Friday, August 31, 2007

August 31:

1997 : Princess Diana dies

Diana, Princess of Wales, dies in Paris' Pitie-Salpetiere Hospital
after suffering massive chest injuries in an early morning car
accident. Her companion, Dodi Fayed, was killed instantly in the 12:25
a.m. crash, as was driver Henri Paul, who was drunk and lost control
of the Mercedes in a highway underpass. He was driving at excessive
speeds in a reckless attempt to escape paparazzi photographers.
Diana's bodyguard, Trevor Rees Jones, escaped with serious but
nonfatal injuries. He was the only one wearing his seat belt. The
death of Diana, beloved by millions for her beauty and good nature,
plunged the world into mourning.

On July 1, 1961, Diana Frances Spencer was born at Park House, the
home that her parents rented on Queen Elizabeth II's estate at
Sandringham, England. In her childhood, her playmates were Prince
Andrew and Prince Edward, the younger sons of Queen Elizabeth. When
her father inherited the title Earl of Spencer in 1975, she became
known as Lady Diana Spencer. After completing her education, Lady
Diana became a kindergarten teacher at a fashionable school in a
suburb of London.

In 1980, she began a romance with Prince Charles, the eldest son of
Queen Elizabeth. In February 1981, the 33-year-old Prince of Wales
announced his engagement to the 19-year-old schoolteacher. Diana's
beauty and shy demeanor made her an instant media sensation, and on
July 29, 1981, nearly one billion television viewers in 74 countries
tuned in to witness her marriage to the heir to the British throne.
Married in a grand ceremony at St. Paul's Cathedral, the couple's
romance was, for the moment, the envy of the world. Their first child,
Prince William, was born in 1982, and their second, Prince Harry, in

Before long, however, the fairy tale couple grew apart, an experience
that was particularly painful under the ubiquitous eyes of the world's
tabloid media. The paparazzi--freelance photographers--made Diana one
of the most photographed women in the world, and privately she
suffered from eating disorders and depression. In 1992, Diana and
Charles formally separated. In August 1996, the prince and princess
reached a final divorce agreement after prolonged negotiations. In
exchange for a generous settlement and the right to retain her
apartments at Kensington Palace and her title Princess of Wales, Diana
agreed to relinquish the title Her Royal Highness and any future
claims to the British throne.

In the year after her divorce, the popular princess seemed well on her
way to achieving her dream of becoming "a queen in people's hearts."
She maintained a high public profile and continued to promote many
humanitarian causes, including support for AIDS victims and a campaign
against land mines. In late 1996, she became involved with millionaire
Dodi Al Fayed, the son of the Egyptian-born owner of the Harrods
department stores. Their romance grew in 1997, and in August Diana
took a holiday with Dodi in the Mediterranean. As always, the
paparazzi followed closely behind, and one photographer was paid $3
million by the tabloids for a photo of Diana and Dodi kissing on
Fayed's yacht.

On August 30, Diana and Dodi flew from Sardinia to Paris. Diana
planned to return to Kensington Palace the next morning after spending
a night in Dodi's Paris villa. That evening, Diana and Dodi dined at a
restaurant in Paris' Ritz Hotel, owned by Dodi's father since 1979.
The paparazzi came out in force. Toward the end of the meal, Dodi told
his chauffeur to drive his car back to his mansion in an attempt to
draw off photographers. Henri Paul, the deputy chief of security at
the Ritz, was enlisted to be the new driver. He agreed, even though he
had been drinking heavily and was taking anti-depressant drugs that
were not supposed to be mixed with alcohol.

Around midnight, Dodi and Diana emerged from the rear entrance of the
Ritz. The paparazzi had not been fooled by the earlier ruse, and the
couple were photographed getting into a bullet-proof Mercedes along
with Diana's bodyguard. As they made their way across town, they were
followed closely by paparazzi on motorcycles. On the Place de la
Concorde, Henri Paul hit the accelerator in an attempt to escape the
press. By the time they reached the underpass below the Pont de
l'Alma, the driver was traveling an estimated 120 mph in a 30-mph
speed zone. Paul lost control as they flew into the underpass, and the
Mercedes ricocheted off a wall and slammed into pillars supporting the
tunnel roof. The paparazzi, 100 yards behind at the time of the
accident, were able to stop in time. Several of them then ran down the
tunnel and began taking photos, which were later confiscated by

The Mercedes, lying crushed against the 13th pillar, was a tangle of
smoking metal. Diana, barely alive with serious chest injuries, was
trapped inside. Emergency crews arrived within minutes, but because
the car was made of reinforced steel meant to withstand bullets it
took nearly an hour and a half to extricate her from the crumbled
vehicle. She was taken to the Pitie-Salpetiere Hospital, where she
suffered cardiac arrest minutes after her arrival. Surgeons failed to
revive her, and at 3 a.m. she was pronounced dead. She was 36.

Diana's bodyguard was the only survivor of the crash. He suffered a
concussion and other injuries and has no memory of the crash nor the
events immediately preceding or following it. French authorities
arrested 10 paparazzi photographers who were tailing the Mercedes and
charged them with involuntary manslaughter. The charges were dropped
when a formal investigation concluded that Henri Paul was solely at
fault for the fatal accident.

The tragic death of Diana caused an outpouring of British national
feeling not seen since the celebrations surrounding the end of World
War II. Mourners brought more than a million bouquets of flowers to
the royal palaces and waited in line more than 12 hours to sign books
of condolences. More than 3,500 phone lines were set up to take
donations for a memorial fund, and within a year the charity fund
raised $133 million, of which $48 million came from sales of Elton
John's memorial recording "Candle in the Wind 1997" and $20 million
from official Diana souvenirs.

After being criticized for failing to satisfactorily match the grief
of the British people, the royal family arranged for a state funeral
to be held for Diana at Westminster Abbey on September 6. Diana's
coffin was taken from Kensington Palace to the Abbey on a horse-drawn
gun carriage, and an estimated one million mourners lined the route.
Diana's sons, William, 15, and Harry, 12, joined their father, Prince
Charles; grandfather Prince Philip; and uncle Charles, the Earl of
Spencer, to walk the final stretch of the procession with the casket.
The only sound was the clatter of the horses' hooves and the peal of a
church bell.

The service, watched by an estimated two billion people worldwide,
sacrificed royal pomp for a more human touch. Workers associated with
Diana's various charities represented 500 of the 2,000 people invited
to attend the funeral. Elton John, a friend of Diana, lent a popular
touch to the ceremony when he sang "Candle in the Wind," accompanying
himself on piano. After the service, Diana's body was taken by hearse
to her family's ancestral estate near Althorp, north of London. In a
private ceremony, she was laid to rest on a tree-shaded island in a
small lake, securely beyond the reach of the camera lens.

Since the death of Princess Diana, Althorp, which has been in the
Spencer family for over 500 years, is now a popular tourist attraction
that offers tours to the general public.

1888 : Jack the Ripper claims first victim

1897 : Edison patents the Kinetograph

1939 : Germany prepares for invasion of Poland


Dodd Defends Constitution -- Where are the Others?

Naomi Wolf

Naomi Wolf

Dodd Defends Constitution -- Where are the Others?

Posted August 30, 2007 | 10:05 AM (EST)

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Ten days ago, I wrote in this space about the American Freedom Campaign's launch of a U.S. citizens' democracy movement that will drive the issue of defending the Constitution to the center of the presidential campaign. It's pretty sad that we Americans even have to ask whether a candidate would protect the Constitution if elected -- sad but necessary: in merely six years, however, the Bush administration has dramatically altered the presidency and its powers.

With our democracy crumbling and our liberties threatened, we cannot sit back and hope that the next president will voluntarily reverse the damage now done to the Constitution and the rule of law: history shows that leaders of any party are corrupted by unchecked power and it is not human nature to yield power once it has been aggregated into one's hands.

This situation is simply too dangerous.

We want commitments. From every candidate. And we want the candidates to know that they will only receive our votes if they make this commitment.

The good news is that we have a frontrunner -- in the call-out to defend the Constitution. Yesterday, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) stepped up to the patriot's task and gave the American Freedom Campaign the following statement:

"It's a sad day when a presidential candidate actually has to talk about restoring the Constitution, but that's where we are after this administration's assault on the rule of law -- an assault, by the way, that actually makes us less secure and more isolated by weakening our standing around the world. I have said repeatedly that if elected, the *FIRST THING* I would do after being sworn in is to reverse as much of the damage done to the Constitution by President Bush as possible. And I would immediately do as much as I legally can by executive order."

Chris Dodd is acting like an American. He should be congratulated. But the rest of the candidates should be ashamed -- at least for now. We know they are aware of our efforts, since they have all received thousands of emails from supporters of the American Freedom Campaign. In some cases, calls to the candidates to defend the Constitution have been even more direct.

John Edwards, where are you? Two weeks ago, his wife Elizabeth wrote on Daily Kos that "under John, the Constitution returns." After I asked him to make good on his wife's words by signing the pledge, one of his own supporters posted a link to my blog on Edwards' own campaign blog. Earlier in August, another Edwards campaign blogger urged the former Senator to sign the pledge.

As promised, a week later I called the campaign and let them know we were hoping for his endorsement of the rule of law. Ten days now? No response from Mr. Edwards.

Here is the text of the American Freedom Pledge:

"We are Americans, and in our America we do not torture, we do not imprison people without charge or legal remedy, we do not tap people's phones and emails without a court order, and above all we do not give any President unchecked power.

"I pledge to fight to protect and defend the Constitution from assault by any president."

Some people have suggested that this pledge is not strong enough, or that candidates are as likely to break their word after signing this pledge as they would be after taking the oath of office, which similarly contains a commitment to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution." These critiques are fair. But if the alternative is silence, this is not good enough for America.

Candidates -- and Congressmen and women -- take some risks by standing up for the Constitution right now. I asked a librarian to distribute copies of the Constitution -- provided for free -- and she said this would be seen as too controversial. A major TV channel declined to renew a long-running series teaching U.S. kids about democracy because they said they didn't want to be seen as rocking the boat. Many leaders on the Hill have told us off the record that the fear is widespread that standing up for liberty means they think they risk being painted as "soft on terror." And I must note that major interests are served financially by an open-ended war and ever-proliferating surveillance technologies.

So, yeah, it says something if a candidate won't publicly commit to restoring the Constitution.

And a pledge also matters psychologically -- to us. We need reminding of what we have while we can still save it. Every time we are reminded of the personal courage of our founders, our appreciation of the Constitution, now dusty, renews itself. And every time we talk about the disrespect the Bush administration has demonstrated for the Constitution our own personal desires to stand up against these abuses intensifies.

So, Senator Edwards -- we're waiting for a call. Or an e-mail. Or even a comment in this blog entry. Is it too controversial to support the Constitution? Or will you sign your name and be counted -- as the founders did? As many of your supporters already have?

And the rest of the candidates -- will you let Dodd outshine you? Show us you deserve our presidency. Help remind the American people how precious -- and fragile -- our democracy is. Sign the American Freedom Pledge or make as strong a statement as possible about your commitment to defending our Constitution.

We're standing by -- in the millions.

If you want to send an email to the candidates encouraging them to sign the American Freedom Pledge, click here.

Bill Maher

Bill Maher


That Tingle Means it's Working

Posted August 30, 2007 | 12:42 PM (EST)

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Doesn't it set a wonderful example for democracy when leaders in this country, both Democrat and Republican, call for the ouster of the elected Maliki government in Iraq?

And now for your first lesson in elected democracy -- the coup d'etat.

Oh, and number two -- installing a CIA-backed emergency government.

But let's all see this for what it is: another excuse to buy this shitty war some more time.

The whole idea of the surge was to establish some semblance of security and provide "breathing space" so that the Iraqi leaders could make political progress. And while the military has done a better job creating pockets of security, even while overall violence is up from last summer, the political side of the equation has gone backwards. The Sunnis have left the government entirely, and an emergency summit designed at bringing them back in has failed. Half of the 36 ministries have withdrawn support for the government and don't even attend meetings. Which raises another question: how do you tell who is showing up when they're all on vacation?

So what do we do now? Try to install the Allawi government back in. That way, when General Petraeus testifies before Congress that the surge has not created an environment where political reconciliation could take place -- i.e. the surge has failed -- we'll then pretend that was because we had the wrong team in charge. But now we have the right team in charge! And you can't pull the plug now that we have the right team in charge! Just you wait and see! It's all going to turn out great! Just give us a couple more months!

And by months, I mean years.

Meanwhile, this is the kind of spin you get from the right wing, who likes to think that we're actually in control of this situation. Here's a recent National Review editorial:

"The fact is that the surge is President Bush's policy, and one that he implemented over the vociferous opposition of Democrats who thought the best strategy against al Qaeda in Iraq was to begin to leave. Now the surge has helped turn Sunni tribes against al Qaeda, advancing the goal that nearly everyone in the U.S. notionally shares of routing the terror group from Iraq."

Then, of course, there's the reality: it was the Sunnis in Anbar province who decided to create an alliance against the Al Qaeda types, and that happened before the surge even started. So we didn't do that. They did. We simply armed them, funded them, and helped them. But they're not on our side. They're on their side. They were shooting at us and blowing up our convoys just months ago. We didn't stop and suddenly realize that we're in love with each other. You're thinking of a Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movie.

Plus, Anbar is entirely Sunni. It's like Utah for Mormons. So they don't have to deal with the Sunni-Shiite dynamic like the rest of the country. This is regular crazy Sunnis organizing against the extremely crazy Sunnis. With our guns and money. Is that the best we can do for now? Probably. Is it a long-term solution? Shit no.

So don't let them fool you with all the talk of "progress." They've simply, and for the 37th time, re-defined what "progress" means. And when we get to #65 - that more Iraqis have access to NFL Network than ever before -- I'll say, "Okay, okay. That is progress. ...Can we come home now?"

Bill Maher is the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" which airs every Friday at 11PM.

Comic Will Durst on the All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing

By Katie Halper, AlterNet. Posted August 31, 2007.

Will Durst talks about his new show in Manhattan, getting flipped off by Olympia Dukakis, helping the terrorists win, necrophilia and other things liberals enjoy.
Will Durst on Bush Administration

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Will Durst is a San Francisco-based comic, satirist and pundit. He and I first met when we performed at a Laughing Liberally show in L.A. (I'm a comic too.)

A year later, we got a chance to reconnect in New York, where Will is making everybody laugh with his new one-man show Will Durst: The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing. From left to right and everywhere in between, from the New York Times to the New York Post, the critics are raving.

When we met on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Durst was reading the sports section over a cup of black coffee. No doubt he had finished reading the latest issue of the Nation magazine and drunk his chai-organic-double-vegan-latte before I got there. But he wasn't fooling me. And soon we were talking about getting flipped off by Olympia Dukakis, helping the terrorists win, necrophilia and other things liberals enjoy.

Katie Halper: Why do you hate America?

Will Durst: I'm not an America-hater, I'm an America-lover. Dissent is the ultimate patriotic act. Just like every liberal commie pinko weenie says.

Halper: When did you start hating America?

Durst: I started loving America right away. Free water. Water fountains everywhere. Refrigerated, cold, refreshing water. You try getting that anywhere else. Try getting that in France, not gonna happen. Go head, I dare you. It's $5.

Halper: Funny, I was going ask you why you don't move to France. But I guess it's the whole water thing. Anyway, you have moments of redemption when you praise Bush, calling him a father figure.

Durst: He has been like a father to me. Just in terms of providing.

Halper: So he's a good provider?

Durst: Yes, not just a decider and a commuter; he's also a provider. Not just for me, but for editorial cartoonists, columnists, anyone with a speck of consciousness. He is very fecund and fertile.

Halper: He is very virile.

Durst: He's like a rising tide. The rising tide of Bush lifts all boats. It's a wonderful rain, it's a hard rain.

Halper: I saw Olympia Dukakis sitting right in front of me in the theater [at your show] and I knew I was in a scary place: a theater in New York, a woman who represents the unholy alliance between the Hollywood elite and liberals. But I was impressed when you got into a hissing match with her. Because anyone who hisses at a Dukakis is a friend of mine.

Durst: Yeah, I told a tough joke about Hilary, which I thought was fair, and then she hissed at me. I got her back on my side by doing the second part of the joke. I didn't know it was Olympia Dukakis at the time. But then when she came backstage, I recognized her. "Oh, my living god. I got heckled by an Oscar winner."

Halper: I think you got flipped the bird too.

Durst: Oh really? She flipped me off?

Halper: Yeah. How does it feel being flipped off by a Democrat?

Durst: Well somebody's gotta do it. I feel like Dennis Miller.

Halper: You make fun of Arnold Schwarzenegger for signing a law outlawing having sex with corpses. Why do you want to legalize necrophilia?

Durst: It's a freedom issue. Like the sanctity of life. It fits into the whole pro-life thing. It's actually part of the pro-life movement.

Halper: Right, the right-to-lifers for necrophilia. And then you're not wasting the seed either.

Right. Although I'm not sure exactly how that fits in, so to speak.

Halper: In your show you provide immigrants and terrorists with a plan for getting across the border. Why do you help the terrorists win?

Durst: I am of two minds about putting that portion in the show. I understand it could be considered aiding and abetting the enemy to let them know they could go around the 700-mile-long, 16-foot-high wall that covers a 1,952 mile-long border. Or they could bring a ladder. But since they have already started building tunnels, they probably already thought of it. But I really hope that you don't make a big deal of it. Maybe you shouldn't even print this.


See more stories tagged with: will durst, will durst: the all-ameri

Katie Halper is a co-founder of Laughing Liberally, a political comedy group and one of the national directors of Living Liberally and artistic director and comedy curator at The Tank a nonprofit performing and visual arts space for emerging artists. Katie blogs regularly for the Huffington Post, Working Life, and the political comedy site Liked this story? Get top stories in your inbox each week from AlterNet! Sign up now »

Olbermann Re-Enacts Senator Craig's Bathroom Scene [VIDEO]

Posted by Adam Howard at 6:34 AM on August 30, 2007.

Sticking directly to the script (police report) of Senator Craig’s public restroom encounter with an undercover police officer, Keith re-enacts (in classic “Dragnet” style) what transpired that fateful day back in June.
Olbermann's Dragnet: Larry Craig Edition

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In a completely silly but definitely amusing segment from Keith Olbermann's "Countdown", Olbermann reads the police report of the Larry Craig incident in the style of the old "Dragnet" TV show while actors (the one playing Craig wheres a ridiculous wig) act out what has now become an infamous scene. "No actual senators were harmed in the making of this film," says Olbermann. The GOP is in total disarray, the late night comedians have (of course) seized onto this story and despite GOP calls for him to resign, Craig seems stubbornly unwilling to do so. So the fun continues...


Tagged as: olbermann, craig

Adam Howard is the editor of PEEK.

Female Airman Makes Rape Accusation, Ends Up On Trial Herself [VIDEO]

Posted by Muriel Kane and David Edwards at 1:07 PM on August 30, 2007.

Cassandra Hernandez finds herself facing court-martial while the three men she accused of rape have been granted immunity in their testimony against her.
Female Airman Makes Rape Accusation, Ends Up On Trial Herself

This post, written by David Edwards and Muriel Kane, originally appeared on Raw Story

CBS News reported Tuesday on a current case that calls into doubt the Air Force's promise, after a scandal four years ago, of better treatment for alleged rape victims. The case is that of Airman Cassandra Hernandez, who has stated that she was raped by three fellow airmen.

Hernandez gave an exclusive interview to CBS in which she admitted having drunk "a lot" at a party before accompanying three male colleagues to a dorm room. She acknowledged that her memory of events is fuzzy, but said she definitely remembers saying "No" and trying to push the men away. The three men allege that Hernandez started taking off her clothes and that the sex which followed was consensual.

A hearing was originally set on the rape charges, but after harsh pre-trial questioning, Hernandez decided not to testify. At that point the Air Force brought lesser charges against all four airmen, citing Hernandez for underage drinking and "indecent acts." The three men accepted minor punishments, while Hernandez refused. She is now facing a court-martial and could be jailed or expelled from the Air Force. At the same time, the three men have been granted immunity in their testimony against her.

It is that outcome that has so alarmed advocates for rape victims and raised a concern that -- regardless of whether Hernandez is correct in her accusations -- the case will have a chilling effect in the future. According to the Los Angeles Times, Hernandez' attorneys have released a statement saying that "'important, relevant evidence' was denied them during discovery and that Hernandez decided not to plead to the same indecent-act charge as the three airmen because 'she was told that she was considered guilty unless she proved herself innocent.'"

"The system failed Hernandez," one of her attorneys told CBS.


Tagged as: rape, military, sexism, gender, justice system

David Edwards is the Video Editor for Raw Story. Muriel Kane is the Research Editor for Raw Story.