Wednesday, December 06, 2006

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST December 06, 2006

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Iraq Panel Warns of Looming 'Catastrophe' in Iraq

By Peter Baker, Dafna Linzer and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 6, 2006; 9:36 AM

Circumstances in Iraq are "grave and deteriorating," with a potentialgovernment collapse and a "humanitarian catastrophe" if the U.S. does notchange course and seek a broader diplomatic solution to the problems thathave wracked the country since the U.S. invaded, according to a bipartisanpanel that sent its findings to President Bush and Congress today.

In what amounts to the most extensive independent assessment of the nearlyfour-year-old conflict that has claimed the lives of 2,800 Americans andtens of thousands of Iraqis, the Iraq Study Group painted a bleak picture ofa nation that risks a "slide toward chaos" without new efforts to reconcileits feuding religious and ethnic minorities.


The New York Times

December 6, 2006

Court Rejects Interpretation of Immigration Drug Law

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 - The Supreme Court rejected the government'sinterpretation of immigration law on Tuesday, ruling that a noncitizen isnot subject to mandatory deportation for a drug crime that, while a felonyin the state where the crime was prosecuted, is only a misdemeanor underfederal law.

The 8-to-1 decision restored to one category of immigrants, caught in thenearly impenetrable maze where immigration law and criminal law meet, theability to avoid automatic deportation and the other dire consequences ofbeing guilty of an "aggravated felony."


The Washington Post

Senate Panel Approves Gates
At Confirmation Hearing, Defense Pick Says U.S. Is Not Winning in Iraq

By Ann Scott Tyson and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 6, 2006; A01

Robert M. Gates was unanimously approved by a Senate committee yesterday tobecome President Bush's new defense secretary, after a day-long confirmationhearing in which he bluntly stated that the United States is not winning thewar in Iraq.

Gates also told the panel that "it's too soon to tell" whether the Bushadministration made the right decision in launching the invasion in March2003 to topple Saddam Hussein.

In confirmation hearings that left both Democrats and Republicans praisinghis candor, Gates warned that the war risks provoking a "regionalconflagration" in the Middle East unless a new strategy can arrest Iraq'sslide toward chaos.


The Washington Post

Remark By Webb Arouses Passions
Exchange With Bush Further Polarizes Supporters, Critics

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 2, 2006; B01

RICHMOND, Dec. 1 -- An icy exchange between President Bush and VirginiaSen.-elect James Webb that was made public this week has turned Webb intosomething of a folk hero among critics of the president, who have longed forsomeone to challenge his bravado.

At the same time, Webb's refusal to play the gentlemanly political games socommon in Washington has angered conservatives and renewed questions abouthow well he fits with other politicians in a sharply divided Congress, wherecompromise will be key.

"He already has become what Washington did not need another of, asubtraction from the city's civility and clear speaking," conservativecolumnist George Will wrote Thursday.


The New York Times

December 6, 2006

The Un-Rumsfeld

The nearly universal (and bipartisan) relief at the departure of DonaldRumsfeld ensured that Robert Gates would have an easy confirmation hearing.And Mr. Gates played the role of the un-Rumsfeld masterfully yesterday. Heoffered just enough candor and conciliation to persuade most senators thathe plans to be a very different sort of defense secretary, while deftlyholding back any real information about how he plans to clean up PresidentBush's mess in Iraq.

Mr. Gates's truth-telling did not go much further than acknowledging what isobvious to everyone but this White House. He agreed with various senatorsthat the United States is not winning in Iraq, that politicians in Baghdadneed to be pressured into negotiating a political settlement, and that thePentagon botched the post-invasion by failing to send enough troops andcommitting other now infamous errors.


The Washington Times

Panel Backs Guideline Favoring Voting-Machine Verification

By Cameron W. Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 6, 2006; A09

A federal panel voted yesterday to begin developing a national standard thatcould result in the gradual phasing out of the paperless electronic votingmachines in use across the Washington region and in many parts of thecountry.

The "next generation" of voting systems should have an independent means ofverifying election results, the Technical Guidelines Development Committeesaid. The standard would have to be adopted by the U.S. Election AssistanceCommission.

"This seems to mark the end of an era" for paperless electronic voting, saidDoug Chapin, director of, a nonpartisan organization thattracks changes in the country's election systems.


The Fort Report

December 6, 2006

INSURANCE: Charge for risky behavior

Medical insurance companies should penalize those with unhealthy habits,says John Banzhaf of Washington-based Action on Smoking and Health.

Under his plan, the obese would pay 10 percent more than others forcoverage, and smokers might be charged even more. For obese smokers, therewould be a 30 percent penalty.

A cynic might point out that Banzhaf leads an anti-smoking activist group -and he, as its Web site notes, "has brought lawsuits against tobaccocompanies and fast-food restaurants."

He doesn't exactly qualify as an impartial researcher.


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

December 5, 2006
At Hearing, Gates Says U.S. Not Winning War in Iraq

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 - President Bush's nominee to be defense secretary saidtoday that the United States was not winning the war in Iraq, and that anAmerican failure there could help to ignite "a regional conflagration" inthe Middle East.

Robert M. Gates, who will succeed Donald H. Rumsfeld as the Pentagon's chiefif he is confirmed as expected, also told senators that the United Stateswent to war in Iraq without enough troops, as some generals said at theoutset of the conflict.

The statements about the situation in Iraq came during exchanges withSenators Carl Levin of Michigan, the panel's ranking Democrat and soon to bechairman, and John McCain, Republican of Arizona, during Mr. Gates'sconfirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

Telling Bush to stick it where the sun don't shine
December 5, 2006 6:00 AM | Rant .


As George W. Bush licked his wounds following the humiliating publicrejection of his failed Iraq war policies in the November mid-termelections, he knew he had one chance left to force his autocratic agenda onAmerica.

Following the election, Bush challenged the outgoing Republican leadershipof Congress to approve two key items on his radical agenda: Pass hisexpanded, and some say illegal, domestic spying program and confirmcontroversial United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, another lame duck whoserecess appointment ran out at the end of the year.

Bush, who aides say is becoming increasingly bitter and withdrawn, sawapproval of both as his only opportunity to salvage something from theelection debacle - a last desperate chance to save face.


Boeing: Accused of Running Torture Travel Agency
By Rick Anderson
The Seattle Weekly
Saturday 02 December 2006

A British author and an ex-prisoner's attorney say that records uncoveredby Spanish investigators show Boeing has a direct role in "extremerenditions" - planning and organizing the flights through a unit of itsSeattle commercial airplane division.

Since 2003, human-rights investigators and news media reports havedescribed a Boeing Business Jet as one of the most-dreaded planes in theCentral Intelligence Agency's clandestine air force. The modified 737 - amodel rolled out in Renton in 2001 - was built for executive fun andcomfort. But it is alleged to be the flagship of the CIA's "extremerendition" squadron, ferrying suspected terrorists to secret agency prisonsor countries where the U.S. is said to outsource torture.

The use of this jet, with a 6,000-mile flying range and plush customizedcabin, has until now been Boeing's only connection to the prison airlifts.But a British author and an ex-prisoner's attorney say that recordsuncovered by Spanish investigators show Boeing has a more direct role -planning and organizing the flights through a unit of its Seattle commercialairplane division.


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

Fed court to hear 'landmark torture case' against Rumsfeld
12/04/2006 @ 11:09 pm
Filed by RAW STORY

In a press release issued today, the American Civil Liberties Unionannounces that a "landmark" case against Donald Rumsfeld will be heard infederal court this week.

The ACLU and another legal rights organization, Human Rights First, are toappear in court here on Friday "to argue that Secretary of Defense DonaldRumsfeld is directly responsible for the torture and abuse of detainees inU.S. military custody," says the release.

"The hearing will be the first time a federal court will consider whethertop U.S. officials can be held legally accountable for the torture scandalin Iraq and Afghanistan," the release continues, adding that the lawsuit wasfirst filed in 2005 "on behalf of nine Iraqi and Afghan former detainees."


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

Census Counts 100,000 Contractors in Iraq
By Renae Merle
The Washington Post

Tuesday 05 December 2006

Civilian number, duties are issues.
There are about 100,000 government contractors operating in Iraq, notcounting subcontractors, a total that is approaching the size of the U.S.military force there, according to the military's first census of thegrowing population of civilians operating in the battlefield.

The survey finding, which includes Americans, Iraqis and third-partynationals hired by companies operating under U.S. government contracts, issignificantly higher and wider in scope than the Pentagon's only previousestimate, which said there were 25,000 security contractors in the country.

It is also 10 times the estimated number of contractors that deployedduring the Persian Gulf War in 1991, reflecting the Pentagon's growingpost-Cold War reliance on contractors for such jobs as providing security,interrogating prisoners, cooking meals, fixing equipment and constructingbases that were once reserved for soldiers.

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