Friday, August 04, 2006

U.S. Generals See Growing Threat of Civil War in Iraq

Wow, our leadership is awake, alive, and aware, huh? "Threat" of Civil War? It's been in civil war for quite some time now, geniuses. Does the death toll need to be at a certain point or something for it to qualify? If "Iraqis already believe they're living through a civil war" then guess what? They are. Obviously it is the Iraqis who determine when they are or aren't in civil war, not the United States, and I can't believe this article implies otherwise.

U.S. Generals See Growing Threat of Civil War in Iraq


WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 — Two senior American military commanders said today that the wave of sectarian bloodshed in Iraq has heightened the danger that the country will slide into all-out civil war.

“I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I’ve seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war,” Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of United States forces in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

A similarly sobering assessment was offered by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said he can envision the present situation “devolving to a civil war.”

“But that does not have to be a fact,” General Pace added. In the long run, he said, peace in Iraq depends not just on American forces helping the Iraqis secure their own country but on Iraqis of different heritages deciding that they “love their children more than they hate each other.”

General Abizaid, too, said he remained hopeful. “Am I optimistic whether or not Iraqi forces, with our support, with the backing of the Iraqi government, can prevent the slide to civil war?” he asked rhetorically. “My answer is yes, I’m optimistic that the slide can be prevented.”

But the tone of the hearing, coinciding as it did with the continuing carnage in Iraq and the Israeli conflict with the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, was not one of optimism. Nothing in the testimony of the commanders, or in that of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, pointed to an early withdrawal of United States forces.

“We can persevere in Iraq, or we can withdraw prematurely, until they force us to make a stand nearer home,” said Mr. Rumsfeld, appearing before the panel after sharp criticism of his earlier intention not to go to Capitol Hill. “But make no mistake: they’re not going to give up whether we acquiesce in their immediate demands or not.”

Mr. Rumsfeld said, as he has many times before, that the possibility of pulling out some American troops depended on the judgment of ground commanders. He counseled patience, from the lawmakers and their constituents. “Americans didn’t cross oceans and settle a wilderness and build history’s greatest democracy only to run away from a bunch of murderers and extremists who try to kill everyone that they cannot convert, and to tear down what they could never build,” he said.

General Pace sounded the same theme: “Our enemy knows they cannot defeat us in battle. They do believe, however, that they can wear down our will as a nation.”

But the committee chairman, Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, signaled that political support for the conflict could be fraying. “I think we have to examine very carefully what Congress authorized the president to do in the context of a situation if we’re faced with all-out civil war and whether we have to come back to the Congress to get further indication of support,” Mr. Warner said.

When General Abizaid was asked about the prospects for reducing American forces in Iraq by the end of the year, he replied, “It’s possible, depending on how things go in Baghdad and how Prime Minister Maliki and his government grab a hold of the security situation.” The general said he was confident that the Iraqis understood that the United States military commitment to Iraq was not open-ended.

In any event, Mr. Rumsfeld said it was difficult to gauge the ideal number of troops the United States and its allies should have in Iraq. Too many troops, and the Iraqis would see them as occupiers, leading to more unrest. To few, and the violence could spiral out of control. “There’s no rulebook,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

The valor and sacrifice of America’s sons and daughters serving in Iraq was praised by Senator Warner and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, along with other panel members.

But the session was full of sharp, and occasionally angry, exchanges. For instance, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, accused Mr. Rumsfeld of being inconsistent over the months in his assessment of the military situation.

“Senator, I don’t think that’s true,” Mr. Rumsfeld said, declaring that the senator would have “a dickens of a time” documenting her assertion that he had been overly optimistic in the past. But Senator Clinton did not back down, and she said she would introduce evidence of her assertion into the committee record.

And Senator John S. McCain, Republican of Arizona, who is a firm supporter of the campaign in Iraq, voiced concern about the effects of shifting of United States troops into Baghdad, thereby lessening troop strength elsewhere. “What I worry about is, we’re playing a game of whack-a-mole here,” the senator said.

Mr. McCain had pointed exchanges with both generals, who conceded that events had taken them by surprise.

“General Pace,” the senator said, you said there’s a possibility of the situation in Iraq evolving into civil war. Is that correct?”

“I did say that, yes, sir,” the general replied.

“Did you anticipate this situation a year ago?”

“No, sir.”

“Did you, General Abizaid?”

“I believe that a year ago it was clear to see that sectarian tensions were increasing,” General Abizaid said. “That they would be this high, no.”

The general gave a positive evaluation of the 275,000 members of the Iraqi police, border security and military forces who had completed training. “They are much improved, and they continue to improve every month,” he said.

Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who graduated from West Point and served in the Army for 12 years, said that under Mr. Rumsfeld’s tenure the Army had been stretched beyond its capacity, a situation he called “a stunning indictment of your leadership.”

“It think it’s an inaccurate statement,” Mr. Rumsfeld shot back, going on to say that the situation was more complicated than Mr. Reed had suggested.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:01 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Lamont extends lead on Lieberman

Just five days until the primary! Go Ned!

BOSTON (Reuters) - A novice anti-war candidate seeking the Connecticut Democratic Party's nomination to run for the U.S. Senate has extended his lead against three-term incumbent and 2000 vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, a poll showed on Thursday.

Ned Lamont, a millionaire businessman and opponent of the U.S. military presence in Iraq, now leads rival Lieberman by 54 percent to 41 percent among those likely to vote in the August 8 primary, the Quinnipiac University poll found.

"The incumbent has just five days to turn this race around, but never count out a veteran with his experience," said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz.

The poll found that 65 percent of Lamont supporters said their vote would primarily be against Lieberman, with his support for the war in Iraq their primary objection.

Lieberman has said that he will run as an independent if denied the Democratic nomination. Previous polls have shown him likely to win the November election if he runs as an independent.

The university surveyed 890 likely Connecticut Democratic primary voters from July 24-31. The survey has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:21 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Blogger jailed after defying court orders

Hmmm...this bears watching.

Blogger jailed after defying court orders

He was subpoenaed by grand jury, ordered to turn over video he took at anticapitalist protest in San Francisco.

The New York Times
By Jesse McKinley

SAN FRANCISCO--A freelance journalist and blogger was jailed on Tuesday after refusing to turn over video he took at an anticapitalist protest here last summer and after refusing to testify before a grand jury looking into accusations that crimes were committed at the protest.

The freelancer, Josh Wolf, 24, was taken into custody just before noon after a hearing in front of Judge William Alsup of Federal District Court. Found in contempt, Wolf was later moved to a federal prison in Dublin, Calif., and could be imprisoned until next summer, when the grand jury term expires, said his lawyer, Jose Luis Fuentes.

Earlier this year, federal prosecutors subpoenaed Wolf to testify before a grand jury and turn over video from the demonstration, held in the Mission District on July 8, 2005. The protest, tied to a Group of 8 meeting of world economic leaders in Scotland, ended in a clash between demonstrators and the San Francisco police, with one officer sustaining a fractured skull.

A smoke bomb or a firework was also put under a police car, and investigators are looking into whether arson was attempted on a government-financed vehicle.

Wolf, who posted some of the edited video on his Web site,, and sold some of it to local television stations, met with investigators, who wanted to see the raw video. But Wolf refused to hand over the tapes, arguing that he had the right as a journalist to shield his sources.

On Tuesday, Judge Alsup disagreed, ruling that the grand jury "has a legitimate need" to see what Wolf filmed.

Wolf, a recent college graduate, is the latest journalist to face prison time for refusing to cooperate with federal investigators. Last year, the New York Times reporter Judith Miller served nearly three months in jail after refusing to divulge her sources in the investigation of the leak of a covert CIA agent's name.

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said that although the jailing of journalists had become more common, Wolf's case was the first she had heard of in which a blogger had been pursued and eventually jailed by federal authorities.

"There is a tendency on the part of the prosecutors to go aggressively after people not perceived to have a big gun behind them," Kirtley said. "They are the most vulnerable links in the chain."

While California has a so-called shield law meant to protect journalists and their sources, no such law exists at the federal level. Even if there was such a law, Kirtley said, it is unclear whether a blogger and freelancer would fall under it.

According to his Web site, Wolf has been active in his defense, holding news conferences and posting interviews and newspaper articles on his site. On Tuesday, however, the site's last message read, "This blog will be updated sometime shortly after my hearing ... wish me luck guys!"

Wolf has attracted supporters, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which introduced a resolution objecting to the federal government's role in the investigation. The Society of Professional Journalists contributed to Wolf's legal defense fund.

Fuentes said he had already prepared an appeal and would file it immediately. He also planned to ask for bail, though he was not certain where the money to post it would come from. "His mother has been trying to fund-raise," Fuentes said. "But he might lose his job."

Entire contents, Copyright © 2006 The New York Times. All rights reserved.

Posted by crimnos @ 11:05 AM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

F.D.A. Shifts View on Next-Day Pill

And it's about damned time. I mean, please, look at the state of the opposition to this method:

One conservative organization, Concerned Women of America, voiced opposition to the plan.

“There’s clearly no way that the F.D.A. or Barr Labs could put a gender restriction on who buys the drug,” said Wendy Wright, the president of that group. “You could have a statutory rapist buy the drug in order to cover up his abuse.”

Yep, how about all those date rapists who mix royphonol with morning after pills to make sure they don't leave a trace? Jesus, morons. Oh, wait, I guess that's kind of the point...Jesus, I mean. Whatever.

F.D.A. Shifts View on Morning-After Pill


The Food and Drug Administration said yesterday that it was moving toward endorsing sale of the morning-after pill without a prescription for women 18 and older, signaling what may be the end of one of the most stubborn health policy debates of the Bush administration.

The agency’s acting commissioner, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, asked the drug’s manufacturer, Barr Pharmaceuticals, for a meeting to complete plans that would allow the over-the-counter sale of the emergency contraceptive, called Plan B. In a statement, the F.D.A. said it hoped “the process can be wrapped up in a matter of weeks.”

While the agency’s letter to Barr was not a final approval, both the F.D.A. and the company expressed optimism about the drug’s future.

An agency spokeswoman, Susan Bro, said the move was intended to bring “this particular issue to a conclusion,” and a federal health official said the agency was committed to making the drug available over the counter.

“We see this as a positive development,” said Carol A. Cox, a spokeswoman for Barr.

In 2003, an F.D.A. advisory committee voted 23 to 4 to allow the drug’s over-the-counter sale without age restrictions. But a top official of the agency overruled that committee and agency staff members, raising concerns that young teenagers might engage in riskier sex if the morning-after pill was easily available. The company revised its application, asking that over-the-counter sale be allowed for women older than 16.

In the letter sent yesterday, Dr. Von Eschenbach said the agency would not approve that request but that, if the company met certain restrictions, it would allow over-the-counter sales to women 18 or older.

It is up to Barr to assure the agency that the drug would not be sold to those under 18. The company has said that it has already developed a program to restrict sales.

Under that program, Plan B would not be available in convenience stores or at gasoline stations, but only in places where there is a pharmacy. Rather than being placed on drugstore shelves, the contraceptive would be behind a pharmacy counter. To buy it, women would have to show photo identification to prove their age.

Many women’s groups expressed cautious optimism that the announcement meant that the drug’s over-the-counter sales would finally be approved. The drug is most effective when taken soon after intercourse, the reason its supporters have argued that it should be available without a prescription.

Planned Parenthood, which has supported the drug’s over-the-counter availability, issued a statement saying that the agency’s announcement “holds the potential for improving women’s health if the F.D.A. keeps its word this time.”

But the timing of the announcement — the day before Dr. von Eschenbach’s confirmation hearing in a Senate committee — raised skepticism on Capitol Hill about whether it might be intended to deflect criticism about delays in the drug’s application without a clear guarantee of action.

“Today’s announcement is nothing more than a delay tactic,” Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington, both Democrats, said in a joint news release. The senators are members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is scheduled to hold its hearing on Dr. von Eschenbach today but is not scheduled to vote.

Assuming that the committee approves Dr. von Eschenbach’s nomination, Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Murray said they would block a floor vote on his confirmation until the F.D.A. made a final yes-or-no decision on the drug’s sale. Under Senate rules, any senator may place a “hold” on a floor vote to approve a nominee.

The senators removed a similar hold last year that had blocked a former F.D.A. commissioner, Lester Crawford, who then faced confirmation hearings. At that time, Dr. Crawford assured them that a decision on the drug would be made by Sept. 1, 2005, the senators said.

“We lifted our hold in July 2005 on Dr. Crawford’s nomination after receiving assurances that the F.D.A. would act by September,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Instead, what they did was to make a decision, and their decision was not to make a decision. Almost a year later, we’re still waiting for a decision.”

Ms. Bro, the agency spokeswoman, said the letter’s timing yesterday was partly related to today’s Senate committee hearing because Dr. von Eschenbach felt strongly that he wanted to inform the committee of the agency’s framework for moving on Plan B. It was a “transparent, science-led process,” she said.

“This is a model for how he currently makes decisions and will continue to as the leader of this critically important public health issue," Ms. Bro said.

One conservative organization, Concerned Women of America, voiced opposition to the plan.

“There’s clearly no way that the F.D.A. or Barr Labs could put a gender restriction on who buys the drug,” said Wendy Wright, the president of that group. “You could have a statutory rapist buy the drug in order to cover up his abuse.”

A group called Advocates for Youth, a national nonprofit organization, said it was concerned that many sexually active teenagers would not have access to the emergency contraceptive.

“We are gravely concerned that once again politics, rather than science, is at play and the most vulnerable women — teens — will be penalized,” said the group’s president, James Wagoner.

The emergency contraceptive is actually a two-pill regimen containing a high dose of drugs used in birth-control pills. It is already available by prescription without age restrictions and is designed for emergency use by women who have unprotected sexual intercourse. It is also available in nine states without a prescription, under certain conditions.

To be effective, the first pill must be taken within 72 hours after intercourse. The second pill is supposed to be taken 12 hours after the first.

Plan B was first approved for sale in the United States as a prescription drug in 1999. Barr moved in 2003 to make it available without age restriction over the counter, but its approval has been the subject of a series of F.D.A. delays.

Critics of the agency, including a former women’s health official who resigned over Plan B, have said that the decision-making process has been bogged down in political delays inspired by reproductive policy conservatives influential within the Bush administration, including abortion opponents, who view the drug as a form of abortion because it is taken after intercourse.

Dr. Crawford initially signaled that the government might go along with over-the-counter sales to women 17 and older. But saying that the agency had never approved an over-the-counter drug at the same dosage and administration as a prescription drug, he initiated a review to determine whether a new rule-making process was necessary.

Dr. von Eschenbach, a urology surgeon who has directed the National Cancer Institute, was appointed after Dr. Crawford resigned last year.

In a letter yesterday to Barr’s subsidiary Duramed, Dr. von Eschenbach said the review had concluded that no rule-making was necessary, clearing the way for final consideration of the company’s application.

Dr. Susan Wood, who resigned as director of women’s health for the drug agency last year in protest over its handling of Plan B, said the agency reviewers had believed the drug safe for younger women. Still, Dr. Wood said yesterday that she was “heartened” at the possibility for a positive outcome for the drug raised by Dr. von Eschenbach’s letter.

Shares in Barr, based in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., closed up 93 cents yesterday at $49.76.

Some products, like nicotine gum, are already kept behind the counter and require proof of age for purchase.

Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, said she gave many of her patients who use condoms for contraception Plan B prescriptions to keep in their purses. “Really having Plan B over the counter will help those patients who don’t necessarily have an ob-gyn at the time,” Dr. Wu said.

Dr. Wu said that having the drug available over the counter would also increase education about the drug. “Some women do not know about it,” she said.

The spokeswoman for Barr Laboratories, Ms. Cox, said the company did not yet know how quickly it could market the over-the-counter product. Currently, the drug costs about $25 by prescription, but Ms. Cox said the company would probably charge more for the over-the-counter version to recoup costs associated with monitoring its sales.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:31 AM :: (0) comments

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Bush's New Bill Permits Gov To Throw US Citizens In Jail Forever Without Trial

By ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer Fri Jul 28, 6:53 PM ET

WASHINGTON - U.S. citizens suspected of terror ties might be detained indefinitely and barred from access to civilian courts under legislation proposed by the Bush administration, say legal experts reviewing an early version of the bill.

A 32-page draft measure is intended to authorize the
Pentagon's tribunal system, established shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks to detain and prosecute detainees captured in the war on terror. The tribunal system was thrown out last month by the Supreme Court.

Administration officials, who declined to comment on the draft, said the proposal was still under discussion and no final decisions had been made.

Senior officials are expected to discuss a final proposal before the
Senate Armed Services Committee next Wednesday.

According to the draft, the military would be allowed to detain all "enemy combatants" until hostilities cease. The bill defines enemy combatants as anyone "engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners who has committed an act that violates the law of war and this statute."

Legal experts said Friday that such language is dangerously broad and could authorize the military to detain indefinitely U.S. citizens who had only tenuous ties to terror networks like al Qaeda.

"That's the big question ... the definition of who can be detained," said Martin Lederman, a law professor at Georgetown University who posted a copy of the bill to a Web blog.

Scott L. Silliman, a retired Air Force Judge Advocate, said the broad definition of enemy combatants is alarming because a U.S. citizen loosely suspected of terror ties would lose access to a civilian court — and all the rights that come with it. Administration officials have said they want to establish a secret court to try enemy combatants that factor in realities of the battlefield and would protect classified information.

The administration's proposal, as considered at one point during discussions, would toss out several legal rights common in civilian and military courts, including barring hearsay evidence, guaranteeing "speedy trials" and granting a defendant access to evidence. The proposal also would allow defendants to be barred from their own trial and likely allow the submission of coerced testimony.

Senior Republican lawmakers have said they were briefed on the general discussions and have some concerns but are awaiting a final proposal before commenting on specifics.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England are expected to discuss the proposal in an open hearing next Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Military lawyers also are scheduled to testify Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The legislation is the administration's response to a June 29 Supreme Court decision, which concluded the Pentagon could not prosecute military detainees using secret tribunals established soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The court ruled the tribunals were not authorized by law and violated treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions, which established many international laws for warfare.

The landmark court decision countered long-held assertions by the Bush administration that the president did not need permission from Congress to prosecute "enemy combatants" captured in the war on terror and that al Qaeda members were not subject to Geneva Convention protections because of their unconventional status.

"In a time of ongoing armed conflict, it is neither practicable nor appropriate for enemy combatants like al Qaeda terrorists to be tried like American citizens in federal courts or courts-martial," the proposal states.

The draft proposal contends that an existing law — passed by the Senate last year after exhaustive negotiations between the White House and Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz. — that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment should "fully satisfy" the nation's obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

Sen. John W. Warner (news, bio, voting record), R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Friday he expects to take up the detainee legislation in September.

Posted by crimnos @ 7:47 PM :: (0) comments