Low Turnout Undercuts Portugal Vote on Abortion

LISBON, Feb. 11 — Portugal voted decisively in a referendum on Sunday to liberalize its restrictive abortion law, but the result was not considered valid because of low voter turnout.

Still, Prime Minister José Sócrates, a Socialist who supported the liberalization, declared victory and said he would ask Parliament, where his party enjoys a comfortable majority, to change the law.


‘Dubious’ Intelligence Fueled Push for War

Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included “reporting of dubious quality or reliability” that supported the political views of senior administration officials rather than the conclusions of the intelligence community, according to a report by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

Feith’s office “was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda,” according to portions of the report, released yesterday by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.). The inspector general described Feith’s activities as “an alternative intelligence assessment process.”

An unclassified summary of the full document is scheduled for release today in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which Levin chairs. In that summary, a copy of which was obtained from another source by The Washington Post, the inspector general concluded that Feith’s assessment in 2002 that Iraq and al-Qaeda had a “mature symbiotic relationship” was not fully supported by available intelligence but was nonetheless used by policymakers.


Violence Erupts at Jerusalem Holy Site

JERUSALEM (AP) – Hundreds of Israeli police stormed Islam’s third-holiest shrine Friday, firing stun grenades and tear gas to disperse hundreds of Muslim worshippers who hurled stones, bottles and trash in an eruption of outrage over Israeli renovation work nearby.

The clash at the end of noon prayers came after days of mounting tensions over the work and raised concern that protests at the site could spread to the West Bank and Gaza, as they did at the start of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000. No serious injuries were reported.

About 200 police streamed on to the hilltop compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, to try to quell Muslims rioting over the repair work, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

[Guardian (UK)]

The Pentagon’s not-so-little secret

As the president and Republicans continue to hype the surge — and stifle debate about it — Bush’s own war planners are preparing for failure in Iraq.

Feb. 8, 2007 | Deep within the bowels of the Pentagon, policy planners are conducting secret meetings to discuss what to do in the worst-case scenario in Iraq about a year from today if and when President Bush’s escalation of more than 20,000 troops fails, a participant in those discussions told me. None of those who are taking part in these exercises, shielded from the public view and the immediate scrutiny of the White House, believes that the so-called surge will succeed. On the contrary, everyone thinks it will not only fail to achieve its aims but also accelerate instability by providing a glaring example of U.S. incapacity and incompetence.


Bush Wants Funding Jump for Anti-Drug Ads Rated as Useless

President Bush has proposed a significant jump in funding for an anti-drug advertising campaign that government-funded research shows is at best useless and at worst has increased drug use among some teens.

The administration has asked for a 31 percent increase in funding for the advertising campaign that a nearly five-year study concluded had increased the likelihood that all teens would smoke marijuana. The White House proposal would increase the program’s budget to $130 million over the next year.

Under the last Congress, oversight of the ad program fell to Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., easily the most vocal and fervent anti-drug crusader in Congress. That subcommittee is now chaired by Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, a Democratic presidential contender, who has called to have marijuana legalized and regulated similarly to alcohol.


Who Watches The Watchers In A Surveillance Society?

CHICAGO – In some cities in Europe and the United States, a person can be videotaped by surveillance cameras hundreds of times a day, and it’s safe to say that most of the time no one is actually watching.

But the advent of “intelligent video” — software that raises the alarm if something on camera appears amiss — means Big Brother will soon be able to keep a more constant watch, a prospect that is sure to heighten privacy concerns.

Combining motion detection technology with the learning capabilities of video game software, these new systems can detect people loitering, walking in circles or leaving a package.

New microphone technology can isolate the sound of a gunshot and direct the attached camera to swivel and zoom in on the source. Sensitivity may reach the point where microphones could pick out the word “explosives” spoken in a crowd.


The “25 Most Corrupt Members of the Bush Administration”

The liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a list of the “25 Most Corrupt Members of the Bush Administration”

CREW’s website says that “The majority of the officials in the report have been convicted of crimes, are currently under criminal investigation, or are being investigated by the inspector generals of their respective agencies.”

The watchdog group also releases an annual list of most-corrupt members of Congress.


N. Korea may begin to dismantle nukes

BEIJING – North Korea agreed in principle Thursday to take initial steps toward dismantling its nuclear programs at the start of international talks seeking the first concrete progress on disarming Pyongyang.

The main U.S. negotiator said talks resumed on a positive note, and that sides were hoping to achieve an agreement on the first steps for the North’s disarmament.

“We had a good first day today,” Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters. “We hope we can achieve some kind of joint statement here.”

Unlike the last round of six-nation talks in December, Hill said the countries “were able to make progress on discussing denuclearization.”

[AP/Yahoo! News]

‘A Platoon Of Lesbians’ Could ‘Chase Us Out Of Baghdad’

Yesterday, during hearings on the State Department’s 2008 budget, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) slammed the U.S. military’s ban on gay servicemembers, saying the Pentagon “seems more afraid of gay people than they are [of] terrorists,” and that if the terrorists were smart, “they’d get a platoon of lesbians to chase us out of Baghdad.”

video and full transcript at the link below:


Pentagon Inspector General to release investigation into secretive pre-war Iraq intelligence group

A long awaited Pentagon Inspector General’s report into the Office of Special Plans and its activities surrounding pre-war intelligence in the lead up to the Iraq war has been completed, RAW STORY has learned.

According to sources close to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the classified version of the Pentagon IG’s report will be released to committee members Friday. Two to three declassified pages may also be concurrently released to the public.

A Senate aide on the committee, while not commenting on particular questions regarding the IG’s report, confirmed that a major focal point involves former Deputy Undersecretary for Defense Policy Douglas Feith – a keystone of the Administration’s intelligence on Iraq and director of the notoriously secretive Pentagon Office of Special Plans from September 2002 to June 2003.

Feith announced his resignation in January 2005, a week after the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh accused him of working with Israeli officials to select potential targets for a preemptive Iran strike.


GOP Views Clinton As Virtually Unbeatable

What many conservatives regard as the nightmare scenario — President Hillary Rodham Clinton — is increasingly seen by veteran Republican politicians and strategists as a virtual inevitability.

In GOP circles, the Democratic front-runner is seen as so strong, and the political climate for Republicans so hostile, that many influential voices — including current and former lawmakers, and veterans of President Bush’s campaigns — have grown despairing. These partisans describe a political equivalent of the stages of grief, starting with denial, then resentment and ending with acceptance…

The flagging conservative morale about beating Clinton comes at the same time many Democrats regard the New York senator as newly vulnerable because of the competition she faces from Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and skepticism she faces from activists opposed to the Iraq war. On the Republican side, there is a disconnect between grass-roots, red-state Republicans and the mostly Washington-based operatives who surround Bush. While conservative publishers and organizers have made a fortune off the loathing for Clinton among workaday Republicans, people around the president have always expressed a grudging respect for her wiles and willpower and have long warned that she would be a formidable national candidate.

Several top Republicans said the fears that Clinton could be a prohibitive favorite have contributed to overall blahs that activists feel about the GOP field. One presidential adviser said that Clinton dread was actually helping Republican leaders stomach candidates who might otherwise be unacceptable. “People are willing to sacrifice some of their ideological principles to win,” the adviser said.


Hackers Attack Key Net Traffic Computers

Hackers briefly overwhelmed at least three of the 13 computers that help manage global computer traffic Tuesday in one of the most significant attacks against the Internet since 2002.

Experts said the unusually powerful attacks lasted as long as 12 hours but passed largely unnoticed by most computer users, a testament to the resiliency of the Internet. Behind the scenes, computer scientists worldwide raced to cope with enormous volumes of data that threatened to saturate some of the Internet’s most vital pipelines.

The attacks appeared to target UltraDNS, the company that operates servers managing traffic for Web sites ending in “org” and some other suffixes, experts said. Officials with NeuStar Inc., which owns UltraDNS, confirmed only that it had observed an unusual increase in traffic.

Among the targeted “root” servers that manage global Internet traffic were ones operated by the Defense Department and the Internet’s primary oversight body (ICANN).

[AP News]

Saudi’s host summit between rival Palestinian leaders

Saudi Arabia threw its weight, wealth and prestige behind urgent efforts to end Palestinian divisions yesterday as it stepped up a diplomatic drive to challenge Iran and its regional allies and play a more muscular role across the Middle East.

King Abdullah’s mediation between Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister and leader of the Islamist movement Hamas, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, represents a high-profile attempt to defuse the crisis by steering these bitter rivals to forge a desperately needed deal on a national unity government.

The talks fit into a pattern of what analysts and diplomats see as new activism by the normally low-key Saudis, who are more used to quietly wielding chequebooks to buy influence and preserve the status quo than launching public initiatives to achieve their goals.

The oil-rich, conservative kingdom has been galvanised into action by fears about the continuing chaos and violence in Iraq, the increasingly assertive Iranian influence across the region – in Iraq, Lebanon and, most recently, in the Palestinian territories – and anxieties about a widening divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

The Saudis were horrified by last summer’s war in Lebanon, when Hizbullah seemed to be fighting Israel as part proxy for Iran, Syria and the Palestinians.

[The Guardian]

Apple’s Jobs to record labels: Unlock your music, DRM not working

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs on Tuesday called on the four major record companies to start selling songs online without copy protection software known as digital rights management (DRM).

Jobs said there appeared to be no benefit to the record companies to continue to sell more than 90 percent of their music without DRM on compact discs while selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system.

“If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies,” he said in a statement posted to his company’s Web site.

Apple has been under pressure in Europe to make iTunes music compatible with players other than the iPod. On Jan. 25 Norway’s consumer ombudsman said Apple must open access to iTunes by Oct. 1 or face legal action.

“Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies toward persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free,” said Jobs about the European action.

[CNN Money]

Click to read the full text of Job’s statement, “Thoughts on Music

Liberman calls for “War Tax”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An outspoken supporter of the Iraq war on Tuesday called for a new tax to pay for its astronomical cost as Congress opened a debate on President George W. Bush’s $2.9 trillion budget plan for next year.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut proposed a “war on terrorism tax” at a Senate hearing during which he said the Pentagon’s $622 billion defense budget proposal for fiscal 2008 threatened to crowd out funds for domestic programs.

The lawmaker, a former Democrat turned independent, favors a U.S. troop buildup in Iraq.