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the latest reports on conscientious objection, Israel, evangelism, military suicides, spying, Iraq, Rove resignation, Rumsfeld resignation, terrorism, Iran, Venezuela, Pakistan, food aid, Tibet, Jose Padilla, and Zimbabwe

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Conscientious objection. US Army struggles with soldier who won’t pull the trigger “Aguayo, a military court would later decide, deserted. It’s something nearly 37,000 active duty US troops did between October 2001 and October 2006. But the medic’s situation was more complex than that. In his mind – and in the minds of superiors who attested that he was ‘absolutely sincere’ – he was a conscientious objector, a hardworking soldier who’d grown opposed to all wars and should have been honorably discharged.”

Israel. Backlash Over Book on Policy for Israel “The notion that pro-Israel groups ‘have anything like a uniform agenda, and that U.S. policy on Israel and the Middle East is the result of their influence, is simply wrong,’ George P. Shultz, a former secretary of state, says. ‘This is a conspiracy theory pure and simple, and scholars at great universities should be ashamed to promulgate it.'” Israel, U.S. formally sign new defense agreement “Israel and the United States signed Thursday a Memorandum of Understanding on the new American defense package for Israel. Under the new aid agreement, the U.S. will transfer $30 billion to Israel over 10 years, compared with $24 billion over the past decade. The aid deal signed at represents a 25 percent rise in U.S. military aid to Israel. ” US and Israel agree $30bn arms deal “At a signing ceremony in Jerusalem on Thursday, Nicholas Burns, US undersecretary of state, said the US would help Israel to maintain a military advantage over its enemies.” US offers Israel $30bn in military aid “The Bush administration must still receive congressional approval for the aid deals, but Mr Burns said he believed there would be little opposition in the Senate and house to the Israeli package.”

Evangelism. Evangelicals Join Interfaith Effort to Write Rules for Conversions “Evangelical Protestant churches have joined an effort by Roman Catholic, Orthodox and other Protestant churches to create a common code of conduct for religious conversions to preserve the right of Christians to spread their religion while avoiding conflict among faiths.”

Military suicides. Suicide Rate Among Soldiers Shows Increase, Report Says “Army soldiers committed suicide last year at the highest rate in 26 years, and more than a quarter did so while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, a military report shows.” US soldier suicides at highest level for 26 years “The rise in 2006 came as US army officials worked to set up new initiatives to provide mental health care for a force strained by the longer than expected conflict in Iraq and the global “war on terror”, which is now entering its sixth year.”

Spying. Domestic Use of Spy Satellites To Widen “The Bush administration has approved a plan to expand domestic access to some of the most powerful tools of 21st-century spycraft, giving law enforcement officials and others the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers.” Law enforcement to get access to spy satellite photos “A program approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security will allow broader domestic use of secret overhead imagery beginning as early as this fall, with the expectation that state and local law enforcement officials will eventually be able to tap into technology once largely restricted to foreign surveillance.”

Judges Skeptical of State-Secrets Claim “Lawyers for the Bush administration encountered a federal appeals court Wednesday that appeared deeply skeptical of a blanket claim that the government’s surveillance efforts cannot be challenged in court because the litigation might reveal state secrets.” U.S. Defends Surveillance to 3 Skeptical Judges “‘Is it the government’s position that when our country is engaged in a war that the power of the executive when it comes to wiretapping is unchecked?’ Judge Harry Pregerson asked a government lawyer. His tone was one of incredulity and frustration.”

Iraq. An Early Clash Over Iraq Report “Senior congressional aides said yesterday that the White House has proposed limiting the much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill next month of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to a private congressional briefing.” Iraq Toll at 250 in the Deadliest Attack of the War “Rescuers and recovery teams were still digging through as many as 200 flattened houses, and the death toll could still rise significantly, the officials said.”

Rove resignation. As Rove Departs, President Again Turns to Gillespie “With the departure of Karl Rove the president’s closest adviser, Gillespie, 46, a former lobbyist and Republican National Committee chairman, has once again been asked to help fill the void.”

Rumsfeld resignation. Rumsfeld Resigned as Defense Secretary on Day Before Elections “Donald H. Rumsfeld, who came to symbolize the Bush administration’s problems in the war in Iraq, resigned as secretary of defense one day before last fall’s elections, although President Bush did not announce the move until the day after the elections. … Not only did Bush not telegraph his intention to replace Rumsfeld, but he also publicly stated in the days before the elections that he envisioned Rumsfeld serving in his administration for the foreseeable future.”

Terrorism. Terror Threat Grows Quietly, Report Warns “The 90-page report, compiled by two police counterterrorism analysts, argues that the danger posed by homegrown radical Islamists is growing, fueled by Internet communications and the growing global popularity of jihadist ideology. But the report also concedes that ‘there is no useful profile . . . to predict who will follow this trajectory of radicalization’ because those who end up being radicalized begin as ‘unremarkable’ individuals ‘from various walks of life.'” Small groups seen as biggest threat in U.S. “After more than a decade of warning that the greatest threat of homegrown terrorism for the United States came from individual lone-wolf radicals, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have begun focusing on what they say is a greater threat — small, anonymous groups of disaffected men who radicalize one another and turn to
violence.”

Iran. As U.S. Steps Up Pressure on Iran, Aftereffects Worry Allies “America’s allies are increasingly concerned about the Bush administration’s plans to unilaterally escalate pressure on Iran, fearing that an evolving strategy may also set in motion a process that could lead to military action if Iran does not back down.” Terrorist Label for Iran Guard Reflects U.S. Impatience With U.N. “In moving toward designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, the Bush administration is adopting a more confrontational approach with Tehran, reflecting frustration with a stalled sanctions package at the United Nations Security Council officials said Wednesday.”

Venezuela. Chávez Calls for Broad Changes to Venezuelan Constitution “President Hugo Chávez called for radical changes to Venezuela’s constitution Wednesday night, proposing to eliminate current limits on his reelection and extend presidential terms.” Push by Chávez to Abandon Term Limits on Presidency “He called for a work day of no longer than six hours, the power to designate military regions for ‘defense reasons,’ the creation of regional governing entities that would be managed by vice presidents appointed by the president, and demarcating Venezuela’s sovereignty in parts of the Caribbean by possibly building artificial islands.” Chávez’s Bid for Russian Arms Pains U.S. “Washington’s concerns about Mr. Chávez led to a suspension of United States arms sales to Venezuela in 2006. Mr. Chávez has scoffed at the suspension and negotiated equipment purchases from Russia, including military jets, helicopters, rifles and, potentially, submarines.”

Pakistan. U.S. Is Prodding Pakistan Leader to Share Power “U.S. officials are quietly urging Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to share power with Benazir Bhutto, a longtime rival.” Bhutto Urges Action by Musharraf “Pakistan’s exiled opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, expressed frustration on Wednesday with political negotiations with the country’s military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, but said she still plans to return to the country ‘later this year.'”

Food aid. CARE Turns Down Federal Funds for Food Aid “CARE’s decision is focused on the practice of selling tons of often heavily subsidized American farm products in African countries that in some cases, it says, compete with the crops of struggling local farmers.”

Tibet. Tibetans Turn Festival Into Mute Protest Against China “The Khampa Festival in Qinghai Province is one of the largest on the calendar and traditionally draws Tibetans from all over western China. This year, for the first time, local officials tried to use the event to promote tourism and development in one of the poorest areas of China. As the muted response to the announcers suggested, however, the event had also acquired a political subtext: the continuing struggle between China and its Tibetan minority over cultural identity and religious freedom.”

Jose Padilla. Padilla guilty of aiding terrorists “Jose Padilla, an American once accused of planning to detonate a “dirty bomb” in this country, was found guilty today in Miami on lesser charges of providing support to terrorist organizations abroad.” US citizen aided al-Qaida cells “After a month in a civilian jail, he was designated an enemy combatant and handed to the military who held him for three years on a military brig in South Carolina. He was transferred to the Miami court in 2005. But, because he had been interrogated on the brig with no lawyer present by the military, all the alleged evidence was deemed to be inadmissable. The serious allegations were dropped and he was tried on lesser charges.” Padilla ‘aided al-Qaeda’ says jury “The jury of seven men and five women read out the verdict on Thursday, after a day and a half of deliberation following the three-month trial.”

Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe rejects calls for change at summit “The Zimbabwean government dismissed growing disquiet at the impact of its economic collapse on its neighbours today, telling a summit in Zambia of regional leaders that there was no need for political reform or talks with its opponents.”

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