Senate passes bill to expand U.S. spying powers
After more than a year of heated political wrangling, the Senate handed the White House a major victory Tuesday by voting to broaden the government’s spy powers after giving legal protection to phone companies that cooperated in President Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program.

Amnesty Day for Bush and lawbreaking telecoms
(Glenn Greenwald) — [The Senate bill] has two simple purposes: (1) to render retroactively legal the President’s illegal spying program by legalizing its crux: warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, and (2) to stifle forever the sole remaining avenue for finding out what the Government did and obtaining a judicial ruling as to its legality: namely, the lawsuits brought against the co-conspiring telecoms. In other words, the only steps taken by our political class upon exposure by the NYT of this profound lawbreaking is to endorse it all and then suppress any and all efforts to investigate it and subject it to the rule of law.

U.S. Jewish leader worried by thrust of White House campaigns
The head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, expressed concern Tuesday regarding the atmosphere that has surrounded Democratic Senator Barack Obama’s campaign for president, while making it clear he has no problem with Obama himself.

“All the talk about change, but without defining what that change should be is an opening for all kind of mischief,” Hoenlein said at a press conference in Jerusalem. Obama has made change a central theme in his campaign.

The blind giant of the Middle East
(David Grossman) — More and more it looks as if the things that set Israel going at its birth have lost their potency — its concept and its daring, its confidence in its purpose and values, its desire to create a country that would not only be a refuge for the Jewish people, but that would also transform Jewish existence into a modern civil state. Now, 60 years after Israel was founded, it must find new substance that will fuel its way forward. Without re-creating itself, it will not be able to stay in motion. Too many things, outside and inside, will hinder it. The time will come when Israel will not have the strength to overcome them.

Palestinian revenge was inevitable
(Ahmed Yousef) — Last week’s bombing in Dimona was the first martyrdom operation committed by Hamas in more than five years. For some time, we have been warning the world that the relentless pressure on our people would eventually tell. In the last two months, more than a hundred people have been killed by the Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza Strip, including many civilians, women and children.

Thirty people have died in the last month for lack of medical care brought on by the embargo. Only two weeks ago, we saw the appalling sight of over 40 women and children seriously injured when an Israeli F-16 dropped an enormous bomb in the middle of the densely populated Gaza City, a few meters from a wedding party. This kind of atrocity, piled onto the daily death toll, has finally tested the patience of Palestinians, and after lengthy restraint, revenge was inevitable.

To many in Israel and the West, this act of resistance will be judged in isolation. They will no doubt say that it justifies the inhumane embargo on the people of Gaza and the arrests of more than 500 people and daily torture of innocents in the West Bank by both Israelis and the puppet government imposed on us by the U.S.. What they seem to forget is that just in the last two years, 2,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli military action and thousands more injured. The cold-blooded fact is that the ratio of Palestinian deaths to Israelis is now over 40 to 1.

Palestinian questions peace progress
The U.S.-backed Palestinian prime minister said Monday that time is running short to demonstrate progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks President Bush launched to fanfare last fall.

“Unless there is tangible progress in the period immediately ahead” on a list of pledges made by Israel, “I think, honestly, it would require that we begin to really call this for what it is,” Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said.

Focus of detainee trial is likely to suit Bush
Harsh interrogations and Guantánamo Bay, secret prisons and warrantless eavesdropping, the war against Al Qaeda and the one in Iraq. On issue after issue, President Bush has showed little indication that he will shrink from the most controversial decisions of his tenure.

With the decision to charge six Guantánamo detainees with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and to seek the death penalty for the crimes, many of those issues will now be back in the spotlight. In an election year, that appears to be exactly where Mr. Bush wants the focus to be.

Asia’s hidden arms race
(John Feffer) — While in the news sunshine prevails, in the shadows an already massive regional arms race is threatening to shift into overdrive. Since the dawn of the twenty-first century, five of the six countries involved in the Six Party Talks have increased their military spending by 50% or more. The sixth, Japan, has maintained a steady, if sizeable military budget while nonetheless aspiring to keep pace. Every country in the region is now eagerly investing staggering amounts of money in new weapons systems and new offensive capabilities.

The arms race in Northeast Asia undercuts all talk of peace in the region. It also sustains a growing global military-industrial complex. Northeast Asia is where four of the world’s largest militaries — those of the United States, China, Russia, and Japan — confront each other. Together, the countries participating in the Six Party Talks account for approximately 65% of world military expenditures, with the United States responsible for roughly half the global total.

Here is the real news that should hit the front pages of papers today: Wars grip Iraq, Afghanistan, and large swathes of Africa, but the heart of the global military-industrial complex lies in Northeast Asia. Any attempt to drive a stake through this potentially destabilizing monster must start with the militaries that face one another there.

The law on the powers of governorates
(Reidar Visser) — Whenever Iraqi politics becomes difficult to classify according to the ethno-sectarian mindset preferred by most Western commentators, interest in what is going on in Baghdad seems to dwindle. Little wonder, then, that for the past few weeks, somewhat esoteric news items (like a visit to Iraq by Angelina Jolie) have dominated press reports from Iraq. The two truly significant developments during the past month have received less coverage: the attempts to agree on a general budget, as well as efforts to pass a law on the powers of governorates nor organised in a [federal] region.

America’s green policy vacuum
It’s been a year since Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth packed theaters and won an Oscar. And a good year it has been for the green movement. Venture capital firms poured a record $2.6 billion into clean tech startups in the first three quarters of 2007. Meanwhile, the green buzz has only grown louder. This year, green building construction starts are projected to reach $12 billion. And both Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama have made a greener economy a key plank in their Presidential campaigns.

It’s enough to make you believe an optimistic report that estimates the green economy could produce as many as 40 million jobs and $4.53 trillion in annual revenue by 2030. To put those numbers in perspective, consider this: In 2006, according to a November report commissioned by the American Solar Energy Society (hardly a disinterested body), companies in renewable energy and energy efficiency industries accounted for 8.5 million jobs and generated $970 billion in revenues. The report based that scenario on “aggressive, sustained public policies at the federal and state level during the next two decades.” (It also included growth scenarios based on current government spending levels and on a moderate increase.)

Despite the undeniable green momentum, a $4 trillion-plus U.S. green economy is far from likely—even in 22 years—because there simply is no “aggressive, sustained” federal policy. The federal government has failed to create and adequately fund the programs that would make the U.S. a world leader. And that’s what the government should be trying to do, for reasons that go far beyond rising carbon levels. The U.S. risks falling way behind other countries in the development of green technologies. On its current course, this country could trade oil dependence for reliance on alternative energy products built by other nations already far ahead of it.

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