Friday, October 13, 2006

North Korea Says Nuclear Test Successful; Russia said its monitoring services had detected a nuclear explosion.

Although this article is a few days old, the US Press, in general, and the President in particular, never seemed to point out that Russia says its instruments confirm that it was a nuclear device.

ABC News
North Korea Says Nuclear Test Successful
North Korea Says It Has Performed Nuclear Weapons Test, Calls Exercise a 'Great Leap Forward'
The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea faced a barrage of condemnation and calls for retaliation Monday after it announced that it had set off a small atomic weapon underground, a test that thrust the secretive communist state into the elite club of nuclear-armed nations.

The United States, Japan, China and Britain led a chorus of criticism and urged action by the United Nations Security Council in response to the reported test, which fell one day after the anniversary of reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's accession to power nine years ago.

The Security Council had warned North Korea just two days earlier not to go through with any test, and the Pyongyang government's defiance was likely to lead to calls for stronger sanctions against the impoverished and already isolated country.

White House spokesman Tony Snow called for "immediate actions to respond to this unprovoked act" and said that the United States was closely monitoring the situation and "reaffirms its commitment to protect and defend our allies in the region."

South Korea's geological institute estimated that the test's power was equivalent to 550 tons of TNT, far smaller than the two nuclear bombs the U.S. dropped on Japan in World War II.

The U.S. Geological Survey said it recorded a magnitude-4.2 seismic event in northeastern North Korea. Asian neighbors also said they registered a seismic event, but only Russia said its monitoring services had detected a nuclear explosion.

"It is 100 percent (certain) that it was an underground nuclear explosion," said Lt. Gen. Vladimir Verkhovtsev, head of a Defense Ministry department, according to Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency.

Although North Korea has long claimed it had the capability to produce a bomb, the test was the first manifest proof of its membership in a small club of nuclear-armed nations. A nuclear armed North Korea would dramatically alter the strategic balance of power in the Pacific region and would tend to undermine already fraying global anti-proliferation efforts.

"If the test (is) true, it will severely endanger not only Northeast Asia but also the world stability," Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso warned.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, facing his first major foreign policy test since his recent election, called for a "calm yet stern response."

South Korea said it had put its military on high alert, but said it noticed no unusual activity among North Korea's troops.

China, the North's closest ally and the impoverished nation's main source of food, expressed its "resolute opposition" to the reported test and urged the North to return to six-party nuclear disarmament talks. It said the North "defied the universal opposition of international society and flagrantly conducted the nuclear test."

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair said the test was a "completely irresponsible act," and its Foreign Ministry warned of international repercussions.

The White House said a test defied world opinion.

"A North Korean nuclear test would constitute a provocative act in defiance of the will of the international community and of our call to refrain from actions that would aggravate tensions in Northeast Asia," Snow said.

Russia, which borders North Korea, had urged Pyongyang not to conduct a nuclear test. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov last week voiced concern about the environmental consequences for Russia. The Foreign Ministry warned that a test would add to regional tensions and undermine the international nuclear nonproliferation regime.

The North has refused for a year to attend six-party international talks aimed at persuading it to disarm. The country pulled out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003 after U.S. officials accused it of a secret nuclear program, allegedly violating an earlier nuclear pact between Washington and Pyongyang.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said the underground test was performed successfully and there was no dangerous radioactive leakage as a result.

North Korean scientists "successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions," the government-controlled agency said, adding this was "a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great prosperous powerful socialist nation."

"It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the ... people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defense capability," KCNA said. "It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it."

South Korea said the test was conducted at 10:36 a.m. (9:36 p.m. EDT Sunday) in Hwaderi near Kilju city on the northeast coast. South Korean intelligence officials said the seismic wave had been detected in North Hamkyung province, the agency said.

No increase in radiation levels was detected in Russia's Primorye territory, which borders North Korea, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted regional meteorological service spokesman Sergei Slobodchikov as saying. Vladivostok, a large port city on Russia's Pacific Coast, is about 60 miles from the short border with North Korea.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun convened a meeting of security advisers over the test, Yonhap reported. The Japanese government set up a task force in response, Kyodo news agency said.

A U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in July after a series of North Korean missile launches imposed limited sanctions on North Korea and demanded that the reclusive communist nation suspend its ballistic missile program a demand the North immediately rejected.

The resolution bans all U.N. member states from selling material or technology for missiles or weapons of mass destruction to North Korea and it bans all countries from receiving missiles, banned weapons or technology from Pyongyang.

Speculation over a possible North Korean test arose earlier this year after U.S. and Japanese reports cited suspicious activity at a suspected underground test site.

South Korean stocks plunged Monday following North Korea's announcement of the test. The South Korean won also fell sharply. The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, fell as low as 1,303.62, or 3.6 percent.

Markets in South Korea, the world's 10th largest economy, have long been considered vulnerable to potential geopolitical risks emanating from the North. The two countries, which fought the 1950-53 Korean War, are divided by the world's most heavily armed border.

The two Koreas, which fought a 1950-53 war that ended in a cease-fire that has yet to be replaced with peace treaty, are divided by the world's most heavily armed border. However, they have made unprecedented strides toward reconciliation since their leaders met at their first-and-only summit in 2000.

The South had planned to ship 4,000 tons of cement to the North on Tuesday as emergency relief following massive flooding there, but decided to delay it, Yonhap reported, quoting an unidentified Unification Ministry official.

South Korea had said the one-time aid shipment was separate from its regular humanitarian aid to the North, which it has halted after Pyongyang's missile launches in July.

Impoverished and isolated North Korea has relied on foreign aid to feed its 23 million people since its state-run farming system collapsed in the 1990s following decades of mismanagement and the loss of Soviet subsidies.


Wall Steet Journal: Democratic Wins In Midterm Elections May Boost Economy...
Dem Control Might Help Economy, Survey Finds

Democrats wins in November might boost the economy, economist in the latest economists survey found.

Most economists said the economy would perform best in the coming years if Democrats take control of at least one chamber of Congress. Only 12 of the 35 who answered the question said the economy would perform best under continued Republican control of the House and Senate. The best scenario, the economists said, would be Democratic control of the House only. The economists were almost evenly split over whether the stock market would perform better with a continued Republican lock on Congress or some measure of Democratic control.

“The economy is doing very well,” said Allen Sinai of Decision Economics Inc. However, it “would do better if the geopolitical side wasn’t depressing Americans and injecting caution in business sentiment. The psyche of Americans is surprisingly low. New blood can improve sentiment.”

When asked what the new Congress should make its top priority, economists indicated their top two choices were health care and Social Security. Those two issues represent the difficulty of the aging U.S. population and growing entitlement spending. However, there wasn’t much optimism that much would be done to take on the issues in the near-term. “There just isn’t the political will to address these problems,” said Dana Johnson of Comerica Bank. – Phil Izzo


U.S. casualties surge amid worsening Iraq violence

U.S. casualties surge amid worsening Iraq violence
By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. military casualties have surged in Iraq in recent weeks, with U.S. troops engaging in perilous urban sweeps to curb sectarian violence in Baghdad while facing unrelenting violence elsewhere.

At least 44 U.S. troops have been killed so far in October. At the current pace, the month would be the deadliest for U.S. forces since January 2005. After falling to 43 in July, the U.S. toll rose in August and September before spiking this month. The war's average monthly U.S. death toll is 64.

The number of U.S. troops wounded in combat also has surged, with September's total of more than 770 the highest since November 2004, when U.S. forces launched a ground offensive to clear insurgents from Falluja.

Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, briefing in Baghdad on Thursday, attributed the rising casualties to insurgent violence that coincides with the current Islamic holy month of Ramadan, as well as more aggressive operations in Baghdad.

"We assume it will still get worse before it gets better. We expect violence to continue to increase over the next two weeks, until the end of Ramadan," Caldwell said.

Caldwell said the 15,000 U.S. troops in Baghdad are focusing their efforts in the sprawling capital on curbing death squads and others responsible for sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites that the U.S. commanders believe could lead to civil war if left unchecked.

"Each time you conduct operations like that, you put your soldiers at much greater risk," Caldwell said.

Army Gen. George Casey, top U.S. commander in Iraq, said on Wednesday the level of violence over the past few weeks has been the highest of the war. There are 141,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.


There have been 2,757 U.S. military deaths since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The U.S. death rate and overall toll still remain far lower than in the Vietnam War, when 58,000 U.S. troops were killed.

The Pentagon said 20,895 U.S. troops have been wounded in combat, many maimed by grievous blast wounds from insurgent roadside bombs, the leading cause of American casualties. At least 6,000 others have suffered wounds in accidents and other noncombat situations.

At least tens of thousands of Iraqis also have died. A study published this week estimated 655,000 Iraqis have died due to the war. Casey offered an estimate of 50,000.

Cato Institute defense analyst Ted Carpenter described a dilemma faced by the U.S. military on casualties.

"It can hunker down and concentrate on force protection, in which case the casualties always decline," Carpenter said, but Iraq's violence might spiral out of control.

"Or it can go out and patrol more aggressively, in which case the casualties go up dramatically. So basically it's a choice of poisons for American policy-makers," Carpenter added.

U.S. commanders have declared the fight for Baghdad as the main effort of the war, demoting the longstanding counter-insurgency fight in Anbar province, the heart of the Sunni Arab insurgency.

Brookings Institution analyst Michael O'Hanlon said there has been a gradual increase in overall violence since the first year of the war as the insurgency grew in strength and sophistication.

But spikes in violence, he said, have been driven primarily by U.S. actions like the current operation in Baghdad.

On the current surge in casualties, O'Hanlon said: "We're not winning and we may even be starting to lose. That's what it should make you conclude."


Climate change inaction will cost trillions: study

Climate change inaction will cost trillions: study
By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - Failing to fight global warming now will cost trillions of dollars by the end of the century even without counting biodiversity loss or unpredictable events like the Gulf Stream shutting down, a study said on Friday.

But acting now will avoid some of the massive damage and cost relatively little, said the study commissioned by Friends of the Earth from the Global Development and Environment Institute of Tufts University in the United States.

"The climate system has enormous momentum, as does the economic system," said co-author Frank Ackerman. "We have to start turning off greenhouse gas emissions now in order to avoid catastrophe in decades to come."

The study said the cost of inaction by governments and individuals could hit 11 trillion pounds a year by 2100, or six to eight percent of global economic output then.

Most scientists now agree average temperatures will rise by between two and six degrees Celsius by the end of the century, driven by so-called greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels for power and transport.

Already at two degrees they predict a massive upsurge in species loss and extreme weather events like storms, droughts and floods, threatening millions of lives. Polar icecaps will melt, raising sea levels by several meters.

Beyond that, the world enters into the unknown with the possible shutdown of the life-giving Gulf Stream and possibly catastrophic runaway change due to so-called climate feedback.

By contrast, spending just 1.6 trillion pounds a year now to limit temperature rises to two degrees could avoid annual economic damage of around 6.4 trillion pounds, the Tufts report said.


The report came the day after oil major Shell said business should see the challenge of climate change as a chance to make billions of pounds due to the demand for new technologies and products to slash carbon emissions.

"For business, tackling climate change is both a necessity and a huge opportunity. We have to step up to the challenge," Shell UK chairman James Smith said.

The British government is in the closing stages of a ground-breaking global study of the economic costs of climate change which is expected to be published within the next two weeks stressing the massive costs of inaction.

During a debate in parliament on Thursday Environment Minister David Miliband said the problem was worse than previously thought and the sternest challenge faced by mankind.

"Preventing the transformation of the earth's atmosphere from greenhouse to unconstrained hothouse represents arguably the most imposing scientific and technical challenge that humanity has ever faced," he said.

"It is local, national and international. It will affect all of us as well as all our children," he added.

Britain is set to meet its Kyoto target of cutting carbon emissions by 12 million tones by 2012, but the government is under pressure from opposition parties and environment groups to introduce laws setting enforceable national reduction targets.


Troops worsen problems in Iraq: army chief

UK troops worsen problems in Iraq: army chief
By Deborah Haynes

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's top army commander said British troops in Iraq should be withdrawn soon because their presence was exacerbating security problems in the country, according to a British newspaper.

General Sir Richard Dannatt also told the Daily Mail in an interview published on Friday that Britain's Iraq venture was aggravating the security threat elsewhere in the world.

In unusually blunt comments for a serving senior officer, Dannatt said the troops should "get ... out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems".

Britain, Washington's main ally in Iraq, has around 7,000 soldiers deployed, mainly in the Shi'ite south.

The March 2003 U.S.-led invasion to oust former president Saddam Hussein has come under heavy criticism, as the civilian death-toll mounts and British and U.S. troops are increasingly in the firing line. Britain has lost 119 soldiers so-far.

Dannatt, who took over as Chief of the General Staff in August, suggested troops in Iraq had out-stayed their welcome.

"The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in. Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance. That is a fact. I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them."

Dannatt appeared to be suggesting the presence of British and U.S. troops in Iraq was fanning Islamic militancy -- something British Prime Minister Tony Blair has consistently denied.


Putting himself directly at odds with Blair and President Bush, the general criticised the post-invasion planning by the U.S.-led coalition.

"I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial successful war fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning."

He continued: "The original intention was that we put in place a liberal democracy that was an exemplar for the region, was pro-West and might have a beneficial effect on the balance within the Middle East. That was the hope, whether that was a sensible or naive hope history will judge. I don't think we are going to do that. I think we should aim for a lower ambition."

U.S.-led forces and the Iraqi government face a challenge both from insurgency and sectarian fighting between Shi'ites and Sunni Muslims that has brought the country close to civil war.

A spokeswoman at Blair's office issued a statement in response to the Dannatt interview that was echoed by the Ministry of Defense.

"It's important that people remember that we are in Iraq at the express wish of the democratically elected Iraqi government, to support them under the mandate of a U.N. resolution," the Downing Street statement said.

The opposition Conservatives' defense spokesman, however, welcomed the general's intervention, while expressing surprise at his bluntness.

"We need urgent clarification now from ministers about whether there has been any change in the government's position," Liam Fox said in a statement.

Blair has insisted that British troops must remain in Iraq until the Iraqi government is able to take control of security.

Bush, however, said on Wednesday he was open to adjusting the U.S. strategy in the country after two senior Republicans suggested there were alternatives to his policy, described by critics as "stay-the-course".

In the headline-grabbing interview, Dannatt appeared more upbeat about Britain's mission in Afghanistan -- the country's other major deployment to a hostile zone -- saying that he had "more optimism" that "we can get it right in Afghanistan".

He also appeared to support a need to tackle militant Islam around the world.

"We can't wish the Islamist challenge to our society away and I believe that the army both in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably wherever we go next, is fighting the foreign dimension of the challenge to our accepted way of life," he said.

In a snapshot of the daily chaos plaguing Iraq, gunmen stormed a television station in Baghdad on Thursday and shot dead 11 staff in the biggest attack yet on media in the country.

Iraqi media organisations, funded by religious or political groups, are frequent targets for militant groups as attacks by Sunni Arab insurgents and sectarian death squads continue to convulse the country, killing an estimated 100 people a day.


Fight for Congress puts veterans in trenches

Fight for Congress puts veterans in trenches
By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A political war of attrition has reduced a band of military veterans to about eight candidates who might help Democrats seize control of the House of Representatives.

Four weeks before a November 7 election that Democrats hope will return them to power in Congress, they're the only ones seen as possible contenders of the 50 "fighting Dems" first urged by the party to help storm Capitol Hill.

Rival Republicans, led by a self-declared "war president," have portrayed Democrats as soft on defense and less able to protect the United States, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or on the home front.

Significantly, many of the veterans were waylaid by the rigors of fund-raising and campaigning, and butted up against the advantages of incumbency, said Rothenberg Political Report editor Nathan Gonzales.

"The war is an issue, but a candidate's stand on the war may be more important than a candidate's direct involvement in the war," he said.

Democratic officials do not say they had a formal strategy to recruit candidates with military backgrounds to challenge Republican incumbents and gain the 15 additional seats needed to capture the House.

But the party encouraged and promoted those who came along, many of them political novices facing stiff odds against established incumbents.

Of all the "fighting Dems," Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who lost both legs in Iraq, appeared to have the best chance. A Reuters-Zogby poll showed her favored to win. Other political analysts called her race a toss-up.

At least nine veterans of the Iraq war were candidates at one time and two of them, Patrick Murphy and Joe Sestak, are in close races to replace Republican congressmen in Pennsylvania.

Republicans too had about 40 veterans seeking office, although only one of them was from the Iraq war.


Democrats without political experience underscored their independence from Washington culture and most called for a quick U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, saying the war was a costly error borne by their military brethren and taxpayers.

One of the group facing sure defeat, former Naval intelligence officer John Laesch, got a boost when a Capitol Hill sex scandal erupted over salacious e-mails sent to congressional pages by Florida Rep. Mark Foley.

Laesch's opponent, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, warded off calls for his resignation over his handling of the scandal.

Duckworth was recruited by Rep. Rahm Emanuel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to run in the largely suburban district bordering Chicago that has traditionally favored Republicans.

Voters there have shown signs of shifting allegiances in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Henry Hyde, much like a neighboring district that elected Democrat Melissa Bean in 2004.

A 38-year-old who was minutes from dying two years ago when her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, Duckworth said her service hardened her resolve to challenge authority.

"Do I think every politician should be a former military member? No, of course not," she told Reuters. "But I think there should be some of us there (in Congress) because the next time, when we make a decision whether to send the finest of us out to war, I want that (decision) to be made by people who understand the true cost."

Fewer than one-third of congressional officeholders have military experience, compared to three-quarters 35 years ago.

One is 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry, but his wartime heroism in Vietnam that was challenged by "Swift Boat" members calling themselves Veterans for Truth did not seem to resonate. Republicans cast themselves as stronger on defense, saying they were erecting a better bulwark against terrorism.


GWB, unperson
GWB, unperson
Posted by Mark Kleiman

In Nineteen Eighty-four, a Party member who lost a power struggle became an "unperson." All references to him in existing records had to be deleted. That was part of Winston Smith's job.

It looks as if a certain George W. Bush has become an unperson in the mind of Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.). Caught in a tight race with Judy Feder (a policy wonk's policy wonk, the dean of Public Policy at Georgetown) in a Northern Virgina district where Bush has become unpopular, Wolf seems to have scrubbed his campaign website of references to the Beloved Leader.

Here's the old version, captured in a screenshot by the alert folks at the Feder campaign:



But guess what's missing from the current version of the Wolf website?



I'm glad Bush is unpopular, and I'm glad Wolf is smart enough to recognize that fact. Still, tossing your party leader, who also happens to be the President, down the Memory Hole does seem a little bit excessive, not to say disingenuous.

Wolf is personally popular, though some of his positions (e.g., against stem-cell research) aren't, so Feder has faced an uphill battle. But she seems to be closing the gap: a new robo-poll has Wolf leading, but by only 47-42. Five points down isn't as good as five points up, but on the other hand long-time incumbents don't usually pick up many undecided votes, especially not if they're Republicans running in Purple districts this year.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Fraud alleged in St. Louis voter sign-up

Yahoo! News
Fraud alleged in St. Louis voter sign-up
By JEFF DOUGLAS, Associated Press Writer

Election officials say hundreds of potentially bogus registration cards, including ones for dead and underage people, were submitted by a branch of a national group that has been criticized in the past for similar offenses.

At least 1,500 potentially fraudulent registration cards were turned in by the St. Louis branch of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, leading up to Wednesday's registration deadline for the Nov. 7 election, said Kim Mathis, chairwoman of the St. Louis City Board of Election Commissioners.

Invalid registrations solicited by ACORN workers included duplicate or incomplete ones, a 16-year-old voter, dead people registering, and forged signatures, Mathis said.

"Fifteen hundred may not sound like a lot, but it is a big deal and it disenfranchises the election process," she said. "It's time someone be prosecuted. There's a lot of taxpayer dollars being wasted on this."

Scott Liendecker, director of Republican elections for St. Louis, said his office will turn the matter over to the U.S. attorney's office for possible prosecution once a final count of potentially fraudulent submissions is finished next week.

Mary Wheeler-Jones, the Democratic elections director, said she does not dispute the accusations against ACORN.

ACORN spokesman Brian Mellor told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which first reported the potential fraud, that prosecution could be warranted.

"We try very hard to monitor the employees, but there are chances of things slipping through," Mellor said. He did not return calls from The Associated Press.

ACORN, founded in 1970, sends paid and volunteer workers around cities to sign up new voters. The group ran voter registration drives in Missouri and 16 other states this year. Similar allegations have been made in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Colorado, though no charges have been filed.

This year in Missouri, ACORN has turned in about 40,000 new voter registrations. Half of those were in St. Louis. The other 20,000 were collected in the Kansas City area, according to election officials.

Four ACORN workers were fired over a September 2003 incident after the St. Louis board pointed out more than 1,000 questionable new voter registration forms collected by ACORN.

ACORN registered more than a million U.S. voters in 2004, when it also had to defend itself against fraud allegations. That year, unreadable cards, duplicate registrations and other invalid or potentially fraudulent registrations turned up in Ohio, Minnesota, North Carolina and Virginia.


Now That We Figured Out How to Go in Reverse...

Huffington Post
Jayne Lyn Stahl
Now That We Figured Out How to Go in Reverse...

After being startled today, like everybody else, by eerily-familiar live footage of yet another airplane crashing into a Manhattan skyscraper, I couldn't help but think of some comments made, a week ago, by President Bush on the campaign trail in California when he argued that Democrats are weak on national security. "If you listen closely to some of the leaders of the Democratic Party," the president said, "it sounds like--it sounds like-- they think the best way to protect the American people is, wait until we're attacked again." (AP) Amen, Mr.
President, but will somebody explain how is it that the party that brought us "national security" and intelligence czars wasn't able to prevent an airplane from crashing, once again, into a building in Manhattan? Where have our tax dollars gone since 9/11? Wasn't the rationale behind the "war on terror," the USA Patriot Act, and the NSA domestic surveillance program about preventing this sort of thing?

Oh, and the president isn't the only one raising questions about the Democrats ability to keep us safe. If you listened to 2008 presidential hopeful, John McCain, at a news conference yesterday, you would have heard him accuse former President Bill Clinton, the husband of his prospective nemesis, of not taking the necessary steps, in the 1990's, to prevent North Korea from going nuclear. Apart from hearing the familiar, and tired, refrain about who will keep us safe that you've heard from Bush, and Cheney, you'd swear you were listening a re-run of Fox Sunday's Chris Wallace interview of Bill Clinton.

With virtuouso chutzpah, Senator Mc Cain, like Fox anchor Chris Wallace, stepped up to the plate to "remind" Mrs.. Clinton "and other Democrats critical of the Bush administration's policies, that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure." (AP) Yes, yes, that may be Senator, but at least her husband's administration tried to negotiate with the Koreans which puts him one step ahead of the current team. As Senator Kennedy reminds us the president was AWOL when the North Korean ambassador came to the United States, and the ambassador was sent to New Mexico to meet with Bill Richardson "because he didn't have anyone else to talk to." (AP) It's hard to play one-handed poker.

Moreover, does Mr. McCain need to be reminded that it was on President Clinton's watch, back in 1994, that U.S. negotiators convinced North Korea to suspend its nuclear program, and allow U.N. inspections. Clearly, the Bush administration has been too busy flexing its preemptive muscle as if in a furtive effort to ward off erectile dysfunction, under the thinly guised pretext of spreading democracy, and thus unavailable to such trifling, and insignificant, measures as diplomatic talks to stop nuclear proliferation. What's more, thanks to the efforts of the administration Senator McCain so staunchly defends, we have more nuclear players now we did when Mr. Clinton was commander-in-chief, and efforts to contain proliferation have come to a decisive halt.

Sooner or later, one suspected Senator McCain would show his true colors, and indeed he has emerged as the state-of-the-art cheerleader for Bush that he's been all along. Still, it's very scary when a prospective presidential candidate distorts and twists history in ways we don't expect them to do, at least not until they're elected. Under Clinton, McCain says, "The Koreans received millions and millions in energy assistance. They've diverted millions of dollars of food assistance to their military." Oh, and how many "millions of dollars" of food, welfare, and medical assistance have we "diverted" to our military which, after all, has only succeeded in expanding the Halliburton bottom line.

And, while he's at the business of pointing fingers,as a prominent member of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, McCain should move that finger a bit closer to home, say, in the direction of the current Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld who, you may recall was CEO of Searle Pharmaceuticals from 1977-1985, and on the board of the ABB Group, the company that built the atomic reactor in North Korea, that provided knowledge and equpment to build nuclear power plants in North Korea. Mr. Rumsfeld was also head of a few notable pharmaceutical companies, G.D. Searle, Gilead Sciences, and worked with Bechtel, in Iraq, in the 1980's on a pipeline project. Indeed, our illustrious Secretary of Defense reportedly even visited Baghdad, back in 1983, and discussed "topics of mutual interest" with the leader he just as diligently deposed, Saddam Hussein. (Rath Foundation)

So, while some in Congress, and on Fox News, appear to be intent upon airing the previous administration's dirty laundry, it might not be a bad idea for them to pay a visit to the local dry cleaners first. Backing in to a tight space only works when one knows how to back out.. Now that we figured out how to go in reverse, it's time to learn how to go forward..


GOP Candidates Cancel Events With Hastert, Reynolds
Scandal Sidelines Hastert, Reynolds
GOP Leaders Cut Campaign Appearances
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer

Weeks before the Nov. 7 elections, the Mark Foley scandal and its aftermath have already had a visible effect on Republican prospects: Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R-N.Y.), the two men leading the GOP efforts to keep power in the House, have both been largely sidelined from the public campaign.

Under normal circumstances, the House speaker and the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, currently Reynolds, would be in a full sprint in the closing weeks of an election campaign -- raising money and rallying partisans to help House members in the most competitive races. Both leaders, however, have drastically curtailed their appearances this month after coming under fire for what critics have called an inadequate response to early warnings about Foley's behavior with House pages.

Reynolds is now battling to hold on to his own district in Upstate New York, while Hastert has been tied down in Washington, holding news conferences and attempting to control the legal and political fallout from the uproar -- including demands from Democrats, commentators and at least some Republicans that he resign the speakership. Although speculation has centered on whether Hastert can hang on, and how much the episode is hurting Republicans at the polls, there is already a tangible impact on GOP fortunes.

In the past week alone, Republicans have canceled nearly a dozen campaign events with Hastert and Reynolds. Rep. Don Sherwood (Pa.) -- who is one of the GOP's most endangered incumbents after revelations that his former mistress had sued him in Maryland, alleging assault -- told both men not to come to his district, forgoing crucial campaign dollars to minimize additional negative news coverage. In addition, at least seven House GOP candidates have donated to charity nearly $20,000 in contributions that they had received from Foley before the scandal broke.

"Sometimes political reality takes over travel schedules," said Joe Gaylord, who was a top political adviser to then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). "This is one of those things where candidates have to decide for themselves what is best for their individual campaigns, and national leaders will follow that."

Increasingly, Republican candidates are telling their leaders to stay home. Houston City Council member Shelley Sekula Gibbs (R), who is running for former House majority leader Tom DeLay's open seat as a write-in candidate, had hoped that Hastert would come to Texas to tout its prospects for economic development. Last week, she told the speaker he need not visit.

"It would be a distraction. I have to focus on winning this race," Sekula Gibbs said in an interview. "They want me to focus on winning," she added, referring to the speaker's office.

Other Republicans have also canceled Hastert fundraisers, such as Rep. Ron Lewis (Ky.), who was once regarded as safe for reelection but now looks imperiled.

In other instances, the speaker and Reynolds are the ones pulling the plug. Hastert told both Rep. Michael E. Sodrel (R-Ind.) and Ohio state Sen. Joy Padgett that he could not stump on their behalf this month, while Reynolds canceled events with fellow New York Rep. John E. Sweeney and Florida businessman Vern Buchanan.

"My understanding is he had to go back to his district," said Buchanan spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts. She added that the campaign went ahead with the Oct. 2 event aimed at "rallying some of our grass-roots supporters and leaders in the community."

Though Hastert and Reynolds have crisscrossed the country for months raising money and generating publicity for congressional candidates, it is not just money that matters at this point. Motivation counts just as much, because a visit by a House leader under better circumstances can help build the enthusiasm that is critical for turnout efforts.

Former House majority leader Richard K. Armey (Tex.) said he has warned fellow Republicans "for a long time the biggest danger the Republican majority faced is insufficient turnout of their own base, and this Foley thing hasn't helped anything." Rallying the troops through last-minute campaign stops "can be very important," Armey said, recalling the efforts of Gingrich to "get people excited."

House leaders have not abandoned the campaign trail altogether. Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) attended a fundraiser yesterday on behalf of Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) and will campaign for other candidates in Minnesota and Iowa this week. Hastert will campaign today for Illinois Republicans Peter Roskam and David McSweeney, along with President Bush.

But freshman Rep. Melissa L. Bean (D-Ill.), McSweeney's opponent, said the speaker's appearance "doesn't surprise me" because McSweeney is "a rubber stamp" for the GOP. "People appreciate independence," Bean said.

Bush acknowledged at a news conference yesterday that the page controversy has resonated with the public.

"This Foley issue bothers a lot of people, including me," Bush said. But he added that Americans care more about national security and the economy when voting. "When they get in that booth, they're going to be thinking about, you know, how best to secure the country from attack and, you know, how best to keep the economy growing."

Neither Reynolds nor Hastert has said that the fallout from the Foley scandal has hampered their ability to run their party's reelection effort.

"It has not affected [Reynolds's] ability to be NRCC chairman, not at all," said NRCC spokesman Carl Forti. "I think you've seen over the past three years he's been able to run the committee, be home on weekends and when Congress is in recess, and still make decisions here. Nothing has changed that."

But several Democratic campaign experts, including former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Martin Frost (Tex.), said Reynolds's intensified reelection fight will distract him and take a toll on his ability to make last-minute decisions about where to focus the GOP's dollars and effort.

"You have to make some substantial judgments about who has a chance and who doesn't," Frost said. "The campaign chairman needs to bring all his faculties to bear on those questions. . . . This is enormous additional trouble, and I don't think they can survive this."

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.



Top economists call for U.S. minimum wage increase

Top economists call for U.S. minimum wage increase

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hundreds of leading economists urged Congress on Wednesday to boost the U.S. minimum wage, which has been stuck at $5.15 an hour for a decade.

The group recommended a $1 to $2.50 hourly increase and argued that future boosts should be indexed to inflation to protect workers purchasing power from rising prices.

Dismissing the argument that better pay would burden employers and stifle job creation, these experts said a higher minimum wage was necessary to ensure a decent standard of living for low-income Americans.

"We believe a modest increase in the minimum wage would improve the well-being of low-wage workers and would not have the adverse effects that critics have claimed," the group including renowned academics for top U.S. universities said in a statement disseminated by the Economic Policy Institute.

Debate has been heated in Washington over the issue.

Back in August, an attempt to raise the minimum wage ran into trouble after Republicans attempted to link the increase to a permanent cut in estate taxes paid by the very rich. Democrats then decided to block the measure.

Some states have made some headway in ensuring better pay for low-income workers, by circumventing national legislation and passing increases of their own. California lifted the minimum wage to $8 an hour this summer, the highest level in the nation.


Schwarzenegger tells Leno link to Bush is "ridiculous"

Schwarzenegger tells Leno link to Bush is "ridiculous"
By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger distanced himself from President George W. Bush on national television on Wednesday, saying he was as far from his fellow Republican as he was from winning an Academy Award during his film career.

"To link me to George Bush is like linking me to an Oscar," the former bodybuilder and Hollywood action star joked during an appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." "That's ridiculous."

It was Schwarzenegger's fifth guest spot on the late-night comedy show since he used a 2003 appearance on the program to announce his first campaign for public office in 2003.

The governor's Democratic challenger in his bid for a second term, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, complained NBC was snubbing him while unfairly giving Schwarzenegger valuable media exposure weeks before the election.

A spokesman for the Angelides campaign accused NBC of violating federal rules that generally require broadcasters to give opposing candidates equal time.

"The governor has spent $35 million in launching negative attack ads against Phil Angelides, and now NBC is just giving him further free time on national network TV to campaign," the spokesman, Brian Brokaw, told Reuters.

Rallying to Angelides' cause in Washington, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat, lodged a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, saying an exclusive appearance by the governor on Leno's show would "constitute a clear violation of the equal time rule."

NBC said the governor's appearance fell under an equal-time exemption that allows for bona fide news interviews.

An FCC spokesman said the agency does not comment on complaints about broadcasts before they air. But the agency has held that the news-interview exemption applied to appearances by politicians on such entertainment programs as "Donahue," "Politically Incorrect" and "The Howard Stern Show."

Schwarzenegger, who holds a commanding lead over his opponent in recent polls, spoke generally on Wednesday night about his first term as governor and about national politics. But no mention was made of Angelides.

The only reference to the gubernatorial campaign came when Leno asked Schwarzenegger about his opponents' efforts in TV ads to link the governor with Bush, who is unpopular with many California voters.

"I'm my own man. ... To make that linkage is ridiculous," Schwarzenegger said.

NBC spokeswoman Tracy St. Pierre said "The Tonight Show" had yet to receive a request in writing or by telephone from Angelides. Otherwise, she said, "He'll be considered just like any other guest who is pitched to the show."


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Study: 655,000 Iraqis die because of war

Yahoo! News
Study: 655,000 Iraqis die because of war
By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer

A controversial new study contends nearly 655,000 Iraqis have died because of the war, suggesting a far higher death toll than other estimates.

The timing of the survey's release, just a few weeks before the U.S. congressional elections, led one expert to call it "politics."

In the new study, researchers attempt to calculate how many more Iraqis have died since March 2003 than one would expect without the war. Their conclusion, based on interviews of households and not a body count, is that about 600,000 died from violence, mostly gunfire. They also found a small increase in deaths from other causes like heart disease and cancer.

"Deaths are occurring in Iraq now at a rate more than three times that from before the invasion of March 2003," Dr. Gilbert Burnham, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

The study by Burnham, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and others is to be published Thursday on the Web site of The Lancet, a medical journal.

An accurate count of Iraqi deaths has been difficult to obtain, but one respected group puts its rough estimate at closer to 50,000. And at least one expert was skeptical of the new findings.

"They're almost certainly way too high," said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington. He criticized the way the estimate was derived and noted that the results were released shortly before the Nov. 7 election.

"This is not analysis, this is politics," Cordesman said.

The work updates an earlier Johns Hopkins study — that one was released just before the November 2004 presidential election. At the time, the lead researcher, Les Roberts of Hopkins, said the timing was deliberate. Many of the same researchers were involved in the latest estimate.

Speaking of the new study, Burnham said the estimate was much higher than others because it was derived from a house-to-house survey rather than approaches that depend on body counts or media reports.

A private group called Iraqi Body Count, for example, says it has recorded about 44,000 to 49,000 civilian Iraqi deaths. But it notes that those totals are based on media reports, which it says probably overlook "many if not most civilian casualties."

For Burnham's study, researchers gathered data from a sample of 1,849 Iraqi households with a total of 12,801 residents from late May to early July. That sample was used to extrapolate the total figure. The estimate deals with deaths up to July.

The survey participants attributed about 31 percent of violent deaths to coalition forces.

Accurate death tolls have been difficult to obtain ever since the Iraq conflict began in March 2003. When top Iraqi political officials cite death numbers, they often refuse to say where the numbers came from.

The Health Ministry, which tallies civilian deaths, relies on reports from government hospitals and morgues. The Interior Ministry compiles its figures from police stations, while the Defense Ministry reports deaths only among army soldiers and insurgents killed in combat.

The United Nations keeps its own count, based largely on reports from the Baghdad morgue and the Health Ministry.

The major funder of the new study was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


On the Net:

The Lancet:

Iraqi Body Count:


In Iraq, contractor deaths near 650, legal fog thickens

In Iraq, contractor deaths near 650, legal fog thickens
By Bernd Debusmann

WASHINGTON - The war in Iraq has killed at least 647 civilian contractors to date, according to official figures that provide a stark reminder of the huge role of civilians in supporting the U.S. military.

The contractor death toll is tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor on the basis of claims under an insurance policy, the Defense Base Act, that all U.S. government contractors and subcontractors working outside the United States must take out for their civilian employees.

In response to questions from Reuters, a Labor Department spokesman said there had been 647 claims for death benefits between March 1, 2003, and September 30, 2006. The Defense Base Act covers both Americans and foreigners, and there is no breakdown of the nationalities of those killed. The Pentagon does not monitor civilian contractor casualties.

The death toll of civilians working alongside U.S. forces in Iraq compares with more than 2,700 military dead and, experts say, underscores the risks of outsourcing war to private military contractors.

Their number in Iraq is estimated at up to 100,000, from highly-trained former special forces soldiers to drivers, cooks, mechanics, plumbers, translators, electricians and laundry workers and other support personnel.

A trend toward "privatizing war" has been accelerating steadily since the end of the Cold War, when the United States and its former adversaries began cutting back professional armies. U.S. armed forces shrank from 2.1 million when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 to 1.4 million today.

"At its present size, the U.S. military could not function without civilian contractors," said Jeffrey Addicott, an expert at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. "The problem is that the civilians operate in a legal gray zone. There has been little effort at regulation, oversight, standardized training and a uniform code of conduct. It's the Wild West out there."


Two court cases slowly making their way through the U.S. legal system have opened a window on the legal fog hanging over civilians who work alongside the military and have become an everyday presence in conflict zones.

The legal cases involve Blackwater Security and Halliburton which field hundreds of civilians in Iraq. The two companies are part of a global industry estimated to bring in up to $100 billion annually.

The suit against Blackwater, the first of its kind in the United States, was brought 19 months ago by the families of four civilian contractors who were shot in March 2004 by insurgents who burned their bodies and hung the charred remains of two from the girders of a bridge in the city of Falluja.

Television images of the gruesome scene, with jubilant Iraqis shaking their fists, were beamed around the world and shocked the United States. Some military experts view the Falluja incident, which prompted a massive U.S. retaliatory assault on Falluja, as a turning point in the war.

The suit, for fraud and wrongful death, alleges that Blackwater broke explicit terms of its contract with the men -- Stephen (Scott) Helveston, Mike Teague, Jerko Zovko and Wesley Batalona -- by sending them to escort a food convoy in unarmored cars, without heavy machine guns and in teams that lacked even a map.

The suit against Halliburton stems from the April 2004 ambush of a convoy of fuel trucks near Abu Ghraib in which six drivers working for a company subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root were killed and 11 injured. In September, a federal judge in Houston threw out the suit, saying his court had no jurisdiction because the decision to send the convoy had been "interwoven with Army decisions."

"The effect of this ruling is ... a legal gray zone in which Halliburton and KBR can act in any manner they chose," said T. Scott Allen, attorney for the families. "We will appeal."

A few days after the Houston decision, a U.S. appeals court in Raleigh, North Carolina, rejected a Blackwater petition for a rehearing of an appeal to have the case moved from a state court in Moycock where the company is based, and have it adjudicated by the Department of Labor, which decides Defense Base Act claims in the first place.

"The decision was clear: jurisdiction of this case rests with the state court," said Dan Callahan, one of the attorneys for the families of the four killed in Falluja. "This paves the way for holding Blackwater liable and establish guidelines and accountability for contracting firms operating abroad."

Where the case comes to be heard has enormous monetary implications: There is no cap on punitive damages in a state court and past judgments have reached staggering heights. Callahan, for example, won a $934 million jury verdict in a 2003 corporate litigation in California.

The Base Defense Act provides for maximum death benefits of $4,123.12 a month.


New voter registration laws leave thousands off the rolls

New voter registration laws leave thousands off the rolls
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Some of this year's elections could be decided by those who can't vote.

Across the country, new laws restricting who can register and vote have reduced the number of people who are eligible. Some of those laws have been blocked in court. Even so, critics say, the damage has been done:

•In Arizona, about 21,000 voter registration applications were rejected because of inadequate proof of citizenship, required under a 2004 law. Most who were affected lacked up-to-date driver's licenses, birth certificates or passports.

A federal appellate court blocked enforcement of the law — which also requires voters to show ID at the polls — last week, four days before the registration deadline. "We're looking at an enormous disparate impact on people of color," says Linda Brown, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network.

•In Florida, a law setting up new requirements for independent groups that register voters prompted the League of Women Voters to suspend registration drives for five months until a court intervened. In that period, the league could have registered thousands of people, The registration deadline is Tuesday. "You've just got to assume it's going to have an impact," says Dianne Wheatley-Giliotti, the league's state president.

•In Ohio, a law that made paid workers liable for the validity of the registrations they collect caused several groups to stop signing up voters for two months this summer. By the time courts intervened, the opportunity had been lost for thousands of registrations.

The group ACORN, which advocates for low-income families, wanted to sign up 138,000 Ohioans this year; now it will settle for 100,000. "Those were really the critical months," head organizer Katy Gall says. "In past years, we've met or exceeded our goals."

Advocates of registration and photo identification laws say they are needed to prevent fraud. They say the rules apply to all potential voters, regardless of race, ethnicity, income or ideology. "This is a matter of voter confidence, whether or not the fraud is real or perceived," says Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, whose state has one of the nation's strictest ID requirements.

Laws tightening the rules on registrations also have been passed in Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico and Washington. Laws imposing photo ID requirements at the polls were passed in Georgia and Missouri, but courts have intervened.

Paul DeGregorio, chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, says the laws should not discourage citizens from voting. Far worse, he says, would be for states to ignore problems that cause Americans to distrust the process.

Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law disagrees. "All of them will have an impact in suppressing votes," she says. "Even when courts have overturned them, they have ongoing impact."

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Bush's 'Axis of Evil' Comes Back to Haunt United States
Bush's 'Axis of Evil' Comes Back to Haunt United States
By Glenn Kessler and Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writers

Nearly five years after President Bush introduced the concept of an "axis of evil" comprising Iraq, Iran and North Korea, the administration has reached a crisis point with each nation: North Korea has claimed it conducted its first nuclear test, Iran refuses to halt its uranium-enrichment program, and Iraq appears to be tipping into a civil war 3 1/2 years after the U.S.-led invasion.

Each problem appears to feed on the others, making the stakes higher and requiring Bush and his advisers to make difficult calculations, analysts and U.S. officials said. The deteriorating situation in Iraq has undermined U.S. diplomatic credibility and limited the administration's military options, making rogue countries increasingly confident that they can act without serious consequences. Iran, meanwhile, will be watching closely the diplomatic fallout from North Korea's apparent test as a clue to how far it might go with its own nuclear program.

"Iran will follow very carefully what happens in the U.N. Security Council after the North Korean test," said Robert J. Einhorn, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). "If the United Nations is not able to act forcefully, then Iran will think the path is clear to act with impunity."

Michael E. O'Hanlon, a Brookings Institution scholar and co-author of the new book "Hard Power: The New Politics of National Security," said the U.S. response to North Korea will have ripple effects. "Iran will certainly watch what happens. North Korea watched what happened with Pakistan and decided that the world didn't punish Pakistan too hard or too long," he said. "Iran will certainly notice if North Korea gets treated with kid gloves."

Political strategists debated the domestic implications of the North Korean test with midterm elections four weeks away. Some Republicans predicted it would take the focus off the Mark Foley congressional page scandal and remind voters that it is a dangerous world best confronted by tough-minded leaders. Some Democrats argued it would be seen as another failure of Bush's foreign policy and moved quickly to try to pin blame on the Republicans. "Is this going to help Republicans?" asked Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "The answer to that is absolutely not. This is another significant foreign policy failure for the administration."

In Bush's 2002 State of the Union address, a speech designed to shift the political debate from a battle against al-Qaeda to a possible confrontation with Iraq, the president mentioned North Korea, Iraq and Iran and declared: "States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. . . . In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic."

All three issues came to a head in 2003: The United States invaded Iraq and discovered no weapons of mass destruction; North Korea began to obtain weapons-grade plutonium from fuel rods that had been under international observation; and Iran disclosed that it had made rapid progress with a previously secret uranium-enrichment program.

In contrast to its handling of Iraq, the administration has tried to resolve the North Korean and Iranian nuclear breakouts with diplomacy. But progress has been slow, in part because the United States has been reluctant to hold bilateral talks with either country except within the context of broader talks with other nations.

Former senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) faulted the administration for focusing on Iraq first, when greater threats loomed in North Korea and Iran. "We started with Iraq in the 'axis of evil' side, when we thought they did not yet have nuclear weapons, and that sent the signal to others that they better get them quick," he said. "I think we started on the wrong end of that."

The administration launched a full-court press yesterday at the Security Council, proposing elements of a tough resolution that would call for imposing an arms embargo and a series of legally binding U.N. financial and trade sanctions. The United States also called for international inspections of all trade in and out of North Korea to enforce the sanctions.

U.S. officials yesterday were focusing especially closely on the reaction of China, long North Korea's main benefactor. The Chinese government publicly denounced the test in unusually strong language, and a senior U.S. official said the private comments of Chinese officials were equally strong. While China has been reluctant to pressure North Korea, fearing a collapse of the government and mass refugees on its border, "the question is whether a chaotic North Korea is worse than a nuclear North Korea," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivities.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appears likely to make a trip to the region soon to further build support for a tough response by China, Japan and South Korea. Several experts predicted that although China's leadership is angry enough to support some sanctions, it always will stop short of putting enough pressure on Pyongyang to force its collapse. "Full-up sanctions I don't see happening," said former White House Asia expert Michael J. Green, now at CSIS.

James B. Steinberg, President Bill Clinton's deputy national security adviser and now dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, said the North Korea test will raise a larger question that echoes Ronald Reagan's most famous 1980 campaign line -- "With respect to the axis of evil," Steinberg said, "are you better off today than you were four years ago? . . . It's clear that the answer is we're worse off with respect to the nuclear proliferation problem in both North Korea and Iran than four to six years ago, and I would argue we're worse off in our overall security because of the situation in Iraq."

Staff writer Dafna Linzer contributed to this report.


'Values' Decline As Issue In Ohio; Economic Woes Boost Democrats
'Values' Decline As Issue In Ohio
Economic Woes Boost Democrats
By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Two years ago, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell was a driving force in the triumphant campaign for a state constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage. That helped cause a surge in turnout of "values voters," who helped deliver this pivotal state to President Bush's successful reelection effort.

As the Republican candidate for governor, Blackwell has been counting on values voters to do for him this year what they did for the party in 2004. But the culture wars are being eclipsed as a voting issue by economic worries and Republican scandals that have altered the political dynamic here in striking ways. Several polls find Blackwell trailing his Democratic opponent, five-term Rep. Ted Strickland, by double digits with less than four weeks to go until the Nov. 7 midterm elections.

The difficulty Blackwell is experiencing winning support for his socially conservative message reflects the anxiety evident this year among voters in Ohio and elsewhere, some pollsters say.

"It is harder to run on wedge issues when voters have huge concerns on their minds regarding war in Iraq, economic issues and a Congress they perceive as doing little," said Michael Bocian, a vice president at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a Democratic polling firm in Washington.

Strickland, 65, an ordained but non-practicing minister, has built his lead by speaking about the economic distress of this manufacturing state and by painting his opponent as a loyal soldier of a scandal-plagued Ohio Republican Party. At the same time, he is directly challenging Blackwell for values voters in ways that many analysts believe Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry did not two years ago.

"What I call the bread-and-butter issues probably are more prominently on the minds of people today than two years ago," Strickland said in an interview. "I think a lot of Ohioans are feeling economically insecure. Consequently, they are less willing to be distracted by issues that don't involve the economic security of their families."

His observation is borne out by a recent survey by the University of Cincinnati's Ohio Poll, which found that 63 percent of likely voters in the state are basing their choice of candidates on the "issues" rather than "character." The poll found that seven in 10 Strickland supporters were most concerned about "issues," including the economy and education; just over half of Blackwell supporters felt that way.

"Character can be everything from a voters' evaluation of a series of issues as a package, to notions as to whether they think a candidate agrees or disagrees with their values," said Eric W. Rademacher, co-director of the survey. Two years ago, exit polls found that "moral values" edged out the "economy and jobs" to top a list of concerns that Ohio voters said most influenced their Election Day choices. The exit polls found that at least a quarter of voters identified themselves as born-again Christians, and three-quarters of their votes went to Bush.

Leaders of the religious right here promised to build on that success to reshape Ohio's political landscape. They pledged to support candidates determined to "bring spiritual revival and moral reformation to the state," in the words of Reformation Ohio, an evangelical outreach effort.

No one better embodied that promise than Blackwell. An experienced and articulate politician, he is given to quoting Scripture on the campaign trail and is unambiguous about his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. "I don't know how many of you have a farming background, but I can tell you right now that notion even defies barnyard logic," Blackwell has said of same-sex marriage.

As in 2004, conservative religious leaders have been registering thousands of voters across the state, talking from the pulpit about the need to vote and leading rallies to drum up enthusiasm among values voters.

"Politicians in Ohio certainly are focusing more on economic issues, but our focus is on encouraging members of our church and the Center for Moral Clarity to support the candidates that best reflect their values on issues of righteousness and justice," said Rod Parsley, a Columbus televangelist. Parsley is pastor of World Harvest Church, which has 12,000 members, and leads Reformation Ohio and the Center for Moral Clarity, another outreach group.

Parsley, who faces an Internal Revenue Service investigation prompted by a complaint by a group of ideologically moderate ministers who allege he has crossed a line barring political advocacy from the pulpit, has not endorsed Blackwell. But he is quick to add: "I'm sure Ohioans will recall which candidates have stood with them in the past."

So far, it seems that the efforts of Parsley and other evangelical leaders are being overshadowed by this state's recent record of job losses and the resultant economic concern. The unemployment rate in Ohio is 5.7 percent -- a full point above the national figure. Meanwhile, the Ohio Poll found that 82 percent of Ohioans believe that the economy is in poor or fair shape, and two-thirds say things are getting worse.

For his part, Blackwell, 58, has offered a string of proposals that he says would revive Ohio's economy. He wants to do away with the graduated state income tax and implement a flat tax. He has proposed looking at ways to de-couple school financing from local property taxes and cap educational administrative costs, while allowing students greater freedom to attend schools of their choice. "I think the big issues in the campaign are jobs, education and health care and getting our economy growing again so we can break out of the growth deficit we've been in," Blackwell said.

John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and a professor at the University of Akron, said that in this campaign Blackwell's biggest problem has not been his policy ideas but his arch-conservative profile. "Ohio leans to the right. But he is way to the right, and some Republicans are quite unhappy with his relationship with religious conservatives," Green said.

Strickland has advocated greater investment in public schools and has targeted state support for growing sectors of the Ohio economy. Meanwhile, he has brandished his own socially conservative credentials, including his support of gun ownership. Although he told the Dayton Daily News that he is now an occasional churchgoer, Strickland touts his background as a minister.

"When you have a candidate who is pretty conservative in Strickland, that makes drawing distinctions between the candidates difficult," Bocian said. Republicans control every statewide office in Ohio and both chambers of the legislature, but, given the voter pessimism this year, that is proving to be a political disadvantage. Then there are the scandals that have ensnared two of the leading Republicans in the state: Gov. Bob Taft was convicted of illegally accepting gifts, and Rep. Robert W. Ney admitted taking bribes in the Abramoff scandal and is not seeking reelection.

Through the years, Blackwell has worked to cultivate an image of independence, opposing state tax increases and supporting the ban on same-sex marriage, which both Taft and Sen. Mike DeWine (R) opposed. Blackwell, an African American, served as state treasurer, mayor of Cincinnati and a deputy secretary of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development before being elected Ohio's secretary of state in 1998. He was in charge of the problem-plagued 2004 election in Ohio, an issue of particular importance to some black voters who felt disenfranchised. But through multiple recounts and lawsuits, Blackwell has been cleared of playing a role in any irregularities.

He says that his support of values issues involves not just opposing same-sex marriage and abortion but also ensuring that the poor receive health care and educational opportunities -- positions he said are warmly received by black audiences. Also, as the campaign winds toward Election Day, Blackwell said he plans to close ground by sharpening his attacks on Strickland's record as a congressman, which earned him a ranking as one of the least influential members of the House from the nonpartisan Web site

Meanwhile, Strickland plans to challenge Blackwell among his base of values voters. During a recent debate, Strickland talked about how his community and church helped him become the first member of his family to go to college. Then he reminded the audience of another stop in his career path: "I've been able to be a minister in the United Methodist Church."


Court Rejects Companion Case to Roe V. Wade Seeking to Reverse Abortion Ruling

ABC News
Court Rejects Roe V. Wade Companion Case
Court Rejects Companion Case to Roe V. Wade Seeking to Reverse Abortion Ruling
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned aside the case of Sandra Cano, one of the women behind the legalization of abortion, who had sought to reverse the victory she won 33 years ago.

Cano says she never wanted an abortion and that her difficult early life resulted in her becoming the anonymous plaintiff in Doe v. Bolton, the lesser-known case which the justices ruled on the same day in 1973 as the landmark Roe v. Wade.

"We're very disappointed that the Supreme Court has not decided to protect women and children from the harm of abortion," said Allan Parker, one of Cano's attorneys. "The court has aborted the normal regulation of medicine in this area."

Cano says she was a 22-year-old victim of an abusive husband and that her children were in foster care when she sought legal assistance in getting a divorce and in getting her children back.

She said an aggressive attorney pushed her into the abortion case.

"What I received was something I never requested the legal right to abort my child," Cano said in an affidavit six years ago.

Her current lawyers' legal brief says that despite advances in medicine, science and technology, the justices have "frozen abortion law based on obsolete 1973 assumptions and prevented the normal regulation of the practice of medicine."

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January that neither it nor a U.S. District Court had the authority to reverse the Supreme Court's decisions in Doe v. Bolton or Roe v. Wade.


As Election Nears, Groups Plan Negative Ads

The New York Times
As Election Nears, Groups Plan Negative Ads

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 — A previously unknown group led by a Republican political consultant in Houston is financing television advertisements against nine Democratic House candidates from North Carolina to Arizona.

The group, Americans for Honesty on Issues, is spending more than $1 million on the advertisements, which accuse Democratic candidates of carpetbagging, coddling illegal immigrants, being soft on crime and advocating cutting off money for troops in Iraq.

The television spots appear to be the first wave of a boatload of negative political advertising that will appear in the weeks before the Nov. 7 election. Many of the advertisements will be produced by independent organizations known as 527 groups, after the provision in the tax code that allows such groups to spend virtually unlimited sums on political activity as long as it is not formally coordinated with parties or candidates.

The 527 groups had raised nearly $200 million as of June 30, much of which appears to be available to be spent on pre-election activities. And if past trends hold, the total raised and spent by the groups on this election will surpass $300 million, eclipsing the $258 million spent by such groups in the last midterm election, in 2002.

The increase is striking because the campaign finance law enacted in 2002 now forbids federal elected officials and candidates from operating their own 527 groups. In 2002, committees maintained by such officials raised about a third of the total dollars for the groups.

The leader of Americans for Honesty on Issues is Sue Walden, a close ally of Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader who left Congress amid questions on ethics and fund-raising. Ms. Walden has also raised money for President Bush and served as an adviser to Kenneth L. Lay, the former chief executive of Enron who died in July.

She referred a call seeking comment to Glenn M. Willard, a lawyer with Patton Boggs in Washington, who drew up the papers establishing the organization. Mr. Willard confirmed that Ms. Walden was the nominal head of the committee, but he declined to identify the group’s donors or say how much it planned to spend.

The group’s Web site does not give an address or phone number, nor does it list any of the officers or sponsors. It says only, “Americans for Honesty on Issues is organized to engage in political issue communications in compliance with federal and state laws.”

Democrats, generously financed by labor unions and rich individuals like George Soros, dominated the 527 field in the presidential election of 2004, when such groups raised and spent more than $650 million. But Democratic groups have been relatively quiet this year, in part because big donors like Mr. Soros are giving much less money.

One Democratic 527 group, Majority Action, announced this week that it would run advertisements in four Congressional districts criticizing incumbent Republican House members for voting against federal financing for stem cell research.

The advertisements will focus on Representatives Chris Chocola of Indiana, Thelma Drake of Virginia, Don Sherwood of Pennsylvania and James T. Walsh of New York.

Total spending on the 60-second advertisements will be about $500,000, said Bill Buck, spokesman for Majority Action. The group’s founders include Joe Andrew and Don Fowler, former chairmen of the Democratic National Committee.

Another Democratic 527 organization, the September Group, founded by the longtime party operative Harold M. Ickes, is planning a late burst of anti-Republican spending, said Howard Wolfson, a political consultant working with the group. But Mr. Wolfson would not say how much money the group had raised nor how it intended to spend it.

Emily’s List, which supports Democratic candidates at the state and federal level, reported raising $3 million and spending nearly $2 million from July through September. Among its major donors are Linda Pritzker, a member of the family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain; Alida Messinger, a Rockefeller; Lee Fikes, a Texas oilman; and Mr. Soros.

Among the most active Republican 527 groups is the Economic Freedom Fund, which was formed this year and received a $5 million contribution from Bob J. Perry, a major Bush donor and an underwriter of the Swift boat veterans group in 2004. The fund is running advertisements on behalf of Republican candidates in Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Oregon and West Virginia.

Aron Pilhofer and Kitty Bennett contributed research.


Lamont Uses Lieberman In Ad
Lamont Uses Lieberman In Ad
Courant Staff Writer

Ned Lamont is trying to coax the ghost of campaigns past to haunt the present campaign of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman.

In a new Lamont ad scheduled to air today, challenger Joe Lieberman of 1988 seems to be making a case to reject the 18-year incumbent Lieberman of 2006.

"After 18 years, it's time for somebody new," Lieberman says in the Lamont ad. "It's time for a change."

The video is from 1988, when Lieberman's hair was longer and darker - and he was challenging Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., then an 18-year incumbent under fire for missed Senate votes.

The new ad is one of a series planned by the Lamont campaign using Lieberman's own words and image. The first spot contrasts clips of Lieberman criticizing Weicker in 1988 with facts about Lieberman's present-day record.

"In this campaign I promise you I will not miss more than 300 votes," Lieberman says. On screen flashes a slide that says, "The Fact: Joe Lieberman has skipped more than 418 votes."

See the ad here.

By echoing the Lieberman of 1988, the Lamont campaign is trying to blunt Lieberman's charge that Lamont's campaign is unusually negative.

It was a charge Lieberman's spokesman, Dan Gerstein, repeated Monday.

"In this case, all Ned is showing is his own desperation and hypocrisy," Gerstein said. "The fact is Joe Lieberman has a 93 percent career voting record over his 18 years in the Senate, which is the same exact percentage as Ned Lamont compiled during his six years on a Greenwich town board."

In 1988, Lieberman attacked Weicker for missing hundreds of votes, sometimes because Weicker was absent giving speeches for fees.

This year, Lamont has criticized Lieberman for missing hundreds of votes, many taken while he was running for president and vice president.

"I think this shows that Joe is a typical politician, and he will say or do anything to stay in Washington," said Tom Swan, manager of the Lamont campaign.

Lieberman is running as a petitioning candidate after losing the Democratic nomination to Lamont in a primary that focused on the war in Iraq.

Lamont, 52, is a successful cable television entrepreneur seeking statewide office for the first time. Lieberman, 64, has held state or federal office for all but two of the past 36 years.

The two main rivals have ignored three other candidates in the race: Alan Schlesinger of the Republican Party, Ralph Ferrucci of the Green Party and Timothy Knibbs of the Concerned Citizens.

Lieberman is currently airing a commercial that begins as a testimonial to his experience: A man in Groton talks about the role Lieberman played saving the submarine base in 2005.

"When Joe Lieberman helped save this sub base, he saved this whole town," the man says.

But the piece quickly transforms into an attack on Lamont, quoting another resident to reinforce a Lieberman talking point: "Lamont doesn't have the experience or the clout."

"He is trying to have his negatives be more subtle, but they're still negative and just like everything else, he tries to distort and hide his real record," Swan said.

His commercial portrays Lieberman as a savior of the sub base. The base had been slated for closure by the Pentagon, but the decision was overturned by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, also are touting in campaign ads their role in saving the base.

But Swan said the good feelings about saving the base obscure the steady erosion of jobs in the 18 years Lieberman has represented Connecticut in Washington.

"Half of our defense and 40 percent of our manufacturing jobs have been lost since he was elected U.S. senator," Swan said.


At Least 37 U.S. Troops killed in Iraq since the start of October

Three U.S. Marines killed in western Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Three U.S. Marines were killed in action in Anbar province in western Iraq on Monday, the U.S. military said in a statement on Wednesday.

Anbar is the heartland of the Sunni insurgency against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government and U.S. forces. It is the deadliest area in Iraq for U.S. soldiers.

The deaths of the three soldiers brought to at least 37 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq since the start of October.

The U.S. military said on Tuesday it killed seven insurgents in an air strike on a building in Ramadi, capital of Anbar, after U.S. troops came under "extremely heavy fire".

Three U.S. soldiers were killed in Anbar on Sunday.


Hastert says those who hid scandal must go

Hastert says those who hid scandal must go

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican head of the U.S. House of Representatives said on Tuesday anyone who covered up a growing Internet sex scandal on Capitol Hill should step down.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert made the comment as Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, Congress' only openly gay Republican, confirmed he was told six years ago of inappropriate Internet messages from former Republican Rep. Mark Foley to a young male former House aide.

Kolbe said he passed the information on to the House office that supervises the page program, in which high school students spend time in Washington as junior congressional assistants.

"This was done promptly," Kolbe said in a statement. "I did not have a personal conversation with Mr. Foley about the matter. I assume e-mail contacts ceased since the former page never raised the issue again with my office."

Republican House leaders have said they only recently became aware of the illicit side of the case when Foley resigned from his Florida district seat last late month.

The scandal involving Foley's lewd computer messages is undermining Republican efforts to retain control of Congress in the November 7 elections.

Hastert's handling of the case has come under fire and there have been calls for his resignation. His own staff has been closely scrutinized amid the finger-pointing within the party's ranks about who knew what, when they learned about it, and what -- if anything -- they did.

"If anybody's found to have hidden information or covered up information, they really should be gone," Hastert told reporters in his Illinois district.

A former chief of staff for Foley said last week that he first advised Hastert's office of the Florida congressman's troublesome behavior three years ago. Hastert's chief of staff has denied it.

The House Ethics Committee last week began what it promised would be a wide-ranging investigation. The FBI and authorities in Foley's home state are also looking into it.

As the issue heated up Florida politics, the state's Democratic Party asked the state attorney general for copies of all of his office's records, e-mails and phone logs pertaining to Foley and Internet communications, dating back to 2003.

The public records request sought copies of such communications with the White House, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the National Republican Campaign Committee and various Republicans in Congress.

The Democrats asked state Attorney General Charlie Crist, a Republican gubernatorial candidate with a 10-point lead over his Democratic challenger, to produce all the records within one week or provide a written explanation why he did not.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Lower Aptitude Standards Help U.S. Army Reach Recruiting Goal of 80,000

ABC News
Lower Standards Help Army Recruit More
Lower Aptitude Standards Help U.S. Army Reach Recruiting Goal of 80,000
By LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Army recruited more than 2,600 soldiers under new lower aptitude standards this year, helping the service beat its goal of 80,000 recruits in the throes of an unpopular war and mounting casualties.

The recruiting mark comes a year after the Army missed its recruitment target by the widest margin since 1979, which had triggered a boost in the number of recruiters, increased bonuses, and changes in standards.

The Army recruited 80,635 soldiers, roughly 7,000 more than last year. Of those, about 70,000 were first-time recruits who had never served before.

According to statistics obtained by The Associated Press, 3.8 percent of the first-time recruits scored below certain aptitude levels. In previous years, the Army had allowed only 2 percent of its recruits to have low aptitude scores. That limit was increased last year to 4 percent, the maximum allowed by the Defense Department.

The Army said all the recruits with low scores had received high school diplomas. In a written statement, the Army said good test scores do not necessarily equate to quality soldiers. Test-taking ability, the Army said, does not measure loyalty, duty, honor, integrity or courage.

Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a private research group, said there is a "fine balance between the need for a certain number of recruits and the standards you set."

"Tests don't tell you the answer to the most critical question for the Army, how will you do in combat?" Goure said. But, he added, accepting too many recruits with low test scores could increase training costs and leave technical jobs unfilled.

"The absolute key for the Army is a high-school diploma," Goure said.

About 17 percent of the first-time recruits, or about 13,600, were accepted under waivers for various medical, moral or criminal problems, including misdemeanor arrests or drunk driving. That is a slight increase from last year, the Army said.

Of those accepted under waivers, more than half were for "moral" reasons, mostly misdemeanor arrests. Thirty-eight percent were for medical reasons and 7 percent were drug and alcohol problems, including those who may have failed a drug test or acknowledged they had used drugs.

The Army said the waiver process recognizes that people can overcome past mistakes and become law abiding citizens.

Army Brig. Gen. Anthony A. Cucolo said that adding more recruiters enabled the Army to identify more recruits. "We got the right people in the field in the right places in the right numbers," said Cucolo, the chief spokesman for the Army.

About two-thirds of the recruits qualified for a bonus an average of $11,000 each. Some in highly valued specialties, such as special operations forces, can get up to $40,000 in extra cash.

The Army National Guard and the Army Reserve both fell slightly short of their recruiting goals. The Reserves recruited 25,378 of the targeted 25,500; and the Guard recruited 69,042 of the targeted 70,000.

Associated Press Writer Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.

On the Net:

Defense Department:


Iraqi Vice President’s Brother Is Killed by Gunmen

The New York Times
Iraqi Vice President’s Brother Is Killed by Gunmen

BAGHDAD, Oct. 9 — Men wearing military police uniforms broke into the house of the brother of Iraq’s Sunni vice president on Monday, chased him onto a neighbor’s roof and shot him in the head, killing him, Iraqi authorities and witnesses said.

Amir al-Hashemi was the third sibling of Iraq’s vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, to be killed since spring. His death underscored just how deeply Baghdad has sunk into lawlessness, particularly in its religiously mixed neighborhoods, and was reminiscent of the politically motivated assassinations that have plagued Iraq since the American invasion.

A bomb in a parked car exploded in a crowded market area in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Shaab at nightfall on Monday, killing at least 13 and wounding 46, a police official said. The attack was the first large bombing in the capital in almost a month, and brought the number of Iraqis killed in violence on Monday to 18.

In addition, Iraqi authorities said they found 57 bodies in eastern and western Baghdad.

The military on Monday announced the deaths of four American troops. One was killed by small arms fire in eastern Baghdad, and three marines died from wounds on Sunday in Anbar in western Iraq. The deaths brought the toll to more than 30 so far this month.

Killings of politicians have become grimly familiar, but Monday’s still stood out: The killers wore what looked like official uniforms, enabling them to surprise and overwhelm Mr. Hashemi’s guards. They then seized at least seven neighbors who witnessed the attack, including the neighbors’ children and an elderly bakery worker. As of Monday night, their whereabouts were still unknown.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki condemned the attack, saying it was the work of “blood stained terrorist hands,” and pledged that Iraqi security forces would track down the killers. But Sunni Arab politicians put the blame squarely on Mr. Maliki’s government, saying that slowness in weeding out militias from its security forces allowed it to happen.

“The government is not working serious to find a solution to the militias,” said Ayad al-Samarrai, a Sunni member of Parliament. “He was killed because he was a Sunni.”

In a food poisoning incident unusual even by the standards of current Iraqi mayhem, about 400 Iraqi policemen, most of them Shiite, became ill after a Ramadan dinner on Sunday night in the southern city of Numaniya, Iraqi authorities said. Reuters, citing an unidentified person at the police base, reported that seven officers had died, but a spokesman for the commander of Iraq’s armed forces disputed that account, saying only a few men were hospitalized and then released.

Iraqi authorities also disputed accounts of foul play, but the contractor who had provided the food was detained, along with several other suspects, whom Reuters identified as cooks.

Political leaders tend to be vocal over abuses by other sects, so the silence among Iraqi Shiites on Monday seemed to indicate that they did not consider the poisoning to be a sectarian attack.

The killing of Mr. Hashemi occurred early Monday morning in the troubled Sunni Arab neighborhood of Slekh, where a Kurdish legislator was assassinated just last week. The area is densely settled, with houses close together and a bakery nearby.

In interviews on Monday, five of Mr. Hashemy’s neighbors, four of whom said they saw part of the attack, provided an account. From 20 to 25 men uniformed men arrived in about eight sport utility vehicles. They surprised his guards and chased him onto the roof, and then to the roof of a neighbor, Abu Amar, residents said. It was there that the attackers shot him in the head, the witnesses said.

The men then seized two neighbors, their children, one of their wives and an elderly man, a baker, all of whom witnessed the attack. The men sounded like they were speaking Arabic with a foreign accent, residents said. After they took Mr. Hashemi’s guards, one was heard shouting to another, “go, go,” in English.

The use of police uniforms by militias has been the most crippling aspect to solving the militia violence, as it has destroyed Iraqis’ confidence in government forces.

Mr. Hashemi, most recently a lieutenant general, was the commander of Iraqi ground forces in a previous government under Hazem Shaalan, a former defense minister who had been accused of embezzling. Recently, he worked as an adviser to the Minister of Defense.

His brother, Tariq, is one of the country’s most influential Sunni Arab politicians and a central Sunni figure in the patchwork of ethnicities and sects that is Iraq’s government. Another one of his brother’s, Mahmoud, and a 61-year-old sister, Maysoon, were both killed in April.

The American military said a unit of Iraqi special forces had arrested a suspected bomb maker in Sadr City, a large Shiite district in eastern Baghdad. One man was killed, and five more were detained in the raid, the military said.

Saddam Hussein’s trial for genocide against the Kurds resumed on Monday in Baghdad after a two-week recess, with a Kurdish woman telling the court that her family had been buried alive, Reuters reported.

Reporting was contributed by Sahar Nageeb, Qais Mizher and Omar al-Neami.


Sen. Allen's Shameless Stock Fraud

Huffington Post
Trey Ellis
Sen. Allen's Shameless Stock Fraud

So far the AP has only reported that Senator Allen has failed to tell Congress about his stock options in Xybernaut, a now bankrupt company that tried to make wearable computers. What the AP hasn't yet reported is that Xybernaut, where Senator Allen was on the board of directors, was an obvious stock fraud run by a notorious rogues gallery.

According to the Washington Post last year, "Criminal charges have been filed in New York against three men accused of defrauding investors out of $16.8 million in the sale of Xybernaut stock. The chief target of the 64-count federal indictment is John Marciano, a former Long Island stockbroker who was the chief executive of the brokerage firm that managed Xybernaut's initial public offering in 1996."

And he is hardly the only crook involved. Dr. Joseph D. Ben-Dak, Xybernaut's chief scientist was involved with another famous fraud, Turbodyne, and was even caught affixing fake U.N. seals on reports.

Someone needs to ask the Senator some tough questions about the company he keeps. How much did he know about these cheats, and when did he know it.


Remember When "W" Stood for Women? Calling Mavis Leno...

Huffington Post
Deanne Stillman
Remember When "W" Stood for Women? Calling Mavis Leno...

The women of Iraq are under siege, raked with bullets for going to work, beaten for not wearing socks, kidnapped and not rescued if those who take them don't ask for ransom because it's assumed they've been raped and therefore deserve to be killed. Generally I steer clear of the overused word "shocking," but that's what the situation is, as this Observer article details.

Please read and circulate, and after that, call Mavis Leno. Sounds like a joke, but before the invasion of Afghanistan, she was the only person in the US lobbying on behalf of women under the Taliban, and she was having some success. Now, the Taliban-like crews in Iraq are sending women back to the Stone Age. What must Laura Bush think? And Karen Hughes, who campaigned for Bush in 04, using the "W stands for women" line to appeal to soccer moms? What about Condoleeza Rice? Can she sleep at night, knowing that she is not her sisters' keeper? And for that matter, in his heart of hearts, how about Dubya? I keep thinking of Karla Faye Tucker, the killer on Death Row in Texas, who pleaded for her life on the Larry King show when Bush was governor. "Please don't kill me," he mocked, pursing his lips in pretend desperation when a reporter asked what he thought about the interview.

The fact is, the President can't stand the sight of pain, unlike Bill Clinton, who felt everybody's except his wife's. If women in Iraq are now begging for their lives, the plea will not register on Pennsylvania Avenue. And even if it did, with the exception of Kurdish territory, the situation is now out of control.