ISSUE 161 TABLE OF CONTENTS
by Ali al-Fadhily A senior official at the Ministry of Education, told reporters on Aug. 28 there has been a 54 percent increase in exam failure rates compared to previous years. She added that many students had not completed their last exams as they had been forced by violence to flee their homes to safer areas. The Iraqi NGO Keeping Children Alive (KCA), recently said education standards in Iraq had dropped and many schools were relying on teachers teaching at least 100 students per class
by Aaron Glantz Most observers believe the real number of soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injury is much higher. A recent Army study found that 18 percent of troops who have been to Iraq (approximately 320,000 people) likely suffered at least some brain damage from improvised explosive devices, or IED
by Alexander Cockburn Greenspan couldn't possibly have missed what was coming with the housing and mortgage market crisis. The housing bubble has been obvious for years, just as the stock market bubble of the late 1990s -- Greenspan's 'irrational exuberance' -- was also obvious. Greenspan simply didn't want to annoy Wall Street
by Alexander Cockburn Somewhat mechanically, the general read through testimony freshly vetted and rewritten by Vice President Dick Cheney. Hence Petraeus' testimony had a reference in almost every paragraph to al Qaeda terror groups in Iraq, even though prudent estimates put total membership there at 850, thus furnishing some 5 percent of the Sunni resistance
by Alexander Cockburn Despite the unending stream of stories across the months announcing that an attack on Iran is on the way, I've had my doubts. Amid the housing slump here, with the possibility of an inflationary surge as the credit balloon threatens to explode, would the U.S. government really want to see the price of gas at the pump go over $5? The Joint Chiefs of Staff know the Iraq War has almost broken the U.S. Army. Wouldn't they adamantly oppose the notion of an attack on Iran, which would see Shiite resistance groups in Iraq cut U.S. supply convoys from Kuwait bringing fuel and water to the big U.S. bases?
by Thalif Deen The facts are staggering: 60,000 children in Afghanistan are addicted to drugs, and another 100,000 are disabled and otherwise severely affected physically due to prolonged conflicts in the country. Additionally, there are about 8,000 former child soldiers while an estimated one million are child laborers between seven and 14 years of age. At the same time, there are over 37,000 children who work and beg in the streets of Kabul alone
by Alexander Cockburn Reformers florish the Canadian system as the model. Michael Moore's recent film, Sicko, dwelled on its allurements. But Canada has a social democratic tradition. America has none. The sole surviving relic of the New Deal era is Social Security, and that is under constant assault. So 'health reform' in the present age means at best a slight cosmetic adjustment, and so it is with Mrs. Clinton's new plan, modeled as a scheme adopted in Massachusetts, whereby everybody is legally compelled to have some type of health insurance. This spells out as compulsory ruin
by Jonathan Bell Seven years after the Elian Gonzalez case, a custody battle is once again raging in Miami over the fate of a Cuban child. The case is eerily similar to Elian's: A Cuban father is trying to win custody of his 4-year-old daughter, who is presently living with a foster family in Florida
by Tom Engelhardt It's a piece of simple business wisdom, and when it comes to manipulating the public, the Bush administration is still sticking to it five years later. The corollary, which Card didn't mention, is: Do your market research and testing in the dog-bites-man news months of July and August. And that's just what the Bush administration did in the run-up to what will certainly be its victorious battle with congressional opponents to extend its surge plan into next spring and its occupation of Iraq into the distant future
by Steve Young Democrats took heavy pains to preface their questioning of the general by praising his honorable and courageous service to the country. Faster than a Sean Hannity minute, the radio Lords of Loud went Frank Luntz all over the Dems blasting them for their egregious attack on our troops while they are 'in harm's way'
by Steve Young Bill understands his demographic -- the crotchety young and old who are too lazy or choose not to fact-check whether Bill is feeding them lies -- and which caretaker home they reside in. To keep the zealots (from both sides of the aisle) tuning in, Bill is putting a salient foot to the pedal and driving the Factor past every sanity-check on the Fact 'n Fair Highway
by Steve Young Racist would be like hauling Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson on to your show to demonstrate how unracist you are -- and then proceeding to lecture them on the problems Blacks have in America
by Steve Young After MoveOn.org published the 'General Betray Us' ad that took the President and his General Repeater In Charge to task, the Lords of Loud roared that it was a condemnation of the entire military. Always eager to rush to the front of a parade, the Senate voted to denounce the ad. A vote, mind you, that Republicans didn't feel necessary to bring up when John Kerry was swiftboated ad infinitum
by Donal Brown According to a PDK/Gallup poll, more than half of parents of students in public schools say that there is too much testing. This number is up 20 points since 2002. Parents fear that a narrowing curriculum that excludes art, science and social studies isn't preparing their children for a global society. Since wealthy parents can raise funds to maintain an enriched curriculum, the shrinking curriculum disproportionately affects families with lower incomes.
by Ali al-Fadhily The recent clashes between the two powerful militias, which left at least 52 people dead and over 200 wounded during the pilgrimage, and led to curfew over the entire city, mark intensifying fighting throughout southern Iraq. This was the first time that a major pilgrimage has been stopped in Iraq
by Jalal Ghazi The video released last week by Osama bin Laden got very different receptions in the American and Arab media. While U.S. television news viewed the message as a declaration of war, Arab media saw it for what it really was
by Gareth Porter In sharp contrast to the lionization of Gen. David Petraeus by members of Congress during his testimony this week, Petraeus's superior, Admiral William Fallon, chief of the Central Command (CENTCOM), derided Petraeus as a sycophant during their first meeting in Baghdad last March, according to Pentagon sources familiar with reports of the meeting
Basically, the idea of a terrorist group is to represent an aggrieved community. They have no authority to, but they hope to. Their purpose is to get the government or an authority to retaliate against the community they pretend to represent. The terrorists' hope is that the community members would then have to turn to them for help
by Khody Akhavi The seriousness of the challenge to Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's authority in the remote tribal areas bordering Afghanistan was apparent this week when the Taliban captured 180 soldiers in two separate incidents
by Antoaneta Bezlova Of the four enlisted Marines and four officers charged, murder charges against two of the enlisted men have since been dropped, as have dereliction of duty charges against one of the officers. As in the Abu Ghraib scandal, the prosecutions in Haditha tend to focus on enlisted men and noncommissioned officers -- those accused of having personally committed the acts -- not the officers who command the units
by Mohammed A. Salih The attacks started after an offshoot of the pro-independence Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), started striking military targets within Iran. Those strikes provoked a heavy shelling of the northeastern border areas of Iraq in recent weeks. On the northern side of Iraq's border, Turkey was not idle. It added to the shelling, which was aimed at PKK fighters. Iran stopped shelling the border areas following official objections from the Iraqi and Kurdish governments. But Turkey resumed shelling on Saturday, and this may displace many more families
by Ali Gharib In the six years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the current administration has shown a marked inability to make any significant headway in this area -- according to a Pew Global Attitudes Survey, 80 percent of citizens of Muslim countries hold negative views of the U.S.
by Zofeen Ebrahim In 2006, some 2,000 kidney transplants took place in Pakistan. Of these 500 were donations from family, 500 were Pakistanis who had a family match but bought kidneys as either the donors were reluctant or the recipient thought that it would jeopardize the life of the donor. A further 1,000 transplants were carried out on foreigners, a vast majority of whom were from Saudi Arabia
by Daniel Luban The decision to revoke the license of Blackwater USA came one day after a Baghdad firefight that left eight civilians dead, the latest in a string of incidents involving private security contractors that have engendered resentment among Iraqis
by William O. Beeman There has been a recent phenomenon of Western-style 'gay culture' emerging in Iran -- replete with gay bars, clubs and house parties -- but this is very new, largely limited to the upper classes, and likely not known to President Ahmadinejad, whose social milieu is the middle and lower-middle class. This recent Western-style gay phenomenon is distinct from ordinary same-sex behavior as practiced traditionally in Iran. Indeed, there was not even a word for homosexuality in Persian before the 20th century. It had to be invented. The term used by President Ahmadinejad was 'hamjensbaz,' a neologism that literally means, 'playing with the same sex'
by Sandip Roy The skeptical laughter and boos from the audience showed that while some might still believe that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons for peaceful purposes, no one bought his homosexual-free zone
by Gareth Porter Nine months after the Bush administration declared that it was going to go after Iranian agents in Iraq who were threatening U.S. troops, the U.S. military still has not produced any evidence that the Quds Force operatives in Iraq were engaged in assisting the militias fighting against U.S. troops
by Joe Conason The loud, angry and sterile debate over the Iranian president's visit to Columbia University raises a more serious problem that has long confounded American policymakers: How to cope with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's real masters, the corrupt regime of mullahs who determine both foreign and domestic policy in Iran
by Andrea Black and Paromita Shah Immigration and Customs Enforcement is one of the largest jailers, second only to the Bureau of Prisons, but acts without independent oversight or enforceable standards. Within the last six weeks in immigration detention, three people, including a pregnant woman, died. Hundreds suffered food poisoning in the Northwest Detention Center in Washington, and spoiled food with maggots was served to detainees in Willacy County Detention Center, Texas. These incidents are not aberrations
by Jim Lobe After two days of Congressional testimony by Washington's top two officials in Iraq, prospects for a substantial withdrawal of U.S. military forces there before the end of Bush's tenure at the White House look as remote as ever
by Haider Rizvi When Sharif returned to Pakistan after seven years of exile, he was forcibly returned to the Saudi city of Jeddah by Pakistani authorities shortly after landing in the country. HRW said by doing so, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the United States' two closest allies in its so-called war on terror, have flouted international law
by Gareth Porter The Bush administration recently concluded that the increase in rocket attacks on coalition targets by Shiite forces over the summer was a deliberate move by Iran to escalate the war in order to put pressure on the United States to accept Iranian influence in Iraq, according to a senior U.S. government official
by Michael A. Kroll The rare commutation of a death sentence in Texas at the end of August received widespread media attention. Less noticed was the profound anti-death penalty significance of the statement of the mother of the victim
by Jim Lobe In a 76-22 vote Wednesday, senators approved a non-binding amendment to the 2008 defense authorization bill that called for the Bush administration to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) 'a foreign terrorist organization.' Among those voting for the measure was the Democratic front-runner for the 2008 presidential election, Sen. Hillary Clinton
by Kester Kenn Klomegah The public announcement by Russian prosecutor-general Yury Chaika last week that ten people have been arrested in connection with the killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya has called into question the effectiveness of the justice system
by Jim Lobe 56 senators, including six Republicans, voted for the measure, four short of the 60 needed to cut off a threatened filibuster against it. Forty-three senators, all Republicans, opposed it. Of the 51 Democrats, only Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a strong supporter of the President Bush's terror war who calls himself an Independent Democrat, joined the Republicans to vote against cutting off debate
by Diego Cevallos Catholic Church leaders in Mexico accused a victim of sexual abuse of seeking economic gain for bringing charges in a U.S. court against Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera for protecting an alleged pedophile priest
by Stephen Leahy After years of denial, the White House-sponsored summit on climate change ended Friday with President Bush admitting that global warming was real and humans were responsible and asking for heads of state to join him at yet another summit next year (when his presidency ends). It's doubtful if anyone of consequence will attend that future gab-fest since President Bush continues to push voluntary cuts to greenhouse gas emissions when the rest of the world, including much of the business sector, has already said that approach simply doesn't work
by Joe Conason Hillary Clinton's skillful introduction of her new health care plan demonstrated why she is the most formidable Democrat running for president. It also suggested that if victorious, she won't be defeated so easily by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries as she and her husband were the last time they tried to reform the dysfunctional American medical system
by Joe Conason Open warfare between the jihadists and the sheiks happily coincided with the arrival of additional U.S. forces in Iraq over the following months. The general cleverly dispatched 4,000 of those troops to Anbar, and proceeded to take credit for a trend he knew was already under way
by Joe Conason With the help of The New York Times op-ed page, they launched the latest sophistry, which now turns up everywhere, often under the bylines of the same gang that helped to conceive the war and the surge. We are now making great strides in places such as Anbar province, they say, where Sunni insurgent sheiks have abandoned al Qaeda in favor of an alliance with us. If only we continue the surge, and expand it, then someday we will be able to wind down the occupation, and shrink it
by Robert Scheer The U.S. government purchases whatever army it needs, which has led to the dependence upon private contract firms like Blackwater USA, with its $300 million-plus contract to protect U.S. State Department personnel in Iraq. That is why the latest Blackwater incident, which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki branded a 'crime,' is so difficult to deal with
by Robert Scheer Once again, we have a general repeatedly promising to save Western civilization by turning the corner in yet another intractable and unnecessary foreign war. Back on Sept. 26, 2004, in the weeks before the midterm congressional elections, Petraeus took to the op-ed page of The Washington Post to make sure the voters didn't vote wrong. Despite appearances, he claimed the war in Iraq was going very well
by Robert Scheer In the effort to retaliate against terrorists who hijacked planes six years ago with an arsenal of $3 knives, this year's overall defense budget has been pushed to $657 billion. We are now spending $3 billion a week in Iraq alone, occupying a country that had nothing to do with the tragedy that sparked this orgy of militarism
by Robert Scheer What the heck -- the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already soaked up $808 billion, so why quarrel about the Bush administration's request this week for another $50 billion in supplementary spending? That's on top of the $141 billion in supplementary spending already added to the 2008 budget for the Iraq disaster
by Haider Rizvi Despite their close ties with the United States, the industrialized nations of Europe have been trying hard to engage Washington in negotiations on a comprehensive global agreement
by Bill Berkowitz Gary Bauer, a former Reagan administration official and longtime conservative activist, is heading up a new organization aimed at countering liberal groups like MoveOn.org, and supporting President Bush's global 'war on terror.' The 'Forgotten Americans Coalition' is composed of a number of veteran conservative leaders
by Ali Gharib Judge Michael Mukasey is widely regarded as a consistent conservative, but unlike his predecessor, disgraced former Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales, Mukasey is simultaneously seen as a judge with a reputation for being independent, separating his views on politics and the law
by Jalal Ghazi Most western media saw Israel's recent airstrike on Syria as a dry-run for an attack on Iran. But Arab media analysts viewed a more subtle psychological ploy on Israel's part to influence the guest list, and thus the outcome, of the upcoming regional peace summit in November
by Mark Weisenmiller The Crandall Canyon mine disaster has highlighted what appears to be a pattern of lackadaisical inspection and enforcement by the agency charged with overseeing safety compliance in the industry
Analysis by Lal Aqa Shirin Talking to the Taliban and reaching any deal with them will undoubtedly change the face of Afghan politics and may further strain relations with the Northern Alliance followers, who helped by U.S. money, Special Forces and air power, drove the Taliban from power
by Stephen Leahy Delegates from 191 nations are on the verge of an agreement under the Montreal Protocol for faster elimination of ozone-depleting chemicals, but the United States insists it must continue to use the banned pesticide methyl bromide
by Daniela Estrada Human rights groups applauded the Chilean Supreme Court's decision Friday to extradite former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) to be tried in his country for gross human rights abuses, noting that it sets an international legal precedent
by Thalif Deen When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad completed his three-day political theatrics in New York, drawing large crowds and angry demonstrators, he left the United Nations with a defiant warning: Iran will not be cowed by any new sanctions either by the United States or the European Union
by Ray McGovern It seems a good bet that Rove, who is no one's dummy and would not want to have to 'spin' an unnecessary war on Iran, lost the battle with Cheney over the merits of a military strike on Iran, and only then decided to spend more time with his family
by Domenico Maceri Official statistics show that more than 68,000 foreign-born military individuals are serving the U.S. How many of these individuals have relatives who do not have a legal right to be in the United States is not known. Figures from the National Center for Immigration Law show that one in 10 U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq have been immigrants
by Antoaneta Bezlova Since 1990 China has been the only big country backing the military junta that rules Burma, supplying it with aid and arms. Observers reckon Beijing has provided the generals with more than two billion dollars worth of arms and ammunition. In return, China has received teak and gems, promises of Burma's oil and gas reserves through a planned pipeline and access to a large market for its cheap consumer goods
by Marwaan Macan-Markar When not abusing unarmed civilians on the streets, over the past month, the whiteshirts flexed their muscles in others areas to contain rage against the junta that had broken to the surface after nearly 20 years of silent criticism. One of its tasks was to target media outfits in the country that paint an unflattering picture of Burma
by Andrew Lam Unlike Buddhism in the West, in Asia it is an institution that can be compared to the Jesuits of Europe, with wide political implications. The Burmese monks who protested against the ruling junta are showing the world that Buddhism is far from passive
by Moe Yu May and Marwaan Macan-Markar Monks were set upon all day by squads of armed riot police in this commercial capital of the country. Unmindful of the fact that it was a full moon day, and therefore sacred to Buddhists, many were beaten. Reports said at least four monks died due to injuries sustained during the clashes. Over 100 were arrested
by Khody Akhavi Two hundred years earlier, Napoleon appointed a group of Sunni scholars from Cairo's Al-Azhar University to 'rule' on behalf of Egypt's 'newly liberated' population. In both examples, military occupations orchestrated by ostensibly 'democratic republics' that wanted to craft occupied lands in their own image ended up creating Islamic republics. If Napoleon failed in his attempts to make Egypt a lucrative colony of the French Republic, why would Bush have an easier time turning Iraq into a 'beacon of democracy' in the Middle East?
Analysis by Khody Akhavi In the absence of a clear picture of what happened in the early hours of Sep. 6, speculation in the U.S. mainstream media has grown as to what exactly the Israelis targeted, and why Damascus -- assuming it was the target of an unprovoked attack -- has been so muted in its response
by Marwaan Macan-Markar Burma's Buddhist monks are threatening to turn an on-going protest against steep hikes in fuel prices into a religious and moral showdown with the country's oppressive military regime. The Burmese public is welcoming the young monks as the new heroes of the hour, he explained to IPS, since they have created a space that would have been immediately crushed had the demonstrators been lay people. 'The monks are seen as risking their lives on behalf of the people. They are standing up to the junta to save people from being arrested and tortured for protesting
by Nora Barrows-Friedman There are approximately 76,000 Bedouins currently living in 45 "unrecognized" villages scattered across the Negev desert. Even though they are citizens of the state of Israel, the people in these villages are denied basic social services such as schools, medical clinics or paved roads, and not one village has electricity, gas, or running water
by Rong Xiaoqing While revelations about the mysterious life of the Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu have sent shockwaves through the mainstream political world, Chinese media are wondering who Norman Hsu is and where his money came from
by Kester Kenn Klomegah Putin's decision on Friday to appoint Viktor Zubkov, an obscure politician, as Russia's new prime minister has caused speculation that Putin may be hoping to return to power in 2012
by Bill Berkowitz Heading down the familiar path well trod before him by other Bush officials, aides and advisors, defeated Republican candidates, and retired military officers; he's headed for a secure and well-funded post at a major right wing think tank
by Earl Ofari Hutchinson The ultimate irony is that Oprah's toughest sale of Obama will be to black women. Polls show that they are overwhelmingly backing Hillary. Though most adore Oprah and are well aware of her long standing backing of Obama, that hasn't shaken their support of Clinton the least bit
by Roberto Lovato The real winner of Sunday night's Democratic presidential candidates debate on the Spanish-language TV network Univision is Latino power. Today, the more than 14 million Latinos expected to vote in 2008 are sought out by the candidates
Analysis by Khody Akhavi Along with the broad -- and at times mocking -- generalizations about Iran's attempts to foment 'Islamic totalitarianism' throughout the world, Ledeen, accompanied by former CIA director James Woolsey and Clifford D. May, president of the hawkish Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, appeared dead-set against any diplomatic engagement with Iran. 'The [Iranian] leadership constantly tells its people 'the Iranian people must prepare to rule the world,' said Ledeen.
by Eli Clifton Speakers at the AEI event painted a positive image of post-surge Iraq, citing drops in sectarian violence and the impossibility of starting an immediate phased withdrawal based on timelines instead of improvements on the ground, both political and security related, which, they claim, would only lead to a failure in Iraq
by Jim Lobe The death in an apparent bombing outside his home of Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, whose rallying of local tribes against AQI has been cited by top U.S. officials as a turning point in Washington's efforts to pacify Sunni-dominated al Anbar province, also came just 10 days after his high-profile meeting with Bush at a U.S. military base in Anbar
by Ali al-Fadhily The Syrian and Jordanian governments are, between them, dealing with an estimated 2.75 million refugees. Both governments have been complaining for a long time that Iraq has not taken adequate responsibility for the refugee situation. Syria provides Iraqis with free health-care and education facilities, but Damascus recently said the annual cost of the massive Iraqi influx was $1 billion
As the Iraqi National Center for Blood Donation urges Iraqis to donate more blood to help meet increasing demand, individuals wishing to sell their blood congregate at hospitals in the hope of being able to make some money. Those offering rare blood types are best able to cash in
by Roberto Lovato The controversy around the documentary will have done more than the documentary itself to educate the country about the more than 500,000 Latinos who enlisted during World War II. Premiering during a historical moment of unprecedented anti-immigrant, anti-Latino sentiment, The War's 'Oh-yeah,-Latinos-fought-too' feel will not likely inspire future PFC Peralta's to enlist
by Moe Yu May and Marwaan Macan-Markar Like they did for over a week, the monks who gathered at Burma's most sacred site -- the Shwedagon pagoda -- performed a ritual on Sept. 25 under a blistering mid-day sun. They sat on the hallowed grounds of the majestic temple in Rangoon to pray for the people's 'victory'
by Matthew Cardinale On the videos, the incident starts with Meyer brandishing a copy of Greg Palast's book, 'Armed Madhouse,' and asking Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, how he could have conceded the election, despite reports of the disenfranchisement of African American voters and of electronic voting machines that counted backwards. Only seconds into his question, Meyer appears to be responding to someone asking him to stop speaking
by Kimia Sanati When Iran's reformist Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, 'keeper of the Revolution's secrets and kingmaker,' was elected as speaker of the powerful Assembly of Experts earlier this month, it signalled a major shift in the country's tumultuous political scene
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