Daily Archives: May 25, 2007

Fury grows over US immigration bill

Christian Science Monitor | May 25, 2007

Calls and e-mails are mostly negative
 
Trent Lott doesn’t usually answer his Senate phone himself, but when angry callers are burning up the lines – as they are over this week’s debate about revising America’s immigration laws – the Republicans’ No. 2 Senate leader has picked up to hear what they’ve got to say.

A lot of the talk is misinformation, he says. Talk radio and the blogs were blasting the compromise bill, which includes a guest-worker program and a path to legal status for many of the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the US, well before the text of the bill was ready for senators on Tuesday.

“We talked for 15 minutes,” says the senator, recounting one call. “I can’t talk to everyone in America for 15 minutes…. But if you cower in the shadows, you’ll get pummeled…. You’ve got to stand up.”

Withering attacks on the bill aren’t only by phone: Deal-busting amendments are surfacing on the Senate floor. By week’s end, the bill’s defenders expect to have an idea of whether their “grand bargain” will hold – and then they’ll head home on Memorial Day break to meet the backlash face to face.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid had planned to wrap up the immigration debate before this week’s break. But he delayed the start of the debate until this week, after negotiators, led by Sens. Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting record) (D) of Massachusetts and Jon Kyl (news, bio, voting record) (R) of Arizona, said they were “80 percent of the way” to a bipartisan deal on immigration. That put off the final vote on the issue until senators return to Washington the first week of June.

Critics of the legislation, who cross the political spectrum, plan to use next week to turn up the pressure on senators at home.

“People are going to be piling on their senators at public events, media events, and in their offices over the break,” predicts William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, based in Raleigh, N.C. “They can expect large angry mobs of their constituents. I’ve never seen this degree of disparity between lawmaker actions and the electorate.”

Nearly half of US voters oppose the proposed reform, and only 26 percent of US voters support it, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll this week.

Boos for two backers of the bill

Last weekend, two senators who helped negotiate the bill were booed at their respective state Republican conventions. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was shouted down when he called the reform “the best bill I think we can get to President Bush.”

In Duluth, Ga., Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia was booed when he said the nation needs a “meaningful guest-worker program.”

Aides to both senators note that the lawmakers also drew applause at other points in their speeches. Most of the “grand bargainers” will not be up for reelection again until 2012, but Senators Graham and Chambliss both face the voters in 2008.

“The case he’s been making to folks is: I haven’t committed to supporting this bill, if it doesn’t meet my criteria in the end. Most significant is border security first,” says Lindsay Mabry, a spokeswoman for Chambliss. “It’s a very emotional and complex issue, so it’s understandable what the reaction would be. But when the senator gets out there explaining why we need immigration reform now, people are starting to understand.”

Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina says he’s “never seen [his] constituents so angry and emotional.” His opposition to the bill was cheered by those at the GOP convention in his home state. His office has received more than 2,000 phone calls on the bill, most opposing it. “People pulled me aside [at the convention] and told me to fight it,” he says.

Freshman Sen. Jon Tester (D) of Montana says his office has been overwhelmed with calls from constituents “opposing amnesty.” “I’ll be meeting with them all next week,” he says.

Calls and e-mails are mostly negative

Senators interviewed for this story say that their calls and e-mails have been running overwhelmingly negative on the bill but that they’re just beginning to answer critics.

“We need time to show people what’s in this package,” says Lott, who was not one of the negotiators but who joined the effort to sell the bill this week.

The Mississippi senator urges his colleagues to take three questions home to voters this week: Is the current immigration situation intolerable? Is the bill before the Senate significantly better than the current situation? The answer to both questions is yes, he says.

His final question is this: Will more time make a better bill? With next year’s election results uncertain for Republicans, the answer is “clearly no,” says Lott.

“This,” he says, “is our last best chance to make a significant improvement in our immigration laws.”

University Professor to put tracking chips in hundreds of kids

Get Reading | May 25, 2007

‘Robo prof’ Kevin Warwick says he’d be prepared to insert tracker microchips into children if there is enough public support.

The University of Reading cybernetics expert has been bombarded with hundreds of requests from parents for Big Brother-style ID microchips in the wake of the abduction of Madeleine McCann.

More than 1,000 anxious parents have contacted the Professor of Cybernetics asking about getting microchips inserted into their children.

The professor is receiving more than 100 emails and letters a day from worried mums and dads considering chipping their child so they can keep track of their whereabouts at the touch of a button.

The 53-year-old believes four-year-old Madeleine’s abduction has a lot to do with the rise in enquiries.

Advances in technology mean minor surgery is no longer required for all implants – some can be inserted via an injection.

And now – if he has the support – the professor said he is prepared to go ahead. Prof Warwick, father to Madeline, 25, and James, 23, said: “It’s up to the parents and the children. But there are questions over the age of the child. I would never want a parent to have to use the technology. But there are children abducted. I do not know why [some charity statistics] are belittling the problem.”

The professor, from Tilehurst, who had a personal ID microchip inserted into his arm in 1998, said he could not possibly answer every request there were so many.

One read: “I have been deeply upset by the abduction of Madeleine McCann and your name keeps coming up in my internet searches into tracking.” Another said: “My little boy is two-and-a-half years old. I think a chip is a great idea.”

Following the abduction of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in 2002, a Spencers Wood couple – Paul and Wendy Duval – planned to have a chip put into their 11-year-old daughter, Danielle. This would have been the first chip implant of its kind and Prof Warwick agreed to do it. However, his plans were thwarted because of a massive negative response. He said: “Trevor McDonald even did a programme saying what a terrible person I was.”

Many charities and children’s groups publicly denounced chipping youngsters deeming it intrusive and disturbing.

Michelle Elliot, director of child protection charity Kidscape, said she was against the idea but understood why many parents wanted to use phone-tracking devices or wristbands.

However she said: “For the past 25 years between five and seven children have been abducted and killed by a stranger each year, and that has not changed.

“There is no guarantee of your child’s safety. But the chances [of something like this happening] are so remote that you have to think about the message you’re giving them.”

Singapore aquarium puts chips in aquarium fish

Daily Times | May 26, 2007 

Underwater World is the first aquarium in the world to tag its exhibit fishes with microchips

Singapore’s aquarium has tagged some of its fishes using microchips to help visitors identify the different species on display.

Visitors to the Underwater World aquarium can see the name, species and other information displayed on a touch screen whenever any of the 20 tagged fishes swim past a sensor, said Peter Chew, sales and marketing manager at Underwater World. Underwater World, which is on Singapore’s Sentosa island, is the first aquarium in the world to tag its exhibit fishes with microchips using the radio frequency identification technology. The aquarium, which took three months to set up the S$30,000 system, is also considering tagging sharks.

Judicial Watch Uncovers Three Deaths Relating to HPV Vaccine

Pharmalive | May 23, 2007

Event Reports Obtained from FDA Detail 1,637 Adverse Reactions to Gardasil

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released documents obtained from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, detailing 1,637 reports of adverse reactions to the vaccination for human papillomavirus (HPV), Gardasil. Three deaths were related to the vaccine. One physician’s assistant reported that a female patient “died of a blood clot three hours after getting the Gardasil vaccine.” Two other reports, on girls 12 and 19, reported deaths relating to heart problems and/or blood clotting.

As of May 11, 2007, the 1,637 adverse vaccination reactions reported to the FDA via the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) included 371 serious reactions. Of the 42 women who received the vaccine while pregnant, 18 experienced side effects ranging from spontaneous abortion to fetal abnormities.

Side effects published by Merck & Co. warn the public about potential pain, fever, nausea, dizziness and itching after receiving the vaccine. Indeed, 77% of the adverse reactions reported are typical side effects to vaccinations. But other more serious side effects reported include paralysis, Bells Palsy, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and seizures.

“The FDA adverse event reports on the HPV vaccine read like a catalog of horrors,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Any state or local government now beset by Merck’s lobbying campaigns to mandate this HPV vaccine for young girls ought to take a look at these adverse health reports. It looks as if an unproven vaccine with dangerous side effects is being pushed as a miracle drug.”

Judicial Watch filed its request on May 9, 2007, and received the adverse event reports from the FDA on May 15, 2007. Judicial Watch has posted the adverse event reports on their Internet site at: http://www.JudicialWatch.org.

(A recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also questioned the general effectiveness of Gardasil.)

CONTACT: Jill Farrell of Judicial Watch, +1-202-646-5188

Web site: http://www.judicialwatch.org/

Cancer Preventing Vaccine Allegedly Sends 5 Girls To Hospital

Vaccine RX | May 22, 2007 

Five schoolgirls at Sacred Heart Girls’ College in Oakleigh were confirmed to have taken ill after receiving an injection of Gardasil, a new cancer-preventing vaccine.

“They may have felt ill and dizziness soon after the immunisation, and in vaccinations such as this, these aren’t unusual reactions”, a Department of Health spokesman told theage.com.au.

Gardasil protects against Human Papilloma Virus, a sexually-transmitted infection which, if undetected, can lead to cervical cancer. Gardasil was approved for use in Australia in June last year.

However the admittance to hospital of five school children after being injected with the vaccine have caused a stir. “We’re not aware of a problem with this particular vaccine. At the time this happened on May 7, four or five girls were transported to hospital, but two were kept in overnight in observation and were allowed to go home the next day because they were OK. The overriding thing here is we’ve got a vaccine that is a cancer-preventing vaccine, I mean that’s got to be a good thing”, asserts the spokesman, adding that one child was being monitored but it was not clear whether her pending condition was due to the vaccination.

26 girls visited the college sick bay after the vaccination and five students were subsequently taken to Monash Medical Centre according to Christopher Dalton, the school principal.

“Parents of the students affected were notified and accompanied their daughters to hospital,” he said, adding that parental permission is always sought for students receiving vaccinations.

A further vaccination program is scheduled for June. “The college is confident that this program of vaccination is safe to offer to students,” Dalton says. “We will be working with the Department of Human Services Victoria and the City of Monash Immunization Services in the planning of this vaccination program.”

Bush warns of heavy bloodshed as war bill gets $100-billion OK

Detroit Free Press | May 25, 2007

bushbombs

Brace for more bloodshed, deaths in Iraq, Bush says

As Congress voted Thursday to finance the Iraq war through September, President George W. Bush conceded that U.S. forces will face tough fighting and many casualties in the months ahead, and possibly a bloody August as enemies try to “shake the will” of the United States.

With the narrow House vote to approve $100 billion for the military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Democratic leaders abandoned the timelines for troop withdrawals they had sought for months and that the president had vetoed in an earlier measure. But they pledged to fight again this fall.

The House voted 280-142 to approve the money, with everyone in the Michigan delegation in support except Democrats John Conyers and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, who both voted no.

The Senate followed suit, voting 80-14, with Michigan’s two senators voting in favor.

A bloody August

The outcome resolves the stalemate over withdrawal dates in Bush’s favor.

But September is shaping up as a portentous month, with the new war funding expiring and Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, due to submit a progress report on the troop escalation Bush ordered earlier this year. A significant number of Republican lawmakers are saying they may abandon the president if conditions in Iraq haven’t improved by then.

Because insurgents are aware that September will be pivotal, the president said, forces intent on pushing the United States out of Iraq are likely to step up their assaults this summer. “It could make August a tough month,” he acknowledged.

“What they’re going to try to do is kill as many innocent people as they can to try to influence the debate here at home,” Bush said. “They recognize that the death of innocent people could shake our will. … So, yes, it could be a bloody … very difficult August.”

Bush said the war spending bill holds the Iraqi government accountable by including benchmarks, something pushed by Democrats and accepted by the White House. It “reflects a consensus that the Iraqi government needs to show real progress in return for America’s continued support and sacrifice,” he said.

Noting that the escalation of military force won’t be fully deployed until late June, Bush said, “This summer is going to be a critical time for the new strategy. … We’re going to expect heavy fighting.” And that, he conceded, will mean “more American and Iraqi casualties.”

A change in strategy

Bush said he is eager, after more than four years of fighting in Iraq, for U.S. forces to assume a “different configuration.” He cited the report of the Iraq Study Group, which proposed that U.S. forces significantly scale back by early 2008 and serve largely as trainers and “force protection” for Iraqi military forces.

“We have yet to even get all our troops in place,” Bush said. “And so Gen. Petraeus has said, ‘Why don’t you give us until September and let me report back?’ ”

Sept. 30 is the end of the federal budget year, and the president’s Office of Management and Budget has made known it will seek about $145 billion more for Iraq and Afghanistan the following fiscal year.

New Google Move Raises Big Brother Spectre

Digital Trends | May 24, 2007

Google (that is the multi-national corporate interests) want to run every aspect of your life, body, mind and soul. Period. It is that simple. Wake up to this and resist it now, or face total enslavement.

And don’t tell me it’s just an opt-in system and nothing to worry about. This is the direction the globalists are pushing us into incrementally with a vast array of Big Brother technology. It is the boiled frog scenario, so just opt-out of the New World Order altogether and keep your freedom and privacy intact.

PW

It seems as if Google just can’t stay out of the news these days. This week the search engine giant’s plans to create comprehensive databases on its users have brought serious questions from the Information Commissioner in Britain.
 
In London, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt laid out the intent to take personalized search to the next level, stating the company’s goal “is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?’.”
 
Schmidt emphasized that this new personalized search will be an opt-in service, and that the company will only keep data for a limited period. However, the move has caused raised eyebrows and mutters of Big Brother from European privacy campaigners.
 
In the U.K., the office of the Information Commissioner is the body responsible for data protection. As part of a group called the Article 29 Working Group it has already written to Google, asking for more details on the company’s plans on retaining data. Google has promised to publish a response on its web site next week. Regarding the letter, a spokesperson for the Information Commissioner said,
 
“I can’t say what was in it only that it was written in response to Google’s announcement that will hold information for no more than two years.”
 
Google already has the iGoogle service, where people volunteer to allow Google to use their web histories. It’s also bid $3.1 billion for DoubleClick, a company that combines information from its cookies and a user’s Internet searches to build detailed user pictures. Additionally, Google just put $4 million into the genetics company 23andMe, run by Anne Wojciki, who married Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, this month.
 
One of the biggest questions for privacy advocates is that law enforcement can force search engines to hand over user data, leaving those who subscribe to this new service especially vulnerable. Yahoo already has plans to roll out a similar personalized search technology, called Project Panama.
 
Since its early days, Google has used the slogan “You can make money without doing evil.” But with search engines growing more personal with each passing day, the worries about Big Brother continue to rise.

Google to create most comprehensive database of personal information ever assembled

Belfast Telegraph | May 24, 2007

‘Big Brother’ row over plans for personal database

Operant conditioning is the system of exposing an animal or a human to repeated stimulus and/or suggestion to achieve a desired effect. When a suggestion or programming is repeated incessantly and relentlessly, the subject will begin to lose resistance to the programming and eventually behave in ways that are totally predictable and manageable. The social engineers know this and use this simple technique on us with a constant barrage of propaganda that essentially says, “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated into the Borg,” over and over again and again until you just believe total enslavement is inevitable and normal. Put in another way, “Slavery is Freedom. Ignorance is Strength. War is Peace.” That’s it, just keep repeating it over and over and go to sleep. Let Big Brother take over and run your life. After all, its so much easier not to think isn’t it?

PW

Google, the world’s biggest search engine, is setting out to create the most comprehensive database of personal information ever assembled, one with the ability to tell people how to run their lives.

In a mission statement that raises the spectre of an internet Big Brother to rival Orwellian visions of the state, Google has revealed details of how it intends to organise and control the world’s information.

The company’s chief executive, Eric Schmidt, said during a visit to Britain this week: “The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?’.”

Speaking at a conference organised by Google, he said : “We are very early in the total information we have within Google. The algorithms [software] will get better and we will get better at personalisation.”

Google’s declaration of intent was publicised at the same time it emerged that the company had also invested £2m in a human genetics firm called 23andMe. The combination of genetic and internet profiling could prove a powerful tool in the battle for the greater understanding of the behaviour of an online service user.

Earlier this year Google’s competitor Yahoo unveiled its own search technology, known as Project Panama, which monitors internet visitors to its site to build a profile of their interests.

Privacy protection campaigners are concerned that the trend towards sophisticated internet tracking and the collating of a giant database represents a real threat, by stealth, to civil liberties.

That concern has been reinforced by Google’s $3.1bn bid for DoubleClick, a company that helps build a detailed picture of someone’s behaviour by combining its records of web searches with the information from DoubleClick’s “cookies”, the software it places on users’ machines to track which sites they visit.

The Independent has now learnt that the body representing Europe’s data protection watchdogs has written to Google requesting more information about its information retention policy.

The multibillion-pound search engine has already said it plans to impose a limit on the period it keeps personal information.

A spokesman for the Information Commissioner’s Office, the UK agency responsible for monitoring data legislation confirmed it had been part of the group of organisations, known as the Article 29 Working Group, which had written to Google.

It is understood the letter asked for more detail about Google’s policy on the retention of data. Google says it will respond to the Article 29 request next month when it publishes a full response on its website.

The Information Commissioner’s spokeswoman added: “I can’t say what was in it only that it was written in response to Google’s announcement that will hold information for no more than two years.”

Ross Anderson, professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge University and chairman of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, said there was a real issue with “lock in” where Google customers find it hard to extricate themselves from the search engine because of the interdependent linkage with other Google services, such as iGoogle, Gmail and YouTube. He also said internet users could no longer effectively protect their anonymity as the data left a key signature.

“A lot of people are upset by some of this. Why should an angst-ridden teenager who subscribes to MySpace have their information dragged up 30 years later when they go for a job as say editor of the Financial Times? But there are serious privacy issues as well. Under data protection laws, you can’t take information, that may have been given incidentally, and use it for another purpose. The precise type and size of this problem is yet to be determined and will change as Google’s business changes.”

A spokeswoman for the Information Commissioner said that because of the voluntary nature of the information being targeted, the Information Commission had no plans to take any action against the databases.

Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy Ccunsel, said the company intended only doing w hat its customers wanted it to do. He said Mr Schmidt was talking about products such as iGoogle, where users volunteer to let Google use their web histories. “This is about personalised searches, where our goal is to use information to provide the best possible search for the user. If the user doesn’t want information held by us, then that’s fine. We are not trying to build a giant library of personalised information. All we are doing is trying to make the best computer guess of what it is you are searching for.”

Privacy protection experts have argued that law enforcement agents – in certain circumstances – can compel search engines and internet service providers to surrender information. One said: “The danger here is that it doesn’t matter what search engines say their policy is because it can be overridden by national laws.”

How Google grew to dominate the internet

It’s all about the algorithms. When Google first started up, in summer 1998, it quickly made its mark by being the internet’s best, most efficient search engine. Now Google wants to know everything – all the knowledge contained on the world wide web, and everything about you as a computer user, too.

The key, at every step of the way, has been the methodology the company has used to catalogue and present information. The first stroke of genius that the company’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, had while they were still in graduate school was to measure responses to an internet search not only by the frequency of the search word but by the number of times a given web page was accessed via other web pages. It was a revolutionary idea at the time, now copied by every one of their rivals.

A decade later, their technical brilliance is operating on an altogether more ambitious scale. Google is now a $150bn (£77bn) company and a seemingly unstoppable corporate, as well as technical juggernaut.

The big question, of course, is whether the idealism that first fired up Page and Brin can survive in a dirty corporate world where information is not just an intellectual ideal, but also a legal and political hot potato involving profound issues of privacy, intellectual property rights and freedom of speech. “You can make money without doing evil,” runs one of their most celebrated mantras. Does that extend to signing a deal with China whereby its search functions will be subject to state censorship? The furore over that particular decision, made at the beginning of last year, still rages.

Google’s activities thus touch on some of the key philosophical questions of our digital age. Because of its power and prominence, it will also be the benchmark by which we come to measure many of the answers.

Bush may turn to UN in search for Iraq solution

The Guardian | May 23, 2007

People need to wake up to the fact that this whole Iraq operation was UN-sponsored from the beginning. Bush Sr was enforcing UN resolutions when he invaded Kuwait in the first Gulf War. The UN has been running things ever since. And Bush Jr was enforcing UN resolutions when he invaded Iraq. The UN has basically rewritten the Iraqi constitution and the it runs the elections there. Even though actual UN peacekeepers have not been used yet, the whole affair has been international in scope, and in implementation, and will continue to be into the next several decades unless we get a president who is truly independent, who truly is against this war and all foreign interventionism.

Who is that man?

His name is Ron Paul, in case you have been living under a rock out in the middle of nowhere. Whether you are an American or not, support him and you will see a rapid withdrawl of our troops from most foreign bases. You will see an equal reduction in hostilities and you will see America’s name redeemed in the eyes of the world.

Americans, research Ron Paul’s record and know that he alone can roll back this horrid New World Order, save America from certain destruction and in so doing, he will play a major part in bringing, freedom, prosperity and peace to the world without ever going to a foreign country. Think about that.

PW

peacekeeper

A UN peacekeeper. Photograph: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

If troop surge fails, strategy is to involve other nations under UN umbrella

The Bush administration is developing plans to “internationalise” the Iraq crisis, including an expanded role for the United Nations, as a way of reducing overall US responsibility for Iraq’s future and limiting domestic political fallout from the war as the 2008 election season approaches.

The move comes amid rising concern in Washington that President George Bush’s controversial Baghdad security surge, led by the US commander, General David Petraeus, is not working and that Iran is winning the clandestine battle for control of Iraq.

“Petraeus is brilliant. But he is the captain of a sinking ship,” said a former senior administration official who questioned whether Iraq’s divided political leadership could prevent a descent into chaos. “Iraq’s government is a mobile phone number that doesn’t answer. Iraq probably can’t be fixed.”

Although sectarian killings have fallen in Baghdad since the surge began in February, the level of violence across the country remains broadly unchanged. But the White House is fiercely resisting calls from Democrats and some Republicans to scrap the operation and set a timetable for a troop withdrawal.

The former official, who is familiar with administration thinking, predicted Mr Bush would instead ask Congress to agree a six-month extension of the surge after Gen Petraeus presented his “progress report” in early September.

While insisting that no decision had yet been taken on an extension, the Pentagon announced last week that 35,000 soldiers from 10 army brigades had been told they could expect to be deployed to Iraq by the end of the year. That would enable the US to maintain heightened troop levels of about 160,000 soldiers through to next spring.

According to an analysis published by Hearst Newspapers yesterday, the number of combat troops could almost double – to 98,000 – by the end of the year if arriving and departing combat brigades overlap. By the same calculation, the overall total including support troops could top 200,000 – an increase the report said amounted to a “second surge”.

Mr Bush will sweeten the pill by pursuing a series of steps intended to “hand off” many current US responsibilities to the international community, the former official said. The president would try simultaneously to placate congressional and public opinion by indicating willingness to talk about a future troop “drawdown”.

The US plan is expected to call for:

· Expanded UN involvement in overseeing Iraq’s full transition to a “normal” democratic state, including an enhanced role for UN humanitarian agencies, the creation of a UN command, and possibly a Muslim-led peacekeeping force

· Increased involvement in Iraq policymaking of UN security council permanent members, Japan and EU countries – in particular, the new conservative government of French president Nicolas Sarkozy

· A bigger support role for regional countries, notably Sunni Arab Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, and international institutions such as the World Bank and IMF

· Renewed efforts to promote Iraqi government self-reliance, including attainment of national reconciliation “benchmarks”

· The accelerated removal of US troops from frontline combat duties as the handover to Iraqi security forces, backed by an increased number of US advisers, proceeds.

“The administration’s plan calls for moving on several fronts,” the former official said. “Firstly, there is the international plan to win political, economic and military support for the Iraqi government and state, not least by going to the UN and asking for a UN command and flag to supplant the US coalition command.

“Regionally, there is diplomacy aimed at mobilising more Arab neighbours to understand that there is no Sunni leader coming back to Baghdad and that countries like Saudi Arabia should support Maliki [Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s Shia prime minister] before he has no choice but to fully align with Iran,” the official said.

“Internally, the plan is for US forces to help isolate takfirists (fundamentalist Salafi jihadis), peel off Sunnis from the insurgency, contain hardcore elements of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army, and halt Iranian and trans-Syrian infiltration of troops and materiel.”

If all else failed, the US might seek an arrangement with Mr Sadr, if only to secure an orderly transition, the official claimed. “Cutting a deal with the Mahdi army is [vice-president] Dick Cheney’s deep fallback option.”

Four years after bypassing a hostile security council, the Bush administration is expected to take the Iraq question back to the UN at the annual opening of the general assembly in September.

“We foresee a very significant role for the UN and its agencies. The UN has great expertise that is badly needed in Iraq,” a senior US diplomat said at the weekend. The World Bank and IMF would also be asked to do more, he said.

Washington’s UN move may receive a more sympathetic hearing now that Kofi Annan, a stern critic of the Iraq invasion, has retired as secretary-general, diplomats say.

His successor, Ban Ki-moon, owes his job to US backing and may prove more accommodating. Zalmay Khalilzad, the former ambassador to Baghdad who is now Washington’s envoy at the UN, is expected to play a key role.

The Bush administration is already exploring other avenues to build international support. With Tony Blair out of the picture and uncertainty surrounding Gordon Brown’s intentions, Washington is said to be looking to Mr Sarkozy’s new government in Paris for diplomatic and other assistance. A senior French diplomat was non-committal, saying only that it was “logical” that the US should seek French help to “rescue itself”.

Responding to US difficulties in Iraq, Japan, one of Washington’s most loyal allies, has been steadily raising its Middle East diplomatic profile, in part by seeking improved ties with Sunni “moderates” among the key Gulf oil suppliers.

And as if acting on cue, another US ally, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, last week proposed the creation of a UN-flagged peacekeeping force for Iraq to be drawn from Muslim nations. The idea, floated during a summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, was rejected by Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari. He complained of too many foreign soldiers in his country already.

Anticipating a crescendo of domestic criticism as the deciding moment for Iraq policy draws near, US officials are playing down expectations and implying more time is needed for the surge to work.

Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador, told reporters in Baghdad recently that progress was being made towards stability and political reconciliation in Iraq. “Does that lead me to tell you that come September we’re going to be able to say we’ve reached the sun-dappled uplands and all is well and good? I don’t think so.”

As part of US efforts to increase regional cooperation, Mr Crocker is to hold talks in Baghdad next week with Iranian officials. While Iranian spokesmen have been playing down the importance of the meeting in recent days, the senior US diplomat said Washington remained hopeful that Syria would play a more constructive role. “Syria needs to learn the Pakistan lesson – that the jihadis transiting into Iraq are a threat to them, too. This ought to be a win for both sides.”

While it was uncertain whether the new “internationalised” approach to Iraq would get off the ground, the political stakes as the 2008 presidential and congressional elections approached could hardly be higher, the former administration official said.

“The blame game has already begun. The Democrats want to run against a ‘chaos in Iraq’ scenario. The Republicans will want to keep extending it [the surge] past next February. The White House may offer a schedule for a drawdown – but what does that really mean?… The only policy Republicans have is a policy of delaying the inevitable.”

In a sign that personal as well as governmental damage limitation is under way, key Bush administration figures appear to be distancing themselves from current policy. National security adviser Stephen Hadley is expected to hand over many Iraq-related duties to Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, who some in Washington are already describing as a fall guy.

Similar senior-level role changes involving officials dealing with Iraq at the state department and Pentagon has fed speculation that people who helped launch Gen Petraeus’s “sinking ship” are now abandoning it.

Thinktanks in Europe and the US have also recently urged “international solutions” for Iraq. “An energetic international political effort with focused mediation under the auspices of the UN is required to complement military deployments to Iraq,” said Carlos Pascual, of the Brookings Institution in Washington in a recent study of US options. UN agencies should become more closely engaged, he said.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) recently proposed establishment of an “international support group” for Iraq comprising the five permanent members of the security council, Iraq’s neighbours and the UN. The ICG also called for the appointment of a special UN envoy to lead a national reconciliation process.

Reuters: Ron Paul gives Giuliani foreign policy homework assignment

Reuters | May 24, 2007

Longshot Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul on Thursday gave front-runner Rudy Giuliani a list of foreign-policy books to back up his contention that attacks by Islamic militants are fueled by the U.S. presence in the Middle East.

“I’m giving Mr. Giuliani a reading assignment,” the nine-term Texas congressman said as he stood behind a stack of books that included the report by the commission that examined the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Giuliani was mayor of New York when Islamic militants slammed two commercial airliners into the World Trade Center, a role that has vaulted him to the front of the Republican presidential pack despite his liberal social positions.

“I don’t think he’s qualified to be president,” Paul said of Giuliani. “If he was to read the book and report back to me and say, ‘I’ve changed my mind,’ I would reconsider.”

Paul advocates a limited U.S. foreign policy, including an end to the war in Iraq and a reduction in troop levels abroad.

Paul said he was unfairly attacked during last week’s debate by 10 Republican presidential hopefuls, when Giuliani dismissed his contention that U.S. policies in the Middle East had contributed to the attacks in New York and Washington.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11th,” Giuliani said to wild applause.

Paul barely registers in opinion polls of Republicans hoping to win their party’s nomination to contest the November 2008 presidential election.

An obstetrician-gynecologist from the Houston area, Paul frequently strays far outside the Republican mainstream.

He voted against the Iraq war resolution in 2002 and has proposed abolishing the Homeland Security Department and diminishing the Federal Reserve. His 1998 bid for president as the Libertarian candidate drew just slightly more than 400,000 votes nationwide.

Paul said it was irresponsible of Giuliani and other leaders to not examine the motivations of al Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups.

A Giuliani spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

Among the books on Paul’s reading list were: “Dying to Win,” which argues that suicide bombers only mobilize against an occupying force; “Blowback,” which examines the unintended consequences of U.S. foreign policy; and the 9/11 Commission Report, which says that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was angered by the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.

Another book on the list was “Imperial Hubris,” whose author appeared at the press conference to offer support for Paul.

“Foreign policy is about protecting America,” said author Michael Scheuer, who used to head the CIA’s bin Laden unit. “Our foreign policy is doing the opposite.”