdad.”

Iraqis were already accustomed to misinformation and government propaganda, but the rest of the world quickly shrugged al-Sahaf off as a fool and a joker.

But, today, not only is the U.S. government lying straight to the faces of the “liberated” Iraqis, the public messages being sent home are point-blank untruths that don’t match up to accounts (see the pictures below) on the ground.

The U.S. government doesn’t need a funny-face guy like the Iraqi Information Minister — they already tried that with the Don Rumsfeld show — it just grinds out misinformation like an anarchic machine.

The NYT Week in Review has a barometerical graphic of rhetorical devices used by the administration to term what is by-definition “civil war” as anything but. And a hideous number of politicians and supposedly non-partisan journos have bought into the notion that the media isn’t reporting any of the good news (documented here by Peter Daou w/ additional commentary here, here, and here).

But, as Lara Logan made clear on CNN’s Late Edition this morning, the media goes out of its way to try and report the good news, but is precluded from doing so by the government for security reasons (transcript):

“Who says things aren’t falling apart in Iraq? I mean, what you didn’t see on your screens this week was all the unidentified bodies that have been turning up, all the allegations here of militias that are really controlling the security forces.”

Indeed, this was best exemplified in today’s nothing but the truth accounts of a Baghdad attack Sunday killing around 20 “bystanders” (or “insurgents” as the Army reports) at a “mosque” (say Iraqi’s and observers on the ground, including the video evidence below) or a “community meeting hall” (U.S. military).

Read the first few grafs of the original AP report (since updated) and join me in my frustration. It is every bit as difficult to believe the U.S. version of the story as it is to believe al-Sadr’s.

Rep. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb) effectively disclosed last week that reports from U.S. generals in Iraq tend to be significantly altered as they pass through our “ministry” of information.

“I think we have had a low-grade civil war going on in Iraq, certainly the last six months, maybe the last year. Our own generals have told me that privately.”

I want to know how U.S. troops are efficiently providing security considering daily reports of sectarian beheadings and executions on public streets. Isn’t that what we went there to stop?
The screenshots from the AP video taken at what the cameraman described as an imam’s living quarters attached to a mosque in Baghdad, where the aforementioned attack occured, depict the slaying of apparently unarmed civilians. I just knew the story would change as the day progressed — I can no longer believe Pentagon press releases proclaiming a “secured objective” netting 16 dead “insurgents” and 15 additional captures.

UPDATE: The British press continues to dig for truth in Bush’s War, as pointed out by Editor and Publisher. BBCNews reports today that “Iraqi police say U.S. troops killed up to 20 people… in Baghdad mosque raid.” The Sunday Times reported the following in “Iraqis killed by U.S. Troops ‘on Rampage’“:

the evidence from Haditha and Abu Sifa last week suggested that the Pentagon is finding it increasingly difficult to dismiss allegations of violent excesses as propaganda by terrorist sympathisers.?