God's Politics

The latest news on the Supreme Court, Darfur, Britain-cut nukes, Immigration, Tony Blair’s new job, Mideast summit, Iraq, U.S. military in Africa, Iran, North Korea, World Bank, Canada-Kyoto Agreement, feature interview with Derek Webb, and select Op-Eds.

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Supreme Court – pre-election ads. Justices loosen the ban on ads at election time “A splintered Supreme Court undercut a key campaign-finance measure, ruling that the Federal Election Commission went too far when it banned pre-election ads.” Justices Loosen Ad Restrictions in Campaign Finance Law “The Supreme Court took a sharp turn away from campaign finance regulation, opening a wide exception to the advertising restrictions that it upheld when the McCain-Feingold law first came before it four years ago.” 5-4 Supreme Court Weakens Curbs on Pre-Election TV Ads “The Supreme Court substantially weakened restrictions on the kinds of television ads that corporations and unions can finance in the days before an election,” ‘Send a message’ ads expected to swell “At both ends of the political spectrum, there were cheers for what such frequent opponents as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO – along with others in between – praised as a decision giving greater voice to average citizens, even if advocacy groups were the ones presenting their views.”

Supreme Court-faith based initiative. Justices Reject Suit on Federal Money for Faith-Based Office “By a vote of 5 to 4, the court ruled that taxpayers could not sue to block federal expenditures that they allege violate the constitutional separation of church and state.” High court rejects suit to restrict faith groups “The Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit that sought to bar religious groups from government conferences on nonprofit funding, in a ruling that conservative groups heralded as a landmark opinion.”

Immigration. Immigration issue back with senators “The beleaguered immigration bill makes a much-anticipated return to the Senate floor, with some senators saying that a crucial procedural vote will signal whether the legislation will be defeated or eventually clear the Senate.” Rough road ahead for immigration bill “The White House says it has the votes to resurrect the immigration bill on the Senate floor, though enough senators said they may change their minds in other votes later this week to leave the bill’s ultimate fate in doubt.” GOP Backers Offer Immigration Bill Change “With a crucial test vote scheduled for today, Republican supporters of a sweeping immigration bill threw their weight behind a significant change to the legislation that would force illegal immigrants to return to their home countries to apply for legal status.” Labor Coalitions Divided on Immigration OverhaulWhen the bill returns to the Senate floor opposition from labor unions could doom the bill’s prospects by putting pressure on many Democrats to vote against it.”

Tony Blair’s new job. Blair gets Middle East job “Tony Blair has landed a major diplomatic job as the international Middle East peace envoy, responsible for preparing the Palestinians for negotiations with Israel.” Odds stacked against Blair “Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority and pro-western Arab states are expected publicly to welcome Tony Blair as the special envoy of the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers, though governments acknowledge that he is deeply unpopular with ordinary people across the region because of his role in the war in Iraq and close relationship with George Bush.” Job description: thankless task “The job description does not look attractive. The envoy has four bosses: the US, the UN, Russia and the EU, who frequently disagree and are currently in despair over how to reunite the Palestinians and inject some life in the peace process.”

Mideast summit. Mideast Leaders Show Support for Abbas as Hamas Releases Tape of Israeli “The leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority gathered in a show of support for the emergency government formed by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah.” Palestinians slam Olmert’s offer “Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that he would ask his government to release 250 Palestinian prisoners in an effort to bolster the flagging fortunes of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.”

Darfur. Session on Darfur ends without action plan “An international meeting on Darfur ended with promises to support peacekeeping efforts and a political process to stop the violence in western Sudan, but with few concrete steps.” Little Visible Progress on Darfur at International Conference “They came, they met, they agreed that more must be done, but a gathering here aimed at solving the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region ended with little visible progress.” Sarkozy’s coming-out party on Darfur “But a meeting of senior officials from 18 influential nations, convened on Monday by new French President Nicholas Sarkozy was the first to involve France, the US, and China, who sent its special envoy for Sudan, Liu Giujin.” How China’s support of Sudan shields a regime called ‘genocidal‘ “the Darfur crisis that has killed more than 200,000 and displaced more than 2.5 million in western Sudan continues to rage unabated, … The Chinese are as much to blame for this situation as anyone, say critics, and not so much because of their economic policies but because of political ones.” Platitudes won’t save Darfur (Editorial, National Post) “But the Sudanese government was not invited to the Paris talks and the AU boycotted them because it has been adamant since the crisis began that no non-African nations should intervene. This made the Paris gathering an academic exercise, at best.”

Iraq-war. Troops Take Embattled Baqubah Bit by Bit, U.S. Commander Says “U.S. and Iraqi troops have “seized control” of the western side of the embattled city of Baqubah, but 100 or more insurgents remain in the city and at least that many likely escaped,” U.S. troops target bomb networks “Newly arrived U.S. troops southeast of Baghdad are destroying boats on the Tigris River and targeting networks believed to be bringing powerful roadside bombs from Iran as the military cracks down on extremists from all directions,” General: Iraqi Forces Far From Self-Sufficiency “Iraqi forces will not be ready to assume full responsibility for their nation’s security for years, and the U.S. military should be cautious in planning to reduce its 157,000-strong force in Iraq given past setbacks, the American general in charge of the teams that advise Iraqi forces warned.”

Iraq-bombing. Attacker Kills 4 Sunni Sheiks Who Aided U.S.A suicide bomber assassinated four Sunni sheiks who were cooperating with Americans to fight Al Qaeda in Anbar Province.” Blast could derail a key Iraqi alliance “The attack risked derailing an emerging alliance between Sunni Muslim tribal leaders in long-restive Al Anbar province and the country’s Shiite Muslim majority the day after a key round of negotiations to formalize their relationship with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s government.”

Iraq-US policy. Iraq policy is failing, says top senator “The top-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee called for a drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq, breaking with the Bush administration and signaling a further weakening of congressional support for the president’s Iraq strategy.” Sen. Richard Lugar’s (R-IN) speech, “In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved.”

Iraq-children. Iraqi Youth Face Lasting Scars of War “Iraq’s conflict is exacting an immense and largely unnoticed psychological toll on children and youth that will have long-term consequences, said social workers, psychiatrists, teachers and aid workers in interviews across Baghdad and in neighboring Jordan.”

US military in Africa. Africa rejects US military HQ “The Pentagon’s plans to create a new US military command based in Africa have hit a wall of hostility from governments in the region reluctant to associate themselves publicly with the US “global war on terror”.

Britain-cut nukes. Beckett calls for cuts in US and Russian nuclear arsenals “The foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, called for deep cuts in the US and Russia’s nuclear arsenals, in a signal that the new Brown government will make disarmament a foreign policy priority.” Nuclear weapons treaties: No nukes is good nukes “Breaking with its closest ally, Britain called on the United States to help renew a drive for global nuclear disarmament by joining Russia in reducing the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals lower than the Bush administration says it can go.”

Iran. U.N. Inspectors Invited to Iran for Talks on Nuclear Program “A team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency will travel to Tehran in the coming weeks at the invitation of the Iranian government to try to clear up longstanding questions about Iran’s nuclear program,” UN nuclear agency sending team to Iran “Acting on a request from Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that it will send a team to Tehran to work jointly on a plan meant to clear up suspicions about the Islamic republic’s nuclear activities.”

North Korea. North Korea Receives Funds and Says It Will Shut Down Its Main Nuclear Reactor “North Korea said that its dispute with the United States over $25 million frozen in a bank in Macao had been resolved, and that it would begin to carry out its much-delayed promise to shut down its main nuclear plant.” Caution greets North Korea moves “…nearly everyone who has closely followed the protracted effort says it’s far too early to assume the United States and other nations will succeed in peacefully persuading North Korea to give up its membership in the nuclear club.”

World Bank. Zoellick confirmed as World Bank chief “Mr Zoellick was the only nomination for the job as head of the world’s largest development agency, and as expected he was unanimously approved by the representatives of the bank’s member governments at a board meeting in Washington.” Mending Fences at World BankAs chief of the bank, which is charged with helping poor nations develop their economies and improve social conditions, Mr. Zoellick will face the challenge of repairing shattered relationships within the institution and between management and the board,”

Canada-Kyoto agreement. No action coming on Kyoto law, Baird says “The Conservatives won’t dismiss a newly passed law requiring Canada to respect its emissions-cutting commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, but they’re not about to put forward a new plan to tackle climate change either, Environment Minister John Baird said.”

Feature interview-Derek Webb. ‘Radical truth teller’ “An interview with Singer-songwriter Derek Webb, formerly a member of the contemporary Christian band Caedmon’s Call, won rave reviews for his 2005 solo album, “Mockingbird,” which dealt with themes of war, politics and social justice.”

Op-Ed. The Real Iraq Debate (By E. J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post) “It’s not about whether the United States should pull out troops. That is now inevitable. The real challenge is to figure out the right timetable for withdrawal, whether a residual force should be left there and which American objectives can still be salvaged.”

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