From CBS News: Rice, Gates win no new Arab help in Iraq.
The United States won no specific new promises of Arab help for struggling Iraq after a gathering Tuesday of several nations listed as recipients of an expanded aid and weapons package for friendly states in the region.
Iraq's Arab neighbors repeated a general pledge to promote stability in Iraq, torn by more than four years of war and bitter sectarian divisions that have killed thousands and driven far more from their homes.
"I think we know what the obligations of the neighbors are," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, adding that Egypt and other U.S. allies are working to meet past promises of relief of Iraq's heavy international debt, additional foreign aid and help tamping down violence inside Iraq.
Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are making a rare joint show of diplomatic force during two days of meetings with Arab allies — part of an 11th-hour effort to rally diplomatic and practical help for the U.S.-backed Shiite-led government in Baghdad. The tour also opens talks on a proposed U.S. arms package for Arab states worth more than $20 billion.
But at a press conference with her Egyptian host, Rice pointed to no fresh commitments from the Arabs. A statement issued following a nine-nation meeting promised only "to continue to support Iraq and expand their financial and political support," and restated a general commitment to blocking would-be terrorists and financing that supports them from entering Iraq. ...
Rice said the arms deal, along with an aid package for Israel and Egypt, was not a trade-off for assistance.
From The Jerusalem Post: America's best friends by Caroline Glick.
Two major arms sales were announced over the weekend. First, the US announced that it is planning to sell Saudi Arabia $20 billion in advanced weapons systems, including Joint Direct Attack Munition kits or JDAMs that are capable of transforming regular gravitational bombs into precision-guided "smart" weapons.
Largely in an attempt to neutralize Congressional opposition to the proposed sale, the Bush administration also announced that it plans to increase annual military assistance to Israel by some 25 percent next year and that it hopes that next year's increase in assistance will be maintained by the next administration.
The second arms sale was the reported Russian agreement to sell Iran 250 advanced long-ranged Sukhoi-30 fighter jets and aerial fuel tankers capable of extending the jets' range by thousands of kilometers. Russia's massive armament of Iran in this and in previous sales over the past two years make clear that from Russia's perspective, all threats to US interests, including Shi'ite expansionism, work to Moscow's advantage.
ON THE face of it, these contrasting US and Russian announcements seem to signal that geopolitics have reverted to the Cold War model of two superpowers competing for global power by, among other things, assisting their proxies in fighting one another. Yet, today the situation is not the same as it was before.
From FOX News: Calls for Unity After Iraq Upsets Saudi Arabia at Asian Cup.
Hundreds of pages have been ripped from the calendar since Iraqis last showed the unity and happiness that flowed across the land on Sunday.
And it would have been foolhardy to predict a soccer team — the determined Lions of the Two Rivers — would unleash a flood of joy held back for decades by the dam of Saddam Hussein's tyranny and four-plus years of war since America toppled him.
But after the team's victory in the prestigious 2007 Asian Cup, the Iraqi people seemed far ahead of their leaders in letting sectarian bygones be bygones and allowing ethnic atrocities to fade.
Despite a security crackdown, curfews banning vehicles, and decrees forbidding the penchant in this part of the world to grab an AK-47 and rip off celebratory rounds, people rejoiced in the streets — and gunfire roared.
It roared across Baghdad at the second-half goal against Saudi Arabia. It was deafening when the underdog Lions sealed the 1-0 victory in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The Iraq team's win dripped with symbolism, not least in the makeup of its front-line strikers: one Kurd, one Shiite, one Sunni.
State television said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was on the phone in seconds talking to the victors. The dour, hard-line Shiite leader announced only minutes into the game that each team member had been awarded $10,000.
And the leader's office quickly cranked out a note of congratulations:
"There is a big difference between The Lions of the Two Rivers who struggle to put a smile on the faces of their people and those who work in dark corners strewing death and sorrow in the paths of innocent people. We are proud of you. You deserve all our love and respect."
CNN has video.
UDPATE: The terrorists must of course make sure that this joy is short lived. From FOX News: 6 Dead After Minibus Explodes in Baghdad.
A minibus exploded Monday in a Baghdad market, killing at least six people — a brutal reminder of the dangers facing Iraqis, who only hours ago were joyously united after their underdog national soccer team won the prestigious Asian Cup.
From AP: Bonds within 1 of Aaron.
Ham- merin' Hank, he's right behind you now.
Barry Bonds hit his 754th career home run Friday night, and needs just one more to tie Hank Aaron's record.
The Giants star sent a 2-1 pitch from rookie Rick Vanden Hurk over the wall in left-center in the first inning for a solo shot against the Florida Marlins, his 20th homer of the season.
Bud Selig wasn't there to see it, sending MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy in his place. The commissioner was back in Milwaukee, preparing to go to Sunday's Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Bonds did hear from Michael Jordan, though. A taped message from the NBA great played on the video board between innings.
After a brief pause to put specially marked baseballs in play, Bonds drew ball one and ball two - with boos raining down on Vanden Hurk - before a called first strike. Then, the 96 mph fastball was gone - a drive estimated at 420 feet.
Count Roger Craig and Al Rosen among the baseball old-timers who don't believe Barry Bonds will eclipse Hank Aaron, no matter how many more home runs he hits.
"I think Hank Aaron was the better all-around player," Craig, a former Giants manager, said Saturday during a reunion of his 1987 NL West championship team. "He was right up there with Willie Mays."
Rosen, general manager of the 1987 team, said Mays was the only player he saw who was better than Aaron.
"What people don't realize is (Aaron) was also a great baserunner, a terrific outfielder and had a cannon for an arm," Rosen said. "He could do it all."
Craig, who surrendered at least eight homers to Aaron during his 12 years as a pitcher, said Bonds deserved to be considered among the sport's greatest hitter even if his performance was aided by steroids, as some have alleged.
"This guy has some skills and athletic ability you only see once in a lifetime," Craig said. "You are watching some things you may never see again."
To see more of John's caricatures, see his new blog John Cox Art.
UPDATE I: From Sports Illustrated: No luck by the Bay.
UPDATE II -- Aug. 5: From Sports Illustrated: Bonds ties Aaron.
UPDATE III -- Aug. 8: From FOX News: Barry Bonds Hits Record 756th Career Home Run.
The bid for the White House between leading Democratic hopefuls Sens. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, and Hillary Clinton, D-New York, is turning ugly, with Clinton criticizing Obama as inexperienced on national security and Obama firing back at what he called a "fabricated controversy." Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are continuing an argument started at Monday's CNN YouTube debate.
The sparring began Monday at the CNN/YouTube debate, in which a viewer asked candidates if they would be willing to meet with leaders of Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea -- whom the United States has called rogue leaders. ...
Charles Kupchan with the Council on Foreign Relations said that Obama and Clinton were essentially saying the same thing, which is that dialogue is important. ...
He noted that although the Bush administration took office vowing not to talk to North Korea or Iran, it reached a deal on North Korea's nuclear program through negotiations and now is sitting down with Iran to talk about the violence in Iraq.
"At the end of the day, history suggests that only if we talk to our adversaries do we resolve disputes," Kupchan said.
Actually, history suggests that we resolve disputes with adversaries only if we defeat them first (e.g., WWII), after all we're talking about adversaries who openly advocate our demise. However, it is worth pointing out that Bush, Clinton, and Obama are all ultimately willing to talk to such adversaries as if they are rational, which is not rational.
The staging in this cartoon is inspired by the George Bellows painting Stag at Sharkey's (1909).
UPDATE: From CNN: Clinton calls Bush-Cheney comparison ’silly’.
UPDATE II -- July 28: From the Chicago Tribune: Clinton-Obama: Gloves off early.
Nobody watching politics is surprised that there is a genuine smackdown going on between the two senators, who are way ahead of the other Democratic candidates and generally considered the leading contenders for the party's nomination. ...
"It wasn't a question of if there'd be a barroom brawl," said Chris Lehane, a veteran Democratic strategist who is not working for any of the current presidential candidates. "It was a question of when."
UPDATE III -- July 29: From the CNN: Gingrich predicts Clinton/Obama ticket.
This cartoon was originally posted on October 12, 2006, and is one of over 400 illustrations you'll find in our latest book Black & White World III, which can be ordered via Cox & Forkum, The Steyn Store, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.
The cartoon also recently appeared in Significance, the magazine of The Royal Statistical Society.
From Michelle Malkin: A new critique of the 2004 Lancet Iraq death toll study. (via Little Green Footballs)
Much of the math here is mind-numbingly complicated, but Kane’s bottom line is simple: the Lancet authors "cannot reject the null hypothesis that mortality in Iraq is unchanged." Translation: according to Kane, the confidence interval for the Lancet authors' main finding is wrong. Had the authors calculated the confidence interval correctly, Kane asserts that they would have failed to identify a statistically significant increase in risk of death in Iraq, let alone the widely-reported 98,000 excess civilian deaths.
An interesting side note: as Kane observes in his paper, the Lancet authors "refuse to provide anyone with the underlying data (or even a precise description of the actual methodology)." The researchers did release some high-level summary data in highly aggregated form (see here), but they released neither the detailed interviewee-level data nor the programming code that would be necessary to replicate their results.
From FOX News: Chavez to Kick Out Foreigners Critical of Him.
President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that foreigners who publicly criticize him or his government while visiting Venezuela will be expelled from the country.
Chavez ordered officials to closely monitor statements made by international figures during their visits to Venezuela — and deport any outspoken critics.
"How long are we going to allow a person — from any country in the world — to come to our own house to say there's a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it?" Chavez asked during his weekly television and radio program.
The Venezuelan leader's statements came after Manuel Espino, the president of Mexico's conservative ruling party, criticized Chavez during a recent pro-democracy forum in Caracas.
Government opponents argue Chavez — a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro — is becoming increasingly authoritarian and cracking down on dissent as he steers oil-rich Venezuela toward what he calls "21st-century socialism."
Chavez rejects such allegations, countering that democratic freedoms have been extended since he was first elected in 1998. The former paratroop commander says his government has empowered the poor by giving them increased decision-making authority in politics.
During Sunday's six-hour program, Chavez assured private property owners their rights will be guaranteed under a pending constitutional reform.
"Private property will respected," he said.
From the Baltimore Sun: Islamist party wins in Turkey.
Turkish voters handed the Islamist-influenced ruling party a decisive victory in parliamentary elections yesterday, rewarding it for stewardship of the country's robust economy but raising the specter of bitter new quarrels over the feared erosion of Turkey's secular traditions. ...
Moderate and officially secular Turkey, a NATO member, is viewed as a strategic bridge to a Muslim world that is increasingly mistrustful of the West. Successive Turkish governments have maintained close ties with Muslim neighbors even while pursuing divergent policies such as a cordial relationship with Israel.
The election results represented a crushing defeat for Turkey's secular-minded main opposition party, which trailed with about 20 percent of the vote. ...
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan sought to strike a conciliatory tone in his victory speech, paying homage to Kemal Ataturk, the republic's founder, and offering assurances that the party's agenda is centered on the pro-business, free-market policies that have generated unprecedented prosperity since it took office. ...
To many observers, the election marked another milestone in the development of Turkey's brand of political Islam. The AKP is an offshoot of a more rigorously Islamist party, but Erdogan and other senior party figures have made little effort to bring personal piety into the public sphere.
That has done little to quell secularists' wariness. Many are convinced that the AKP harbors a hidden Islamist agenda, one now more likely to make inroads into public policy.
"We see the danger of Sharia and fundamentalism," said Hatice Ozbay, a volunteer for the main secular group, the Republican People's Party, known in Turkish as the CHP. "We will keep on fighting that."
UPDATE: From Pajamas Media: After This Election, Will Turkey "Islamify?" by Barry Rubin.
The first choice is a militantly secular state, closer to the French tradition, going far beyond the American separation of church and state. This tradition, which has dominated Turkey for the last 75 years, looks pretty much on the ropes. More and more women even in Istanbul wear the symbolic head scarf. One can hear the Islamic greeting “salaam alaykum” as well as the traditional Turkish “marhaba.”
The second possibility—and this is what the AKP says it wants—is a state that honors Turkey’s Islamic traditions and gives the religion of the great majority a presence and place of honor in public life. So, for example, Islamic schools are elevated in prestige and as an alternative to secular schools. Alcohol is not sold in Istanbul’s parks. Women wearing headscarves can be television news presenters, members of parliament, and students sitting in university classrooms. ...
The third outcome, however, would be to make “Islamic” behavior normative. This might mean, for instance, that women not wearing headscarves could not sit in classrooms. That’s the Iranian model.
It is hard to believe that Turkey would go that far. Yet things still might go much further than most Turks prefer. Already, for example, it is clear that the Turkish media is becoming intimidated, afraid to criticize the incumbent government lest it suffer material sanctions or even physical violence. The army is watching and might intervene one day if it feels secularism is fundamentally endangered. But what if career-minded officers decide that cultivating the AKP is the best way to get to the top? That last bulwark could also crumble. ...
AKP can be more confident, which means more aggressive in pushing its program to “Islamify” and possibly to “Islamize” Turkey. This is not a good thing for the West.
Instapundit has a report from Turkey showing Western-dressed women participating in the AKP rallies. Whether or not that will last remains to be seen.
Hundreds of eager fans braved darkness, exhaustion and chilly air to listen to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling autograph and read passages from her latest book.
"Probably slim to none, but hey, one's always got hope, right?" said Jess Ciroi, a 20-year-old, who cites Rowling as her inspiration for becoming a writer.
Inside the Natural History Museum, Rowling was staging a reading of "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows" for 500 lucky fans before signing books for a further 1,200.
But this still left dozens of fans queuing up outside in the vague hope of catching a glimpse of the author as she launched the seventh and final novel in the best-selling series.
Minutes after its release at 2301 GMT, Ciroi and her mother Wilma, visiting from Canada, raced from a nearby bookstore to the museum in the hope that they might get in, and were prepared to wait through the night, if necessary.
See video of the reading here
On criticism of the books from Christians in Britain and the United States:
"I had one letter from a vicar in England -- this is the difference -- saying would I please not put Christmas trees at Hogwarts as it was clearly a pagan society. Meanwhile, I'm having death threats when I'm on tour in America."
And here's a 2003 cartoon we did on the subject: Wizard Hunt.
To see more of John's caricatures, see his new blog John Cox Art.
From The Washington Times: Tipster shields lifted by Democrats by Audrey Hudson.
Congressional Democrats yesterday declined to protect tipsters who report suspicious behavior from nuisance lawsuits.
"This is a slap in the face of good citizens who do their patriotic duty and come forward, and it caves in to radical Islamists," said Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Republicans tried to write the protection provision included in final homeland security legislation, crafted yesterday by a House and Senate conference committee, to implement final recommendations from the September 11 commission.
Mr. King and Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico Republican, sponsored the provision after a group of Muslim imams filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against US Airways and unknown "John Doe" passengers. The imams were removed from US Airways Flight 300 on Nov. 20 after fellow passengers on the Minneapolis-to-Phoenix flight complained about the imams' suspicious behavior.
On March 27, the House approved the "John Doe" amendment on a 304-121 vote.
"Democrats are trying to find any technical excuse to keep immunity out of the language of the bill to protect citizens, who in good faith, report suspicious activity to police or law enforcement," Mr. King said. "I don't see how you can have a homeland security bill without protecting people who come forward to report suspicious activity."
From New York Daily op-eds: Disarmed by the Dems: Congressional leaders fail to protect terror tipsters from insane lawsuits by Debra Burlingame.
We disarm ourselves when we succumb to political correctness - which encourages us to second guess our common sense and look the other way. It is an outrage that Pelosi and Reid would allow individuals to be punished when they come forward to protect us all.
Michelle Malkin has more.
UPDATE I -- July 22: From the editorial page of Investor's Business Dailyl: Keeping The Flying Imams Airborne.
Were it not for the courage and sacrifice of the passengers of United Flight 93 who forced their plane into a Pennsylvania field, many in Congress might not be here today, with a gaping hole where the U.S. Capitol still stands. We wonder if this fact is appreciated by those trying to block final passage of the so-called "John Doe" provision protecting from legal action those who report suspicious behavior on airplanes.
Public pressure is mounting on Capitol Hill Democrats to include the "John Doe" provision into a written conference report of the final 911 Commission bill. ...
"Democrats have been backed into a corner by public outrage over their efforts, so we are seeing these Democrats publicly say they support it in principle, but behind the scenes they are working to kill it," said one Republican leadership aide close to the conference process.
UPDATE III -- July 25: From the The Washington Times: 'John Doe' protection to get floor vote.
A late-night agreement yesterday guaranteed that so-called "John Doe" protection -- to prevent airline passengers from being sued for reporting suspicious behavior -- will get a floor vote in the House and Senate.
"This is a huge win -- a hard-fought victory for House Republicans and, more importantly, for the American people," said Peter T. King, New York Republican and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The provision survived a contentious congressional process before a House-Senate conference committee agreed just before midnight yesterday to include the measure in the final draft of the September 11 Commission bill.
The move ensures the provision cannot be amended on the floor. It is expected to come to a vote in both houses of Congress before the August recess.
Two detained Iranian-Americans were shown on state television Wednesday night in a program contending they tried to foment regime change in Iran with the support of the U.S. government.
The 50-minute program showed a montage of disparate quotes from Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh combined to form what could be interpreted as incriminating statements, which their supporters and the U.S. government called illegitimate and coerced.
The scholars appeared alongside footage of anti-government protests in the former Soviet Union and of President Bush saying that the "untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world."
From AP: US takes a step toward talks with Iran.
The Bush administration edged toward new talks with Iran on Tuesday, even though it says the last such session apparently did little to deter Iran from arming and helping insurgents in neighboring Iraq.
"It could be helpful," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. "It could be useful to be able to have that direct exchange and to convey a message, again, directly to them."
Iraq's ambassador in Washington, Samir Sumaidaie, said Washington and Tehran have agreed to meet and have set a date. McCormack said the meeting has not been scheduled.
From The New York Sun: Iran Is Found To Be a Lair of Al Qaeda. (via Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi)
One of two known Al Qaeda leadership councils meets regularly in eastern Iran, where the American intelligence community believes dozens of senior Al Qaeda leaders have reconstituted a good part of the terror conglomerate's senior leadership structure. ...
The judgment that Iran has hosted Al Qaeda's senior leadership council is likely to draw some criticism from those outside the government who doubt Iran plays a significant role in bolstering Sunni jihadist terrorism. Iran's Shiite Muslims are considered infidels by the Salafi sect of Sunnis that comprise Al Qaeda.
While there is little disagreement that a branch of Al Qaeda's leadership operates in Iran, the intelligence community diverges on the extent to which the hosting of the senior leaders represents a policy of the regime in Tehran or the rogue actions of Iran's Quds Force, the terrorist support units that report directly to Iran's supreme leader.
UPDATE I -- July 20: Here's a good way to encourage the mullah's war against us, from ABC News: Deal in the works to release Americans detained in Iran.
Like almost every dealing between the U.S. and Iran, this one touches on the sensitive and volatile issue of nuclear weapons and sanctions.
The U.S. officials told ABCNews.com that a European country is brokering the deal, which they say Iran hopes will help delay a third set of sanctions being considered by the United Nations Security Council over Iran's refusal to halt its nuclear program.
UPDATE II -- July 22: From FOX News, two stories on the front page that illustrate the absurdity of the situation: U.S.: Weapons Smugglers With Iran Links Nabbed in Iraq and U.S., Iranian Officials to Meet in Baghdad This Week.
UPDATE III -- July 24: It just keeps getting worse. From CNN: U.S., Iran, Iraq to form group to address Iraq's security problems.
UPDATE IV -- July 26: Yet more evidence we are at war with Iran, or rather that Iran is at war with us. From FOX News: U.S.: Iranian Training Responsible for 'Significant Improvement' in Iraqi Insurgents Aim With Mortars.
The U.S. military has noted a "significant improvement" in the aim of attackers firing rockets and mortars into the heavily fortified Green Zone in the past three months that it has linked to training in Iran, a top commander said Thursday.
UPDATE V: Here's an update of a list of articles about Iran's war against us and our allies, mostly in Iraq but as of late in Afghanistan, too:
Captured Video Shows Iraqi Insurgents Firing Sophisticated Iranian-Made Rockets at U.S. Positions (FOX News, August 8, 2007)
U.S. says Iran-supplied bomb is killing more troops in Iraq (New York Times, August 6, 2007)
U.S.: Iranian Training Responsible for 'Significant Improvement' in Iraqi Insurgents Aim With Mortars (FOX News, July 26, 2007)
U.S.: Smugglers nabbed in Iraq may have links to Iran (CNN, July 22, 2007)
Chinese missiles smuggled through Iran into Iraq: US (AFP, July 22, 2007)
Americans held in Iran on alleged security offenses shown on state TV (CNN, July 18, 2007)
Iran Is Found To Be a Lair of Al Qaeda (New York Sun, July 17, 2007)
Iraqi official says 200 explosive belts captured in truck crossing from Syria [an Iranian ally] (Ynet News, July 11, 2007)
US takes China to task over Iraq and Afghan arms [flowing via Iran] (Financial Times, July 9, 2007)
Officials: Captured Hezbollah agent helped plan deadly Karbala raid (CNN, July 1, 2007)
Iran supplied missile that hit UK helicopter (The Sunday Times, June 24, 2007)
Gates: Taliban getting weapons from Iran (The Boston Globe, June 13, 2007)
Iran arming Taliban, U.S. claims (CNN, June 13, 2007)
US troops attacked by Iranian military last year (The Jerusalem Post, March 25, 2007)
Iran's influence grows in Iraq, region (Chicago Tribune, March 7, 2007)
Iraqi extremists trained in Iran: US intelligence (AFP, February 28, 2007)
Military: more evidence of Iran-made explosives (Seattle Times, February 27, 2007)
U.S.: Large Cache of Weapons Discovered in Iraq Traceable to Iran (AP via FOX News, February 26, 2007)
Iraqi insurgents using Austrian rifles from Iran (The Telegraph, February 13, 2007)
Iran involvement suspected in Karbala compound attack (CNN, January 31, 2007)
Donkeys harboring weapons stopped at Iran-Iraq border (Army Times, November 2, 2006)
Barbero: Iran training Shiite insurgents (AP via Army Times, August 24, 2006)
Casey cites Iran hand in attacks by Iraqi Shiites (The Washington Times, June 23, 2006)
Rumsfeld accuses Iran of troublemaking in Iraq (AP via Army Times, March 7, 2006)
EXCLUSIVE: Iraq Weapons -- Made in Iran? (ABC News, March 6, 2006)
Rumsfeld: Iraq bombs 'clearly from Iran' (CNN, August 10, 2005)
From FOX News: U.S.: Top Iraqi Al Qaeda Leader Arrested.
The U.S. command said Wednesday the highest-ranking Iraqi in the leadership of Al Qaeda in Iraq has been arrested, adding that information from him indicates the group's foreign-based leadership wields considerable influence over the Iraqi chapter.
Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, also known as Abu Shahid, was captured in Mosul on July 4, said Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a military spokesman.
"Al-Mashhadani is believed to be the most senior Iraqi in the Al Qaeda in Iraq network," Bergner said. He said al-Mashhadani was a close associate of Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born head of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Bergner said al-Mashhadani served as an intermediary between al-Masri and Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri.
"In fact, communication between the senior Al Qaeda leadership and al-Masri frequently went through al-Mashhadani," Bergner said. He added: "There is a clear connection between Al Qaeda in Iraq and Al Qaeda senior leadership outside Iraq."
The Senate rejected a plan Wednesday to bring home U.S. troops from Iraq by early next year after spending an all-night session debating whether to demand President Bush change the mission.
The 52-47 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and move toward passage. Four Republicans voted with the Democrats, but only one new backer emerged after the 24-hour Democrat-orchestrated talkathon: Susan Collins of Maine who is seeking re-election next year. She joined three previously known Republicans supporting a troop withdrawal plan: Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon.
Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman voted against the troop withdrawal plan. ...
MoveOn.org, the anti-war group, announced plans for more than 130 events around the country to coincide with the Senate debate, part of an effort to pressure Republicans into allowing a final vote on the legislation. A candlelight vigil and rally across the street from the Capitol was prominent among them, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., among those attending.
This is another of John's caricatures of Iraqi politicians, drawn a few months back. Mahmoud al-Mashhadani has since been voted out of the Iraqi parliament. Here's a recent article that mentions him, from the International Herald Tribune: Kurds speak out against key oil law.
The main Sunni faction, the Iraqi Accordance Front, has said the draft cannot be considered until its boycott of al-Maliki's Cabinet and the parliament are resolved.
The faction walked out of parliament after the speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni, was voted out of his position in mid-June by the Shiite-Kurd majority because of erratic behavior. The front's ministers later began a boycott of the Cabinet to protest an arrest warrant was issued against the Sunni culture minister and a raid on his house in connection to the killings of Shiite politician's sons.
Wikipedia has more.
To see more of John's caricatures, see his new blog John Cox Art.
UDPATE I -- July 18: A different Mahmoud al-Mashhadani is in the news today.
UDPATE II: Thanks to Casey Smith for catching a few typos in this post.
Normally we post a new editorial cartoon on Monday, but this week that won't happen until Wednesday. In the meantime, above is a cartoon we recently created for the Buster McNutt humor column in AutoGraphic's Automotive Report. And tomorrow I'll post a previously unseen caricature by John.
From Reuters: Zimbabwe price crackdown moves to Mugabe heartland.
Zimbabwe has sent crack police to enforce price freezes in the rural strongholds of President Robert Mugabe, where businesses have failed to heed measures aimed at reining in inflation and halting economic collapse.
Mugabe's government, grappling with inflation of 4,500 percent, ordered businesses last month to roll back and freeze prices on petrol, bread, milk, cooking oil and other key consumer items after a sharp increase in their prices.
The move has prompted panic buying, leading to empty store shelves and long lines at petrol stations, and pushed the economically depressed southern African nation closer to breaking point.
"We have started deploying many officers to rural areas to make sure there is compliance, and we are saying we are not going to stop until we are satisfied that there is total compliance," police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka told Reuters.
Mandipaka said many businesses in rural areas -- where the majority of Zimbabwe's population lives and where Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party enjoys strong support -- had failed to follow the government's directive on prices.
So far, the crackdown has been concentrated in the capital Harare and other urban areas where workers have borne the brunt of the severe economic crisis. It has led to arrests and fines for 1,768 executives and companies.
To see more of John's caricatures, see his new blog John Cox Art.
From FOX News: Report: Iraq Progress Good on 8 of 18 Benchmarks.
U.S. military and diplomatic officials gave the Iraqi government a satisfactory rating on eight of 18 political and security benchmarks, a mixed rating on two and an unsatisfactory rating on eight benchmarks in a White House report prepared for Congress.
The interim progress report out Thursday — a second one due in September — says progress in Iraq has been good on key security areas such as the deployment of Iraqi forces in Baghdad, the establishment of joint security stations in Baghdad and the increased capability and independence of Iraqi military units as well as a few economic and political matters.
Unsatisfactory progress was cited in a number of political benchmarks, including the passage of a hydrocarbon law, a debaathification statute and electoral reforms. The report also points out challenges of disarming militias and ensuring full Iraqi government control of security operations in Baghdad neighborhoods.
President Bush addressed reporters on Thursday morning, saying that he would take recommendations from commanders on the ground and consult with Congress, but would not bend to those who want to cut and run. He noted that last fall, Anbar province was reported in the media to be all but lost. Today, violence is down and the situation has changed dramatically.
"Those who believe that the battle in Iraq is lost will likely point to the unsatisfactory performance on some of the political benchmarks. Those of us who believe the battle in Iraq can and must be won see the satisfactory performance on several of the security benchmarks as a cause for optimism," Bush said. ...
"The real debate over Iraq is between those who think the fight is lost or not worth the cost and those who believe the fight can be won, and that, as difficult as the fight is, the costs of defeat would be far higher. I believe we can succeed in Iraq, and I know we must," he said.
Meanwhile, Bush continues to avoid taking the only action that might actually lead to "success" in Iraq: militarily confronting Iran and Syria, neighboring nations that continue to arm, support and train militants in Iraq.
Iraqi security forces have seized 200 explosive belts in a truck that crossed into Iraq from Syria on Wednesday, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said. The incident occurred at the Waleed border crossing point, Khalaf said. The Iraqi government and US authorities have accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross into Iraq, a claim that Syria denies saying it is impossible to control the long desert border.
From Financial Times: US takes China to task over Iraq and Afghan arms.
The US has raised concerns with the Chinese government about the discovery of Chinese-made weapons on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Richard Lawless, the departing senior Pentagon official for Asia, on -Friday said that Washington had flagged the issue with -Beijing. US officials have become increasingly alarmed that Chinese armour-piercing ammunition has been used by the Taliban in Afghanistan and by insurgents in Iraq.
A senior US official recently told the Financial Times that Iran appeared to be providing the Chinese-made weapons. The official said Washington had no evidence that Beijing was complicit but stressed that the US would like China to "do a better job of policing these sales". Mr Lawless said the question of origin was less important than who was facilitating the transfer.
This cartoon was originally posted on June 1, 2006, and is one of over 400 illustrations you'll find in our latest book Black & White World III, which can be ordered via Cox & Forkum, The Steyn Store, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.
An investigating officer has recommended dismissing murder charges against a U.S. Marine accused in the slayings of three Iraqi men in a squad action that killed 24 civilians in the town of Haditha, according to a report. The government's theory that Lance Cpl. Justin L. Sharratt had executed the three men was "incredible" and relied on contradictory statements by Iraqis, Lt. Col. Paul Ware said in the report, released Tuesday by Sharratt's defense attorneys.
"To believe the government version of facts is to disregard clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, and sets a dangerous precedent that, in my opinion, may encourage others to bear false witness against Marines as a tactic to erode public support of the Marine Corps and mission in Iraq," Ware wrote.
Defense attorneys James Culp and Gary Myers said in a statement that he was pleased with the report and that it "reflected the value of the calm of a courtroom and the adversarial process."
Sharratt's mother Theresa said she was overjoyed.
"This is a huge result, that report is a declaration of Justin's innocence," she said. "This is very, very good news."
From FOX News: Radical Cleric of Besieged Pakistani Mosque Killed in Raid.
A radical cleric whose mosque sought to impose strict Islamic morality on the Pakistani capital was killed Tuesday as troops seized control of the sprawling compound, a government spokesman said.
Commandos stormed the Red Mosque before dawn, and the army said about 50 militants and eight soldiers were killed in Tuesday's fighting.
The cleric, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who vowed to die rather than surrender, was killed during the attack, said Javed Iqbal Cheema, spokesman for the Interior Ministry. ...
Two security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press, told The Associated Press Ghazi's body was found in the basement.
Twelve hours later, the army said the complex was 80 percent cleared of militants but it was still trying to root out well-armed defenders the government accuses of holding a number of hostages. ...
The siege was prompted by clashes earlier this month between security forces and supporters of the mosque's hard-line clerics. The religious extremists had been trying to impose Taliban-style morality in the capital through a six-month campaign of kidnappings and threats. More than 80 people have been killed since July 3.
The vigilante anti-vice campaign has proved an embarrassment to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in its war on terror, and underlined his administration's failure to control extremist religious schools.
As the siege was under way, at least two protests against the army attack were staged elsewhere in the country.
More than 100 armed tribesmen and religious students near the northwestern town of Batagram temporarily blocked a road that leads to neighboring China with boulders, police officials said.
The protestors fired their rifles into the air and shouted slogans against the government and Musharraf, he said.
More than 500 Islamic religious school students rallied in the eastern city of Multan, chanting "Down with Musharraf" and blocking a main road by burning tires.
On Monday, some 20,000 tribesmen, including hundreds of masked militants wielding assault rifles, held a similar protest in the northwest frontier region of Bajur.
From BBC News: Profile: Islamabad's Red Mosque.
The controversial Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) that is the focus of a bloody confrontation between Pakistani security forces and radical clerics and students is located near the centre of the capital, Islamabad.
A religious school for women, the Jamia Hafsa madrassa, is attached to the mosque. A male madrassa is a few minutes drive away.
Throughout most of its existence, the mosque has long been favoured by the city elite, including prime ministers, army chiefs and presidents.
Commandos cleared the warren-like Red Mosque complex of rebel fighters Wednesday, ending a fierce eight-day siege and street battles that left more than 100 dead. The government warned it would not tolerate militancy in any of Pakistan's thousands of religious schools.
Officials found no corpses of women and children, although seven or eight of the bodies had been burned beyond recognition, apparently by the militants' gasoline bombs, said Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad, a military spokesman.
UPDATE II -- July 19: From FOX News: Attacks Kill 33 as Wave of Violence Sweeps Further Across Pakistan.
A bomb hit a convoy of Chinese workers in southern Pakistan and a homicide attacker drove into a police academy in the north, killing up to 33 people as violence swept further across the country. ...
Homicide attacks, bombings and shootings blamed on Islamic extremists and a bloody army siege of radicals in Islamabad's Red Mosque have killed more than 240 people in Pakistan so far this month, stirring doubts about the country's stability.
Much of the violence has been in North West Frontier Province, especially the frontier region of North Waziristan, where pro-Taliban militants last weekend declared the end of a ten-month-old peace deal.
From the Tronoto Star: Live Earth message lost in the fumes.
At the London concert, Madonna wrote and performed a new song ("Hey You"). Hey us? Right, like we're the ones hurtling across the skies in private jets.
"It's a bit patronizing for us 21-year-olds to try to start to change the world," Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders told Agence France-Presse, explaining why the band declined to be a part of Live Earth. "Especially when we're using enough power for 10 houses just for lighting. It'd be a bit hypocritical."
From AP: Just how green is Live Earth?.
Live Earth organizers have gone to considerable lengths to marry the global event's methods with its message, but they've been called hypocrites by critics as varied as a Congressman and one of the Who. ...
"The last thing the planet needs is a rock concert," Who lead singer Roger Daltrey recently told a British newspaper. ...
To maintain its green integrity, Live Earth is implementing "green event guidelines" for its concerts. ...
"This is going to be the greenest event of its kind, ever," former Vice President and Live Earth partner Al Gore told The Associated Press. "The carbon offsets and the innovative practices that are being used to make this a green event, I think, will set the standard for years to come." ...
Others have voiced skepticism that carbon-neutral efforts don't absolve pollution. (The concept of carbon neutral is to offset carbon dioxide emissions with the help of companies that cancel out carbons in some way, such as by planting trees.)
[John] Picard has called offsets "a necessary evil right now." Live Earth's U.S. carbon offsetting will be handled by Native Energy, a Native American energy company.
From Reuters: Live Earth's first green test: clean up own mess.
"It's a dilemma for Live Earth -- they have to create carbon to save carbon," said Michael Buick, spokesman of Climate Care which helps invest in clean energy to offset greenhouse gases.
From the MSNBC: Many wonder if Live Earth made any difference.
They rocked the world, but as the clean-up at nine climate change gigs around the globe begins, many wonder if the galaxy of pop stars did much to change it.
U.S. and British media were generally underwhelmed on Sunday by Live Earth, the mega-concert organized by former U.S. vice president and green campaigner Al Gore, which, though built on the model of Live Aid and Live 8, created a less positive buzz. ...
Several articles examined the green credentials of artists on the day, including Madonna, whose annual "carbon footprint" was estimated at around 100 times the average Briton’s.
Commentators noted the difficulty in marrying pop music with serious themes like the environment.
"Mixing music and a serious message gives concert a clunky rhythm,” was the Washington Post’s description of the Wembley gig, arguably the biggest lineup on the day that featured Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica and the Foo Fighters.
Moore spends about half his film detailing the wonders and the benefits of the government-funded universal health-care systems in Canada, France, Cuba and the United Kingdom. He shows calm, content people in waiting rooms and people getting care in hospitals hassle free. People laugh and smile as he asks about billing departments and cost of stay.
Not surprisingly, it's not that simple. In most other countries, there are quotas and planned waiting times. Everyone does have access to basic levels of care. That care plan is formulated by teams of government physicians and officials who determine what's to be included in the universal basic coverage and how a specific condition is treated. If you want treatment outside of that standard plan, then you have to pay for it yourself.
From Daily News: Moore's 'Sicko' gives all too pleasant view of Cuba's health care.
And those who decry America's health care as stratified should save some outrage for Cuba - where tourists like Moore and Communist party officials get all kinds of care that's out of reach for Cuba's 11 million average citizens. The fact that the vast majority of them often have to bring their own food, soap and sheets to the hospital somehow didn't make it into the final cut of "Sicko."
From The Chicago Tribune: What Michael Moore left on the cutting room floor.
In the film's trailer, a desk attendant at a British hospital smiles while explaining that in Britain's National Health Service, "everything is free." But for free hospital care, Britons pay an awfully high price.
Just ask the nearly 1 million British patients on waiting lists for treatment. Or the 200,000 Britons currently waiting merely to get on NHS waiting lists. Mr. Moore must have missed those folks. ...
Consider waiting lists. Across Britain, patients wait years for routine -- or even emergency -- treatments. And many die while waiting.
Indeed, the NHS cancels around 100,000 operations because of shortages each year. In a growing number of communities, it is increasingly difficult for people to simply get an appointment with an NHS general practitioner for a regular checkup.
Further, when it comes to keeping patients healthy, NHS hospitals are notoriously unfit. After admittance to state hospitals, more than 10 percent of patients contract infections and illnesses that they did not have prior to arrival. And according to the Malnutrition Advisory Group, up to 60 percent of NHS patients are undernourished during inpatient stays.
Consequently, many Britons have turned to outside practitioners for treatment, and the private health-care market has boomed. Today, more than 6.5 million people have private medical insurance, 6 million have cash plans, 8 million pay out-of-pocket for a range of complimentary therapies, and 250,000 self-fund each year for private surgery. Millions more opt for private dentistry, ophthalmics and long-term care.
To see more of John's caricatures, see his new blog John Cox Art.
UPDATE -- July 9: Speaking of context, a very interesting documentary is posted at No Pasaran: Uninsured in America. (via Tom Pechinski)
Gordon Brown has banned ministers from using the word “Muslim” in connection with the terrorism crisis.
The Prime Minister has also instructed his team – including new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith – that the phrase “war on terror” is to be dropped.
The shake-up is part of a fresh attempt to improve community relations and avoid offending Muslims, adopting a more "consensual" tone than existed under Tony Blair. ...
Mr Brown's spokesman acknowledged yesterday that ministers had been given specific guidelines to avoid inflammatory language. "There is clearly a need to strike a consensual tone in relation to all communities across the UK," the spokesman said. "It is important that the country remains united."
Anyone else starting to miss Tony Blair?
THE car-bomb/suicide-terror operations in London and Glasgow should have provided a fresh opportunity for reminding everyone, especially Muslims in Britain, that terrorism in the name of Islam still poses a major threat to public peace and safety. Yet this is not what is happening.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown keeps repeating that the attacks have nothing to do with Islam - but, at the same time, keeps inviting "Muslim community leaders" to Downing Street to discuss how to prevent attacks. If the attacks have nothing to do with Islam, why invite Muslim "leaders" rather than Buddhist monks?
Brown hasn't deemed fit to tell it like it is: that Muslims in Britain, indeed all over the world, must come out and condemn terrorism in unambiguous terms.
Instead, we are hearing that the attacks may have been prompted by "Muslim bitterness" about Salman Rushdie's knighting, the latest addition to the Islamist litany of woes. Some "moderate community leaders," like a certain Baroness Uddin, drop hints that Muslims have "foreign-policy issues" that might make them unhappy. The barely coded message: Unless Britain reshapes its foreign policy to please al Qaeda, it must expect to be attacked.
Gordon Brown's ban on the word "Muslim" in relation to terrorism can be blamed on the EU.
The prime minister has told Cabinet members not to mention "Muslim" and "terrorism" in the same breath.
It comes after the European Commission issued a guide for government spokesmen to avoid offence by ruling out the words such as "jihad", "Islamic" or "fundamentalist" in statements about terrorist attacks.
It has been working with governments to make sure "non-offensive" phrases are used when announcing anti-terrorist operations or dealing with terrorist attacks.
It is not the first time the EU has tackled the issue of language - last year its guidelines suggested that the phrase "terrorists who abusively invoke Islam" should be used rather than "Islamic terrorism".
The prime minister avoided labelling the terrorism in his statement to the nation following the Glasglow Airport attack on Saturday.
As we noted last year, the National Archives has an excellent Web site for the Declaration of Independence, including a detailed history and high-resolution images of the actual document. From the introduction:
Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most enduring monument. Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in "self-evident truths" and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country. We invite you to read a transcription of the complete text of the Declaration.
From FOX News: Doctors Among the Arrested in U.K. Terror Sweep
At least three physicians were identified Monday among suspects arrested in Britain's failed car bomb attacks, and authorities announced three new arrests — including a doctor in Australia — as the investigation spread overseas.
British media reports said an Indian doctor also was among the eight people in custody and another outlet said at least five of the detainees in Britain were physicians. British police confirmed a Palestinian doctor and Iraqi physician were among those held, while Australian officials said a foreign doctor working there had been detained in the case.
Officers used heightened stop-and-search powers and armed response vehicles to hunt for anyone else who might have been involved in the plot, and police put on a show of force to bolster security at airports and train stations and on city streets.
Hours after police announced the arrests of two more people in the Glasgow area, officials said an eighth suspect was detained "abroad by local authorities" Monday.
Australian authorities later said he was arrested at the airport in Brisbane while trying to leave the country. Queensland state Premier Peter Beattie described the suspect as a 27-year-old man but withheld his identity. Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock said the suspect was a doctor at a Queensland state hospital but was not a citizen.
From The Daily Mail: 'Terror ringleader' is brilliant NHS doctor.
An Iraqi junior doctor and a brilliant neurologist working for the NHS are among the suspects being quizzed over the series of bomb attacks across Britain, it emerged today.
UPDATE I: I changed the top story to reflect updates being made by FOX News.
UPDATE II -- July 6: From ABC News: Chin Up: British Papers Poke Fun at Terror.
Britain will not yield to acts of "evil", Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Sunday after three botched attacks in two days in London and Glasgow. "We will not yield, we will not be intimidated and we will not allow anyone to undermine our British way of life," he told BBC television, after his government raised Britain's security level to "critical" following the attacks.
The prime minister said terrorism "can never be justified as an act of faith", adding: "It is an act of evil in all circumstances."
He said that good progress had been made in hunting for those responsible for two failed car bomb attacks in London on Friday, and an attack at Glasgow airport Saturday in which a blazing car rammed into the main terminal building.
Brown, who took office last week, added that it was "clear that we are dealing, in general terms, with people who are associated with al-Qaeda" in terms of attacks in recent times.
He warned that the terror threat facing Britain and other countries was "long-term and sustained," but added: "Everything is being done in our power... to protect people's lives".
"It's very important that people carry on living their lives as normal," he added, saying: "We are all in this together."
To see more of John's caricatures, see his new blog John Cox Art.