Sunday, February 05, 2006

Weekend news 02.05.2006


A major story in the New York Times, headlined: "Oil Graft Fuels the Insurgency, Iraq and U.S. Say". First two grafs:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 4 — Iraqi and American officials say they are seeing a troubling pattern of government corruption enabling the flow of oil money and other funds to the insurgency and threatening to undermine Iraq's struggling economy.

In Iraq, which depends almost exclusively on oil for its revenues, the officials say that any diversion of money to an insurgency that is killing its citizens and tearing apart its infrastructure adds a new and menacing element to the challenge of holding the country together.
Violence in Iraq, in the New York Times:
But, after some checking, the Iraqis manning the checkpoint discovered that the men were not commandos after all. They were taking their prisoner to be shot.

"We believe we captured a death squad," said Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, the American commander who oversees the training of Iraqi police forces. "They had an individual, and they were going to kill him."
The Los Angeles Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq // A recent surge in killings with sectarian overtones has left at least two dozen Iraqis dead in recent days, aggravating the country's Sunni Arab minority as negotiations to draw them into a future government continue. A prominent Sunni politician accused the government yesterday of pushing Iraq toward "civil war."
The Los Angeles Times:
VIENNA — The bruising diplomatic wars that preceded the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq three years ago cast a long shadow over the debate on whether to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council and slowed efforts to rein in Tehran's nuclear program.

Many in Washington believed that Iran should have been referred to the Security Council when Tehran's secret uranium enrichment program was discovered by the international community 2½ years ago, but the Bush administration had to overcome skepticism from the international community after the way it handled Iraq. The U.S. finally won a measure of success Saturday, when the International Atomic Energy Agency's board voted to send the matter on to the council.

The Boston Globe on the referral to the Security Council:
"The West has delivered what it promised," said David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector who now heads the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington-based research institute that focuses on nuclear threats. ''It makes Iran a pariah in the international system, and that deeply bothers the Iranian government."
The Washington Post on this:
"As of Sunday, the voluntary implementation of the additional protocol and other cooperation beyond the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has to be suspended under the law," Ahmadinejad said in a letter to Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also is the head of the Iran's nuclear agency, Reuters reported.
The New York Times (watch Elaine Sciolino in the coming weeks):
The month coincides with the schedule for the atomic agency's next formal, comprehensive assessment of the country's nuclear program.

It is conceivable, although highly unlikely, that by then Iran will take the bold steps necessary to convince both the team of nuclear inspectors at the I.A.E.A. as well as the international community that it is a negotiating partner that can be trusted.

But if Iran carries out its threat to end cooperation, it would severely limit the work of the agency's expert inspectors, who will no longer be allowed to do voluntary spot inspections in Iran and would lose access to important sites, including Iran's research centers and factories that make parts for the centrifuges that enrich uranium.
The IAEA resolution.

The erratic diplomatic journey continues, A.P.:
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran said today it will hold talks with Moscow on a proposal to enrich Iranian uranium in Russia, a day after a senior Iranian official declared the proposal dead because Iran was referred to the U.N. Security Council.

``The situation has changed. Still, we will attend talks with Russia on February 16,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a press conference.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is profiled/analyzed in Newsweek.

State of the Union talking points


The Boston Globe (Sputnik references galore):
After Bush's State of the Union speech, a staunchly liberal, labor-supported Democrat -- Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland -- declared that she was ''ready to work with President Bush." Improving US competitiveness has been a running theme for Mikulski, one of the primary sponsors of a package of three bills to add billions of dollars in new funding to federal science and education programs. That initiative, which was also sponsored by Republican Senator Pete Domenici and Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman, both of New Mexico, has drawn broad bipartisan support.

In a telling moment last week, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid's war-room, which churns out daily partisan attacks on Republican foes, did not single out Bush's competitiveness initiative for condemnation after the speech.
NSA spying...

Washington Post's subhead: "NSA's Hunt for Terrorists Scrutinizes Thousands of Americans, but Most Are Later Cleared"

The Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON -- As hearings begin tomorrow on President Bush's domestic spying program, increasing numbers of prominent conservatives are breaking with the administration to say the program is probably illegal and to sharply criticize Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's legal theory that a wartime president can override a law.
The oil fix...

Ronald Brownstein in the Los Angeles Times:
Bush promised more federal energy research, primarily into technologies that might reduce America's fossil fuel dependence years from now. But he rejected the common-sense measures that could bring immediate improvements and maximize the long-term benefits of the new research.

The Bush plan did contain environmentally friendly measures that Democrats have ignored in their shrill denunciations of it. The president moved toward them by proposing more federal research dollars for solar and wind energy and next-generation cars that could run on hydrogen fuel cells or "cellulosic ethanol" produced from agricultural waste. These are necessary steps for breaking what Bush called America's "addiction to oil."

Mike "wheelchair in the State House" Allen in Time Magazine:
Still, the afternoon after his reelection, the President told a victory rally at the Ronald Reagan Building: "A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation." So the question is: This time, does he actually mean it?
The Houston Chronicle:
WASHINGTON - President Bush got cracking last week on his renewed promise to change the tone of Washington politics by dining out with lawmakers from both parties during a trip to New Mexico.
Intel Czar

The Washington Times has a must-read special report:
One year after Congress authorized the creation of a czar to oversee and reform intelligence agencies, the CIA, the FBI and other services remain largely the same, bound by ingrained bureaucratic process and culture, intelligence officials say.

The Washington Post on Dr. Frist in New Hampshire.

Senator Lincoln Chaffee's "cover" from middle of the road Republicans, Boston Globe.

Giuliani in 2008? A.P. via the Baltimore Sun.

The Hartford Courant:
Democrats vowed Thursday to haunt the re-election campaigns of Republican U.S. Reps. Nancy L. Johnson and Christopher Shays over their pivotal votes Wednesday to slow federal budget growth.

With the budget bill passing on a 216-214 vote, Johnson and Shays each held the power to derail a measure that will affect entitlement programs used by millions of Americans.
Continued troubles in New Orleans

Times Picayune:
With the bulk of New Orleans' hospitals shuttered after major damage from Hurricane Katrina, open medical centers are packed with patients as the suburbs shoulder the region's health care in the face of rapid repopulation, staffing shortages, diminished capacity and reduced services.

Add to that Carnival and the onslaught of flu season, and the combination could wallop an already strained system where lengthy emergency room waits are now the norm, hospital officials said. Patients are spending nights in emergency rooms, and ambulances often are diverted elsewhere because hospitals are filled, officials said.
The National Guard

Chicago Sun Times story:
WASHINGTON -- A Pentagon plan to restructure the Army National Guard has sparked bipartisan outcries in Congress even before President Bush's formal proposal, showing the clout of a force that draws members from communities across America.
Robert Novak today:
The nation's governors are grumbling over inability to schedule a meeting with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld when they come to Washington Feb. 25-28 for the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association.


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