Sunday, 7 January 2007

Today's news in brief

  • What Washington is talking about this past week... [Slate]
    A summary:
    1. Iraq just gets worse, more buzz on Saddam Hussein execution;
    2. Democrat's take charge;
    3. The race for 2008 (Romney, Obama, etc. ambitions);
    4. Diplomacy (Negroponte switching government positions);
    5. Religion "defile at will" (Ellison swearing in with Koran; GITMO insight by FBI);
    6. Republicans (Giuliani political stratigy leak);
    7. President Ford's death, "Federal workers spend the day dreaming about how they, too, could someday become president without being elected."

  • It's only getting worse in Somalia [Reuters]
    Hundreds of Somali government soldiers, some in pick-up trucks outfitted with heavy weapons, deployed in Mogadishu on Sunday to prevent further unrest after anti-Ethiopian protests rocked the capital, residents said.

    I feel bad for Somalis, and the fact that maybe we in the West could have done more to help before this all got out of hand.

  • US v. US [San Francisco Chronicle]
    Conflict in Iraq
    Showdown in Washington
    A change of course: Pelosi and new Democratic Congress may face crucial test over Iraq

    President Bush and the new Congress are on a collision course over Iraq that could overshadow the Democrats' "100-hour agenda'' and end up defining Rep. Nancy Pelosi's tenure as House speaker.

    Even as the House takes steps this week to raise the minimum wage, expand stem cell research, strengthen homeland security and lower prescription drug prices -- an ambitious lineup -- much of the nation's focus will be on Bush, who is expected to deliver a major address to outline the future of American involvement in Iraq.

    If the president, as expected, announces his intention to deploy as many as 20,000 additional U.S. troops in Iraq, he may encounter widespread political and public defiance.

    It will quickly test the new Democratic majority's capacity to stand up to the commander in chief in a time of war, and the ability of the legislative branch to seize control of the White House's controversial foreign policy.

    "This war needs to come to an end. It is my highest priority as speaker,'' Pelosi said Friday after less than 24 hours on the job. "The president is going to have to step back. Up until now, his judgment has been severely impaired on this war in Iraq.''

  • McCain's urge to surge (in Iraq) [Slate]
    Will the troop hike damage his presidential campaign?
    It's John McCain's war now. Next week, President Bush will announce a troop surge of between 20,000 and 40,000 troops, according to those who have been briefed on outlines of the plan. Though the president will give the speech, McCain is the politician whose career most depends on it. The senator has been advocating more troops since August of 2003. Recently he has advocated for a surge in private conversations with the president and at greater length with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, who is heading up the administration's policy review.

    In the debate that will follow the president's announcement, McCain will blanket the news outlets making the case for the troop hike.

  • Sunday, bloody Sunday... in Iraq... again [CBS News]
    The U.S. military announced the deaths of five more U.S. troops on another bloody Sunday in Iraq.

    Three U.S. airmen and two soldiers were killed, the U.S. military said Sunday.
    The sectarian attacks continued despite the major drive to tame Baghdad. The Iraqi army reported killing 30 militants late Saturday in a Sunni insurgent stronghold in the center of the city, just to the north of the heavily fortified Green Zone.

    Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, speaking only hours earlier at a ceremony marking the 85th anniversary of the Iraqi army, announced his intention for the relentless and open-ended bid to crush militant fighters bedeviling Baghdad.

    Hassan al-Suneid, a key aid and member of al-Maliki's Dawa Party, said the Iraqi leader had committed 20,000 soldiers to the operation that would call upon American troops and airpower only when needed.
    Two of Saddam Hussein's top aides — Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam's half-brother and former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court — were taken from their cells and told they were going to be executed on the same day as the former Iraqi dictator and told to write out their wills, their lawyer, Issam Ghazawi, said Sunday. But the two were returned to their cells, and are being held in U.S. custody at an unspecified location in Baghdad. Although al-Bandar told Ghazawi that he "wished to have been executed with President Saddam," the lawyer is seeking to have their execution commuted because of "the psychological pain they endured as they waited to hang."

    U.K. treasury chief Gordon Brown, who is expected to succeed Tony Blair as prime minister this year, said on Saturday that the taunting of Saddam during his execution and the release of illicitly recorded video was "deplorable" and "completely unacceptable." Blair planned to speak publicly about the hanging later this week, but believed that process had been poorly handled, his office said.

  • Hamas' militia pronounced as illegal by Palestinian president
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday declared a militia belonging to the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry illegal after its gunmen killed a security official and four others.

  • Will Bush's veto be provoked by new Democraticly-led Congress? [Yahoo! News/AP]
    President George W. Bush has vetoed just one bill in nearly six years in office. That soon may change. As newly empowered Democrats forge ahead with their own agenda, some items may make it to his desk as prime candidates for veto.

    One might be a recycled version of the stem-cell funding bill that drew Mr. Bush's lone veto last July. Other possibilities include measures that would raise the minimum wage without offsetting tax breaks for businesses, fully put in place the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations and curb oil-industry subsidies.

    The Democratic takeover of Congress and the planned 100-hour burst of legislation sent parliamentary experts in both the administration and Congress scurrying to dust off the manual on vetoes and to brace for a possible onslaught.

    In the new Congress, just days old, promises of bipartisanship still fill the air. Such pledges, however, may be put to the test in no time.

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