Just read between the lines...

Red Text is the real story hiding between the lines.
Violet Text is a notable quote from a specific blogger.
Blue Text is my own personal commentary.
Gold Text is a link to the original sources.

One word of advice I would offer to everyone who reads this blog;

....Each and every day, take just a moment of your precious time to pray for Peace and Justice.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tuesday's News

Can't quite get a handle on the tragic events at Virginia Tech yesterday morning. It makes all the other news seem dulled, as our nation mourns this loss. I can not imagine what the parents and families and friends of these young people must be feeling, their grief is beyond words. I know they must be devastated. It is even harder to imagine what the Iraqis must be feeling, after experiencing this every day, day in and day out, getting progressively worse since "Mission Accomplished." Well, I suppose if our mission was to bring this endless cycle of destruction and devastation to the Iraqi people on a daily basis, then we have surely accomplished that.

Now to the other news of the day.
Red text is the "real" headline buried in the article.
Blue text is my own commentary.
Violet text is the blog quote of the day.

Once again, the biggest story of the decade doesn't show up until Tuesday... like I posted yesterday, there is something of a pattern here.

Sudan said Monday that it had dropped its objections to large-scale United Nations assistance to the overwhelmed African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, setting the stage for the possible assignment there of United Nations peacekeepers. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan has repeatedly defied United Nations requests and pressure from governments elsewhere in Africa and around the world to permit international intervention in Darfur, saying such action would violate his country’s sovereignty. But on Monday, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations, sent a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the 15 member states of the Security Council saying that Sudan would accept what is known as the “heavy support package” and that it hoped that it would “proceed expeditiously.”

Nigeria’s highest court ruled Monday that electoral officials had illegally excluded a top opposition candidate for president, Atiku Abubakar, from the ballot for the presidential election on Saturday. The ruling, a firm rebuke of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s efforts to prevent politicians he says are corrupt from running for office, throws the already chaotic election season in Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer into deeper turmoil. The unanimous decision also applies to candidates for governor who were barred from races for suspected corruption in half a dozen states. Those state elections took place last Saturday, amid widespread allegations of fraud and intimidation. The ruling raised fresh doubts about whether the results would stand.

"Tax reformers who want to highlight the relationship between what Americans pay to the federal government and what they receive in return should advocate moving tax filing day closer to Election Day," writes Kristina Rasmussen, senior government affairs manager for the NTU in Washington, in a new policy brief, "Tax Time Should be Election Time: Moving Tax Filing Day Closer to Election Day." Rasmussen says the current income tax system, with its withholding and refunds, is structured to "to lull taxpayers into complacency."
"There's a disconnect between what we pay for government services and what we get when we pick (our candidates) in November," she says in a phone interview. "We pay for them in April."
By moving tax-filing day from April 15 to the first Monday in November, voters will be forced to link what they pay for government services with what they get in return.

Democrats appear to be standing on firm political ground, as they work toward a final bill. A Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1,141 adults, conducted April 12-15, found that 58 percent trusted the Democrats in Congress to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq, compared with 33 percent who trusted Bush. The president has taken advantage of Congress's spring recess to pound Democrats over their legislation, which would impose benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet; create strict rules for resting, equipping and training combat troops; and set a 2008 date for the final withdrawal of U.S. troops. Despite those efforts, Bush has lost a little ground to Democrats, who in February were trusted by 54 percent to set Iraq policy.

Over the past six months, American troops have died in Iraq at the highest rate since the war began, an indication that the conflict is becoming increasingly dangerous for U.S. forces even after more than four years of fighting. From October 2006 through last month, 532 American soldiers were killed, the most during any six-month period of the war. March also marked the first time that the U.S. military suffered four straight months of 80 or more fatalities. April, with at least 58 service members killed through Monday, is on pace to be one of the deadliest months of the conflict for American forces. Senior American military officials attribute much of the increase to the Baghdad security crackdown, now in its third month. But the rate of fatalities was increasing even before a more aggressive strategy began moving U.S. troops from heavily fortified bases into smaller neighborhood outposts throughout the capital, placing them at greater risk of roadside bombings and small-arms attacks.

Insurgents in Afghanistan killed nearly 700 civilians last year, the largest annual number in more than five years of fighting since the toppling of the Taliban regime, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report issued Monday. The group blamed NATO-led coalition forces for an additional 230 civilian deaths in 2006, though estimates by some Afghan officials and human rights groups put the number much higher. Human Rights Watch said the attacks on civilians by Taliban militants and other insurgents should be considered war crimes because they "intentionally targeted civilian objects that served no military purpose, including schools, buses or bazaars."

A suicide bomber struck a group of police officers in the normally peaceful north of Afghanistan on Monday, killing nine policemen and wounding 25, officials said. "According to eyewitnesses, the suicide bomber was wearing a black turban and ran toward our policemen, who were exercising on the main road outside their base, and blew himself up,” said Muhammad Omar, the governor of Kunduz Province. No civilians were harmed, he said.

Can a soldier get used to death? That's what the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, out of Fort Hood, Tex., are finding out here in an area of eastern Baghdad teeming with snipers and roadside bombs. They are also learning hard lessons about the consequences of President Bush's troop escalation that other battalions have so far been spared. Since U.S. and Iraqi forces began implementing their new Baghdad security plan Feb. 14, nine soldiers from the battalion have been killed. No battalion has had more. Even harder, after a relatively uneventful deployment that began last November, those nine deaths have occurred in the past 32 days.

A leading congressional critic accused Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales on Monday of making misleading statements about a conversation with President Bush regarding a U.S. attorney who has said he was fired for political reasons. D. Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' former chief of staff, told Senate investigators over the weekend that the attorney general told him in early March that he and Bush had discussed U.S. Atty. David C. Iglesias' performance before the November election, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a briefing with reporters. Gonzales said in a March 26 interview with NBC News that he had no recollection of a meeting with Bush about Iglesias. (and another soldier falls on his sword for the Bush gang) Schumer said Sampson's statement "appeared to contradict" the statement by Gonzales in his television interview.A Justice Department spokesman said Monday that Gonzales continued to have no recollection of the October meeting with Bush. Iglesias was fired about two months later. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-usattys17apr17,0,1873302.story?track=ntothtml

Today's blog quote of the day, from Joan Walsh at Salon.com
"... nothing -- no written statement, and no delay of testimony -- can help Gonzales. ABC News reported a few hours ago that his statement is contradicted by e-mail released by the Justice Department, which showed the attorney general himself was gunning for California's Carol Lam months before she was fired. I used to think Gonzales was just an incompetent fall guy for a plot that emanated from Karl Rove's political operation, but it's starting to seem that he's part incompetent fall guy (because he clearly wasn't the mastermind of the whole operation) and part co-conspirator. I'm looking forward to his testimony Thursday bringing out both roles."

IN THE UPROAR over the firing of U.S. attorneys, most of the attention has been focused on Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, and it will be again later this week when he testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But it's increasingly clear that important questions about the firings must be directed to the White House, which inspired the plan, prodded it along and may well have selected at least one target more because of partisan politics than performance.

Leading conservatives called for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign Monday, saying he has "brought the rule of law into disrepute" by firing eight U.S. attorneys for questionable reasons. In a letter to Gonzales and President Bush, the American Freedom Agenda, a conservative constitutional rights group, said the attorney general is an "unsuitable steward of the law." Gonzales "has presided over an unprecedented crippling of the Constitution's time-honored checks and balances," wrote five of the group's members, including former Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein and Richard Viguerie, a conservative activist and author.

'...Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has made trying times at the Justice Department measurably worse with his failed leadership and intellectual rigor and fairness. You now can also believe Daniel Metcalfe, a former Justice Department official who began his career there during the Nixon Administration. Metcalfe this week tells the Legal Times' Tony Mauro that Team Gonzales "shattered" the independence of the Justice Department with short-sighted political policies. "It became quite clear that under Gonzales, the department placed no more than secondary value on the standards that I and my office had valued so heavily for the preceding 25 years -- accuracy, integrity, responsibility and quality of decision-making being chief among them," Metcalfe told Mauro. Do yourself a favor and read the entire interview. It is a fascinating indictment of the Gonzales tenure and ought to put to rest the straw man argument that the Attorney General's critics are only weak-kneed Democrats out for political blood.'

"As I write these words, Wolfowitz is still head of the World Bank, the job President Bush chose for him in 2005 as a reward for failure at the Pentagon. But the time for him to be fired has again arrived. Instead of the grand corruption of cooking the Iraq intelligence books, Wolfowitz has been caught in the squalid little impropriety of using his influence to get his World Bank girlfriend a job at the State Department, at a salary that exceeds that of the secretary of state herself. It is all the more ironic in that Wolfowitz made stamping out corruption a World Bank crusade. The real problem with Wolfowitz, however, is that he is a compulsive idealist who cannot see that the price of his ideals may be too high to pay, or that they may do more harm than good."

Yahoo has expanded its alliance with newspaper publishers, adding the McClatchy chain and four other companies to its recently formed online ad-sharing network, executives involved in the initiative said yesterday. The effort now includes 12 publishing companies, representing 264 U.S. newspapers, that have agreed to collaborate with Yahoo in selling advertisements and will feature Yahoo's search engine on their online editions, locking out Internet rival Google. The newspapers will offer their advertisers a chance to buy space on Yahoo's Web site and will accept online display ads sold by Yahoo. (the lines between internet and mainstream journalism continue to blur)

Global warming poses a "serious threat to America's national security" and the military should act now to minimize the destabilizing consequences of rising temperatures, a panel of retired generals and admirals warned Monday. Shortages of food and water could cause weak governments to collapse, increasingly severe natural disasters could draw U.S. forces into humanitarian missions (sure beats going there for wars!) in volatile areas, and melting Arctic ice could spark territorial disputes over shipping routes and natural resources.

The next big thing in hybrid vehicles could be a garbage truck. A combination of fuel cost pressure, pollution problems and promising technology is drawing virtually all the U.S. trucking industry's leading makers and fleet owners to hybrid trucks. The trucks, which convert braking energy into supplementary power, aren't in mass production yet, but that's almost entirely a pricing issue.

...67-page report, which examines everything from freshwater ecosystems to tourism, said North America has suffered severe environmental and economic damage because of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, heat waves and forest fires. Without "increased investments in countermeasures," the authors wrote that they are at least 90 percent sure that "hot temperatures and extreme weather are likely to cause increased adverse health impacts from heat-related mortality, pollution, storm-related fatalities and injuries, and infectious diseases." (How inconvenient...)

Authorities are searching for poachers who have killed six rare one-horned rhinoceros in the past four months in a protected game reserve in India's northeastern Assam state, the state's chief warden said Tuesday. Two of the animals were killed in the past week inside the famed Kaziranga National Park, a 166-square mile habitat, said M.C. Malakar, Assam state's chief wildlife warden. An increase in poaching has surprised authorities because only five rhinos were killed in 2006 and seven in 2005. "It is clear funds are flowing to attract shooters to kill rhinos for their horns and we can't rule out poaching syndicates within India and from abroad backing this fresh campaign at targeting rhinos in Kaziranga," Malakar told The Associated Press. Rhino horns are in great demand globally, particularly in Southeast Asia, for their alleged efficacy in producing aphrodisiacs and traditional medicines. Some people (Arab princes have a lot of easy oil-cash to trade for the lives of these rare creatures, just to make another knife) also use them to make decorative dagger handles.

The California Supreme Court handed workers a major victory Monday, in effect tripling the back pay they can seek if they are forced to work through meal and rest breaks required by state law. The long-awaited decision affects hundreds of thousands of white-collar workers in industries such as retail, food service, insurance and banking who are called managers or assistant managers but who spend much of their day ringing up sales, stocking shelves or sweeping the floor alongside the workers they oversee.

It’s not official, but it’s virtually indisputable. Poverty in America is much more widespread than has been previously acknowledged. According to the Census Bureau, nearly 37 million Americans — 12.6 percent of the population — were living in poverty in 2005. That means that four years into an economic expansion, the percentage of Americans defined as poor was higher than at the bottom of the last recession in late 2001, when it was 11.7 percent. But that’s not the worst of it. Recently, the bureau released 12 alternative measures of poverty, and all but one are higher than the official rate.

Sallie Mae, the nation's largest student loan company, announced yesterday that it would be bought by a group of private investors in a $25 billion deal that could reduce public scrutiny of the lender at a time when the student loan industry is under siege. The enormous deal underscores the potential for profit that Wall Street sees in the $85 billion-a-year student loan industry, even as Congress considers slashing billions of dollars in federal loan subsidies and an expanding nationwide probe reveals fresh conflicts of interest in the student lending world.

Fannie Mae, one of the nation's biggest investors in home mortgages, plans to unveil a campaign today that would allow lenders to refinance certain borrowers' homes, and federal regulators expect to release a statement urging mortgage lenders to help financially troubled borrowers hold onto their homes. According to testimony submitted to the House Financial Services Committee, Fannie Mae's chief executive, Daniel H. Mudd, is expected to say that his company is altering its loan products so that lenders can qualify more high-risk borrowers for refinancing. Fannie Mae is targeting adjustable-rate mortgages, which typically offer low teaser rates that increase later. Under a campaign dubbed HomeStay, Fannie Mae would allow lenders it works with to refinance homes without first having to clear up borrowers' unpaid bills on their credit reports.

Lawmakers praised the Coast Guard's move, saying the service had followed Congress's urgings to rein in the Deepwater contractors. "Ending Coast Guard's reliance on a single private-sector entity to oversee the entire project, increasing transparency and taking back oversight responsibility is critical," said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who has drafted a bill to revoke the contractors' Deepwater role. "This announcement shows me that the Coast Guard has been listening."

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