Beliefnet
God's Politics

the latest news on the freed BBC correspondent, Canadian casualties in Afghanistan, war tax resistance, Iraq, Gaza, Gordon Brown, Iran, missile defense, oil in Africa, nutrition education, polio, and select commentaries
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BBC correspondent freed. BBC correspondent, held captive nearly four months by Palestinian militants, is freed “Night after night, lying alone in a darkened Gaza City room that became his jail cell, Alan Johnston longed to see the sun again and dreamed of being set free.” BBC’s Johnston describes relief “BBC reporter Alan Johnston has said it is “just unimaginably good to be free” after 114 days in captivity in Gaza. He said his ordeal felt like being “buried alive”, and was “sometimes quite terrifying”. Freed BBC Reporter Recounts Long Ordeal in Gaza “An ebullient and relieved Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent set free after 114 days as a captive in the Gaza Strip, suggested that the turning point leading to his release was Hamas’s takeover of the strip.” No Fast Gain for Hamas After Release of Journalist “The role of Hamas in securing the release of Alan Johnston, the kidnapped BBC correspondent, is not enough to warrant any immediate change in policy toward it, Western and Israeli officials said.”


Iraq. Bush urges resolve on Iraq war “President Bush equated the war in Iraq with the U.S. war for independence. Like those revolutionaries who “dropped their pitchforks and picked up their muskets to fight for liberty,” Bush said, American soldiers were also fighting “a new and unprecedented war” to protect U.S. freedom.” Bush braces Americans for prolonged struggle in Iraq “President Bush used a July Fourth speech to airmen in West Virginia to brace Americans for another year of war in Iraq, saying the U.S. struggled for six years in the Revolutionary War to win independence from Britain.”


Private contractors outnumber U.S. troops in Iraq “The number of U.S.-paid private contractors in Iraq now exceeds that of American combat troops, newly released figures show, raising fresh questions about the privatization of the war effort and the government’s capacity to carry out military and rebuilding campaigns.” Contractors Face Combat-Related Stress After Iraq“Contractors who have worked in Iraq are returning home with the same kinds of combat-related mental health problems that afflict United States military personnel, according to contractors, industry officials and mental health experts.”


Construction Woes Add to Fears at Embassy in Iraq “U.S. diplomats in Iraq, increasingly fearful over their personal safety after recent mortar attacks inside the Green Zone, are pointing to new delays and mistakes in the U.S. Embassy construction project in Baghdad as signs that their vulnerability could grow in the months ahead.” Body Count In Baghdad Up in June “Nearly five months into a security strategy that involves thousands of additional U.S. and Iraqi troops patrolling Baghdad, the number of unidentified bodies found on the streets of the capital was 41 percent higher in June than in January,”


Scholars: Divide Iraq into 3 regions “With President Bush’s war strategy clouded by limited results and mounting casualties, two scholars are proposing a partition plan that would divide Iraq into three main regions.”


War tax resistance. War foes turning to tax resistance “War tax resistance, popularized by Henry David Thoreau in the 19th Century and by singer Joan Baez and others during the Vietnam War, is gaining renewed interest among some activists.”


Canadians die in Afghanistan. Taliban adopt deadly Iraqi tactics “Six Canadian soldiers and their interpreter died yesterday as the Taliban continued to launch bold attacks inside zones considered mostly pacified, shifting their tactics toward the kind of bombings that have proved devastating in Iraq.” Nowhere is safe from Taliban “Run the safest armoured vehicle in our military fleet down a road regularly travelled without incident by our troops patrolling a region where locals are allegedly on our side and nobody could predict it would suffer the deadliest bombing of the Canadian mission.”


Gaza. How U.S. policy missteps led to a nasty downfall in Gaza “Officials in the Bush administration awoke on the morning of January 26, 2006 to catastrophic news. Hamas had decisively won Palestianian democratic elections. And, despite a concerted effort by the United States to isolate Hamas, the news would only get worse.”



PM Gordon Brown. Brown Calmly Prevails In First Days as Premier “Brown’s popularity ratings are soaring. A Times of London poll published Monday found that 77 percent of Britons think Brown is a strong leader, up 14 points from a month ago. Analysts here said Brown, in addition to enjoying a predictable honeymoon period with Britain’s carnivorous press, is proving to be a far more formidable politician and reassuring leader than many people expected.” British Cut Threat Level After Bomb Plot ArrestsWith eight suspects in a pair of failed car bombings in police custody, Britain lowered its threat level to severe on Wednesday, and said it would review procedures for screening foreign-born doctors.”


Iran. Iran leader tells women’s rights activists not to try to change laws “Activists should not try to change Islamic laws relating to women’s rights, Iran’s supreme leader said yesterday, two days after one campaigner was reportedly sentenced to 34 months in jail and 10 lashes. Reformist Iranian daily is closed again “The liberal daily Hammihan, reopened recently after a seven-year absence, was shut down again after Iran’s hard-line judiciary said the paper’s director had failed to sign documents in a court proceeding. An official of the newspaper said the legal technicality was an excuse to silence a voice critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ruling circle.” Mideast has an old Cold War look “The new Middle East is starting to look like the old Cold War, with a familiar script and slightly altered cast. The confrontation between the United States and Iran, which overlays and drives much of the strife afflicting the Middle East, crystallizes most visibly here in Lebanon,”


Missile defense plan. Senate Panel Faults Missile Defense Plan: Location in Eastern Europe Is Criticized“Democrats in Congress are building a legislative roadblock to the Bush administration’s plan to place elements of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.” New Russian missile threat “Russia warned that it would position its rockets close to the Polish border and point missiles at US bases in Europe if Washington rebuffed its latest offer of cooperation on missile defence.”


Oil in Africa. Africa’s oil assets fuel ‘a new dynamic’ “Europe’s great powers once scrambled for dominance across vast, underdeveloped African lands rich in raw resources, including the scarlet palm oil used to grease the first cogs of the Industrial Revolution. A century later, a new group of nations are competing for a very different kind of oil, with sub-Saharan Africa closing in on the Persian Gulf as the prime overseas supplier of petroleum to the last remaining superpower.”


Nutrition education. Nutrition education efforts failing “The federal government will spend more than $1 billion this year on nutrition education — fresh carrot and celery snacks, videos of dancing fruit, hundreds of hours of lively lessons about how great you will feel if you eat well. But an Associated Press review of scientific studies examining 57 such programs found mostly failure. Just four showed any real success in changing the way children eat — or promise as weapons against childhood obesity.”


Polio. Holdouts strain efforts to erase polio worldwide “Worldwide, polio has nearly vanished. Since 1988, when a concerted international campaign to eradicate the disease began, the virus has disappeared from more than 120 countries, and the number of cases each year has dropped to fewer than 2,000 from 350,000.”


Commentary.


Why We Keep This Creed (By Michael Gerson, The Washington Post) “Which is why some of us love this holiday so much. It is the day when cynicism is silent. It is the day when Americans recall that “all men are created equal” somehow applies to the Mexican migrant and the Iraqi shopkeeper and the inner-city teenager. And it is the day we honor those who take this fact seriously. Those in our military who fight for the liberty of strangers are noble. Those dissidents who risk much in Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and China are heroic. Those who work against poverty and injustice in America are patriots — because patriotism does not require us to live in denial, only to live in hope.”


The Libby lesson for Iraq Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times) “HIS APPROVAL rating has cratered. His legislative agenda, after the collapse of immigration reform, is in ruins. So many longtime aides have departed that he may need name tags for Oval Office meetings. And yet with his decision to spare I. Lewis Libby from prison, President Bush sent his critics a clear signal that he will not concede an inch of ground that they lack the strength and determination to take from him.”

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