Saturday, October 28, 2006



Tony Blair's most trusted military commander yesterday branded as 'cuckoo' the way Britain's overstretched army was sent into Afghanistan.


Capitalism: Not Strong on the Long Term

So I don't see this particular bill being paid:
Britons face the prospect of a welter of new green taxes to tackle climate change, as the most authoritative report on global warming warns it will cost the world up to £3.68 trillion unless it is tackled within a decade.

The review by Sir Nicholas Stern, commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and published tomorrow, marks a crucial point in the debate by underlining how failure to act would trigger a catastrophic global recession. Unchecked climate change would turn 200 million people into refugees, the largest migration in modern history, as their homes succumbed to drought or flood.

Stern also warns that a successor to the Kyoto agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions should be signed next year, not by 2010/11 as planned. He forecasts that the world needs to spend 1 per cent of global GDP - equivalent to about £184bn - dealing with climate change now, or face a bill between five and 20 times higher for damage caused by letting it continue. Unchecked climate change could thus cost as much as £566 for every man, woman and child now on the planet - roughly 6.5 billion people.

The 700-page report argues that an international framework on climate change covering the globe will be necessary, and that different countries may opt to reduce emissions differently. Options range from many more green taxes to carbon trading.


Shooting Corpses

Tell me again, I dare you, how much better things are in Iraq:

LAST Sunday Zeyad the Baghdad dentist sat at his computer to update his Healing Iraq blog where he records daily news and comments on the situation in post-Saddam Iraq.

"My brother, Nabil, witnesses another terrible murder, this time of a hairdresser," he wrote.

"She was dragged out of her taxi by four gunmen, a sack was put on her head and then they opened fire. Her corpse was left on the street for over three hours because no one dared to go near it. The worst was when Iraqi troops arrived at night to pick up the corpse. They had to shoot it several times to ensure it wasn't booby-trapped with explosives, something that is becoming more and more common in our area of Baghdad."


How the World Views Us

A headline from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Dunk a detainee, 'vice-president for torture' says


Police State 101

Lesson today: Submit to authority on a moment's notice:

A school safety drill that included police officers in riot gear with weapons has caused concern among some parents who say it was too realistic and frightened some students.

Police in the western Michigan community of Wyoming entered two classrooms at Lee Middle and High School on Thursday and announced there was a threat to the school, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

Students, who were unaware police were conducting a drill, were taken from the classroom into the halls, patted down by officers and asked what they had in their pockets, the newspaper said.

"Some of these kids were so scared, they just about wet their pants," said Marge Bradshaw, a parent with four children in Godfrey-Lee Schools. "I think it's pure wrong that the students and parents were not informed of this."

Officers wore protective gear, including vests and helmets, and carried rifles that were unloaded and marked with colored tape to indicate they were not live weapons, the newspaper said.


Just Kill Us Now

Fried Coke:

A new fast food is making its debut at U.S. fairs this fall -- fried Coke.

Abel Gonzales, 36, a computer analyst from Dallas, tried about 15 different varieties before coming up with his perfect recipe -- a batter mix made with Coca-Cola syrup, a drizzle of strawberry syrup, and some strawberries.

Balls of the batter are then deep-fried, ending up like ping-pong ball sized doughnuts which are then served in a cup, topped with Coca-Cola syrup, whipped cream, cinnamon sugar and a cherry on the top.

But Gonzales said the success of his fried Coke had inspired him. Next year's fair-goers can look forward to fried Sprite or -- for those watching their weight -- fried diet Coke.


Houdini a Spy?

Oddly, a new book argues that he was:
A new biography of the legendary performer suggests that Houdini worked as a spy for Scotland Yard, monitored Russian anarchists and chased counterfeiters for the U.S. Secret Service — all before he was possibly murdered.

The biography lays out a scenario where Houdini, using his career as cover, managed to travel the United States and the world while collecting information for law enforcement. The authors made the link after reviewing a journal belonging to William Melville, a British spy master who mentioned Houdini several times.

Melville, while at Scotland Yard in the early 20th century, helped launch Houdini's European career by allowing the performer to demonstrate his escape skills. Houdini, at a demonstration arranged by Melville, slipped free from a pair of Scotland Yard handcuffs as an audition for a London theater owner.


The South Gets Smart

Southerners are pretty good about calling bullshit when they it, as it turns out:

The South is known for its strong support of the military. Perhaps it's that very support that has led to something one might not expect – growing opposition to the war in Iraq. Not only opposition matching national levels, but in some southern states even exceeding it.

An important new national survey by the Institute for Southern Studies and the School of Public and International Affairs at North Carolina State University shows that, "Southerners, after disproportionate support for the war early on, now doubt US policy in Iraq just as strongly as people in other regions of the country, and in some cases more so."


Mixed Messages

They'll say whatever they feel like saying. We all know the truth: They are still torturing people in the name of the United States:

President Bush said Friday the United States does not torture prisoners, commenting after Vice President Dick Cheney embraced the suggestion that a dunk in water might be useful to get terrorist suspects to talk.

Human rights groups complained that Cheney's words amounted to an endorsement of a torture technique known as "water boarding," in which the victim believes he is about to drown. The White House insisted Cheney was not talking about water boarding, but would not explain what he meant.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Americans: Mad Enough to Be Sensible?

Could be:

The 2006 election is shaping up to be a repeat of 1994. This time, Democrats are favored to sweep Republicans from power in the House after a dozen years of GOP rule.

Less than two weeks before the Nov. 7 election, the latest Associated Press-AOL News poll found that likely voters overwhelmingly prefer Democrats over Republicans. They are angry at President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress, and say Iraq and the economy are their top issues.

At the same time, fickle middle-class voters are embracing the Democratic Party and fleeing the GOP - just as they abandoned Democrats a dozen years ago and ushered in an era of Republican control.


Coalition Winning Hearts and Minds...

in Afghanistan:

PHOTOGRAPHS of German soldiers posing with a human skull in Afghanistan have triggered outrage in Germany and cast a shadow over plans to raise its military profile worldwide.

The Bild newspaper printed a close-up of an unidentified soldier smiling and holding up a skull under the headline "German soldiers desecrate the dead". Other photos showed the skull balanced on a jeep and a soldier holding the skull next to his exposed penis.


The Financial Center Cannot Hold

Is this yet another harbinger of the end of America's global hegemony?
At a black-tie event this summer, some of the world's most powerful bankers and business executives gathered for a toast: "We are the international finance and business capital of the world, the world's greatest global financial center, without question," the mayor told the assembled crowd.
But that wasn't Michael Bloomberg talking. That's because the city wasn't New York - it was London.
Even as the Dow Jones industrial average is climbing to new highs and Wall Street firms are reporting robust profits, by some measures, New York's long-held crown as the financial capital of the world may be slipping.
London, whose lord mayor, David Brewer, made the summertime boast, has had a heady resurgence in banking and lending.
In recent years, its stock market has attracted a growing number of companies that once would have sought to list in the United States. And London is attracting a growing tide of hedge fund assets.
Other financial centers are growing, too: Chicago will be the home of the world's largest derivatives market when the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade merge, while Hong Kong is poised to be the biggest market for initial public offerings this year with the huge IPO of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.


Panorama of poofiness! Fiesta of fluff! It's Zoratime!

She may be the most neurotic of our cats by a long shot, but none of them can just ooze into relaxation like she does...

....and she loves the bellyrub.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

And Ratzi Smiles...

Unlike untold thousands of Nicaraguan women:
Nicaragua last night voted to outlaw all forms of abortion, including operations to save a pregnant woman's life, after a campaign by the Catholic church.

The main political parties supported a bill establishing jail sentences of six to 30 years for women who terminate their pregnancies and doctors who perform the procedure.

The proposal was fast-tracked through parliament in the run-up to a presidential election next month, prompting accusations that it was an opportunistic vote-grabbing ploy.


Texas Justice

Sickening. The words he wrote in his own blood, by the way, are rumored to be something along the lines of "I did not shoot him":
A convicted killer facing lethal injection beat the executioner to it Thursday, committing suicide by slitting his throat and arm with a blade in his Texas death row cell 15 hours before he was supposed to die.

Michael Dewayne Johnson, 29, was found in a pool of blood by officers making routine checks on him every 15 minutes, authorities said. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Johnson apparently scrawled words in blood on the wall of his cell, but prison officials would not say what he wrote.


He used a sharp piece of metal attached to what looked like a wooden Popsicle stick, Lyons said.


Johnson, who as 18 at the time of the slaying, insisted it was a companion, David Vest, who had gunned down Wetterman as the pair, driving a stolen car, fled the convenience store because they did not have the $24 to pay for their gas.

Vest blamed the shooting on Johnson, received an eight-year prison sentence in a plea bargain and testified against his friend. Vest is now free.


Deep Thoughts, by Donald Rumsfeld

Back off, it's the future, not a guillotine!

We've got a surrealist foreign policy now, it would seem:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday that anyone demanding deadlines for progress in Iraq should "just back off," because it is too difficult to predict when Iraqis will resume control of their country.

During a Pentagon news conference, an often-combative Rumsfeld said that while benchmarks for security, political and economic progress are valuable, "it's difficult. We're looking out into the future. No one can predict the future with absolute certainty."

He said the goals have no specific deadlines or consequences if they are not met by specific dates.

"You're looking for some sort of a guillotine to come falling down if some date isn't met," Rumsfeld told reporters. "That is not what this is about."


Bush Is Still a Jackass

Not really shocking news
, I know:
President Bush said the ``sacred institution'' of marriage between a man and a woman must be defended against what he called activist court rulings.

Bush briefly brought up the topic, unprompted, while raising money here for a Republican congressional candidate, a day after the New Jersey Supreme Court decided that same-sex couples must be given the same rights as married people.


Another Window into Santorum's Fantasy Life

Why am I reminded of Barton Fink?

Detectives: Where's Mundt, Fink? He teach you how to do it? You two have some sick sex thing?

Barton Fink: Sex? He's a man. We wrestled.

Detectives: You're a sick fuck, Fink.

Senator Rick Santorum (PA-Rep) knocks out a wrestler in a new campaign advertisement that was posted on YouTube a few days ago, RAW STORY has learned.

Santorum stresses his record on "teaming up" with Democrats including Barbara Boxer, Senator Joe Lieberman, and even Senator Hillary Clinton on assorted legislation, as costumed wrestlers tussle in a ring before an excited crowd.

"Too often," Santorum says, "this is what it seems like in Washington, but to get things done you gotta work together."

The Republican Senator delivers his message from inside the ring, as one wrestler pins the other one down.

Just before saying, "I approve this message," Santorum coldcocks a menacing looking wrestler who is creeping up behind him, without taking his eyes off of the camera.


Worst in a Year

Have we turned the corner yet?

The number of American troops killed in Iraq in October reached the highest monthly total in a year Thursday after four Marines and a sailor died of wounds suffered while fighting in the same Sunni insurgent stronghold.

The U.S. military said 96 U.S. troops have died so far in October, the most in one month since October 2005, when the same number was killed.


"If We Can't Win, I'll Pull Us Out"

Says our bold and resolute president, in contradiction to everything he tells the mainstream media. National Review Online has the story:
Everybody knows George W. Bush is determined to win the war in Iraq. What came through in a meeting with conservative journalists in the Oval Office Wednesday afternoon, though, was the president’s frustration in not being able to find more meaningful ways to measure progress in the war, and in not being able to make the case more effectively to the American people that progress is, in fact, being made.

But beyond that loomed an even larger concern: In today’s Iraq, the president conceded, it is the enemy, and not the United States, that is defining what victory means.
“The frustration is that the definition of success has now gotten to be, how many innocent people are dying?” the president said. “And if there’s a lot dying, it means the enemy is winning.” He paused. “That doesn’t mean they’re winning.”
“I’ve thought long and hard about this, because it is precisely what is frustrating most people,” Bush said. “A lot of people are just saying, ‘You’re not doing enough to win. We’re not winning, you’re not doing enough to win, and I’m frustrated, I want it over with, with victory.’ And I’m trying to figure out a matrix that says things are getting better. I think that one way to measure is less violence than before, I guess…”
“If we can’t win, I’ll pull us out,” the president said. “If I didn’t think it was noble and just and we can win, we’re gone. I can’t — I’m not going to keep those kids in there and have to deal with their loved ones. I can’t cover it up when I meet with a family who’s lost a child. I cry, I weep, I hug. And I’ve got to be able to look them in the eye and say, we’re going to win. I have to be able to do that. And I’m not a good faker.”

“And so what I’m telling you is — we’ll win this.”


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Soldiers Speaking Up

It'll be interesting to see what happens if and when this petition goes to Congress:
It is a common enough sentiment in a politically charged electoral season: bring the troops home. But this time the demand is coming not from politicians and activists safe at home, but from troops on active service.

An online petition aims to collect the signatures of American troops in Iraq opposed to the war and pass their grievance to members of Congress in January.

The petition asks service members to sign the statement: "As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for US troops to come home."

The petition, the Appeal for Redress, has gathered just 118 signatures since its launch a month ago. Including National Guard and reservists, there are 1.4m US troops on active duty.

With the midterm elections two weeks away one of the petition's organisers, Sgt Liam Madden, decided to go public. "The more informed I got, the more I opposed the war," he told the San Jose Mercury News. "The more people who died there, the longer we stayed there, the more I opposed the war. The more I know, the easier it is to support withdrawal."

The petition cites three criteria for demanding a withdrawal of troops from Iraq: the failure to provide troops with adequate preparation and protection; the human cost in lives to Americans and Iraqis; and the economic cost of the war.


US to EU: Shut Up and Play along with Our Torture System

And sadly, the European nations obeyed:
The CIA tried to persuade Germany to silence EU protests about the human rights record of one of America's key allies in its clandestine torture flights programme, the Guardian can reveal.

According to a secret intelligence report, the CIA offered to let Germany have access to one of its citizens, an al-Qaida suspect being held in a Moroccan cell. But the US secret agents demanded that in return, Berlin should cooperate and "avert pressure from EU" over human rights abuses in the north African country. The report describes Morocco as a "valuable partner in the fight against terrorism".

The classified documents prepared for the German parliament last February make clear that Berlin did eventually get to see the detained suspect, who was arrested in Morocco in 2002 as an alleged organiser of the September 11 strikes.

He was flown from Morocco to Syria on another rendition flight. Syria offered access to the prisoner on the condition that charges were dropped against Syrian intelligence agents in Germany accused of threatening Syrian dissidents. Germany dropped the charges, but denied any link.

After the CIA offered a deal to Germany, EU countries adopted an almost universal policy of downplaying criticism of human rights records in countries where terrorist suspects have been held. They have also sidestepped questions about secret CIA flights partly because of growing evidence of their complicity.


New Jersey Does the Right Thing

Initial word on the ruling has the court asserting that gays and lesbians have the right, if not to "marriage," then at least to the exact same protections and provisions as accrue to straight marriage couples.

Decision here.


Dems Support the Troops

Just ask the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

IAVA assigned an 'A' through 'F' grade using the scale at left showing the percentage of time each Senator has indeed supported troops and Veterans. As someone who has watched Senate Republicans vote time and time again against legislation that would benefit military families, the results did not shock me in the slightest.

No Senator in either party was given an A grade by IAVA. Thirteen Senators received a rating of A- and all of those were Democrats. A total of 23 Senators were given a B+ rating and 22 of those were Democrats as well. The other was Independent James Jeffords of Vermont, who caucuses with the Democrats.

Cutting to the chase -- and, perhaps more than anything I've seen in recent years, truly defining the difference between the two parties -- is that the worst grade received by a Senate Democrat was higher than the best grade granted a Republican. GOP-lite Ben Nelson (D-NE) received the lowest grade of any Democrat with a B- while Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) managed a C grade from IAVA.
The numbers are striking. Even more so when formatted as a chart, as here.


The Truce That Isn't

Everything is just fine in Pakistan. Nothing to worry about:

U.S. military officials tell ABC News cross-border attacks by the Taliban are up "300 percent" since President Musharraf declared a "truce" with tribal leaders in the troubled Northern Waziristan region that borders Afghanistan.

"Politically, it is very sensitive for us to raise this issue with Pakistan," said a senior NATO officer in Kabul. "But the facts are the facts."

Reports from the district capital Miram Shah say Taliban vigilantes now patrol the streets, while Pakistani government officials and the military are all but absent.


We Lose

Der Spiegel has an interesting article about the many ills American workers are suffering due to rampant globalization:
At the beginning of the 21st century, the United States is still a superpower. But it's a superpower facing competition from beyond its borders as well as internal difficulties. Its lower and middle classes are turning out to be the losers of globalization.

Make no mistake about it: at the start of the new century, the United States is still a superpower. But it is a superpower that faces tough competition from outside and difficulties within. The feedback effects involved in globalization are especially intense for the US economy -- so much so that large parts of the US workforce are now standing with their backs against the wall.

The rise of Asia has only led to a relative decline of the US national economy. At least so far. But for many blue- and white-collar workers, this decline is already absolute because they have less of everything than they used to. They possess less money, they are shown less respect in society and their chances for climbing up the social ladder have deteriorated dramatically. They're the losers in the world war for wealth.


Nothing Says "Happy Anniversary" Like...

Colored water cannons blasting away at protestors.

A riot police unit is using colored water cannons to push anti-government protesters out of downtown Budapest, Hungary, Monday, Oct. 23, 2006. Anger broke out after police didn't allow protesters to get close to the Hungarian Parliament building where top foreign politicians celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian revolution.


We're 53rd!

Something to be proud of, here in the Land of the Free:
Some poor countries, such as Mauritania and Haiti, improved their record in a global press freedom index this year, while France, the United States and Japan slipped further down the scale of 168 countries rated, the group Reporters Without Borders said yesterday.

Although it ranked 17th on the first list, published in 2002, the United States now stands at 53, having fallen nine places since last year.

"Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of 'national security' to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his 'war on terrorism,' " the group said.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More Good Use of Gates's Wealth

Well done:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Tuesday pledged US$23 million to help Indian health authorities in their efforts to combat HIV.

The funds, to be disbursed over the next three years, will be used to ``enhance the capacity of the government of India's HIV prevention response,'' Tadataka Yamada of the Foundation's Global Health Program, said in New Delhi.


Only Man-on-Dog Santorum Can Save Us...

from Nazi terrorists, or Democrats, or something:
Likening the times to the late 1930s as Nazi Germany was rising to power, Sen. Rick Santorum said last night that if he loses his re-election bid, it could set the stage for terrorism to become more of a threat than the Nazis ever were.

“If we are not successful here and things don’t go right in the election, there’s a good chance that the course of our country could change,” he said. “We are in the equivalent of the late 1930s, and this election will decide whether we are going to continue to appease or whether we will stand and fight while we have a chance to win without devastating consequences.

“And you here in Pennsylvania — you here in this room — will have a huge role to play as to what happens.”


Natural Selection in Action


Men who use mobile phones could be risking their fertility, warn researchers.

A new study shows a worrying link between poor sperm and the number of hours a day that a man uses his mobile phone.

Those who made calls on a mobile phone for more than four hours a day had the worst sperm counts and the poorest quality sperm, according to results released yest at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting in New Orleans.


Welcome to the Chinese Century

It's coming. Don't doubt it:
Kalista Godsman arrives to her Mandarin classes in a vehicle that's foreign to many other language students: a stroller.

The 13-month-old and her 3-1/2-year-old sister Helena, who also takes French, are enrolled in Xiao Bao Chinese, one of a handful of emerging Manhattan Chinese language programs for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

"I think that it will lead to all kinds of things for them," said their mother, Rachel Moore. "Whether they are interested in the culture or the art of China, or whether they want to use it to make friends, travel, business."

As China's economy booms and the world becomes more interconnected, U.S. parents are beginning to demand lessons that go beyond romance languages. Chinese language classes for preschoolers are still rare. But they are emerging across the country from Oregon to Michigan to Washington, D.C.


We Have No Planet B

And we are going to suffer the consequences of our overconsumption. Sooner rather than later:
Humans are stripping nature at an unprecedented rate and will need two planets' worth of natural resources every year by 2050 on current trends, the WWF conservation group said on Tuesday.

Populations of many species, from fish to mammals, had fallen by about a third from 1970 to 2003 largely because of human threats such as pollution, clearing of forests and overfishing, the group also said in a two-yearly report.

"For more than 20 years we have exceeded the earth's ability to support a consumptive lifestyle that is unsustainable and we cannot afford to continue down this path," WWF Director-General James Leape said, launching the WWF's 2006 Living Planet Report.

"If everyone around the world lived as those in America, we would need five planets to support us," Leape, an American, said in Beijing.


No Surprise

Not to anyone who knows anything about the history of Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs in New Orleans anyway:
Though poor and minority neighborhoods suffered the brunt of Katrina's fury, residents living in white neighborhoods have been three times as likely as homeowners in black neighborhoods to seek state help in resolving insurance disputes, according to an Associated Press computer analysis.

The analysis of Louisiana's insurance complaints settled in the first year after Katrina highlights a cold, hard truth exposed by Katrina's winds and waters: People of color and modest means, who often need the most help after a major disaster, are disconnected from the government institutions that can provide it, or distrustful of those in power.


Odd Bush Rumors in Paraguay

No idea if there's anything to this, but it's certainly strange if true:
Meeting the new couple next door can be an anxious business for even the most relaxed home owner. Will they be international drug traffickers? Have they got noisy kids with a penchant for electronic music? As worries go, however, having the US president move in next door must come fairly low on the list.

Unless of course you are a resident of northern Paraguay and believe reports in the South American press that he has bought up a 100,000 acre (40,500 hectare) ranch in your neck of the woods.

The rumours, as yet unconfirmed but which began with the state-run Cuban news agency Prensa Latina, have triggered an outpouring of conspiracy theories, with speculation rife about what President Bush's supposed interest in the "chaco", a semi-arid lowland in the Paraguay's north, might be.

Some have speculated that he might be trying to wrestle control of the Guarani Aquifer, one of the largest underground water reserves, from the Paraguayans.


Hippocratic Oafs

Hospitals seem to be using Skid Row as a dumping grounds for the unwanted:
Authorities have launched a criminal investigation into the dumping of homeless people on Skid Row after several ambulances were spotted leaving patients who were recently discharged from a Los Angeles hospital on the streets there over the weekend.

Police videotaped and photographed five alleged dumping cases Sunday in which the patients later told authorities they did not want to be taken downtown.

Authorities were investigating whether the patients were falsely imprisoned during their transfer and whether the hospital, Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center, violated any laws regarding the treatment of patients.


Monday, October 23, 2006


The Brits have it:
A clear majority of voters want British troops to be pulled out of Iraq by the end of this year, regardless of the consequences for the country, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today.

In a sign that public opinion is hardening against Britain's military presence in Iraq, 61% of voters say they want British troops to leave this year, even if they have not completed their mission and Washington wants them to stay.

Only 30% now back the prime minister's commitment to keep troops in Iraq as long as is considered necessary.

Almost half of those questioned - 45% - want British forces pulled out immediately and a further 16% want them to leave by the end of the year, whether or not the US asks the British government to keep them on.


Soft on Terror!

That's what the right wingers would be screaming if any Dem dared suggest any such policy (which is, by the way, a Change of Strategy!!!):
AMERICAN forces are negotiating an amnesty with Sunni insurgents in Iraq to try to defuse the nascent civil war and pave the way for disarmament of Shia militias, The Times has learnt.

The tactic marks a dramatic reversal of policy by the US military, which blocked attempts to pardon insurgents with American blood on their hands after handing over sovereignty to a secular Iraqi Government in June 2004.

The U-turn comes amid the bloodiest fighting for two years and growing domestic opposition to the war as Americans prepare to vote in crucial midterm elections.

Even as President Bush convened emergency talks with his generals and national security advisers to review strategy in Iraq, commanders on the ground were negotiating a peace deal. Observers expect leaders of the Sunni insurgency to join a peace conference early next month.

“There’s been a change in the position of the Americans,” Jabr Hadeeb Jabr, an independent Shia politician and member of the Council for Reconciliation government agency, said. “Before, they refused to give any amnesty to the people killing Americans because there was some dispute about the risk of rewarding their killers.”


Teach to the Test!

Unsurprisingly, that's the idiotic Bush mandate, one which contradicts every sane notion of education:

The Bush administration is handing out money for teachers who raise student test scores, the first federal effort to reward classroom performance with bonuses.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings planned to announce the first of 16 grants, worth $42 million, including $5.5 million for Ohio, on Monday. The government has not announced the other grant winners.

Using the old-fashioned incentive of cash, President Bush's program encourages schools to set up pay scales that reward some teachers and principals more than others. Those rewards are to be based mainly on test scores, but also on classroom evaluations during the year.

The grants are also aimed at luring teachers into math, science and other core fields.

Teachers normally are paid based on their years in class and their education. Yet more school districts are experimenting with merit pay, and now the federal government is, too.


About Time

This shift--and hopefully it has only just begun--is long overdue. What is it with certain brands of Christianity that permits their adherents to ignore the very notion of "social justice," anyway?

If the elections for Congress were held today, according to the new NEWSWEEK poll, 60 percent of white Evangelicals would support the Republican candidate in their district, compared to just 31 percent who would back the Democrat. To the uninitiated, that may sound like heartening news for Republicans in the autumn of their discontent. But if you’re a pundit, a pol, or a preacher, you know better. White Evangelicals are a cornerstone of the GOP’s base; in 2004, exit polls found Republicans carried white Evangelicals 3 to 1 over Democrats, winning 74 percent of their votes. In turn, Evangelicals carried the GOP to victory. But with a little more than two weeks before the crucial midterms, the Republican base may be cracking.