"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, April 17, 2004

there must be something in the water over there

3 U.N. police die in Kosovo jail shootout

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By Nebojsa Markovic

April 17, 2004 | KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) -- A Jordanian policeman opened fire on a group of international U.N. police in Kosovo on Saturday, killing two Americans before he was killed when officers returned fire. Ten American officers and an Austrian were wounded.

The shootout erupted when a group correctional officers -- 21 Americans, two Turks and an Austrian -- were leaving the detention center after a day of training. They came under fire from at least one of a group of Jordanians on guard at the prison, said Neeraj Singh, a U.N. spokesman.

The officers shot back in a gunbattle that lasted about 10 minutes. It was not immediately clear what prompted the Jordanian to shoot.

"As far as we know, there was no communication between the officer who fired and the group of victims," Singh said, adding that investigators looking into the incident were questioning four Jordanian officers.

The Jordanian government expressed regret for the incident in a statement and said it also was investigating the shooting, Jordan's official Petra agency reported. The statement identified the Jordanian officer as Ahmed Mustafa Ibrahim Ali.

U.N. and local police officers sealed off the yard of the detention center, took pictures and marked the bullet cartridges with numbers. The body of a police officer, covered with what looked like a dark blue jacket, lay for hours in the yard of the prison compound.

One witness, a 50-year-old woman who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she heard the shooting, ran to her balcony overlooking the prison yard and saw one officer shooting and another hiding.

Another witness who also gave only his age, 31, said he was at a nearby park when he heard the shooting and later heard American officers yelling, "Drop the gun! Drop the gun!"

"It is absolutely too early to draw any conclusions with regard to what happened there," the head of the U.N. police, Stefan Feller, told Associated Press Television News after visiting the site. He called the shootout a "terrible incident."

Milan Ivanovic, a doctor at the hospital in Kosovska Mitrovica, told AP that five American officers and one Austrian officer were being treated. It was not immediately clear where the other wounded were being treated, or what their nationalities were.

"Their wounds are predominantly in the chest and abdomen," Ivanovic said. "They were caused by firearms and possibly explosive devices."

Kosovska Mitrovica has long been the scene of violence between Serbs and ethnic Albanians, including riots that broke out a month ago, killing 19 and injuring 900.

Ethnic Albanians live on the southern side of the Ibar River in the divided city, and Serbs live in the north. Kosovska Mitrovica is located 25 miles from the provincial capital, Pristina.

Kosovo became a U.N. protectorate in 1999, after NATO launched a 78-day air war to stop Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic from cracking down on ethnic Albanians seeking independence.

There are some 3,500 U.N. police officers serving in Kosovo alongside a 6,000-strong local force.

The top U.N. official in Kosovo, Harri Holkeri, seemed stunned at the shooting incident, which came as the mission is still grappling with last month's violence.

"I am deeply shocked and dismayed at the unfortunate death of dedicated professionals who have come such a great distance to help Kosovo on its road to future," he said.

An unsanitized report from the front lines of Fallujah

can be found here

Monday, April 12, 2004

"Cause something is happening and you don't know what it is....."
Is this a new way for Bob to meet chicks? Was the endless tour not attracting enough nubile groupies? Not that he isn't looking great, but what the sweet and fancy Jesus is Bob doing in an underwear ad? It can't be the money, he hardly needs the exposure-to paraphrase Spike Lee, "Its gotta be the panties"
Picture it: You are Bob Dylan. You've been there, done that, there aren't many peaks left to scale. You're 60 years old and the phone rings and someone says, "Say Bob, if you aren't busy next week, how would you like to hang out in Venice with a bunch of underwear models? We'll spring for the Dom Perignon and cocaine, just bring your cowboy hat and trim your mustache before you come. Oh, and we'll pay you a minimum of six figures and sell some records for you." Who would say no?

Tangled Up in Boobs
What's Bob Dylan doing in a Victoria's Secret ad?
By Seth Stevenson/Slate
Posted Monday, April 12, 2004, at 9:39 AM PT

The spot: A well-formed young woman cavorts through a palazzo, wearing nothing but heels, lingerie, and a pair of outsized, feathery wings. At intervals, we cut to a shot of some sort of death's-head demon, who looks poised to bite into the pretty youth's skull, perhaps to suck on the marrow of her soul and prolong his undead half-life. Wait … stand by … I'm now being told that this creature is in fact Bob Dylan. (Click here to see the ad.)When Bob Dylan shows up in a Victoria's Secret commercial, it immediately triggers three questions. The first is: Am I hallucinating? Seriously, I think I'm hallucinating—can you see Bob Dylan, and did you eat the same shrimp I ate? The second is: Why on earth would Bob Dylan do this? And the third, and perhaps most puzzling, is: Why on earth would Victoria's Secret do this?

Moving past the first line of inquiry, which likely won't get us very far, let's ask ourselves why Bob Dylan, respected countercultural artist, would choose to sell panties. I think there are a few possible motives. The first is, of course, money. This seemed to be the sole motive when, several years ago, Dylan sold the Bank of Montreal the right to use "The Times They Are a-Changin'" in an ad. But the Vicky's Secret sellout feels different, in part because Dylan actually appears in the commercial.

Which brings me to the second possible motive: pure whimsy. He may just think it's funny to be in an underwear ad and that flying to Venice to leer at models could make for a diverting weekend. (I also wouldn't totally discount the idea that he's playing a sly, decades-in-the-making practical joke. Newspaper reports have noted that in 1965, when asked what might tempt him to sell out, Dylan said, "Ladies undergarments.")

But I think the most likely motive for Dylan is exposure. It's a real struggle for older rockers to remind the world that they still exist. Their music's not played on the radio, and their videos (if they even make them) aren't in heavy rotation on VH1. Thus you see the Jaguar ads with Sting, or the MCI ads with James Taylor and Michael McDonald—all of them prominently featuring the artist's song. It's essentially a way to put a video on the major networks, where an older audience might see it. Yes, in exchange for publicizing their art they sacrifice some integrity, but this is basically an understandable tradeoff. And Dylan even gets, in the terms of his deal, a mix CD of his songs sold at Victoria's Secret stores.

So, it makes some sense for Bob. But what about Vicky? Why would a brand that's about sexiness, youth, and glamour want any connection at all with a decrepit, sixtysomething folksinger? The answer, my friend, is totally unclear. The answer is totally unclear.

Even if Victoria's Secret hopes to bring in more boomer women, do those women want their underwear to exude the spirit and essence of Bob Dylan? Or, conversely, is Bob Dylan the sort of man they're hoping to attract? Even if you're of the belief that men frequently shop at VS for their ladies, I still don't see the appeal of this ad. I, for instance, am a man, and I can assure you that Bob Dylan is not what I'm looking for in a woman's undergarment. (And if I found him there—man, would that be disturbing.)

Victoria's Secret wouldn't return my calls, but media reports say the idea of putting Dylan's face in the ad (they'd been using his song—"Love Sick"—in ads for the past year or so) came straight from corporate chief Les Wexner. To the company's surprise, Dylan accepted their offer. It's at this point that someone at Victoria's Secret should have stopped the madness. Just because you can hire Bob Dylan as the figurehead for your lingerie line, doesn't mean you should. Perhaps no one was willing to say no to the big boss, or perhaps they fully expected Dylan to say no. Joke's on them.

'Bad Business' a good read

Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Bad Business
By Robert B. Parker
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 320 pp, 24.95 dollars

Readers still don't know his first name, but after 29 books we know just about everything else we need to know about Robert B. Parker's private eye hero Spenser.

The latest installment in the Spenser saga, Bad Business, sees the Boston sleuth take on wife-swapping corporate scammers. He is aided, as usual, by his psychologist soul mate Susan Silverman; Hawk, the world's most honorable thug; and the usual cast of trustworthy cops, charming criminal defense lawyers and friendly hit men.

Approached by the annoying Marlene Rowley to get the goods on her cheating executive husband Trent, Spenser keeps tripping over other private eyes tailing everyone connected to the Rowleys and Trent's energy trading firm, Kinergy. When Trent is murdered at his desk, Spenser suspects more than infidelity is involved.

While Parker is very good at painting detailed portraits of even the most minor characters, they tend to be strictly friends or enemies. Those who are Spenser's friends are willing to do almost anything for him and rarely have anything but the most minor of character flaws or weaknesses. The criminal careers of Hawk and hit man Vinnie Morris seem like minor eccentricities, while the vulgar yuppies central to the case seem like the worst people in the world every time they open their mouths.

The humor of Spenser's smart-aleck streak and his banter with Hawk have always helped put the series a cut above the average hard-boiled detective hero, and Parker manages enough levity to keep the story entertaining.

Sadly, after a long run of Spenser books, Parker seems to be doing a lot of this by rote. We have the stock scenes of Spenser with Susan, Spenser being romantic yet manly and Susan drinking her glass of wine a milliliter at a time while delivering a detailed psychological analysis of all the players in the case, including Spenser. After using such set pieces in almost every Spenser novel, they begin to have the ring of formula.

Despite this, Parker continues to demonstrate his gift for creating crackling dialog and believable characters. He captures the archetype of the corporate good-ol'-boy in Kinergy CEO Bob Cooper and the radio talk show host and "corporate pimp" Darrin O'Mara is superbly smarmy and fluent in psychobabble.

While action takes a back seat to investigation this time around, Bad Business is still among the better installments in the series