China Conducts Anti-Satellite Missile Test

A successful anti-satellite test by China is raising fears of a renewed arms race in space. The test was carried out last week — the first known attempt in two decades. Chinese missiles targeted a weather satellite just over 500 miles from earth, creating a cloud of debris that will take years to clear. Some experts believe China conducted the test to pressure the Bush administration into negotiating a weapons ban. The White House has rejected calls from Russia and China for an arms control treaty.

Gonzales Defends Delay on Domestic Spying Reversal

Domestic spying was a top issue on Capitol Hill Thursday — one day after the Bush administration announced it would finally seek court warrants for spying on US citizens. The reversal came more than five years after the Bush administration began the warrantless eavesdropping and a little over a year after the program was first publicly disclosed. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain the delay. He was questioned by Republican Senator Arlen Specter.

Sen. Arlen Specter: "I believe that the United States and the administration have paid heavy price for not acting sooner to bring the terrorist surveillance program under judicial review. That’s the traditional way–before there was a wiretap, or search and seizure–to have probably cause established and to have court approval."

Critics have argued the Bush administration reversed its stance on domestic spying just as the Democrat-controlled Congress was to bring new scrutiny. But Gonzales said the administration had good reason for the delay.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: "I somewhat take issue ... with (Republican) Senator Arlen Specter’s innuendo that this this is something we could have pulled off the shelf and done in a matter of days or weeks," Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "This is a very complicated application. We worked on it a long time."

FISA Chief Judge: No Objection to Release Wiretap Orders

Gonzales also said he will likely block the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court from disclosing details of the new orders authorizing the government spying. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly says she has no objection to releasing the material to Congress but that the Justice Department holds final say.

Democratic Senator Russ Feingold: "It is an important moment in the history of our constitution that this program has now been terminated and is now within the FISA statute and I do hope that we notice the importance of the moment in terms of our constitutional history."

Shareholders Challenge AT&T Role in Domestic Spying

News of the wiretap reversal coincided with an announcement telecom giant AT&T is facing an effort by shareholders to disclose its role in domestic spying. The shareholders have put forward a proposal asking AT&T executives to issue a report detailing its cooperation with the National Security Agency and outlining new steps to protect consumer privacy. The effort is being led by the investor activist group As You Sow. AT&T has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to exclude the resolution from its proxy statement based partly on so-called "state secrets privilege."

House Measure Repeals Oil Subsidies

Back on Capitol Hill, Democrats completed their "100 Hours" agenda in the House Thursday with a measure repealing nearly $14 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies.

Senate Approves Ethics Bill

Meanwhile, the Senate overwhelmingly approved an ethics bill aimed at curbing the role of lobbyists. The measure would ban lobby-funded gifts, meals and travel and force lawmakers to attach their names to special earmarks they insert into bills.

US Troops Arrest Sadr Aide

In Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi forces have arrested a top aide to the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The move comes ahead of a planned crackdown expected to target Baghdad’s armed Shiite groups.

Iraqi PM: US Under-Equipping Iraq Military

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki has renewed accusations the Bush administration is under-equipping the Iraqi military. On Thursday, Maliki said there would be far less need for US troops if the administration carried through on promises to equip Iraqi forces. Malaki’s appeared to be responding to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent public warning his government is living on "borrowed time."

Iraqi President: No Request for More US Troops

Meanwhile, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was in Damascus Thursday for a landmark meeting with Syrian President Basher al-Assad. Talabani said Syria is taking steps to block foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq. Talabani was also asked about the Bush administration’s plan to send more troops to Iraq.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani: "...I do not know how they are (The U.S. government) thinking. It’s up to them to decide. We did not ask for more troops but if they send more troops they are welcomed."

Iran Says Consular Employees to be Released

Meanwhile in Baghdad, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq said he’s received assurances five Iranians captured in a US raid last week will be released. The five work in Iran’s consular office in the Iraqi city of Arbil.

US Soldier Pleads Guilty in Rape, Murder Case

In other Iraq news, a US soldier has agreed to plead guilty in the rape of an Iraqi teenager and the murder of her and her family by US troops in the town of Mahmoudiya. The soldier, Sergeant Paul Cortez, will avoid the death sentence. He’s agreed to testify against three other soldiers accused in the rape and murder of fourteen-year old Abeer Kassem Hamza al-Janabi and the killing of her two parents and five-year old sister last March.

Israeli Peace Activists Protest Hebron Settlement

In the Occupied Territories, dozens of Israeli peace activists were prevented from reaching the West Bank town of Hebron Thursday in a protest against Israeli settlements there. Yossi Beilin, head of the Israeli party Meretz was among the protesters.

Yossi Beilin: "I think that we, Israelis who believe in peace, who believe in two-state solution, can not tolerate anymore the situation in Hebron which is the worst in the (occupied) territories. I think that the world should know and the Israelis should know that not every Israeli is an Israeli Hebronite, not every Zionist believes that what we have to do is prevent the Palestinians from living peaceful life and that the settlement in Hebron should end. Jews should not live there."

Proposed DNA Rules for FBI Database Raise Privacy Questions

Back in the United States, the Justice Department is close to authorizing a plan that would add the DNA of tens of thousands of people to a crime-fighting database maintained by the FBI. These include immigration violators, detainees in the so-called war on terror and others accused but not convicted of crimes. The American Civil Liberties Union is warning the plan is so broad it could apply to passengers screened at airports or hikers stopped in public parks.

DNA Test Exonerates Dallas Convict

In Texas, DNA testing has exonerated a man convicted of child rape more than twenty-five years ago. The man, James Waller, is the twelfth person to have a conviction overturned by DNA testing in the Dallas area since 2001.

New Pentagon Rules Allow Hearsay, Coerced Testimony

The Pentagon has drafted new rules for upcoming trials of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay that would allow convictions based on hearsay evidence and coerced testimony. The rules are part of a new manual drafted out of the Military Commissions Act passed by Congress last year.

7th World Social Forum Opens in Nairobi

In Kenya, tens of thousands of people are gathering for the seventh edition of the World Social Forum. Organizers have billed this year’s theme as "People’s Struggles, People’s Alternatives–Another World is Possible." The World Social Forum kicks off tomorrow in Nairobi.

Humorist Art Buchwald Dead at 81

And finally, the columnist Art Buchwald has died at the age of 81. Buchwald wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columns for more than fifty years.


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