Monday, February 27, 2006

Afternoon copy 02.27.2006

The state of Iraq

Reports are optimistic. (Also cautious.)

Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times: "Violence Subsides Across Iraq"

Reuters: "Iraqis Optimistic on Kidnapped US Reporter: US Amb"

Edward Wong of the New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 27 — Leaders of the main Sunni Arab political bloc have decided to return to suspended talks over the formation of a new government, the top Sunni negotiator said Sunday. The step could help defuse the sectarian tensions that threatened to spiral into open civil war last week after the bombing of a Shiite shrine and the killings of Sunnis in reprisal.
Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor:
BAGHDAD – After a weekend of sleepless nights, emergency meetings, and an unprecedented three-day curfew, Iraq has managed to stave off its worst fear after last week's destruction of a major Shiite shrine: That the country's small-scale civil conflict was about to bloom into a bloody and wide-ranging war between its sects.

But disturbing signs are emerging that Iraq's sectarian powder-keg is still highly volatile.
Michael Gordon of the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 — Two German intelligence agents in Baghdad obtained a copy of Saddam Hussein's plan to defend the Iraqi capital, which a German official passed on to American commanders a month before the invasion, according to a classified study by the United States military.

In providing the Iraqi document, German intelligence officials offered more significant assistance to the United States than their government has publicly acknowledged. The plan gave the American military an extraordinary window into Iraq's top-level deliberations, including where and how Mr. Hussein planned to deploy his most loyal troops.

The Washington Post:
MOSCOW, Feb. 26 -- The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said Sunday that his country had agreed in principle to set up a joint uranium enrichment project with Russia, a potential breakthrough in efforts to prevent an international confrontation over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The A.P.:
KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Iran's president said Monday that his country supports calls for making the Middle East a nuclear arms-free zone, but he also urged the United States and Russia to give up all their atomic weapons as a threat to the region's stability.
Domestic politics

Katrina relief

The Washington Post: "Two-Thirds of Katrina Donations Exhausted"

NSA Spying

The A.P.:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The attorney general would have to get approval from a secretive intelligence court every 45 days to preserve the Bush administration's controversial surveillance program, according to a draft bill from the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman.

The proposal being developed by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., would require the Justice Department to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to determine whether the program is constitutional. The court also would have to certify the government is collecting information when there is probable cause to believe the program "will intercept communications of the foreign power or agent of a foreign power."

Called National Security Surveillance Act, the draft measure is the first Republican legislation to surface publicly since the program was disclosed two months ago.
Schwarzenegger and the GOP

George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times:
But Schwarzenegger, preparing for a tough reelection race, doesn't seem to care much about Republican grumbling, as evidenced by his comment Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press":

"I am there to govern and to serve the people of California, meaning Democrats and Republicans — even though there are some on the right wing that are not happy about that, that think I should only govern for Republicans. But that's not what I promised the people."

That's hard to argue with, but the party faithful do occasionally need to be rallied. Schwarzenegger tried only halfheartedly in a convention speech, and many "right-wingers" left supporting him just halfheartedly, if at all.
Sainthood for justice?

The Chicago Tribune:
WASHINGTON -- The late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall has been proposed for sainthood by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, with his feast day on May 17, the day of the landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation ruling.


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