Year of the Golden Pig
Capping four days of passionate, often angry debate, the House yesterday delivered President Bush its first rebuke since the Iraq war was launched nearly four years ago, voting 246 to 182 to oppose the administration's planned deployment of 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq.
Seventeen Republicans voted with all but two Democrats to approve a resolution that expresses support for U.S. combat forces but opposes the additional deployments. Democrats portrayed the vote as a bipartisan slap at the White House, but Republican leaders kept GOP defections below even their most optimistic estimates, as the debate crescendoed to a dramatic close yesterday.
Although the measure is nonbinding, proponents and opponents delivered outsized predictions of the vote's consequences. Democrats asserted that it will begin to turn the political tide so decisively that the president will have no choice but to begin bringing U.S. forces home, while Republicans warned darkly that the House has emboldened murderous Islamic terrorists at the expense not only of American lives but also of America's way of life.
Senate Republicans today blocked a floor vote on a House-passed resolution that expresses disapproval of President Bush's plan to send thousands of additional U.S. troops to Iraq, as a procedural motion to cut off debate on the measure fell short of the 60 votes needed.
It was the second time this month that minority Republicans successfully filibustered a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop buildup.
Senators voted 56-34 to invoke cloture and proceed to a floor vote on the resolution, with seven Republicans joining all the chamber's Democrats in calling for an end to the debate. But the motion fell four votes short of the threshold needed under Senate rules.
A car loaded with explosives blew up near a bus carrying members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards in southeastern Iran, killing 18 of them, the state-run news agency reported today.
Police and insurgents clashed after a bombing in southeastern Iran late Friday near the site where an explosion killed 11 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards this week, Iranian news agencies reported.
Hmm. Maybe I spoke too soon in criticizing the Bush Administration for doing nothing about Iran. On the other hand, this sort of thing has been simmering in Iran for a while, and Iranian claims of American involvement are hardly conclusive evidence. In fact, they're hardly evidence at all.
The violence in Chad could turn into a genocide similar to that in Rwanda in 1994, the UN refugee agency has warned.
The UNHCR says the killing tactics from neighbouring Darfur in Sudan have been transported to eastern Chad in full.
Concern is now growing for the 200,000 refugees who sought shelter in eastern Chad.
The conflict in Darfur has followed them across the border with attacks by Janjaweed Arab militia on camels and horseback leaving hundreds dead and 110,000 people homeless.
There will be years and years, each small forgetting a betrayal, each small betrayal a comfort, each small comfort another death. There is no lesson here, no lesson. Narcissus sought himself reflected in the world and found only death. Plums will bloom until there are no more plums. I will join him diffused into the soil, our component atoms intermingled one day soon, a dog and a man who walked together for a time, a brief spark of sweetness in an aching world.
For my brother, 1925-1957
About $10 billion has been squandered by the U.S. government on Iraq reconstruction aid because of contractor overcharges and unsupported expenses, and federal investigators warned Thursday that significantly more taxpayer money is at risk.
The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.
More than one in six dollars charged by U.S. contractors were questionable or unsupported, nearly triple the amount of waste the Government Accountability Office estimated last fall.
"There is no accountability," said David M. Walker, who heads the auditing arm of Congress. "Organizations charged with overseeing contracts are not held accountable. Contractors are not held accountable. The individuals responsible are not held accountable."
An adviser to Iraq's prime minister said Thursday that radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is in Iran, but denied he fled due to fear of arrest during an escalating security crackdown. Sami al-Askari said al-Sadr traveled to Iran by land "a few days ago," but gave no further details on how long he would stay. A member of al-Sadr's bloc in parliament, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals, said he left three weeks ago.
"I confirm that Muqtada al-Sadr is in Iran on a visit," said al-Askari. "But I deny that his visit is a flight."
Wouldn’t it be fun to have fashion dolls fashioned after the ladies of Desperate Housewives? You could have a Gabriella doll dressed in beautiful, yet revealing outfits. A Bree doll dressed impeccably, if a bit prim. An Edie doll dressed, well... in a bit of a trashy manner. And a Lynette super mom doll all dressed up for work and family fun. Well... imagine no more! For 2007, Madame Alexander dolls is introducing a line of Desperate Housewives dolls based on the hit ABC series. The dolls are 16" tall, in vinyl, and will fit all Alexandra Fairchild Ford fashions. They are extremely limited to only 350 pieces each, and will retail for $129.99.
Legislation introduced in Tennessee would require death certificates for aborted fetuses, which likely would create public records identifying women who have abortions.As Nez comments:
Rep. Stacey Campfield, a Republican, said his bill would provide a way to track how many abortions are performed. He predicted it would pass in the Republican-controlled Senate but would have a hard time making it through the Democratic House...
The number of abortions reported to the state Office of Vital Records is already publicly available. The office collects records — but not death certificates — on abortions and the deaths of fetuses after 22 weeks gestation or weighing about 1 pound.
The identities of the women who have abortions are not included in those records, but death certificates include identifying information such as numbers.
Yes, good idea. And I can see how Republicans would be for keeping track of deaths by the intensity with which they are pushing for a body count in Iraq.
It's an interesting experiment in time-travel this fella is proposing. You know, getting your death certificate before you have cause to be given a birth certficate.
Most interestingly, this little snifter of Tennessee poison proposes the attachment of a woman's SS# on the Death Certificate. I suppose...so they can make sure to affix the proper number of gold stars on her TIA profile? It's very thoughtful of Mr. Campfield (R-TN). Maybe we should thank him.
"I got the clear impression that there is a strong will of the regime to tackle the problem with the U.S. now and to try it with this initiative," Tim Guldimann, the [Swiss] ambassador, wrote in a cover letter that was faxed to the State Department on May 4, 2003. [...]
Guldimann wrote that he had several long discussions with Sadegh Kharrazi, Iran's ambassador to France -- and also nephew to the foreign minister and brother-in-law to Khamenei's son. According to Guldimann, Sadegh Kharrazi reported going "through every word of this paper" with Khamenei, Khatami and the foreign minister. "The question is dealt with in high secrecy. Therefore no one else has been informed," Kharrazi added.
The supreme leader had reservations on some points but agreed with 85 to 90 percent of the road map, and "everything can be negotiated," Kharrazi said, noting any reservations could be discussed at the first bilateral meeting. Kharrazi added: "There is a clear interest to tackle the problem of our relations with the U.S. I told them, this is a golden opportunity." Guldimann noted that the "lack of trust in the U.S. imposes them to proceed very carefully and very confidentially."
U.S. commanders have voiced frustration recently at the ability of enemy fighters in Iraq to change tactics to defeat U.S. protective gear. "Equipment that was, we thought, pretty effective in protecting our troops just a matter of months ago is now being in fact challenged by some of the techniques and devices over there," Adm. William J. Fallon, the new U.S. commander for the Middle East, said last month.
Overall, Army equipment backlogs had grown so severe, Anderson said, such a troop increase would not have been possible last year. He said the Army is in a far better position now, thanks to an infusion of $17 billion last year to replace and repair equipment.
"We know that the explosively formed projectiles are manufactured in Iran," Pace told Voice of America during a visit to Australia. "What I would not say is that the Iranian government, per se, knows about this."
"It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it's clear that materials from Iran are involved," he continued, "but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit."
British pharmacy chain Boots will begin a trial program on Valentine's Day to offer men the anti-impotence drug Viagra without a prescription.
The initial pilot program is expected to last six months, and Boots will then consider whether to expand it to other pharmacies. The chain has about 1,500 stores across Britain.
The pilot will be offered in three of the chain's stores in the English city of Manchester, 300 kilometres northwest of London.
Would-be customers between the ages of 30-65 will be required to see a pharmacist, provide a medical history and have their blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels tested.
US presidential hopeful Barack Obama has blasted as "empty rhetoric" Australian Prime Minister John Howard's attack on Senator Obama's plan to bring US troops home from Iraq.
The 45-year-old senator waded into a major foreign policy row just one day after formally announcing his candidacy, telling Mr Howard he should dispatch 20,000 Australians to Iraq if he wanted to back up his comments.
"I think it's flattering that one of George Bush's allies on the other side of the world started attacking me the day after I announced," Mr Obama told reporters in the mid-western US state of Iowa.
"I would also note that we have close to 140,000 troops in Iraq, and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1400, so if he is... to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq.
"Otherwise it's just a bunch of empty rhetoric."
Portugal currently has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the European Union. Only Ireland, Malta and Poland have such similarly strict legislation.
The mainly Catholic country currently allows abortions up the 12th week to save a woman's life or to preserve her mental or physical health.
In cases of rape, abortions are allowed within 16 weeks. The limit is 24 weeks if there is a risk that the child will be born with an incurable disease or deformity.
As a result many Portuguese women go to Spain for terminations or resort to illegal abortions.