the latest reports on terrorism, Iraq policy, nuclear energy, the Mideast peace, Gaza, the Vatican, North Korea, Dick Cheney, and Habitat for Humanity.
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Terrorism. 6 Years After 9/11, the Same Threat “In many respects, the National Intelligence Estimate suggests, the threat of terrorist violence against the United States is growing worse, fueled by the Iraq war and spreading Islamic extremism.” Intelligence report cites Al Qaeda threat “Nearly six years after the United States set out to crush Al Qaeda, the terrorist network has “regenerated key elements” of its ability to attack targets in America and is intensifying its efforts to put operatives inside the country, according to a sobering new report from U.S. intelligence agencies.”

Iraq – policy. Democrats Fail to Force Vote on Iraq Pullout “Senate Democrats fell short this morning, after a rare all-night session, in their attempt to force President Bush to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq.” Senate Rejects Troop Withdrawal Measure “Reid’s surprise change of strategy means the Senate will turn to higher education legislation, which could shelve the war debate until after Labor Day. Although Democrats have demanded an immediate change in course, Reid said he was unwilling to consider other Iraq amendments if Republicans continued to block a simple-majority vote on withdrawal.” The strategy behind Senate Iraq war vote “Washington’s political theater is part of a deliberate political strategy aimed at living rooms across America. By presenting the choice over the future of the Iraq war in the starkest possible terms, Democrats hope to convince Americans of the need to change course and ratchet up the political pressure on Republican lawmakers supporting President Bush.”

Nuclear energy. Accidents dim hopes for green nuclear option “As concern about global warming has swelled in recent years, so has renewed interest in nuclear energy. The main reason: Nuclear plants produce no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases tied to climate change, at least not directly…. But that was before an earthquake in Japan this week rattled the Kashiwazaki nuclear power plant.”

Mideast peace. Bush Middle East plan starts to unravel “George Bush yesterday encountered the weakest of welcomes for his call for an international peace conference on the Middle East.” White House: Int’l Mideast meeting is not a big peace conference “After many years of disappointments and setbacks in the search for peace in the Middle East, the Bush administration appears intent on preventing expectations from rising too high. Bush has avoided direct engagement in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians for several years, and he has been reluctant to ask hard compromises of close ally Israel.”

Gaza. U.N. Warns of Gaza Collapse if Border Stays Closed “Gaza’s already weak economy could collapse unless the main commercial crossing between Gaza and Israel is reopened, Gaza businessmen and United Nations officials said today.” UN: Gaza economy may crash soon unless Israel reopens borders “In recent weeks, some border points were opened to transfer humanitarian supplies. But no industrial material has entered Gaza, bringing construction activity and manufacturing to a halt, including $93 million worth of UN-funded projects employing 121,000 people, according to the United Nations.” UN warns of economic collapse in Gaza “Although Israel withdrew its settlers from Gaza two years ago, it maintains control of the sea, the airspace and all the crossings for people and goods with Israel and with Egypt.”

Vatican. Vatican: We may drop revived prayer offensive to Jews “The most senior official in the Vatican after the Pope on Wednesday suggested that a highly controversial prayer for the conversion of the Jews could be dropped from the re-introduced Latin-language rite.” A church’s assertive shift toward tradition “The leader of 1.1 billion Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI, is completing a significant theological shift of the Roman Catholic church – a sweeping change that not only eclipses 40 years of a more moderate and collegial Catholicism, but seeks to reassert the spiritual supremacy of the Vatican and more openly proclaim the authority of the office of pope among all Christians.”

North Korea. N Korea closes more nuclear sites “North Korea has shut down all five nuclear facilities at its main Yongbyon complex, International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei says.” North Korean Disarmament Talks Resume “Buoyed by their first success, diplomats from six nations resumed talks on North Korean nuclear disarmament Wednesday, warning that a difficult road still lies ahead despite North Korea’s closure of its main nuclear reactor.”

Dick Cheney. Papers Detail Industry’s Role in Cheney’s Energy Report “The list of participants’ names and when they met with administration officials provides a clearer picture of the task force’s priorities and bolsters previous reports that the review leaned heavily on oil and gas companies and on trade groups — many of them big contributors to the Bush campaign and the Republican Party. But while it clears up much of the lingering uncertainty about who was granted access to present energy policy views to Cheney’s staff, it does not entirely explain why the Bush administration fought so hard to keep it and other as-yet-unreleased internal memos secret.”

Habitat for Humanity. Some Worry Home Charity Is Shedding Grass Roots “Now, though, that movement, driven by affiliates with the same goal but widely varying approaches to achieving it, is fraying under new leadership that is trying to centralize the organization. Habitat for Humanity International is asking affiliates to sign an agreement that would establish a quality-control checklist, and a new policy gives headquarters a cut of each donation it receives that is earmarked for an affiliate. And the changes are meeting with opposition.”

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