Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Morning News Roundup (28 November)

Iraq's Civil War
  • The U.S. military on Tuesday predicted a surge in sectarian fighting in Iraq in the coming weeks -- tit-for-tat revenge killings sparked by last week's devastating bombings in a Shi'ite stronghold in Baghdad.

    But U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell said the violence did not meet the military's definition of civil war, despite what he called a "dramatic spike" in killings and "violence raging in Baghdad's streets".

    Some academics say the country is already in the midst of a sectarian war between majority Shi'ites, oppressed under Saddam Hussein but now politically dominant, and the former Iraqi leader's fellow minority Sunnis. [Reuters]

  • Shiites and Sunnis are fighting for power and control of Iraq.

    It is not random. Sunnis and Shiites are now organized and have goals, funding, arms and control over state institutions, which are now more regularity identified by the religion of their leaders than their function.

    And it’s not just a civil war, but one that also involves ethnic cleansing. Most of the Shiites from the Sunni stronghold in the Abu Ghraib neighborhood have been forced to leave, many moving to Sadr City where Shiite militias give them protection. Locals say Shiites have pushed most of the Sunnis from Basra in southern Iraq. [Richard Engel at MSNBC's Blogging Baghdad]

  • In a sign of the growing global concern about Iraq's fate, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan appealed for immediate steps to prevent the country from crumbling into all-out civil war. "Given the developments on the ground, unless something is done drastically and urgently to arrest the deteriorating situation, we could be there. In fact, we are almost there," Annan said when a reporter asked about the prospects of civil war in Iraq. [WaPo]

  • Though the Bush administration continues to insist that it is not, a growing number of American and Iraqi scholars, leaders and policy analysts say the fighting in Iraq meets the standard definition of civil war.

    The common scholarly definition has two main criteria. The first says that the warring groups must be from the same country and fighting for control of the political center, control over a separatist state or to force a major change in policy. The second says that at least 1,000 people must have been killed in total, with at least 100 from each side.

    American professors who specialize in the study of civil wars say that most of their number are in agreement that Iraq’s conflict is a civil war.
    The civil strife in Iraq largely takes place in mixed Sunni-Shiite areas that include the cities of Baghdad, Mosul and Baquba. In Anbar Province, which is overwhelming Sunni Arab, much of the violence is aimed at American troops. Large swaths of Iraq have little violence, but those areas are relatively homogenous and have few people.
    (M)any scholars say the bloodshed here already puts Iraq in the top ranks of the civil wars of the last half-century. The carnage of recent days — beginning with bombings on Thursday in a Shiite district of Baghdad that killed more than 200 people — reinforces their assertion.

    (James) Fearon and a colleague at Stanford, David D. Laitin, say the deaths per year in Iraq, with at least 50,000 reportedly killed since March 2003, place this conflict on par with wars in Burundi and Bosnia. [NYTimes]

  • But don't call it a civil war... how about "faith-based melee" (Daily Show segment from the HuffPo)

BushCo's Wars
  • US President George Bush has berated Nato members reluctant to send troops to Afghan hotspots, demanding they must accept "difficult assignments". Speaking ahead of a Nato meeting in Latvia, Mr Bush said members must provide the forces the alliance needs. [BBC]

Domestic Potpourri
  • The president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America “has stepped down, saying the group resisted his efforts to broaden its agenda to include reducing poverty and fighting global warming.” Rev. Joel Hunter said of the split, “When we really got down to it, they said: ‘This just isn’t for us. It won’t speak to our base, so we just can’t go there.’” [ThinkProgress' ThinkFast]

  • Judge Janet T. Neff, a member of the Michigan Court of Appeals, is George W. Bush's nominee for a spot on the U.S. District Court. Neff has a long-time neighbor who is a lesbian, and in 2002, she attended her friend's commitment ceremony in Massachusetts. According to Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Neff's attendance gave the appearance that she "betrayed her legal views on gay marriage."

    Apparently, whether Neff favors gay marriage or not, Brownback thinks it would be perfectly fine for her to betray her friendship and hurt her friend's feelings. Such is the complexity of "family values." [MoJo Blog]

  • President Bush made some winningly conciliatory remarks the day after his party's Nov. 7 electoral drubbing, saying he looked forward to governing in a more bipartisan fashion. Then he turned around and started naming kooky ideologues to key posts.

    The latest recess appointment, Eric Keroack as head of the federal government's family planning office, is an extremist so out of line with scientific thought that it is difficult to describe his views without laughing.

    As medical director of A Woman's Concern, a small chain of nonprofit pregnancy counseling clinics that offer no information on birth control, Keroack has agitated against abortion and even contraception — including for married women. The organization continues to push the discredited nonsense that abortion increases a woman's chances of breast cancer and is more dangerous during the first eight weeks of pregnancy (when, in fact, the risk of complication is actually at its lowest). Birth control, according to A Woman's Concern's tortured logic, is somehow "demeaning to women." And Keroack has argued that women who have sex with multiple partners alter their brain chemistry in the process, making it harder for them to form close relationships. [LATimes editorial]

  • In an excellent new New Yorker article, Jeffrey Toobin documents how Arlen Specter lambasted the Military Commissions Act as a tyrannical, unconstitutional, profoundly unjust atrocity, only to then, like the good boy that he is, cast his vote in favor of it. After his habeas corpus amendment failed, "Specter, visibly angry, left the Senate chamber. He told reporters that he thought the habeas ban was 'patently unconstitutional' and vowed to vote against the detainee bill." The next day -- the next day -- he voted in favor of it. That's just sad.

    But one of the most glorious results of the midterm elections is that it has relegated former-Chairman Specter (such a nice-sounding phrase) to an inconsequential afterthought. The more important aspect of Toobin's article is that it provides an important and potent reminder that while it is nice that Democrats, rather than Bush-loyal Republicans, now control Congress, the people who occupy the White House don't think that matters because they believe -- literally -- that Congress has no power to restrain what they do. [Glenn Greenwald]

Big Blue Marble
  • Within the next 25 years, AIDS is set to join heart disease and stroke as the top three causes of death worldwide. When global mortality projections were last calculated a decade ago, researchers had assumed the number of AIDS cases would be declining. Instead, it's on the rise.

    Currently ranked fourth behind heart disease, stroke, and respiratory infections, AIDS is set to become No. 3, say researchers in a new report in the Public Library of Science's Medicine journal. It accounts for about 2.8 million deaths every year. But the researchers estimate a total of nearly 120 million people could die in the next 25 years. [SF Chronic]

  • A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

    Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs. He said some residents have also believed it was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said.
    Lisa Jensen said she wasn't thinking of the war when she hung the wreath. She said, "Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing."

    Jensen, a past association president, calculates the fines will cost her about $1,000 and doubts she will be forced to pay them. But she said she's not going to take it down until after Christmas. [AP via Star Telegram]

And one more thing... the latest Sutton Impact at The Village Voice:

Sutton Impact @ Village Voice

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At 11:13 AM, Blogger kat said...

Re: the appointment of Eric Keroack at the family planning office: Jaysus. Why is it that the goobers who have obviously never been up close and personal with an actual vagina are always elevated to policing them? I seriously don't get it.

Also, this is the most hilariously unhinged newspaper editorial that I've had the pleasure to read in a long time. Kill all the hippies!


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