.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

 

AFP: Iraqi oil sabotage

.
Sabotaged Iraqi oil pipeline

Black smoke billows from a sabotaged oil pipe line in the Yussifiyah area, south of Baghdad.

President George W. Bush acknowledged the 'grim' daily images of violence in Iraq but insisted that US efforts to stabilize the country are working.

(AFP/Karim Sahib) Sat Jun 25, 2:58 PM ET.


 

AP: SCOTUS ends term Monday

In this artist's rendering, below right, Matthew Staver, President and General Counsel of the Liberty Legal Counsel, presents an oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in the Kentucky Ten Commandments case, known as McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. 
 
Supreme CourtThe Court is expected to rule Monday, June 27, 2005, on the constitutionality of the display of the Ten Commandments on government property.  (AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren, File)

The Supreme Court ends its work Monday with the highest of drama: an anticipated retirement and decisions in other major cases.
 
Traditionally there is an air of suspense as the justices meet for the final time before breaking for three months. Justices usually wait until then to resolve blockbuster cases.

Added to that is the expectation that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist is presiding over the court for the last time. Rehnquist has thyroid cancer and many court experts believe his retirement is imminent.

Justices have a few cases left to resolve, including a case that will determine the liability of Internet file-sharing services for clients' illegal swapping of songs and movies.

Also Monday, justices are expected to announce whether they will hear appeals from two journalists who may face jail time for refusing to reveal sources in the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity.

In addition to Rehnquist, 80, older members of the court include Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, 75, and Justice John Paul Stevens, 85.

Full AP-Yahoo News story.


 

AFP: Iraq checkpoint

.
A US soldier guards a checkpoint in southern Baghdad.
 
Iraq checkpoint
 
President Bush and Iraq Prime Minister Jaafari ruled out setting a date for pulling US forces out of Iraq amid a rising death toll and shrinking US support for the war.  (AFP/Yuri Cortez)

 

AFP: Iran landslide shocks US

42 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) - After months of dismissing Iran's presidential election as an irrelevant sham, US officials mulled the consequences of the shock hardline result for their Middle East and nuclear policies.

Iran president electWashington shrugged off the landslide victory of conservative Tehran mayor Mahmood Ahmadinejad, pictured at right, saying the polls were "flawed from their inception" with a field handpicked by an Islamic clergy that controls everything.

The State Department insisted Iran was "out of step" with pro-democracy sentiment sweeping the region, while the White House vowed to support "those who call for greater freedom for the Iranian people."

But for all their public rhetoric, the Americans struggled to decipher the meaning of Ahmadinejad's runoff triumph Friday over the more-pragmatic former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

"The real question for us is whether these elections will result in any actual change in policy in Iran. We will just have to wait and see," a State Department official told AFP.

Full AFP News story.


 

Reuters: "Roe" wants to outlaw abortion now

.
McCorveyNorma McCorvey
of Dallas, Texas,
the 'Roe' in the
Roe v. Wade
Supreme Court
Case, looks on
before testifying
before the Senate
Judiciary Committee
on Capitol Hill in
Washington June
23, 2005.

McCorvey went
on the record
saying she never
had an abortion
and is seeking to overturn her case that made abortion legal. REUTERS/Shaun Heasley.

 

AFP-Kerry: Fire Rove!

.
Kerry
Bush's Democratic
rival for the White
House in 2004,
Senator John Kerry,
is seen here.
 
Kerry noted that
an overwhelming
majority of Democrats
had voted to use
force against Al-Qaeda
and the Taliban in Afghanistan and said Bush 'should fire Karl Rove'.
 
(AFP/Karen Bleier)
 
 

 

NYTimes: Rogue CIA Italian raid

.
MILAN, June 25--The Italian judge, Chiara Nobili of Milan, who signed the arrest warrants on Wednesday for 13 C.I.A. operatives, issued a ruling stating her reasons.  The CIA agents are suspected of seizing an imam named Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, as he walked to his mosque here for noon prayers on Feb. 17, 2003.

It is unclear what prompted the issuance of the warrants, but Judge Guido Salvini said in May that it was "certain" that Mr. Nasr had been seized by "people belonging to foreign intelligence networks interested in interrogating him and neutralizing him, to then hand him over to Egyptian authorities."

Mr. Nasr, who was under investigation before his disappearance for possible links to Al Qaeda, is still missing, and his family and friends say he was tortured repeatedly by Egyptian jailers.

The detailed warrants remained sealed in a Milan courthouse on Friday. But copies obtained by The New York Times show that 13 American citizens, all identified in the documents as either C.I.A. employees or as having links to the agency, are wanted to stand trial on kidnapping charges, which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years and 8 months in prison. The Americans' whereabouts are unknown.

One of those wanted, identified in the court papers as the agency's top officer in Milan, is described as "having coordinated the mission and also guaranteeing connections and assistance to others involved in the crime." He left Milan and flew to Egypt five days after the abduction, the warrant says.

In the papers, Judge Nobili wrote that she was persuaded of the Americans' involvement in part because of evidence that their cellphones were "all interacting with one another" at the time and scene of the abduction.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has been an ally of the Bush administration in the fight against terrorism and the war in Iraq, had no comment on the warrants. Such judicial documents are issued independently of the government.

The chief C.I.A. spokeswoman, Jennifer Millerwise, declined to comment on the charges, as did the American Embassy in Rome and the Consulate in Milan.

This is the first time a foreign country has tried to prosecute American agents for the process of rendition, in which terrorism suspects captured abroad are sent by the United States to their home countries or to third countries, some of which have records of torturing prisoners.

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there had been no exchanges between Italy and the United States about the investigation before the judge acted.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 100 terrorism suspects have been transferred by the United States to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and other countries where, some former captives have said, they were tortured. Agency officials defend the practice, which began a decade ago, as a legal and effective way to thwart terrorists.

The agency usually carries out the transfers with the permission of foreign governments, but Italian investigators said they were unaware of any agreement between Italy and the United States about Mr. Nasr.

It was not known Friday whether the Italian government had approved the rendition here. In interviews in recent months, several former American intelligence officials have said they would be surprised if C.I.A. operations here had not been approved by Italy.

Several senior Italian investigators said they believed the 13 operatives had left Italy. A raid carried out Thursday at a villa owned by one of the operatives in the Piedmont hills produced a computer disk drive and documents, investigators said.

Italian investigators had assumed the operation was conducted jointly by Italian and American officials because witnesses said the kidnappers spoke fluent Italian. But on Friday, they said they had found evidence only of American involvement.

"There is no shadow of proof of any Italian involvement," one senior investigator said. "If someone came to tell us that the Italians were involved, we'd open up the investigation again."

At the time that he disappeared, Italian authorities were investigating reports that Mr. Nasr had tried to recruit jihadists through his mosque in Milan.

Full NY Times story.


 

AP-Justice Kennedy: Defend judges

.
Justice Kennedy

U.S. Supreme
Court Justice
Anthony Kennedy
addresses the
Florida Bar's
annual meeting
in Orlando,
Fla. Friday,
June 24, 2005.

Kennedy said
lawyers should speak up and explain the judicial process when judges are under attack.


(AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove)

 

Reuters: Bush & Rice at ballgame

.
Bush & Rice
President George W. Bush (2nd L) and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (2nd R) attend a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Toronto Blue Jays at RFK Stadium in Washington June 24, 2005.
 
Before the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington last winter to become the Nationals, this interleague game would have pitted the two Canadian franchises against one another.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

 

Slate-Papers: 'Hard-Line' Headlines - June 25

.
By Sam Schechner
Posted Saturday, at 2:02 AM PT

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with populist hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's landslide victory in the second round of Iran's presidential election yesterday. As of 9:45 a.m. in Iran this morning, the country's official news agency said the Tehran mayor's tally stood at a crushing 62.3 percent to 35.3 percent. (Meanwhile, the papers' stories used variants of the term "hard-line" a combined 11 times.) The New York Times off-leads Iran and goes instead with word that an Italian judge issued arrest warrants late Thursday for 13 U.S. intelligence agents who, 2½ years ago, allegedly abducted a terrorist subject from a Milan street and turned him over to Egypt, where he was tortured—a story first broken in March by the LAT.

Only the LAT makes much of it, but turnout in Iran was estimated last night at only 48 percent, a far cry from 63 percent in the first round, when the race was winnowed to Ahmadinejad and former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Throughout the day yesterday, the Interior Ministry, which is still controlled for the time being by reformists, alleged voter intimidation—including the presence of the Basiji militiamen, Ahmadinejad's former comrades, at polling stations.

Instead, the papers play up a pretty straightforward class angle. To wit: Rafsanjani is head of the "Expediency Council" and a millionaire power broker who wears flowing clerical robes that underscore his connections to a political apparatus seen as corrupt; the NYT says his belated attempt to pick up the reformist mantle never took off. (Despite a wave of caustic, anti-Ahmadinejad text messages young voters fired around earlier this week, many disenchanted young voters stayed home.) Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad looks the everyman part and invoked the revolutionary rhetoric of 1979 to appeal to older working-class voters who resent the growing economic and cultural gap between rich and poor. A civil engineer turned radical militia member, he also made a lot of nuts-and-bolts promises: pay raises, more jobs, expanded health care, government pensions, and wiping out official corruption and cronyism.

"I am proud of being the Iranian nation's little servant and street sweeper," Ahmadinejad said, referring, according to the WP, to a populist campaign stunt in which he joined Tehran's street sweepers. The NYT catches him waxing even more lyrical after casting his ballot: "As the people's servant, it is my honor to be a part of this endless ocean and I am also honored that our dearest people have their trust in me. And I do hope I always remain an ordinary member of the Iranian people."

Then there's prognostication that Ahmadinejad—no fan of America—could, as the NYT says, "complicate" negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, a fear that occasions the best quote in the WP: "A weakness of Ahmadinejad is that he does not have the vaguest idea of international relations, international structures," said an Iranian professor who, the paper adds casually, "has known Ahmadinejad since first grade."

The papers all mention a large suicide car bombing in Fallujah that killed six American troops, including at least four women, the most women to die at once since the war began. The women were on their way to checkpoint duty, assigned to pat down Iraqi women and girls, when a car swerved into their seven-ton transport truck and exploded, "sending metal shards and body parts in all directions, and a huge cloud of black smoke and swirling dust climbing into the evening sky." It was the second attack in a week within Fallujah, which had been relatively quiet since the U.S. operation to wrest it from insurgent control in November.

The attacks came only hours before a joint news conference with President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, who was in Washington to meet with lawmakers and top administration officials, and gave an upbeat assessment to match his American counterpart's. "We want to secure love instead of hatred in our country, coexistence and cooperation in Iraq instead of cursing each other," Jaafari said.

The Timeses both catch a federal appeals court decision upholding much of a Bush administration rule that would allow power plants to make upgrades to their plants without installing pollution-control equipment. Both industry groups and environmentalists claimed victory, however, because the decision said any modernization plan must weigh whether pollution will get worse, and the plants must keep records of their emissions, a requirement the new rule had originally exempted.

The Post has a good profile of the Serbian human rights advocate who tracked down and earlier this month released a harrowing video Serbian troops took while they taunted and executed six Bosnian Muslims in 1995. Some nine members of the unit have since been arrested.

The WP and LAT have breaking news on a long-running Justice Department cover-up: "Spirit of Justice" and "Majesty of Law" have finally been stripped of John Ashcroft's dowdy blue drapes.

The Italian arrest warrants contain a wealth of detail: According to eyewitness accounts, the radical imam was approached on his way to mosque by two men who sprayed him in the face with chemicals and then bundled him into an unmarked van. The agents didn't hide their tracks very thoroughly—while all but a few used apparent cover names, investigators were able to put together a detailed account of the operation by examining hotel registries, rental-car receipts, and cell-phone calls made in the area at the time, including some to CIA headquarters.

The NYT and LAT say it's unclear whether the Italians knew about the operation beforehand, but the WP and Boston Globe say the Italian antiterror squad was taken by surprise. ''By kidnapping him [the Americans] interrupted an investigation already taking place by the Italian police," an anonymous official told the Globe. ''We had already been tapping his conversations. We had information on his friends and his links." Interestingly, the WP quotes a former CIA counterterrorism official who doubts it was a CIA operation. "The agency might be sloppy, but not that sloppy," he said. "There is no way they would sanction a kidnapping on Italian soil."

Your intel budget hard at work ... After noting that Italian investigators raided one operative's Italian "villa" for evidence, the NYT says that, according to the warrant, the spooks stayed in five-star hotels for the week of the abduction, amassing $144,984 in charges.

Even weirder: Part of the rendition then took place on a Gulfstream IV executive jet belonging to a part owner of the Boston Red Sox, who admitted to the Globe in March that he regularly leases it to the CIA—with the team logo covered up, of course.

Sam Schechner is a freelance writer in New York.  Source: Slate Magazine's "Today's Papers" column.


Friday, June 24, 2005

 

AP: Rehnquist looking frail - June 24

.
RehnquistChief Justice
William Rehnquist
(center left) is
followed by
Supreme Court
Police officer
Craig Carroll
as he leaves
his home on
Friday, June 24
in Arlington Va.
(AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

 

AP: Dean courts Hispanics - June 24

-----
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, below right, walks through the audience to address the 22nd Annual Conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Friday, June 24, 2005.

DeanDean said that the Democratic party must cultivate the Hispanic vote to prepare a 2008 presidential victory. (AP Photo/Herminio Rodriguez)

To win Latinos back, "We need a 50-state strategy," Dean told several hundred elected and appointed Hispanic officials belonging to the National Association of Latino Officials.

"We want you to come to us and tell us what we need to do to win in your communities," Dean said.

About 93 percent of the 5,000-member Latino association belongs to the Democratic Party, said Dean.

Democrats lost Hispanic votes in the last election because the Republican Party presented itself as the party of "moral values," said Dean, 56. But "this (Democratic) party stands for social and economic justice," he said, criticizing the Bush administration's health, education, and social security policies. "We are Democrats because of our moral values," he said.

A majority of Hispanics are Catholics and the values of Democrats and the Roman Catholic Church coincide for the most part, he added. Full AP story.


 

AFP: US admits torture to UN

Fri Jun 24, 3:50 PM ET

GitmoA foreign detainee is flanked by two US Army MPs at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2002.

Washington has for the first time acknowledged to the United Nations that prisoners have been tortured at US detention centres in Guantanamo Bay, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq, a UN source said.  (AFP/File/Peter Muhly)

The acknowledgement was made in a report submitted to the UN Committee against Torture, said a member of the ten-person panel, speaking on on condition of anonymity.  Full AFP story.


 

AFP: Mad cow case announced - June 24

42 minutes ago

Secretary Johanns

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is seen here in a file photo.

US authorities confirmed the country's second case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) (Mad Cow Disease) in a cow that died last November.  (AFP/File/Brendan Smialowski)

Mad cow disease, which eats away at the brain when passed to humans, was confirmed by a laboratory in Britain after a suspected positive test was announced earlier this month by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), officials said.
 
Full AFP story.

 

Slate: Supreme shortlist

 
Slate Magazine has announced its Supreme Court shortlist:
 
Michael Luttig, Judge, 4th Court of Appeals; John Roberts, Judge, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; Emilio Garza, Judge, 5th Circuit Court of Appeals; Michael McConnell, Judge, 10th Circuit Court of Appeals; Alberto Gonzales, U.S. Attorney General; J. Harvie Wilkinson III, Judge, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals; Edith Brown Clement, Judge, 5th Circuit Court of Appeals; and Samuel Alito, Judge, 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
 
Full Slate Magazine article.

 

Reuters: House blocks United pension bailout

 
The U.S. House of Representatives on June 24 voted to block bankrupt United Airlines from defaulting on its pension plans and shifting them to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC).  The provision was attached to a government spending bill expected to pass the chamber later in the day.

United Airlines
 
The bill would still have to pass the Senate before it could take effect. United Airlines planes taxi at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, in this May 17, 2005 file photo. (John Gress/Reuters)

 

AFP: Washington dismisses Iran run-off


Tehran's hardline mayor and presidential candidate
Mahmud Ahmadinajad, below left, shows the ink on
his finger before casting his ballot.

Iran candidateThe United States
cast a suspicious
eye at Iran's election,
as pundits questioned
whether Washington
shaded towards either
candidate in a run-off
poll it has already
dismissed.

(AFP/Atta Kenare)


 

AFP: Italians file on CIA agents for kidnapping-torture

-----13 minutes ago

ROME (AFP) - Italian authorities have issued arrest warrants for 13 agents of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) accused of kidnapping an Islamic leader in northern Italy, an Italian newspaper reported.

CIAOsama Mustafa Hassan, also known as Abu Omar, was seized in a street of Milan on February 17, 2003, by two Italian-speakers claiming to want to check his identity. He has been missing since, the Corriere della Sera reported.

Hassan was the former imam of a Milan mosque which had been placed under close watch following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

The CIA agents are suspected of abducting Hassan and transferring him to the US military base at Aviano in northern Italy, and from there to an Egyptian jail, where his entourage claim he was tortured during interrogation.  Full AFP-Yahoo News story.

Submitted by:  Dave Haigler - Abilene - http://demlog.blogspot.com


 

AFP: Soldier in Iraq


A US soldier, member of Delta 1-184 Company, is seen during a
sandstorm at a checkpoint, south of Baghdad, during a patrol.

US soldier in IraqA string of car
bombings in
quick succession
killed at least 17
people in a Shiite
district of Baghdad
on Thursday, as
Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld
refused to set a
deadline for a
troop withdrawal.
(AFP/Yuri Cortez)


 

Reuters: former cabinet members support CAFTA

 
Senior members of former Democrat and Republican
government administrations, including former
trade representative
former cabinet members
Carla Hills (R) and
former Secretary of
State Henry Kissinger
(2nd R) look on as
U.S. President George
W. Bush (not pictured)
speaks about the
Central American Free
Trade Agreement (CAFTA)
in the Old Executive
Building in Washington
June 23, 2005.
 
(Jason Reed/Reuters)

 

AFP: Kennedy targets Rumsfeld

 
Kennedy
Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
questions US Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld before the Senate
Armed Services Committee on Capitol
Hill in Washington, DC.  (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)
 
Rumsfeld responded to comments
by Senator Kennedy, including a call
for the secretary's resignation, while
testifying before the committee yesterday.    Full AFP story.
 

 

AP: Iraq PM visits senators


Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., gestures
as he talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari
(center) before a
Iraq PM & senators
meeting on Capitol
Hill in Washington,
Thursday, June 23,
2005.

Looking on from left
are Sen. Joseph Biden,
D-Del., Minority
Leader Harry Reid,
D-Nev., Jaafari,
Frist and Sen. John
Ensign, R-Nev.
(AP Photo/Yuri Gripas)

 

AFP: Saluting the fallen


saluteA soldier salutes at a

comrade's memorial
service in Iraq, below
left.


A small group of US
lawmakers paid
homage to US troops
who have died in
Iraq and Afghanistan
by reading their
names aloud on the
floor of the House of
Representatives.


(AFP/File/Yuri Cortez)

 

AFP: Iraqi PM visits Constitution


Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein (left) speaks
to Prime Minister Iraqi PM visits US Constitution
of Iraq Ibrahim
Jaafari (right)
before the US
Constitution during
a viewing at the
National Archives
in Washington, DC.



Jaafari also met at
the White House
with Vice President
Dick Cheney, a day before talks with US President George W. Bush. AFP/Brendan.

 

Slate-Papers: Gov't, Masters of Your Domain - June 24

-----By Eric Umansky
Posted Friday, at 12:40 AM PT

Everybody leads with the Supreme Court ruling 5-4 that local governments can force people to sell their property, even if it's going to be used for private redevelopment and the area isn't blighted.

The eminent domain case revolved around the proposed redevelopment of a run-down--but not officially blighted--area of the well-worn town of New London, Conn.

As the New York Times focuses on, the case mostly revolved around the Fifth Amendment clause that eminent domain can only be invoked if the property is taken for "public use." The majority of justices decided that even if the land is privately developed, with its planned "riverwalk" and retail and office space, that's still "public use." (The Washington Post wraps-up the case in a run-on, but damn useful first sentence.)

"Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government," wrote Justice Stevens for the majority, "Clearly, there is no basis for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purpose." Stevens, who was joined by the three other liberal-leaning justices along with Justice Kennedy, pointed out that states can still make laws restricting localities' property-pilfering powers.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, writing the dissent, wasn't exactly mollified: "The specter of condemnation [now] hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory." Joining O'Connor in the dissent were Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Scalia and Thomas.

For all the end-is-neigh headlines (see top of page), the Wall Street Journal's news coverage suggests few people are going to be forced to sell their homes to, say, Wal-Mart or anybody else. The court's opinion is "not a license to steal," said one law prof. "The court makes clear that there are standards and that the public-use requirement is a real requirement."

An NYT editorial calls the court's decision a "welcome vindication of cities' ability to act in the public interest." The Post strikes a classic centrist pose (considered and conflicted), calling the result of the ruling "quite unjust" but the decision itself "correct." The WSJ has no doubts, calling the decision a "judicial encroachment on our liberties."

The NYT off-leads details about how doctors at Guantanamo Bay helped interrogators get acquainted with detainees' weaknesses. "Their purpose was to help us break them," said one former interrogator. A Pentagon spokesman said the doctors breached no ethical codes since, ahem, they weren't acting as doctors but "behavioral scientists." The story is partly based on a just-released New England Journal of Medicine piece. Meanwhile, though the Times glides by it, there has been a smattering of coverage on doctors at Gitmo feeling the team spirit.

The Times' Gitmo piece also mentions that U.N. human rights investigators are complaining that after three years of requests the U.S. still hasn't let them visit detainees at the base.

Finally, in another piece, the NYT notices that Vice President Cheney also chimed in on Gitmo last night. "They're living in the tropics," he said. "They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want."

Everybody fronts the minor fireworks in yesterday's Senate hearings on Iraq. The Journal and NYT focus on the U.S. commander in the Mideast issuing a muted smackdown of Vice President Cheney's recent assertion that the Iraq insurgency is in "its last throes." Gen. John Abizaid said, "In terms of the overall strength of the insurgency, I'd say it was the same as it was. There's a lot of work to be done against the insurgency."

The Los Angeles Times and WP focus, less interestingly, on the heat SecDef Rumsfeld took at the hearings. The Post dubs it "some of the toughest questioning of the Pentagon leader since the war in Iraq began." Senator Ted Kennedy, less-than-surprisingly, invoked both Q-word and the R-word. But Rumsfeld also faced a bit of trouble [from] the other side. "I'm here to tell you, sir, in the most patriotic state [South Carolina] that I can imagine, people are beginning to question," said Republican Lindsey Graham "I think we have a chronic problem on our hands." Meanwhile, USA Today picks up an angle nobody else headlines--perhaps because it isn't really news: "RUMSFELD REJECTS IRAQ TIMETABLE."

Another four near-simultaneous bombs exploded Thursday morning in Baghdad, killing 17, and hitting two Shiite mosques. A Page One feature in the Post checks in on how residents of Baghdad are coping. "So many problems are happening in the city," said one grocer. "Where do I start--water, electricity, security, unemployment or health?"

The NYT says Iraq's anti-corruption office is investigating loads of complaints about the previous interim government. Warrants have been issued for two former ministers. Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi insists the investigation is just politics—though most on the anti-graft force were also there during his term.

The LAT fronts and others tease the House canceling a committee's proposed cuts to public broadcasting.

Most of the papers reefer a judge sentencing 80-year-old Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen to 60 years for the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers.

Eric Umansky writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com. Source: Slate Magazine's "Today's Papers" column.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

 

AP: Dems hit Rove - June 23

WASHINGTON - Democrats said Thursday that White House adviser Karl Rove, below center, flanked by presidential aides McClellan & Card, should either apologize or resign for accusing liberals of wanting "therapy and understanding" for the Sept. 11 attackers, escalating partisan rancor that threatens to consume Washington.

Rove & CardRove's comments -- and the response from the political opposition -- mirrored earlier flaps over Democratic chairman Howard Dean's criticism of Republicans, a House Republican's statement that Democrats demonize Christians and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin's comparison of the Guantanamo prison to Nazi camps and Soviet gulags.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan came to Rove's defense, saying the president's chief political adviser was "simply pointing out the different philosophies and different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism."

"Of course not," McClellan said when asked by reporters whether President Bush will ask Rove to apologize.

Rove, in a speech Wednesday evening to the New York state Conservative Party just a few miles north of Ground Zero, said, "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." Conservatives, he said, "saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war."

He added that the Democratic Party made the mistake of calling for "moderation and restraint" after the terrorist attacks.

During the 2004 campaign, Bush dismissed the notion of negotiating with terrorists and said, "You can't sit back and hope that somehow therapy will work and they will change their ways."

Rove's comments quickly escalated the bitter divide between the parties that could get worse as Congress prepares for what may be a drawn-out political fight, possibly this summer, over a Supreme Court nominee.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record) said Rove "took something that is virtually sacred to New Yorkers" -- the tragedy of the Sept. 11 attacks -- "and politicized it for political, opportunistic purposes."

"Karl Rove is not just another political operative," added New York's other Democratic senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton. "He sits in the White House, a few doors down from the president."

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday, Sen. Clinton urged Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to repudiate the "insulting comment."

Rumsfeld replied that it "is unfortunate when things become so polarized or so politicized."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also said Rove, the political mastermind behind Bush's election victories, should fully apologize for his remarks or resign. Dean said Bush should "condemn Karl Rove's desperate and divisive attempt to help the Republicans regain their political footing."

Increasing public doubts about the Iraq war have emboldened Democrats to challenge the president's policies. Republicans, in turn, contend that criticism undermines the war on terror.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican running for re-election in an overwhelmingly Democratic city, issued a statement urging both sides to keep politics out of the war on terrorism. "We owe it to those we lost to keep partisan politics out of the discussion and keep alive the united spirit that came out of 9/11," he said.

Full AP story.


 

NYT: AF Academy Obfuscating Intolerance

Editorial

A Pentagon inquiry's finding of no overt religious discrimination at the Air Force Academy strains credibility, considering the academy superintendent has already acknowledged it will take years to undo the damage from evangelical zealots on campus. Indeed, amid its thicket of bureaucratese, the report by an Air Force investigative panel goes on for page after page describing cases of obvious and overt religious bias. But it tosses all of these off as "perceived bias," as if the blame lies with the victims and not the offenders, and throws up a fog of implausible excuses, like "a lack of awareness" of what is impermissible behavior by military officers.


This muddle stands in stark contrast to an earlier investigation by Yale Divinity School that found widespread problems with intolerance at the academy. That study described faculty members, chaplains and even the football coach as pressuring cadets toward Christian beliefs and hazing them about divergent views on religion. The Pentagon study insisted that this did not amount to a widespread problem for non-Christian cadets who complained of ranking officers encouraging an evangelical fervor.


Full NYTimes editorial.


Chaplain Capt. Morton


Air Force Capt. MeLinda Morton, right, instructs a class on religious tolerance at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, April 12, 2005.


Morton, a chaplain who in the past spoke out against religious intolerance at the academy, resigned her commission June 21, 2005, after 13 years serving the Air Force.


Morton's attorney told The Gazette in Colorado Springs that the resignation was not coerced. Critics, including Morton, have said evangelical Protestants were harassing cadets of other faiths at the school in violation of constitutional principles of separation of church and state in the military.


(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)


D.H.: DemLog blogged this story two days ago.


 

AFP-Kennedy: Rummy should resign

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appears below left.
 
Rumsfeld responds to comments by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), including a call for resignation, while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)
 
RumsfeldSenator Ted Kennedy, one of Congress's most vociferous Iraq war critics, slammed the war effort as "consistently grossly mismanaged," and held Rumsfeld personally responsible.
 
"We are now in a seemingly intractable quagmire. Our troops are dying and there really is no end in sight," the liberal Democratic senator said.  Rest of this AP-Yahoo story.

 

Conservatives disavow Hillary-basher

Media Matters for America today said conservatives Rush Limbaugh, below right, and Peggy Noonan attempt to distance Edward Klein's book from conservatives:
 
LimbaughWall Street Journal contributing editor Peggy Noonan and nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh wrongly denied that conservatives are behind the promotion of Edward Klein's discredited attack book The Truth About Hillary  (Sentinel, June 2005).  Full MMfA story.

 

AP: UN demands Gitmo inspection

GENEVA -- U.N. human rights investigators, citing "persistent and credible" reports of torture at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, shown in this file photo below left, urged the United States on Thursday to allow them to check conditions there.

Gitmo prisonersThe failure of the United States to respond to requests since early 2002 is leading the experts to conclude Washington has something to hide at the Cuban base, said Manfred Nowak, a specialist on torture and a professor of human rights law in Vienna, Austria.

Washington's response is delayed because the U.S. review process is "thorough and independent" and involves the Bush administration, Congress and the judicial system, said Brooks Robinson, spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to U.N. offices in Geneva.

Full Chicago Tribune-AP story.

 

Penguin: Hillary-basher biased

Media Matters for America said today that Penguin Group (USA), which owns the imprint Sentinel, publisher of The Truth About Hillary, by Edward Klein, shown below right, attempted to wash its hands of the controversy surrounding the book.

Klein
The statement claimed that "the opinions and viewpoints" in the book do not reflect those of Penguin or its parent company, Pearson plc. Full Media Matters for America story.

 

LA Times: War provoked in Iraq

-----
Bush and Blair began their war not in March 2003, as everyone believed, but at the end of August 2002, six weeks before Congress approved military action against Iraq.

The way in which the intelligence was "fixed" to justify war is old news.

The real news is the shady April 2002 deal to go to war, the cynical use of the U.N. to provide an excuse, and the secret, illegal air war without the backing of Congress.
Rest of this article: LA Times.

 

Reuters: Iraq war fosters terror

-----
WASHINGTON, Reuters -- The CIA believes the Iraq insurgency poses an international threat and may produce better-trained Islamic terrorists than the 1980s Afghanistan war that gave rise to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, officials said on June 22, 2005.

A classified report from the U.S. spy agency says Iraqi and foreign fighters are developing a broad range of skills, from car bombings and assassinations to coordinated conventional attacks on police and military targets, officials said.

An Iraqi investigator, below right, looks at the remnants of a suicide car bomb which was driven into a crowd of traffic police recruits in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil. (Stringer/Iraq/Reuters)

Car bomb

Once the insurgency ends, Islamic militants are likely to disperse as highly organized battle-hardened combatants capable of operating throughout the Arab-speaking world and in other regions including Europe.

Fighters leaving Iraq would primarily pose a challenge for their countries of origin including Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

But the May report, which has been widely circulated in the intelligence community, also cites a potential threat to the United States.

"You have people coming to the action with anti-U.S. sentiment ... And since they're Iraqi or foreign Arabs or to some degree Kurds, they have more communities they can blend into outside Iraq," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the report's classified status.

Iraq has become a magnet for Islamic militants similar to Soviet-occupied Afghanistan two decades ago and Bosnia in the 1990s, U.S. officials say.

Bin Laden won prominence as a U.S. ally in the war against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. He later used Afghanistan as the training center for his al Qaeda network, which is blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on Washington and New York.

President Bush justified the invasion of Iraq in part by charging that Saddam Hussein was supporting al Qaeda. A top U.S. inquiry later found no collaboration between prewar Iraq and the bin Laden network.

But since the invasion, Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has emerged as a key insurgent figure and pledged his allegiance to bin Laden. Full Reuters story. D.H.: Bush administration spokesmen denied the significance of this report, and claimed coalition anti-insurgency efforts are working.


 

MMfA: Tomlinson criticized

-----
Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, below left, the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), faces growing criticism from supporters of public radio and public television who argue that his leadership has compromised CPB's charter to protect public broadcasting against political interference. Sixteen U.S. senators have called on President Bush to remove Tomlinson as head of CPB, charging that Tomlinson "seriously undermines the credibility and mission of public television." Media Matters for America full story.

Tomlinson
Related story in the San Francisco Chronicle, by Jon Carroll, which says "Tomlinson, it may be remembered, is currently trying to make public television 'fair and balanced' by hiring Republican hacks to fill every position he controls.

"This is the mirror world of 2005, where 'fair and balanced' means 'unfair and biased.'

"An unnamed researcher classified as 'liberal' an appearance by Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska who has a strong conservative voting record but a certain mistrust of the administration's reasons for invading Iraq.


Also 'liberal' was a program on wasteful spending at the Pentagon. There was a time when the profligate spending by big government was a major conservative issue, but no more. In order to find real conservatives, you have to wander over to the libertarian party."

 

AFP: Rights bill hits Vietnam PM

Prime Minister of Vietnam Phan Van Khai (below right) speaks with US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) during a dinner at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

McCain w Vietnamese PM
US critics of Vietnam's human rights record were to introduce a bill demanding greater political and religious freedom in the communist country, as its prime minister pursued a historic US tour.

Full AFP-Yahoo News story.


 

Reuters: Hard-hatted Bush

-----
President George W. Bush (below left) and Michael Wallace, President
of Constellation Energy's Generation Group, tour the Turbine Room of
the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power plant in Lusby, Maryland, June 22, 2005.

President Bush tempered his rosy message on the U.S. economy on June 22,
acknowledging the job worries of working families as part of a strategic shift
to bolster his standing in the polls.


Hard-hatted Bush
The shift was part of a new
White House push to answer
Americans' views, as cited in
polls, that the president is out
of touch with their everyday
concerns, whether on the
economy or the Iraq war.
Bush's job-approval ratings
have slumped to the lowest
levels of his presidency.
Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters.

 

Moyers defends public TV

-----by Bill Moyers
A Moral Transaction

I am of course just one fish in the ocean of public television. This is a big, sprawling, polymorphic community: in our best days an extended family; in our worst days, a dysfunctional one. Right now, however, we're facing some hard choices. Competitive forces are razing the landscape around us and turf wars are breaking out the way they once did between sheepherders and cattlemen. Funds for new programming are hard to come by. And fevered agents of an angry ideology wage war on all things public, including public broadcasting.

Full Moyers article.

Related story, "Public Broadcasters Face 'the Fight of Our Lives,'" By Matea Gold, LA Times Staff Writer.

 

AFP: Gitmo exploits

File picture, below right, shows a Guantanamo prisoner being shackled before being escorted from his cell.
 
Interrogators are systematically accessing the medical records of prisoners at the US naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba, exploiting detainees' vulnerability, two jurists claim in a report.  (AFP/File/Peter Muhly) Gitmo
 

 

AFP: Vietnam PM protested

Uniformed Secret Service agent, below left, cordons off activists during a rally in front of the White House in Washington, DC.

Members of the Vietnamese-American communty protested the visit by Vietnam Prime Minister Phan Van Khai at the White House (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

Vietnamese PM protestors


 

Slate-Papers: Jack the Ripoffer - June 23

-----By Eric Umansky
Posted Thursday, at 12:29 AM PT

As the Wall Street Journal describes atop its world-wide newsbox--and others front--a Senate hearing aired details aplenty of super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff's bilking of Indian tribes. Among other things, Abramoff and his business partner took millions from the tribes supposedly for lobbying, instead funneled through some bogus nonprofits and ultimately used it for such worthy causes as financing "sniper" training for Israeli settlers and footing the bill for a golf trip taken by one Tom DeLay.

It's all a bit complex, but padding billable hours wasn't. "Make sure you are able to track the time on the bill during the month to be sure we hit the $150K minimum," Abramoff wrote to one employee, who replied, "You had only 2 hours. We are not even close to this number." Abramoff answered, "Add 60 hours for me."

As the Journal emphasizes, the uncovered e-mails also suggest that organizations run by conservative all-stars Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist were also used in Abramoff's apparent laundering scheme.

Summary of other major stories: The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal business box, and New York Times lead with a Chinese state-controlled oil company's bid to buy Unocal. The $18.5 billion unsolicited takeover proposal is $1.5 billion more than Chevron's proposed deal to buy the company. But analysts think Chevron's offer has other perks and will prevail ... unless there's a bidding war. The Washington Post leads with House Republican leaders embracing another Social Security plan. This one would use the surplus, at least while it still exists, to fund small personal accounts. The plan, as the Post puts it, would "do nothing to remedy" Social Security's coming fiscal issues. Yesterday's Journal said the plan's chances of passing are something close to zilch; instead, the proposal appears to be a sort of sacrificial lamb intended to give Republicans an "exit strategy." USA Today leads with the United State's four biggest airlines—American, United, Delta, and Northwest—raising most of their fares a few percent yesterday. No explanation from the paper on why or how they all picked the same day.

The Post's off-lead says the Pentagon, in a bid to improve recruiting, has contracted with a private firm to create a database of all students in the United States aged 16-18. The No Child Left Behind Act already allows the military to gather some school info, but this latest effort goes further and will include everything from Social Security numbers to what subjects students are studying (at least that's what the Post says). The info will be taken from commercial databases, state DMVs, and elsewhere. The LAT also fronts the story but credits the Post with breaking it.

Four near-simultaneous car bombs hit a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad at dusk, killing about two dozen, mostly civilians. Among the places hit were a restaurant and a bus station. Three GIs were also killed yesterday. And about 10 Iraqis were killed in other attacks, including the assassination of a prominent Sunni law professor (along with his son) who had said he was willing to help draft the constitution. Most of the papers paint that as further evidence that insurgents are now going after Sunni moderates. But the NYT's John Burns isn't so sure. He notes that the lawyer had withdrawn his name from consideration a while ago. Burns also says he had "links to a hard-line school of Sunni Islam," and an Iraqi reporter for the Times visiting the prof's home was told the family wasn't sure why he was killed.

Nobody has much information on what seems to have been a big battle in Afghanistan. Somewhere between 40 (U.S. said) and 75 (Afghan officials' count) insurgents were reportedly killed along with about 10 Afghan soldiers and police. Five GIs were wounded, and two U.S. choppers were hit but made it back to base. The best dispatch is a lengthy wire piece inside the Post. Meanwhile, a U-2 spy plane that had been over Afghanistan crashed while trying to land in the United Arab Emirates. The pilot was killed; there were no reports of hostile fire.

Everybody goes inside with a military probe of the Air Force Academy that found plenty of examples of religious intolerance by officers and cadets but no "overt religious discrimination." During one National Prayer Day, the academy's commandant sent an e-mail encouraging cadets to use the "J for Jesus" hand signal. The head of the inquiry said the investigation wasn't really, ah, an investigation but was simply meant to "take the pulse" of the academy. A NYT editorial isn't impressed.

A Page One NYT piece notices that doctors, responding to recent studies, have increasingly been giving chemotherapy to people in the early stages of lung cancer—and it's working. The studies showed that patients who received chemo had a 15 percent higher chance of survival after five years than those who just had surgery.

Back to Jack ... [Abramoff requests, receives fake awards] The Post's Dana Milbank excerpts one of Abramoff's more spiritual requests (to a prominent rabbi):

"I hate to ask you for your help with something so silly but I've been nominated for membership in the Cosmos Club, which is a very distinguished club in Washington, DC, comprised of Nobel Prize winners, etc.," Abramoff wrote. "Problem for me is that most prospective members have received awards and I have received none. I was wondering if you thought it possible that I could put that I have received an award from Toward Tradition with a sufficiently academic title, perhaps something like Scholar of Talmudic Studies?"

[...]

The rabbi, conservative radio host Daniel Lapin, gave his blessing. "I just need to know what needs to be produced," he wrote. "Letters? Plaques?"

Eric Umansky writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com. Source: Slate Magazine's "Today's Papers" column.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

 

AP: Dean answers Cheney

BOSTON (AP) - Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean, below right, responding to criticism from the vice president, said he does not "care if Dick Cheney likes my mother or not."

The vice president said in a recent interview that Dean was not the type of person to lead a political party and mentioned the chairman's mother.

"I've never been able to understand his appeal. Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does. He's never won anything, as best I can tell," Cheney said on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes."

Dean was elected governor of Vermont five times between 1992 and 2000. He ran for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination but ended his campaign after stumbling in the early primaries.

DeanThe party chairman said Monday that Democrats can win in traditionally Republican states.

"But we gotta be there and fight in order to do it. And, believe me, we are going to fight back. I don't care if Dick Cheney likes my mother or not. We are going to fight back," Dean said to cheers.  Source: AP-Buffalo News.


 

AP: Scalia provocative

-----By NANCY BENAC, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jun 22, 2:49 PM ET
 
Though widely regarded as a leading intellectual on the court and often described as a gentleman, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, below left, also is the most provocative, and sometimes petulant, justice. He has mockingly read aloud the opinions of fellow justices. He's penned sneering dissents that excoriate colleagues for "feeble" lines of argument. He's badgered quaking lawyers.

ScaliaAfter two decades, his outspoken approach sometimes is regarded almost as old hat. But it is getting a closer look amid speculation that Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who has cancer, soon may step down from the bench and create an opening that could allow President Bush to shift another justice to the court's most powerful seat.  Source AP-Yahoo.


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