God's Politics

the latest news on poverty, Iran, Canada, Gonzales resignation, Iraq, arms security, South Korean hostages, Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine, Saudi private security, Darfur, and select features and opinion articles

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Poverty. Poverty rate declines “The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that 36.5 million Americans, or 12.3 percent – were living in poverty last year. That’s down from 12.6 percent in 2005. The median household income was $48,200, a slight increase from the previous year. But the number of people without health insurance also increased, to 47 million.” Here is the Census Bureau’s press release.

Gonzales resignation. For Bush, an opportunity in a loss “Alberto R. Gonzales’ departure may turn out to be a blessing for President Bush. However, that was not obvious from Bush’s demeanor on a sun-baked Texas tarmac Monday morning as he announced that he had “reluctantly” accepted Gonzales’ resignation as attorney general.” Embattled Gonzales Resigns “His resignation, submitted Sunday to President Bush and disclosed yesterday, removes one of the nation’s most controversial attorneys general since the Watergate era.” In the End, Realities Trumped Loyalty “Yesterday’s resignation announcement by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales underscored once again the damage that can be done when when loyalty becomes paramount in presidential decision-making.” After long controversy, Attorney General Gonzales resigns “With the resignation Monday of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the Bush administration faces its most daunting task: repairing the reputation of a Justice Department reeling from the controversy over the firings of nine U.S. attorneys last year.”

Final Chance for Fresh Start “The back-to-back resignations of Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales, two longtime aides to President Bush who have become lightning rods on Capitol Hill, amount to a political housecleaning for the White House, providing Mr. Bush a fresh chance to make what he can of his remaining months in office.” Gonzales’ legacy of controversy “As Alberto R. Gonzales closes the door on his Washington career, he leaves an enduring legacy: a Justice Department mired in controversy over the firing of U.S. attorneys and a series of legal and moral challenges to his post-Sept. 11 policies on presidential power, torture and domestic spying.” Bush Loyalist Helped Shape Signature Anti-Terror Policies “As White House counsel and later as attorney general, Gonzales, 52, approved the framework that guided the administration’s anti-terrorism efforts.” Attorney General Held Firm on War PoliciesTime and again, as both White House counsel and attorney general, Mr. Gonzales would return to that theme: in a time of war, the president has broad powers to protect the country.”

Iraq . Iraq Weapons Are a Focus of Criminal InvestigationsSeveral federal agencies are investigating a widening network of criminal cases involving the purchase and delivery of billions of dollars of weapons, supplies and other matériel to Iraqi and American forces, according to American officials.” PM rules out Iraq exit timetable “Gordon Brown has ruled out setting a timetable for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, saying they still have “an important job to do”.

Arms security. Lugar, Nunn Push Arms Security Program “Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and former senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) launched a new effort Monday to expand the reach and strength of their program to secure nuclear, chemical and biological weapons at a time of deepening tensions between the United States and Russia.”

South Korean hostages. Taliban to release South Korean hostages held since July “The Taliban agreed to free 19 South Korean church volunteers held hostage since July after the government in Seoul agreed to end all missionary work and keep a promise to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year.”

Afghanistan . Afghan opium surge horrifies UN “Britain’s drug policy in Afghanistan’s Helmand province lay in tatters yesterday as the UN declared a “frightening” explosion in opium production across the country, led by Taliban-backed farmers in the volatile south. Opium production soared by 34% to 8,200 tonnes, accounting for 93% of world supply and most of the heroin sold in Britain and Europe,”

Iran-French president speech. Sarkozy speech signals French diplomatic shift “The French president Nicolas Sarkozy demanded a clear timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq, and said a nuclear-armed Iran would be “unacceptable”. French Leader Raises Possibility of Force in IranBut the mere fact that he raised the specter of the use of force is likely to be perceived both by Iran as a warning of the consequences if it continues its course of action, and by the Bush administration as acceptance of its line that no option, including the use of force, can be excluded.”

Iran . Iran pledges nuclear co-operation “Iran has committed to a timetable for co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency in its investigation into Tehran’s nuclear activities. Iran’s mission to the IAEA said in the memorandum that it had cleared up questions from the UN’s nuclear watchdog about its experiments with plutonium.” Iran’s people await their share of riches “Across this city and other areas of relatively prosperous Mazandaran province in northern Iran, one of many rural regions where Ahmadinejad has enjoyed enthusiastic support since his election in 2005, there are growing worries that the trickle-down oil revenue the president promised has trickled only so far.”

Israel-Palestine. Abbas meets Olmert in Jerusalem “Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, are meeting in Jerusalem, in a bid to restart stalled peace talks.” PA, Israel expand teams preparing for fall summit “The framework of discussions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will be expanded to include the establishment of negotiating teams for each side, which will discuss the agreement of principles to be prepared ahead of the international conference in November,” Israel sees a new Hamas threat“Hamas has smuggled 40 tons of weapons into the Gaza Strip this summer, apparently intent on resuming suicide bombings in Israel, according to an Israeli intelligence assessment of the militant Islamic group.” Israeli Says Hamas Is Training Hundreds Abroad “Hamas has sent hundreds of its fighters abroad for military training, most of them to Iran, the Israeli Army’s deputy chief of staff says,”

Saudi private security force. Huge Saudi force to defend oilfields from al-Qaida “Anxieties about al-Qaida attacks and a US-led war against Iran have prompted Saudi Arabia to establish a special force – being trained by an American defence contractor – to protect its oilfields. Saudi authorities have already recruited 5,000 members of the Facilities Security Force and plan to raise the number to 8,000-10,000 over the next two years, in a project being run by the Lockheed Martin Corporation,”

Darfur . Darfur refugees strain tight water supplies “As the population of camps continues to rise – to 2.2 million in July, 140,000 more than at the start of the year – aid workers in northern Darfur, where conditions are driest, are scrambling to find new sources of water and urging refugees to conserve supplies.”

Canada. The Harper paradox ” Canadians have mixed feelings about their reserved and occasionally aloof Prime Minister even as they grow more comfortable with the direction he is taking the country and as support for his party solidifies.” What can Harper do to increase his chances of winning a majority government? ” Don’t let the neck-and-neck party standings fool you. After a year and a half in office, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has built up some impressive political capital.”

Feature. Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith (David Van Biema, TIME) “A new, innocuously titled book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), consisting primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, provides the spiritual counterpoint to a life known mostly through its works. The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever.”

Opinion. In Darfur, From Genocide to Anarchy (By Alex de Waal and Julie Flint, Washington Post) “For the past three years, Darfur has been descending into this murky world of tribes-in-arms and warlords who serve the highest bidder, with some community leaders of integrity trying to carve out localities of tranquility. Many Arab militias are talking to the rebels; many erstwhile rebel leaders have struck bargains with the regime, receiving high-sounding positions and nice villas in return for providing an adornment to the government’s attempts to show a pluralistic facade.”

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