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the latest reports on healthcare, spying, Colombia, media, Iraq, the UN, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, the Mideast, the election, Alberto Gonzales, faith-based initiatives, and commentary on Darfur
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Healthcare. Children’s Health Bill Approved By House “The House yesterday approved legislation vastly expanding a federal health insurance program for the children of the working poor, shrugging off a fresh veto threat from President Bush and the fierce opposition of House Republicans.” House Passes Children’s Health Plan 225-204 “Over angry Republican objections, the House on Wednesday passed a sweeping expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, financed with increases in tobacco taxes and cuts in subsidies to private Medicare insurance plans for older Americans.”

Spying. Overseas spy actions restricted “A special court that has routinely approved eavesdropping operations has put new restrictions on the ability of U.S. spy agencies to intercept e-mails and telephone calls of suspected terrorists overseas, U.S. officials said Wednesday.” Democrats Offer Compromise Plan On Surveillance “Congressional Democrats outlined a temporary plan yesterday that would expand the government’s authority to conduct electronic surveillance of overseas communications in search of terrorists.”

Colombia. In Terrorism-Law Case, Chiquita Points to U.S. “On April 24, 2003, a board member of Chiquita International Brands disclosed to a top official at the Justice Department that the king of the banana trade was evidently breaking the nation’s anti-terrorism laws. Roderick M. Hills, who had sought the meeting with former law firm colleague Michael Chertoff, explained that Chiquita was paying “protection money” to a Colombian paramilitary group on the U.S. government’s list of terrorist organizations.”

Media. In Fox News, Giuliani Finds a Friendly Stage “Roger Ailes and Rudolph W. Giuliani have been pulling for each other for nearly two decades. Mr. Ailes was the media consultant to Mr. Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign in 1989. Mr. Giuliani, as mayor, officiated at Mr. Ailes’s wedding and intervened on his behalf when Mr. Ailes’s company, Fox News Channel, was blocked from securing a cable station in the city.”

Iraq. Marine Is Guilty of Conspiracy To Murder “A Marine was found guilty Wednesday of conspiracy to murder an Iraqi man but was acquitted of premeditated murder and kidnapping in a bungled attempt to kill a suspected insurgent last year.” Iraq Snapshots Give 2 Views “In Iraq the news emerging from the American counterinsurgency campaign can seem contradictory.”

Iraq-UN. UN resolution on bigger Iraq role “The US and the UK have circulated a new draft resolution to United Nations Security Council members proposing a bigger role for the UN in Iraq. Under the plan, the UN would get a wider mandate, to help promote political reconciliation in Iraq.” UN resolution seeks to expand role in Iraq “The two allies last night circulated a draft resolution that would extend the UN’s mandate for a year, and authorise it to facilitate ‘regional dialogue, including on issues of border security, energy and refugees.'”

Zimbabwe. Caps on Prices Only Deepen Zimbabweans’ Misery “One month after the government of Zimbabwe moved to counter crippling hyperinflation, the country’s economy is at a halt and essentials are in short supply.”

Pakistan. Disaster looms for Pakistan “Politicians fear civil war as Musharraf’s regime is battered by suicide attacks, civilian revolt and American threats.”

Mideast. Meeting Rice, Palestinian president agrees to discuss ‘declaration of principles’ with Israel “Wrapping up her latest tour of the Middle East with a visit to the West Bank Thursday, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice won a key concession from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: a willingness to discuss a “declaration of principles” with Israel at an international conference this fall.” US in $80m Palestinian aid deal “US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has signed an agreement giving the Palestinian Authority $80m (£39m) to reform their security services.” Olmert seeks outline of deal with PA “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday proposed to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Israel and the Palestinians draft “agreed principles” for establishing a Palestinian state as a basis for the international peace conference that the United States is sponsoring this fall.”

Election. In make-or-break South Carolina, GOP race still scrambled “GOP leaders and conservative activists here say that the war in Iraq and immigration policy are splintering upstate evangelical voters, a large voting bloc that has typically united around litmus-test social issues like abortion. And the lack of a candidate with both solid red-state credentials and a shot at the White House is sowing turmoil across the Republican base.”

Alberto Gonzales. Support for Attorney General Gonzales slips further “Seldom have a cabinet official and a Congress been so at odds. After months of bickering over fired US attorneys, congressional subpoenas, and secret eavesdropping, embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales now has few supporters left on Capitol Hill, even among his fellow Republicans.” Gonzales Offers a Defense to Senate Panel “Attorney General Alberto Gonzales offered a narrowly drawn defense of his recent Congressional testimony on Wednesday, saying he had been truthful in denying that there had been serious disagreements within the Bush administration about the National Security Agency’s program of wiretapping without warrants.”

Faith-based initiative. Faith-based initiative backfires “In his early years, President Bush promoted funding for faith-based groups in order to blast social problems with the power of religious belief by unleashing the ‘armies of compassion.’ Bush predicted that his faith-based initiative would be his great legacy. And it does send an estimated $2 billion to religious charities. But the campaign, ignored by Congress and challenged in court, has dropped off the White House talking points. After a brief mention in the 2006 State of the Union address, it was left out entirely this year.”

Commentary:

Khartoum is no friend of this fresh resolve on Darfur “This is an appropriate point at which to introduce a note of caution. I wonder how many of those excitedly announcing this ‘breakthrough’ on our news b
ulletins were aware that the security council passed an almost identical resolution last August? … It foundered, like many previous agreements, on the lack of international willpower and the obstructionism and bad faith of the Sudanese authorities. The force was never deployed.”

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