Iraq war and occupationAlready swelling over 25,000, the top commander of US forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is now asking for another brigade, a combat aviation unit of between 2,500 and 3,000 more troops along with the commensurate transport helicopters and gunships, bringing the escalation close to 30,000 more American troops deployed in Iraq. A week ago, Bush announced that an additional 4,700 "suppprt troops" will join the 21,500 he ordered deployed in January. "This is the next shoe to drop," says one senior Pentagon official closely involved in the war planning. "[Y]ou cannot put five combat brigades in there and not have more aviation guys, military police, and intelligence units." In other words, the 21,500 numbers cited by Bush and his officials in the initial escalation announcement was merely the first of a much larger number.
Global warming and the environmentThese scientists blame the loss of approximately 38,000 square miles of Arctic sea ice to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as well as to natural variability in Arctic ice. Ever since satellite measurements of the Arctic sea ice began in 1979, the surface area covered by summer sea ice has retreated from the long-term average. This has increased the rate of coastal erosion from Alaska to Siberia and caused tremendous problems for polar bears, which rely on sea ice for hunting seals. In recent years the rate of melting has accelerated and the sea ice is showing signs of not recovering even during the cold, dark months of the Arctic winter. This has led to even less sea ice at the start of the summer melting season. Mark Serreze, a senior glaciologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says the world is heading towards a situation where the Arctic will soon be almost totally ice-free during summer, which could have a dramatic impact on weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere. "When the ice thins to a vulnerable state, the bottom will drop out and we may quickly move into a new, seasonally ice-free state of the Arctic," says Serreze. "I think there is some evidence that we may have reached that tipping point, and the impacts will not be confined to the Arctic region." The Arctic is one of the fastest warming regions on Earth and scientists fear that temperatures could rise even faster once sea ice melts to expose dark ocean, which absorbs heat more easily without its reflective cap of ice. "While the Arctic is losing a great deal of ice in the summer months, it now seems that it also is regenerating less ice in the winter. With this increasing vulnerability, a kick to the system just from natural climate fluctuations could send it into a tailspin," Serreze says.
Plame outingPlame tells the committee that she indeed did work in a "covert" status at the CIA, and calls her outing as a CIA agent by White House officials a "travesty." "I know I am here under oath, and I am here to say that I was covert," she says. She adds that some of what she learned during the Libby trial "shocked" her: "In the course of the trial of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, I was shocked by the evidence that emerged. My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in both the White House and the State Department. All of them understood that I worked for the CIA, and having signed oaths to protect national security secrets, they should have been diligent in protecting me and every CIA officer."
Plame outingThe White House had first opposed Knodell testifying but after a threat of a subpoena from the committee yesterday, he was allowed to appear today. Knodell testifies that although everyone who had participated in the leaking of classified information was required to attest to their leaking, he knew of no one, including Karl Rove, who had actually done so. He says that he had started at the White House in August 2004, a year after the leak, but his records show no evidence of a probe or report there: "I have no knowledge of any investigation in my office." Bush promised a full internal probe as far back as September 2003, but according to Knodell, no probe ever took place, and a probe is not happening now. Knodell says he had "no" conversations whatsoever with Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, or anyone else about the leak. In fact, he says he learned of the entire imbroglio from press reports.
9/11 attacksThe "confession" is released in a blaze of orchestrated fanfare from the Bush administration, in what many believe is an attempt to distract Americans from the myriad failures in Iraq and the Justice Department currently dominating the headlines. But many experts believe that Mohammed's confession may either be falsely reported, or, if real, merely an example of a tortured criminal telling his captors what they want to hear. "I have never known a criminal -- either terrorist or otherwise -- that didn't exaggerate," says one expert.
US Attorney firings"I believe, and I think all my colleagues believe, the real reason [for his firing] is partisan politics. I believe I was fired because I did not play ball with two members of the Republican delegation here in New Mexico. I did not give them privileged information that could have been used in the October and November time frame. ...I got great office reviews. I was not on any kind of resignation list until November 15, 2006, and that was two weeks after I received two very inappropriate calls from two Republican members of Congress." Iglesias's charge that Republicans Pete Domenici and Heather Wilson helped bring about his firing for political reasons come as another House Republican, Dana Rohrbacher, says Gonzales should go.
US Attorney firingsUnlike the other seven US attorneys, Cumming was told in June 2006 that he was being "let go" in order to make room for a crony of Karl Rove, Tim Griffin, whose most notable experience was as a Republican National Committee political operative.
US Attorney firings"In its fumbling attempts to explain the purge of United States attorneys, the Bush administration has argued that the fired prosecutors were not aggressive enough about addressing voter fraud," the Times writes. "It is a phony argument; there is no evidence that any of them ignored real instances of voter fraud. But more than that, it is a window on what may be a major reason for some of the firings. In partisan Republican circles, the pursuit of voter fraud is code for suppressing the votes of minorities and poor people. By resisting pressure to crack down on 'fraud,' the fired United States attorneys actually appear to have been standing up for the integrity of the election system."
Global warming and the environmentEnvironmental ministers and representatives of the Group of Eight (G8) nations -- the US, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Japan, and Russia -- are planning for a meeting in June to discuss targets for protecting the enviromment. "On two issues, the United States were the only ones who spoke against consensus," says German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel after the meeting. He says the US is the only one of the eight nations who continues to oppose a global carbon emissions trading scheme like the one used in the European Union, and continues to reject the idea that industrialized nations should help achieve a "balance of interests" between developing countries' need for economic growth and environmental protection. But Gabriel says he wasn't surprised. "I would have been disappointed if I'd expected something different." Representatives from China, India, South Africa, Brazil, and Mexico will also attend the summit. Developing states like China cite the US's intrasigence as a reason for their own refusal to accept reduction targets. "People have been talking about technology transfers but this hasn't happened," says China's environment minister Xie Zhenhua.said. (Reuters/Yahoo! News)
War with IranEhrlich, who wrote the upcoming book The Iran Agenda, tells the International Press Service that "the United States is officially funding armed groups to overthrow the Islamic government" in Tehran. Ehrlich says that the Bush administration's current strategy with the Iranian resistance groups is primarily focused on media propaganda, such as websites and satellite television and radio stations, but also includes covert military training. Ehrlich says that the US is sponsoring these groups in armed attacks against Iranian targets inside the country. Many members are formerly of Iran's Mujahedeen al-Khalq (MEK), which has been listed for years by the US as a terrorist organization. "I believe that Kurds and other minorities within Iran have legitimate grievances," Ehrlich says. "They are not allowed to learn in their local languages and face other forms of discrimination. But the US finds the most extremist of minority groups and encourages them to engage in violence." Of the resistance groups, he says, "The PJAK [Party of Free Life of Kurdistan] is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and has become a nationalist cult built around the personality of Abdullah Ocalan. MEK is really a cult, run by very secretive and authoritarian leaders. Both these groups consider themselves social democrats, but ironically, they receive the most support from extreme right wingers in the US."
US Attorney firingsE-mails confirm that Justice Department and White House officials were already planning to install Rove protege Tim Griffin as the US attorney in Little Rock well before Gonzales's testimony, by using the now-infamous Patriot Act provision that allows the president to appoint "interim" US attorneys for indefinite periods of time amd thusly bypass the Senate confirmation process altogether. The administration knew that its plan to skirt Congress would be met with severe criticism, and had already planned for the situation. In a December 19 e-mail, Kye Sampson, then Gonzales's chief of staff, wrote to a White House aide, explaining the administration's strategy for countering the criticism: "We should gum this to death. [A]sk the senators to give Tim a chance...then we can tell them we'll look for other candidates, ask them for recommendations, evaluate the recommendations, interview their candidates, and otherwise run out the clock. All of this should be done in 'good faith,' of course." There was, of course, no "good faith" in any of the DOJ's schemes with the White House, and the Sampson scenario to "run out the clock" on Griffin is going on right now.
"Swift Boat Veterans" and campaign smearsPerry will coordinate fundraising for Romney in Texas and elsewhere. The naming of Perry gives a strong hint as to the kind of campaign Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, intends to run. Perry donated $4.5 million to the SBVT, a so-called "527" organization that came under intense fire for spreading scurrilous and baseless lies about then-presidential candidate John Kerry's Vietnam service. (Much more about the SBVT can be found elsewhere in these pages.) Perry funded similar pro-GOP groups in 2006, including the Economic Freedom Fund, which ran smear campaigns against Democrats in Georgia, Iowa and West Virginia, and A Stronger America, which financed similar ads attacking Democrat Mike Hatch in his Minnesota gubernatorial bid last year. Kerry's spokesman, David Wade, says that it is "appalling but not surprising that a Texas tycoon famous for funding lies would now bankroll a presidential campaign built on flip-flopping and fiction." (Washington Post)