Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Morning News Roundup (06 December)

Iraq Study Group Report
  • Circumstances in Iraq are "grave and deteriorating," with a potential government collapse and a "humanitarian catastrophe" if the U.S. does not change course and seek a broader diplomatic solution to the problems that have wracked the country since the U.S. invaded, according to a bipartisan panel that sent its findings to President Bush and Congress today.
    The 79 recommendations include the withdrawal of most U.S. combat troops by early 2008, but with a large force left behind to train and assist Iraqi security and military personnel. It also proposes setting benchmarks for Iraq to assume control of its own security, and threaten to reduce military or financial aid if deadlines are missed. [WaPo; check out the ISG's executive summary in PDF format]

  • Among the report's 79 separate conclusions is one that Washington should shift the "primary mission" of its troops in Iraq towards a supporting role, something already taking place. US commanders in Iraq are shifting significant numbers of combat troops into advisory positions with Iraqi units.

    But some analysts warn against unjustified optimism in the ability of Iraqi forces to quell sectarian violence as it has become apparent that considerable numbers of the Iraqi military and police are acting on behalf of the majority Shias in killing Sunnis, who dominated the country under Saddam Hussein. [The Guardian]

  • Mr. Bush called the group’s report “a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq.” He did not commit himself to adopting any of its recommendations, which he called “very interesting.” But urged Republicans as well as the Democrats who will soon take control of Congress to take the report as “an opportunity to find common ground.”
    As word of the likely recommendations leaked out in recent days, Mr. Bush moved to distance himself on some points, while emphasizing that his administration is already pursuing others, like handing responsibility for security to the Iraqi army next summer. The president has also requested a review of policy options from the Pentagon, and has made clear that he will regard the Study Group’s report as one input among many.[NYTimes]

  • (The Study) also urged Bush to talk with Syria and Iran, two of Iraq's Mideast neighbors who are believed to have fomented the violence that has plagued Iraq since U.S. invaders toppled Saddam Hussein and his regime three years ago.

    It said the administration should address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a means of ameliorating the violence in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. These are also suggestions that Bush has resisted in the past. [LATimes]

BushCo's Wars
  • Meanwhile, in Iraq (via Reuters):
    BAGHDAD - Mortar rounds fell on a busy commercial district of central Baghdad, killing 10 people and wounding 54, police said.

    BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a minibus in Shi'ite Sadr City, killing three people and wounding 16, Interior Ministry sources said.

    MAHMUDIYA - Police found three bodies -- blindfold, bound and with gunshot wounds -- dumped in a street in Mahmudiya, a town in the so-called Triangle of Death south of Baghdad.

  • An attack on a compound for security workers in southern Afghanistan has left at least seven people dead. Two Americans were among those killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the compound on Wednesday, witnesses said. The blast was the sixth suicide attack in Kandahar province in the past nine days. [Al Jazeera]

Climate Crisis
  • Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the incoming chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “will ask Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and two Democratic state lawmakers” from California “to testify about why Congress should pass federal legislation modeled on California’s landmark law to combat global warming.” [ThinkProgress' ThinkFast]

  • The Southern Ocean may slow the rate of global warming by absorbing significantly more heat and carbon dioxide than previously thought, according to new research. The Southern Hemisphere westerly winds have moved southward in the last 30 years. A new climate model predicts that as the winds shift south, they can do a better job of transferring heat and carbon dioxide from the surface waters surrounding Antarctica into the deeper, colder waters. The new finding surprised the scientists, said lead researcher Joellen L. Russell. "We think it will slow global warming. It won't reverse or stop it, but it will slow the rate of increase." [TerraDaily]

Domestic Potpourri
  • Like a retreating army, Republicans are tearing up railroad track and planting legislative land mines to make it harder for Democrats to govern when they take power in Congress next month. Already, the Republican leadership has moved to saddle the new Democratic majority with responsibility for resolving $463 billion in spending bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
    The unstated goal is to disrupt the Democratic agenda and make it harder for the new majority to meet its promise to reinstitute "pay-as-you-go" budget rules, under which new costs or tax cuts must be offset to protect the deficit from growing. [WSJ (free)]

  • If Congress departs on Friday as planned, that will mean they will have been in session for just 241 days over two years. According to The Last Campaign, the "do-nothing" Congress of 1948 that President Harry Truman famously campaigned against met for 254 days. [Taegan Goddard's Political Wire]

  • Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who will become House majority leader and is writing the schedule for the next Congress, said members should expect longer hours than the brief week they have grown accustomed to.

    "I have bad news for you," Hoyer told reporters. "Those trips you had planned in January, forget 'em. We will be working almost every day in January, starting with the 4th." [WaPo]

Big Blue Marble
  • "The conflict in Darfur has spread to two neighboring countries and is now in ‘free fall’ with six million people facing the prospect of going without food or protection,” outgoing U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said. [ThinkProgress' ThinkFast]

  • The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of all household wealth, according to a new study by a United Nations research institute. The report, from the World Institute for Development Economics Research at the UN University, says that the poorer half of the world's population own barely 1% of global wealth.
    Wealth is heavily concentrated in North America, Europe and some countries in the Asia Pacific region, such as Japan and Australia. These countries account for 90% of household wealth. [BBC]

  • Hezbollah supporters remain camped out in Lebanon's main square. Their aim is to bring down the pro-Western government. [Foreign Policy's Passport]

  • Mary Cheney, the vice president's openly gay daughter, is pregnant. She and her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe, are "ecstatic" about the baby, due in late spring, said a source close to the couple.
    Cheney has described her relationship with Poe -- whom she took to last year's White House dinner honoring Prince Charles and Camilla-- as a marriage. The two met in 1988 while playing ice hockey and began dating four years later. They moved from Colorado to Virginia a year ago to be closer to Cheney's family.
    In November, Virginia voters passed a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions; state law is unclear on whether Poe could have full legal rights as a parent of Cheney's child. [WaPo]

  • The music industry has long resisted selling music in the MP3 format, which lacks the copy protections that prevent songs from being duplicated endlessly. But now, Blue Note Records and its marquee artist, jazz-pop singer Norah Jones, are selling her latest single through Yahoo Inc. as an MP3 -- despite the risk that it may add to piracy problems.
    The releases come as some high-tech and music-industry executives are becoming increasingly concerned about Apple's growing clout in the music business. Only online music files purchased from iTunes, ripped from users' own CDs or downloaded from pirate services can be played on the popular iPod. Copy-protected songs purchased from Yahoo and other legitimate sources don't work on it. By selling music in the MP3 format without copy-protection software, Yahoo can offer music that works easily on iPods. [WSJ (free)]

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