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'95% of American scholars of international relations think that the U.S. in 2008 was less respected abroad compared to the past...'From Marc Lynch -
95% of American scholars of international relations think that the U.S. in 2008 was less respected abroad compared to the past, and 75% think this is a major problem (2% say it is not a problem at all). That's one of the findings of the 2008 edition of an annual survey of 2,724 international relations scholars released today. The survey by Sue Peterson, Mike Tierney and three co-authors of IR scholars in ten countries also found that only 18% of American IR scholars admit to having supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, 8% believe that the U.S. presence in Iraq improves American national security, and 70% support a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. 57% think that a redeployment from Iraq to Afghanistan will improve U.S. security.
'During the 2008 election, Obama co-opted huge portions of the Left and its infrastructure so that their allegiance became devoted to him and not to any ideas.'From Glenn Greenwald -
During the 2008 election, Obama co-opted huge portions of the Left and its infrastructure so that their allegiance became devoted to him and not to any ideas. Many online political and "news" outlets -- including some liberal political blogs -- discovered that the most reliable way to massively increase traffic was to capitalize on the pro-Obama fervor by turning themselves into pro-Obama cheerleading squads. Grass-roots activist groups watched their dues-paying membership rolls explode the more they tapped into that same sentiment and turned themselves into Obama-supporting appendages. Even labor unions and long-standing Beltway advocacy groups reaped substantial benefits by identifying themselves as loyal foot soldiers in the Obama movement.
The major problem now is that these entities -- the ones that ought to be applying pressure on Obama from the Left and opposing him when he moves too far Right -- are now completely boxed in. They've lost -- or, more accurately, voluntarily relinquished -- their independence. They know that criticizing -- let alone opposing -- Obama will mean that all those new readers they won last year will leave; that all those new dues-paying members will go join some other, more Obama-supportive organization; that they will prompt intense backlash and anger among the very people -- their members, supporters and readers -- on whom they have come to rely as the source of their support, strength, and numbers.
As a result, there is very little political or media structure to Obama's Left that can or will criticize him, even when he moves far to what the Beltway calls the "center" or even the Right (i.e., when he adopts large chunks of the GOP position). That situation is extremely bad -- both for the Left and for Obama.
'The son of T.D. Jakes — the Dallas megachurch pastor who’s called homosexuality a “brokenness” and declared that he would never hire a sexually active gay person — was arrested in a gay sex sting...'From the Dallas Voice -
The son of T.D. Jakes — the Dallas megachurch pastor who’s called homosexuality a “brokenness” and declared that he would never hire a sexually active gay person — was arrested in a gay sex sting in Kiest Park in January, according to Dallas police reports.
Jermaine Donnell Jakes, 29, faces a charge of indecent exposure after allegedly exposing himself in front of two undercover vice detectives shortly after 10 p.m. on Jan. 3. Senior Cpl. Janice Crowther, a DPD spokeswoman, confirmed Thursday, Feb. 12 that the detectives were both male.
According to an arrest affidavit, the detectives were conducting an investigation into citizen complaints of sexual activity when they observed Jakes and several other unknown males park their vehicles in the lot east of the park at 2106 W. Kiest Blvd.
The detectives followed Jakes into a wooded area, where he approached them with his penis exposed through his unzipped pants, the affidavit states. Jakes masturbated for several seconds while making eye contact with one of the detectives.
Jakes made no attempt to conceal his penis despite people walking and jogging on a trail nearby, the affidavit states. According to court records, Jermaine Jakes listed his place of employment as T.D. Jakes Ministries.
T.D. Jakes is the founder of the Potters House, a 30,000-member church in South Dallas. A vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, he’s been criticized by HIV/AIDS activists for undermining prevention of the disease by stigmatizing homosexuality and drug use.
On same-sex marriage, Jakes once told USA Today: “To date, I have not seen scriptural authority that allows me to stand on behalf of God and say I now pronounce you husband and husband, and wife and wife. This is an issue the government is undecided about. The Bible is not.”
'The United States indicated a willingness on Friday to slow plans for a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe if Russia agreed to help stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.'From Reuters -
The United States indicated a willingness on Friday to slow plans for a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe if Russia agreed to help stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Plans for the shield have contributed to a deterioration in the relationship between the United States and Russia over the past few years, but the administration of President Obama has said it wants to press the “reset button” and build better relations with Moscow.
“If we are able to work together to dissuade Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapons capability, we would be able to moderate the pace of development of missile defenses in Europe,” a senior administration official said.
It was the administration’s most explicit statement linking the missile shield to Russia’s willingness to help resolve the international standoff over what is believed to be Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
The American official’s comments came as Under Secretary of State William J. Burns held talks in Moscow; he is the most senior American official to hold such talks since Mr. Obama took office last month.
Mr. Burns suggested that the administration was ready to reconsider plans for a missile defense system in Europe to take into account Russian concerns. The United States is “open to the possibility of cooperation, both with Russia and NATO partners, in relation to a new configuration for missile defense which would use the resources that each of us have,” the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. Mr. Burns provided no details.
In another sign that relations may be thawing, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would meet Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, in Geneva next month.
'...is the Obama administration’s position that Guantanamo is on solid legal ground, and if so, does this compromise the fact that a review of this is now ongoing?'From Greg Sargent -
Here’s a key question: Will the existence of Bush-era holdovers in the Defense Department impede the Obama administration’s vow to make a clean break with the Bush administration on controversial Defense policies such as those governing Guantanamo?
I’ve just obtained a letter written to the ACLU by a senior Defense Department official and Bush appointee stating a position on Guantanamo Bay that’s at odds with the Obama administration’s positions about the facility. The letter, which was provided by the ACLU, was written by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Detainee Affairs Sandra Hodgkinson.
The Defense Department letter states unequivocally that detainees at Guantanamo are currently treated “in a manner fully in accordance with U.S. legal obligations.” It states that detainees are provided “quality care that ensures their humane and safe detention.”
That seems at odds with the Obama administration’s position. On January 22nd, President Obama signed an executive order mandating that Guantanamo be closed within a year, and also calls for a review of the legal bases for detaining Guantanamo’s inmates.
In other words, Obama’s executive order suggests that it’s an open question whether Guantanamo is in accordance with U.S. legal obligations, and that a review is needed to determine one way or the other. But the Defense Department’s letter — which was written in response to an ACLU letter to Robert Gates about force-feeding at Guantanamo and was sent after the signing of the executive order — says unequivocally that Guantanamo is in fact on solid legal ground.
The discrepancy raises several questions. First, is the Obama administration’s position that Guantanamo is on solid legal ground, and if so, does this compromise the fact that a review of this is now ongoing?
Second, will the Obama administration really be able to effect change at Guantanamo if Bush appointees who say everything is fine at Guantanamo are still in charge of Guantanamo policy? Ms. Hodgkinson, who was originally a career civil servant before getting appointed by Bush, may stay on under Obama as an overseer of detainee affairs, the Associated Press reported earlier this month. And there are several other Bush appointees who are still overseeing Guantanamo, the AP reported.
An ACLU official argued to me that this shows that Bush holdovers within the Defense Department are obstacles to the real change that Obama promised.
“What is truly remarkable is that some Pentagon officials have not come to terms with the change in the administration and continue to use the same misguided Bush administration talking points claiming that Guantanamo is an oasis for humane treatment,” says Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Right’s division. “We are hopeful that Obama’s order to review the conditions will truly bring change and much needed action to restore the rule of law and humanity to U.S.-run prisons and detention facilities.”
'As many as 5,000 juveniles are believed to have appeared before Judge Ciavarella while the kickback scheme was going on.'From the New York Times -
Several hundred families filed a class-action suit Friday against two Pennsylvania judges who pleaded guilty on Thursday to accepting $2.6 million in kickbacks for sending juveniles to private detention facilities.
“At the hands of two grossly corrupt judges and several conspirators, hundreds of Pennsylvania children, their families and loved ones, were victimized and their civil rights were violated,” said Michael J. Cefalo, one of the lawyers representing the families. “It’s our intent to make sure that the system rights this terrible injustice and holds those responsible accountable.”
Pennsylvania lawmakers called on Friday for hearings into the state’s juvenile justice system. And the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, which blew the whistle on the judges, said it had sworn affidavits from families who said they had sought court-appointed counsel but were told that their children would have to wait weeks, sometimes months, for a lawyer. During that time, the children would have to remain in detention, the families said.
The two judges, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan, pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Scranton, Pa., to wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care. Their plea agreements call for sentences of more than seven years in prison.
As many as 5,000 juveniles are believed to have appeared before Judge Ciavarella while the kickback scheme was going on. The judges are currently free on an unsecured $1 million bond, and they have surrendered their passports and a condominium in Florida. Neither is allowed out of the state without permission.
State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf, a Republican from Montgomery County who is the chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee, said he intended to hold a hearing to find ways to help the children and their families once the federal investigation was done. A spokesman in Mr. Greenleaf’s office said one option was to provide money from the crime victims compensation fund.
“Money is important, but my son’s life has already been completely destroyed,” said Ruby Cherise Uca, whose son, Chad, 18, was sentenced to three months of detention by Judge Ciavarella in 2005, when Chad was in eighth grade.
Chad, who had no prior offenses, was charged with simple assault after shoving a boy at school and causing him to cut his head on a locker. Chad returned to school his freshman year, but he was so far behind in classes and so stigmatized by his teachers and peers, his mother said, that he soon dropped out.
Federal investigators remained silent Friday about whether they would file charges against the operators of the detention centers or who else they were considering as possible conspirators.
But a law enforcement official confirmed Friday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation visited a transitional housing program in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where Judge Ciavarella furloughed inmates who had been sentenced by other judges, as federal authorities continue to scrutinize actions by Judge Ciavarella and Judge Conahan.
Lawyers for Robert J. Powell, the owner of one of the detention centers, released a letter saying Mr. Powell was not complicit in the kickback scheme but was a victim of demands from the judges for payment.
Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, said that juveniles should not be allowed to waive their right to counsel, as is permitted in Pennsylvania, and that if families wanted a lawyer but could not afford one, they should get representation.
Mr. Schwartz added that Luzerne County, where the judges handled cases, had only one public defender on staff for juveniles. The juvenile court processes about 1,200 juvenile defendants a year.
'Despite the tight security, bombings have killed 60 Shiite pilgrims and wounded 170 over the past three days.'From the Associated Press -
Iraqi officials deployed 5,000 plainclothes military personnel south of Baghdad on Saturday, beefing up security in an attempt to stop deadly bombings against Shiite pilgrims that have plagued the country over the past three days, police said.
The increased security came a day after a female suicide bomber struck a tent filled with women and children resting during a pilgrimage to the Shiite holy city of Karbala, killing 40 people and wounding about 80 in the deadliest attack in Iraq this year.
The military personnel will monitor suspicious movements among the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims streaming toward Karbala, said Capt. Alaa Abbas Jaafar, press spokesman for the Karbala police.
The government has already deployed 30,000 security personnel in the province that contains Karbala to protect the city, along with 1,500 female security guards to search women and 400 snipers on rooftops, Jaafar said.
Despite the tight security, bombings have killed 60 Shiite pilgrims and wounded 170 over the past three days.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks...
On Thursday, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt packed with nails, killing eight people and wounding more than 50 in Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad.
A day earlier, at least 12 people were killed and more than 40 wounded in a series of bombings in Baghdad targeting pilgrims traveling through the capital on their way to Karbala, where they will be celebrating Monday's end of 40 days of mourning that follow the anniversary of the seventh-century death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein.
He was killed near Karbala in a battle for the leadership of the Muslim nation following Muhammad's death in 632. His death contributed to the split between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
Elsewhere, a roadside bomb killed two civilians and wounded four others, including a soldier, when it exploded Saturday near an Iraqi army patrol in western Mosul, 240 miles (390 kilometers) north of Baghdad, said an Iraqi police official.
'Burris' statement offers the third version of events he has given about his discussions concerning the Senate seat, to which Blagojevich appointed him in late December...'From the Chicago Sun-Times -
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother solicited U.S. Sen. Roland Burris for up to $10,000 in campaign cash before Blagojevich named Burris to the coveted post -- something Burris initially failed to disclose under oath before an Illinois House impeachment panel, records and interviews show.
Burris (D-Ill.) acknowledges being hit up for the money in a new affidavit he has sent to the head of the House committee that recommended Blagojevich be removed from office.
The affidavit is dated Feb. 5 -- three weeks after Burris was sworn in to replace President Obama in the Senate.
Burris -- who did not give money to the Blagojevich campaign fund in response to the previously undisclosed solicitation -- provided a copy of the sworn statement to the Chicago Sun-Times Friday in response to questions about his contacts with the Blagojevich camp about fund-raising.
Burris' statement offers the third version of events he has given about his discussions concerning the Senate seat, to which Blagojevich appointed him in late December, after Blagojevich was hit with federal corruption charges that included an allegation he tried to sell the Senate appointment.
In October and again in November, Burris spoke with Robert Blagojevich, who initially asked him to host a fund-raiser. Burris said he'd get back to him after the election, sources with knowledge of the conversations said. The two later talked again, and Burris again was asked for campaign cash.
'"We're fighting for the survival of Pakistan. We're not fighting for the survival of anybody else," Zardari said...'From the Associated Press -
ISLAMABAD — Dozens of followers of Pakistan's top Taliban commander were in a compound when a suspected U.S. missile attack hit Saturday, killing 27 militants in an al-Qaida stronghold near the Afghan border, officials said.
The strike appeared to be the deadliest yet by the American drone aircraft that prowl the frontier, and defied Pakistani warnings that the tactic is fueling extremism in the nuclear-armed Islamic nation.
In an interview unrelated to the attack, President Asif Ali Zardari said the Taliban had expanded their presence to a "huge amount" of Pakistan and were even eyeing a takeover of the state.
"We're fighting for the survival of Pakistan. We're not fighting for the survival of anybody else," Zardari said, according to a transcript of his remarks that CBS television said it would air Sunday.
The victims included about 15 ethnic Uzbek militants and several Afghans, said Pakistani intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The seniority of the militants was unclear.
Two of the officials said dozens of followers of Pakistan's top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, were staying in the housing compound when it was hit. There was no indication that Mehsud was present.
Pakistan's former government and the CIA have named Mehsud as the prime suspect behind the December 2007 killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
'...the Pentagon agreed that it needed more people to help train the Afghanistan government to track the weapons...'From BBC -
The US military has failed to keep track of thousands of weapons shipped to Afghanistan, leaving them vulnerable to being lost or stolen, a report says.
The report has been compiled by congressional auditors, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).
It found that, in the four years up to June 2008, the US military failed to keep complete records on some 222,000 weapons entering the country.
It states that weapons supplied by the US to the Afghan military "are at serious risk of theft or loss".
The report says:
-US military officials failed to keep proper records on about 87,000 rifles, pistols, mortars and other weapons sent to Afghanistan between December 2004 and June 2008 - about a third of all the weapons sent
-There was a similar lack of management of a further 135,000 light weapons donated to Afghan forces via the US military by 21 countries
-The military failed even to record the serial numbers of some 46,000 weapons, making it impossible to confirm receipt of weapons or identify any which had fallen into the hands of militants
-The serial numbers of 41,000 weapons were recorded, but US military officials still had no idea where they were
"Lapses in accountability occurred throughout the supply chain," concludes the report...
In response, the Pentagon agreed that it needed more people to help train the Afghanistan government to track the weapons, the AP news agency reported.
The report is reminiscent of an August 2007 study, also by the GAO, which found the US military could not account for some 190,000 rifles and pistols given to security services in Iraq.
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