ISSUE 170 TABLE OF CONTENTS
by Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail Babies born in Falluja are showing illnesses and deformities on a scale never seen before, doctors and residents say. The new cases, and the number of deaths among children, have risen after 'special weaponry' was used in the two massive bombing campaigns in Falluja in 2004
by Jalal Ghazi Contrary to images on American television, not all Arab countries are benefiting from the rise of oil prices. Images on Arab television station Al Jazeera show that rising oil prices have created pockets of extreme wealth and poverty within the Middle East
by Alexander Cockburn He didn't have enemies, (which for a journalist is not an impressive credential). So this nice, popular insider was a fine advertisement for two professions -- journalism and politics -- whose collective ranking in public esteem is down there with salesfolk for subprime mortgages. No wonder they made haste to offer Russert to the people as the hero-journalist. In hailing Russert, they got to hail and to ennoble themselves
by Alexander Cockburn Although Obama's statements at AIPAC got wide coverage across the Middle East, from Ha'aretz to al-Jazeera, what was obvious here in the United States was the utter absence of comment in the mainstream press. It was evidently taken as a given, unworthy of editorial remark, that a man who might very well be the next president was de-activating the policy of 'change' precisely where it is most needed
by Alexander Cockburn As the dust and fury arise from this year's presidential campaign, we dwell excessively on the notion that a new president, whether -- in our personal estimation -- 'good' or 'bad,' will make all that difference to the Empire's course, fixed on a course dictated by policies decades old and lobbies that don't change every four years
by Peter Hirschberg The rockets being fired into Israel from Gaza have stopped for now. So have the Israeli raids into the coastal strip. But the majority of Israelis are deeply skeptical that the truce with Hamas, which went into effect last Thursday, will endure. Many also believe that it represents a major achievement for the Islamic movement, not for Israel
by Alexander Cockburn Obama right now has an edge in electoral-college votes, though this somewhat depends on which faction of number crunchers you believe. By almost every yardstick, except the wild card of his skin color, he'll win. It should be inconceivable for a Republican to capture the White House for the third time in a row when the price of gasoline is headed toward $5 a gallon, food prices are soaring and most Americans reckon things are going to get a lot worse
by Daniel Allen The U.S. government did not attend the negotiations, instead arm-twisting its allies to weaken the treaty. In the end, though, all other major NATO countries joined with the majority in agreeing to get rid of these weapons, which are designed to kill or maim every living thing in an area as large as two football fields. The vast majority of victims of cluster bombs have been civilian
by Steve Young Hillary's campaign was built on the base of predetermined success. Mission Accomplished declared with far more hostilities left to deal with. She underestimated the political machine Obama assembled and the new voters it would bring to the fight
by Steve Young This past week on the Radio Factor, Bill O'Reilly called the Far Left the greatest danger to the country, and once again claimed to be an Independent who didn't have to excoriate the far right because 'after Tim McVeigh and the Oklahoma bombing, the government put an end to militias'
by Steve Young Bill still thinks people buy his claim of independence. Need proof? Read Bill's syndicated column this week. Bill uses the Gallup poll to demonstrate that despite a large lead in money and with the media in his pocket, Barack and McCain are virtually tied. Ever the objective observer, Bill ignores almost every other poll that says otherwise. Some, double digit otherwise
by Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail Many believe that the number of the dead is higher than these studies reflect also because the lack of access to areas controlled by militias and other fighters prevents police and army personnel from finding and collecting bodies. New burial grounds are found often, and the dead are usually not recorded. Many residents told IPS that farmers commonly find bones in their fields.
by Jim Lobe The lack of confidence in Bush's leadership was particularly strong in the greater Middle East, Latin America, and among Washington's traditional allies in Western Europe, including two of the nations visited by Bush in his valedictory tour of 'Old Europe' during the past week -- Britain (77 percent negative) and France (85 percent negative). Indeed, in 16 out of 19 countries polled, not including the U.S., majorities or pluralities rated Bush negatively. Only two countries, Nigeria and India, gave him positive ratings overall
by Khody Akhavi During her near monthly visits to Israel to push forward the Annapolis process, Rice has weathered continued setbacks, and there is now a growing realization among all sides that a U.S.-brokered agreement will not be reached before Bush's term expires in January 2009
by Robert Scheer McCain is the most confounding of candidates, veering as he does from the stance of provincial reaction to sophisticated enlightenment within an almost instantaneous time frame. He did it last week, when he blasted Barack Obama for being soft in appraising America's adversaries while, in the same moment, calling for sensible rapprochement with Vladimir Putin's Russia on nuclear arms control. While such unpredictability can be appealing in a senator, it is unnerving in a possible president
by Robert Scheer Bush's deliberate roiling of world politics is the key variable in the run-up of oil prices. No president has been more brilliant in destabilizing the politics of oil-producing countries from Venezuela to Russia, as well as those of the key oil lakes of Iraq and Iran
by Abid Aslam Top U.S. lenders, faced with public and political ire over a rising flood of foreclosures, have announced stepped-up efforts to help troubled borrowers. The Hope Now alliance, assembled and backed by the Bush administration, is introducing measures aimed at making it easier and quicker for borrowers in arrears to avert foreclosure
by Gareth Porter Two key pledges made by the Bush administration on military bases in its negotiations with the government of Iraq have now been revealed as carefully-worded ruses aimed at concealing U.S. negotiating aims from both U.S. citizens and Iraqis who would object to them if they were made clear
by Marwaan Macan-Markar Paul Risley, spokesperson for the World Food Program's (WFP) Asia division, confirmed that more food is getting into the affected part of the delta. But away from the weekly press conferences that offer a progress report on the UN's work in the cyclone-hit areas, a different face of the world body emerges. It is one of frustration at the bureaucratic roadblocks placed in the way of the UN's humanitarian mission
Analysis by Peter Hirschberg Corruption charges against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the calls for him to step down have heightened the sense that elections are just around the corner, largely paralyzing his ability to govern. The result: Key decisions, like whether to accept an Egyptian-mediated truce with Hamas in Gaza, have become hostage to increasingly acrimonious political battles
by Julio Godoy The donors have fallen short of meeting earlier promises. After the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, they pledged $25 billion for the period ending 2008. But only $15 billion was spent in Afghanistan during the last six years -- and not all of it on the kind of aid people really need
by Joe Conason Precisely on schedule, the usual assortment of right-wing operatives is preparing its expected assault on the Democratic presidential nominee
by Joe Conason According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the McCain proposals would render almost one-quarter of their benefits to the top 0.1% of taxpayers. Those are households with annual incomes over $2.8 million. Families in the lower 60% of the income scale would receive 8% of the McCain plan's benefits
by Ali Gharib A Supreme Court ruling Thursday that reinstated the principle of habeas corpus for detainees at the prison for terrorism suspects. The latest in a series of setbacks to Bush administration policies on terrorism suspects asserted that prisoners at Guantanamo can challenge the legality of their detention in U.S. courts
by Adrianne Appel After more than a decade of DNA tests, appeals and waiting on death row, Texas prisoner Michael Blair is likely to be exonerated soon, further undermining public confidence in the infallibility of the U.S. death penalty system. Recent extensive DNA tests on microscopic hair samples established no link between Blair and a child who was murdered in 1993, according to state prosecutors. It is expected that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will grant Blair a new trial and that state prosecutors will then dismiss charges against him because they believe there is no evidence to convict him
by Marwaan Macan-Markar The bond between the monks and the people is one the regime fears. The regime's brutal crackdown of last September's peaceful pro-democracy protests -- led by thousands of robed monks -- reveals the discomfort. Since then, the junta has turned the heat on any moves to strengthen a beleaguered people's increasing dependence on the clergy for help and hope. A report last week by Amnesty International pointed to the junta's strategy, since the cyclone, to break the growing dependency cyclone victims have on the clergy. Hundreds of cyclone victims who had found shelter in four monasteries in Bogale were evicted by the regime
by Haider Rizvi The U.S. government's anti-terrorist financing programs are based on the guilt by association tactics of the McCarthy era and have had a widespread negative impact on U.S. charities, critics say
by Kester Kenn Klomegah A $500 million development assistance package to Africa marks a new move by Russia to catch up with Chinese expansion into Africa
by Mohammed A. Salih Washington has also reportedly agreed to drop a demand that foreign civilian contractors operating in the country should enjoy immunity from Iraqi laws and to reduce its demand for 58 military bases to a number in the 'low dozens'
by Joe Conason Rather than merely score easy debating points off McCain and his ill-chosen advisers, however, Obama could speak more broadly about the stagnation and waste that have resulted from Republican economic policy. He could explain how unfair policies hinder growth. And he shouldn't hesitate to pillory conservative policymakers for incompetence and irresponsibility
by Joe Conason What Obama and McCain should remember as they draw up their lists is that many, if not all, successful vice-presidential nominees were chosen by instinct as much as by crass calculation
by Marwaan Macan-Markar The Burma junta has forced cyclone victims out of temporary shelters, confiscated aid, and come in the way of assistance to the victims from local community groups and Burmese citizens, revealed Amnesty International
by Robert Scheer Clinton is about as good as the Democratic Party leadership will accept in its insistence on a right-of-center balance to Obama's purported liberalism
by Alison Raphael MDC leader and presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai is still taking refuge at the Dutch Embassy, to which he fled for safety Sunday after announcing that increased violence against MDC supporters had led him to withdraw from the race
by Jim Lobe In a major address on Middle East policy June 2, Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, pledged to maintain the Bush administration's hard line against Iran and expressed strong skepticism about the ability of the current Palestinian leadership to reach a peace accord with Israel
by Michael Winship Countrywide was one of America's primary purveyors of subprime mortgages, the dubious, lucrative loans that got the country into our current housing crisis. Almost no one paid attention
by Aung Zaw There were rumors that U.S. warships were on their way to help democratic forces in the uprising in 1988, prompting thousands of young Burmese to leave the jungle and take up arms shortly after the September 18 coup. But the rumors were just wishful thinking -- the warships never materialized. Twenty years later, the Burmese are still waiting for those warships, which this time carry humanitarian aid. And, by a bitter irony, the ships remain as illusory as ever
by Ali Gharib The League is intended to give like-minded democracies a multilateral vehicle that could authorize intervention in cases where the Security Council cannot act. Together, they could act on humanitarian crises and security issues without having to convince non-democratic UN members to go along
Analysis by Gareth Porter Cheney had used the compliant Petraeus to do an end-run around the national security bureaucracy. Petraeus had already reached agreement with the White House to take Cheney's line on the EFPs issue and to present the briefing immediately without consulting State or Defense
Analysis by Peter Hirschberg The day before Barak called on Olmert to stand down, Morris Talansky, a 75-year-old U.S. businessman, told a Jerusalem court how he had given Olmert some $150,000 in cash-stuffed envelopes over a 15-year period. The money, he said, had gone in part to cover the Israeli leader's personal expenses
by David Cronin The rejection of the European Union's latest treaty by Ireland's electorate has been interpreted as a vote against the bloc's increasing emphasis on bolstering its military capacities and its efforts to prioritize free market principles over social protection
by Ali Gharib and Jim Lobe While the Pentagon did not comment directly on those reports Wednesday, its description of what took place suggested that the soldiers -- all members of Pakistan's Frontier Corps -- were legitimate targets when they were killed
by Louis E.V. Nevaer A dramatic drop in the nesting population of sea turtles in the Yucatan could be the latest evidence of the domino effect of climate change
by Louis E.V. Nevaer The familiar complaint that Mexican presidents are reluctant to be full-fledged partners in the war on drugs is no longer heard in Washington these days: Mexican President Felipe Calderon has taken the lead, launching the most ambitious war on the drug cartels operating in Mexico
by Robert Scheer In one of his better performances as a senator, McCain distinguished himself by challenging a swindle that would have rewarded the Boeing company with a contract worth $100 billion for leasing Boeing aircraft, which were planes converted to refueling tankers from a model that was not selling in the depressed market
by Jim Lobe The long-awaited report, the last in a series published over the past several years by the committee, found that Bush and Cheney, in particular, frequently made assertions in the run-up to the war that key intelligence agencies could not substantiate or about which there was substantial disagreement within the intelligence community
by Steve Young While there be little I can relate to with your audience besides wearing diapers and having great difficulty in chewing solid food, I know a 'Spin Stops Here' pile of poop when I smell it
by J.R. Pegg After agreeing to consider the bill Monday, Republican leaders stalled actual debate on the measure. On Wednesday, McConnell refused to waive reading of the bill, forcing Senate clerks to read aloud all 492 pages. That took nearly ten hours and drew the ire of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Nevada Democrat criticized McConnell before sharing with colleagues a Republican memo, given to him by a lobbyist, that outlined a plan by Republican leaders to delay consideration of the bill in a bid to score political points with Americans concerned about high energy costs
Analysis by Lawrence Delevingne What officials portrayed as a simple organizational realignment, many African and U.S. observers saw as the start of an increased U.S. military presence in Africa to secure resources, check China's rising power and bolster counter-terrorism efforts.
by Michael Winship Appropriately for a senator from the vast expanses of the American southwest, it's land deals that appear to be John McCain's weakness, land deals possibly tied to campaign donations, lobbyists and other inside connections
by Ali Gharib Pentagon spending in recent years has either matched or exceeded the military budgets of the rest of the world combined. Presented with that fact, the next logical question is, where is all the money going? The answer is simple: Everywhere
by Mohammed Omer Gaza is on the brink, and Israel is keeping it that way. Israel makes sure Gaza gets just a fraction of its needs of fuel, says Mahmoud al-Khozendar, vice-president of the Petrol Station Owners Association. And when it does come in, the priority is fishermen, bakeries and farmers
by Bill Berkowitz While Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were still battling it out in Democratic presidential primaries in Indiana and North Carolina McCain, stopped off at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to deliver a speech about his judicial philosophy. While McCain spoke about a number of issues related to the Constitution, including the separation of powers that it enshrines, the subtext of his remarks was red meat to conservatives. The candidate assured them that he was resolutely opposed to so-called 'judicial activism,' and that a McCain administration would nominate Supreme Court justices in the mould of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito, Jr., both of whom were appointed by Bush
by Earl Ofari Hutchinson In a talk with reporters in Louisiana, Republican presidential contender John McCain implored disgruntled Clinton Democrats to back him. His pitch was: I'm the toughest, most knowledgeable and most experienced on national security. The unmistakable inference is that rival Obama is too green, fresh, and untested to gamble with on these matters. McCain's aim may have been to woo Democrats, but it also staked out what he must do to win the White House
by Russell Morse Shannon County, South Dakota, which is on the Pine Ridge reservation, is the second poorest county in America. The first is Buffalo County, also in South Dakota. In fact, half of the top ten poorest counties in the United States are in South Dakota. And here comes Hillary and Barack, sleep deprived and sweat drenched around the final bend
by Abid Aslam The IMF, following annual consultations with U.S. officials, said in a summary released Friday that it expected growth to be 'roughly flat' in 2008 and to rise to around 2 percent next year. In April, the agency had predicted 0.9 percent growth in 2009
by Bill Berkowitz Despite pleas not to attend the Washington meeting from a number of organizations, including the newly formed Jewish group J Street -- which has partnered with Democracy for America in an effort called 'Say It Ain't So, Joe' -- Lieberman appears thus far steadfast in his willingness to stand with Hagee
by J.R. Pegg U.S. beekeepers have lost a record 36 percent of their colonies this year, about twice the amount lost during a typical winter, and they warn that the mysterious disorder afflicting the bees could have serious environmental and economic consequences
by Bill Berkowitz Unlike Massachusetts, the only other state to allow same-sex marriages, California will not require marriage license applicants to be state residents. However, when gay and lesbian couples from other states marry in California, they will return home to decidedly different circumstances
These children, held at the main U.S.-run detention facilities, Baghdad-based Camp Cropper and Basra-based Camp Bucca, are not provided with lawyers, do not attend the one-week or one-month detention reviews and have very limited contact with their families, say rights groups
by Gareth Porter Pentagon officials firmly opposed a proposal by Cheney last summer for airstrikes against Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps bases by insisting that the administration would have to make clear decisions about how far the United States would go in escalating the conflict with Iran
by Walden Bello Agriculture is in deep crisis, and the causes are many, including civil wars and the spread of HIV-AIDS. However, a very important part of the explanation was the phasing out of government controls and support mechanisms under the structural adjustment programs to which most African countries were subjected as the price for getting IMF and World Bank assistance to service their external debt. Instead of triggering a virtuous spiral of growth and prosperity, structural adjustment saddled Africa with low investment, increased unemployment, reduced social spending, reduced consumption, and low output, all combining to create a vicious cycle of stagnation and decline.
Analysis by Peter Hirschberg Over 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighter jets, as well as helicopters and refuelling tankers, took part in the exercise over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in early June, according to the New York Times. Quoting unnamed U.S. officials, the report said that the helicopters and tankers covered 1,400 kilometres, approximately the distance between Israel and Iran's uranium enrichment plant
Albion Monitor Issue 170 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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