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HeadlinesJuly 31, 2007

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Rice and Gates Try to Unite Arab Allies Against Iran

Jul 31, 2007

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have arrived in Egypt as part of their Middle East trip aimed at uniting Arab allies against Iran. On Monday, the U.S. officially announced plans to give military aid worth more than $43 billion to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and other Gulf states in an effort to boost its Middle East allies against Iran. Iran responded to the arms deal by accusing the United States of trying to further destabilize the Middle East.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Ali Hosseini: “America has always considered one policy in this region, and that is creating fear and concerns in the countries of the region and trying to harm the good relation between these countries, and making an effort to create a chance to sell its arms and impose the export of these arms to countries in the region.”

Condoleezza Rice dismissed Iran’s critique. She said: “There isn’t a doubt that Iran constitutes the single most important single-country strategic challenge to the United States and to the kind of the Middle East that we want to see.”

Gordon Brown Praises War on Terrorism

Jul 31, 2007

Britain’s new prime minister, Gordon Brown, met with President George Bush on Monday at Camp David. Brown appeared to fully defend the so-called U.S. war on terror.

Gordon Brown: “We know we are in a common struggle, and we know we have to work together, and we know we’ve got to use all means to deal with it. So we are at one in fighting the battle against terrorism, and that struggle is one that we will fight with determination and with resilience, and right across the world.”

President Bush praised Gordon Brown’s vision.

President Bush: “The notion of America and Britain sharing values is very important, and that we have an obligation, it seems to me, to work for freedom and justice around the world. And I found a person who shares that vision and who understands the call. After all, we’re writing the initial chapters of what I believe is a great ideological struggle between those of us who do believe in freedom and justice and human rights and human dignity, and cold-blooded killers who will kill innocent people to achieve their objectives.”

During a press briefing, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also discussed Iran and Darfur.

Gordon Brown: “On Iran, we are in agreement that sanctions are working and the next stage we are ready to move towards is to toughen the sanctions with a further U.N. resolution. Darfur is the greatest humanitarian disaster the world faces today, and I’ve agreed with the president that we step up our pressure to end the violence that has displaced two million people, made four million hungry and reliant on food aid, and murdered 200,000 people.”

Rep. Inslee Introduces Resolution to Impeach Alberto Gonzales

Jul 31, 2007

On Capitol Hill, the move to impeach Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is gaining steam. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) is expected to introduce a resolution today directing the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether to impeach Gonzales. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have accused Gonzales of lying to Congress to cover up for actions of the Bush administration. Inslee said: “It’s indefensible to treat the truth with such cavalier disregard when talking to the American people and Congress.”

FBI & IRS Agents Raid Home of GOP Sen. Ted Stevens

Jul 31, 2007

FBI and IRS agents have raided the home of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). The 83-year-old Stevens is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate’s history and considered one of the most powerful Republicans on Capitol Hill. He served as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee for six years. The raid is connected to a widespread corruption probe surrounding the Alaskan-based oil pipeline service company Veco Corporation. Last August, the FBI and IRS raided the offices of several Alaskan state lawmakers including Senator Stevens’ son, state Senate President Ben Stevens. In May, three current and former state lawmakers were arrested on bribery charges. Three days later, Veco’s CEO Bill Allen and the company’s vice president pleaded guilty of extortion, bribery and conspiracy to impede the Internal Revenue Service. Allen had been one of Senator Stevens’s closest political allies. Contractors have told a federal grand jury that in 2000, Veco executives including Allen oversaw a lavish remodeling of Stevens’s home. Since then, Veco has received more than $30 million in federal contracts. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Alaska’s sole congressman, Republican Don Young, is also being investigated as part of the Veco criminal inquiry.

Chief Justice John Roberts Hospitalized After Seizure

Jul 31, 2007

Chief Justice John Roberts has been hospitalized after suffering a seizure at his vacation home in Maine. The 52-year-old Roberts fell on a boat dock during the seizure and suffered minor scrapes. Doctors said the incident was a “benign idiopathic seizure,” meaning they found no tumor, stroke or other explanation. Roberts had a similar seizure in 1993.

ACLU Criticizes Bush’s New Iraq Executive Order

Jul 31, 2007

The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a warning about a little-noticed executive order recently signed by President Bush. The executive order authorizes the Treasury Department to freeze and confiscate the assets of anyone connected to the Iraq insurgency. But the ACLU says the order contains sweeping provisions that pose risks for residents of the United States and for humanitarian workers in Iraq. The order allows the Treasury Department to freeze the funds of anyone who indirectly threatens the peace or stability of Iraq or who undermines efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform. Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU said, “This Executive Order reaches far beyond criminal activity to activity that may be entirely innocent. A person may find herself inadvertently in violation of this order and there is no provision for judicial review.” A recent Washington Post article on the issue began with this sentence: “Be careful what you say and whom you help — especially when it comes to the Iraq war and the Iraqi government.”

FBI Seeks to Build Spy Network of 15,000 Informants

Jul 31, 2007

ABC News is reporting the FBI is recruiting thousands of undercover informants to help the agency spy inside the United States. According to a recent unclassified report to Congress, the FBI wants to build a network of more than 15,000 informants. ABC reports the aggressive push for more secret informants appears to be part of a new effort to grow its intelligence and counterterrorism efforts. Other recent proposals include expanding its collection and analysis of data on U.S. persons, retaining years’ worth of Americans’ phone records and increasing so-called “black bag” secret entry operations.

U.S. and EU Agree to Share Detailed Airline Passenger Data

Jul 31, 2007

The European Union has agreed to cooperate with the United States on an airline security program that has been widely criticized by privacy groups. Under the agreement, airlines flying from Europe to the U.S. will be required to hand over detailed personal information on passengers. Depending on the circumstances, the information could include racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, data about an individual’s health, traveling partners, sexual orientation and whether the passenger is a member of a labor union. Airlines will not be required to collect this information about passengers, but any such information that exists in their reservation system will be shared. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff praised the pact as an essential screening tool. Chertoff said such a system would have helped uncover many of the 9/11 hijackers. Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology said, “This is part of a broader trend of the government building databases on the ordinary, lawful activities of ordinary, law-abiding people.”

Australia Releases Indian-Born Doctor

Jul 31, 2007

In Australia, an Indian-born doctor has been released from prison after being held for 25 days. Dr. Mohammad Haneef was detained after officials alleged that he had provided material support to men who carried out the car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow last month. Haneef has not been implicated by British authorities in the attacks. After he was released from immigration detention, his work visa was revoked, forcing him to return to India. Australian Prime Minister John Howard has refused to apologize over his government’s handling of the case. Doctor Haneef spoke to reporters in India on Monday.

Dr. Haneef: “I would like to mention the fact, in spite of the Australian authorities have been mentioning that they are not going to apologies for me, I do not want to accept any apology from the Australian authorities or the Australian government. But I would definitely appreciate if they apologize for my peace-loving country and citizens here.”

Doctor Haneef’s lawyer Peter Russo criticized how his client was treated.

Peter Russo: “The Australian federal police emptied every item of personal belonging out of his unit. He did not have anywhere to go back and live. After their behavior, if that doesn’t make a person a victim of some sort, I don’t know what would.”

Application Filed for First New U.S. Nuclear Plant in Three Decades

Jul 31, 2007

The Washington Post is reporting the first application to build a new U.S. nuclear power plant in three decades has been filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Constellation Energy Group of Baltimore filed a partial application to build a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs in Lusby, Maryland. The site is about 50 miles from the nation’s capital. This marks the first new application to build a nuclear power plant in the United States since before the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission expects a wave of new nuclear power plant applications in the near future. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that a one-sentence provision buried in the Senate’s recently passed energy bill could make builders of new nuclear plants eligible for tens of billions of dollars in government loan guarantees. The sentence was inserted without debate at the urging of the nuclear power industry.

Belgian Court Halts Deportation of 11-Year-Old Ecuadorean Girl

Jul 31, 2007

In Belgium, the story of an 11-year-old girl from Ecuador is making headlines today, less than 24 hours after she was released from an immigration jail. The girl, Angelica Cajamarca, had been detained since late June. She was scheduled to be deported to Ecuador along with her mother because they were undocumented immigrants. But after public outcry in both Ecuador and Belgium, a Belgian court ordered the deportation stopped. The family lawyers had told the court the detention was inhuman and traumatizing for Angelica, adding the girl’s detention goes against the European Convention of Human Rights and the international Convention on Children’s Rights. After she was released, Angelica Cajamarca spoke to the press.

Angelica Cajamarca: “I am really happy because I am with my dad now, with all my family, my brother. … It was very bad. It was bad, bad. And when they took us to the airport, they harmed us. They harmed my mum. They knocked and pushed. … To be strong, and help to fight all the bad things people do, I learned to be strong.”

The family’s lawyer said their fight is only starting. They are still subject to order to leave Belgium.

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