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The Daily Journal: April 4, 2007

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Bushism of the Day: Pissiness at Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi meets the president of Syria, Bashar Assad, in Damascus in the latest Democratic challenge to the Bush administration.Asssad is admittedly one of the world's reigning thugs, but engagement with thugs is the name of the game now—otherwise how would Democrats accomplish anything with Bush? From The Guardian: "The visit by Ms Pelosi has irritated the White House, which accused the Democrats of sending mixed signals to Syria, listed by the US state department as a sponsor of terrorism. Soon after Ms Pelosi's arrival in Damascus yesterday, Mr Bush directly criticised her visit. "A lot of people have gone to see president Assad ... and yet we haven't seen action. He hasn't responded. Sending delegations doesn't work. It's simply been counterproductive." Because not speaking to Syria, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and insurgents has been extremely productive in the Middle East, yes? From the Beirut Daily Star: "Damascus Has Constructed A Fantasy Around Pelosi Visit.":

The Bush administration will likely seize upon these remarks, which read like really bad fiction, and claim that they constitute proof that President Bashar Assad has - as the White House predicted - exploited Pelosi's visit for his own political purposes. But Syria is not the only party to blame for the fact that it has grossly misread Washington; the Bush administration's refusal to communicate with its adversaries has done nothing to help set the record straight. For the past six years, George W. Bush and his administration have talked only indirectly to Syrian leaders. And most of this oblique communication comes in the form of stern but seemingly contradictory warnings to "support democracy" in Lebanon, but back a US crackdown on Hamas, the party that was democratically elected to office in Palestine. Talk about mixed messages. Even more baffling are the unofficial phrases of the kind that Bush uttered at a G8 lunch last year: "Syria needs to stop this shit." The full editorial...

Pershing Missiles: The Sequel

From the LATimes: "he Bush administration has begun to step up its efforts to build a controversial missile defense system in eastern Europe, launching a public push in recent weeks to counter bitter opposition in Russia and to overcome fears of a new arms race elsewhere on the continent. The move, coming ahead of a major NATO meeting on the project later this month, could escalate a simmering diplomatic issue into a significant international dispute, depending on Moscow's reaction and the administration's next moves in its effort to base 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar center in the Czech Republic, both formerly part of the Soviet Bloc. Today, the senior Pentagon official responsible for overseeing the plan said in a briefing that the administration hopes to dampen Russian opposition, but that Moscow would not be allowed to derail the project if no agreement is reached with the Kremlin."

CIA, FBI Plying their Trade in Secret Ethiopian Jails

From AP and South Africa's Johannesburg Mail & Guardian: "CIA and FBI agents hunting for al-Qaeda militants in the Horn of Africa have been interrogating terrorism suspects from 19 countries held at secret prisons in Ethiopia, which is notorious for torture and abuse, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. Human rights groups, lawyers and several Western diplomats assert hundreds of prisoners, who include women and children, have been transferred secretly and illegally in recent months from Kenya and Somalia to Ethiopia, where they are kept without charge or access to lawyers and families. The detainees include at least one United States citizen and some are from Canada, Sweden and France, according to a list compiled by a Kenyan Muslim rights group and flight manifests obtained by AP. Some were swept up by Ethiopian troops that drove a radical Islamist government out of neighbouring Somalia late last year. Others have been deported from Kenya, where many Somalis have fled the continuing violence in their homeland. Ethiopia, which denies holding secret prisoners, is a country with a long history of human rights abuses. In recent years, it has also been a key US ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, which has been trying to sink roots among Muslims in the Horn of Africa. US government officials contacted by AP acknowledged questioning prisoners in Ethiopia. But they said American agents were following the law and were fully justified in their actions because they are investigating past attacks and current threats of terrorism." The full story...

Hooligans of Italy, Beware

From Der Spiegel: "Italy is famous as the romantic land of opera, art and good food, but in recent months it has become better known for its nasty soccer violence problem. Italian stadiums have become some of the most dangerous in Europe, no-go zones for all but the most committed soccer fans -- some of whom have shown an increasing tendency towards violence. Now the government is taking radical measures to combat the problem. The Italian parliament passed wide-ranging anti-hooliganism legislation Tuesday, almost exactly two months after the death of a police officer during a riot at a soccer match. The senate voted for the law by a landslide majority of 244 votes in favor and only one against. There were 20 abstentions. The new law encompasses a package of measures designed to help tackle the hooliganism problem. Entrance tickets can no longer be block-booked by visiting fans. Clubs that have ties with organizations of hardcore fans, known as "ultras," will face fines of between €20,000 and €100,000. Spectators who force a match to be abandoned by throwing firecrackers and flares will face prison sentences, and flags and banners that incite violence are banned. Suspected hooligans can now be banned from stadiums even if they haven't been convicted of a crime." The full story...



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