Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A rundown of what's in the news

There were so many things in the news today that I wish to comment on or simply bring more attention to that it would make more sense to put them all into one post rather than break them up. So here goes:

- Keeping in line with my previous post about the White House issuing a statement that they saw no need to respond to the House Democrats who wrote a letter asking for the President to address the Downing Street memo which asserted that leading to the invasion of Iraq "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" this article at the Washington Post details how the pre-war argument for invading Iraq was essentially bunk and that the administration over-sold knowingly questionable evidence.

- The White House is continuing to stand in the way of scientific research for reasons that can not be described as anything but irrational. President Bush has promised to veto legislation that would allow federal funds to be used to conduct research on embryonic cells derived from fertility clinics. The embryos that Bush is so vehemently trying to protect are going to be discarded if not used. What is also frustrating is that many in the media covering this story continue to fail to point out that the President misled the American people when he said that scientists would have 64 stem cell lines available for research when in fact there were only 11.

- In Tim Golden's follow up piece to his article about prisoner abuse at Bagram I found these two points unsettling:
  • "Despite autopsy findings of homicide and statements by soldiers that two prisoners died after being struck by guards at an American military detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, Army investigators initially recommended closing the case without bringing any criminal charges, documents and interviews show."
  • "According to interviews with military intelligence officials who served at Bagram, only a small fraction of the detainees there were considered important or suspicious enough to be transferred to the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for further interrogation. Two intelligence officers estimated that about 85 percent of the prisoners were ultimately released."
- As Afghanistan continues to seek to eliminate opium poppies I have to wonder if the cost of the war on drugs (a program that appears, to me at least, to simply not work) being extended to Afghanistan outweighs any benefit that might result. In this article from last December, Christopher Hitchens makes the case that it is the the war on drugs in Afghanistan that undermines attempts to create a stable society rather than the opposite.

- Chris Mooney (whom I also linked to in the point about stem cell research) blogs another case of the politicization of science reporting that the Fish and Wildlife Service has restricted the use of the most up-to-date science in determining policy relating to endangered species. From the press release of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility which Mooney links to:
By prohibiting consideration of individual or unique populations, Hall’s policy will allow FWS to declare wildlife species secure based on the status of any single population. This would allow the agency to pronounce species recovered even if a majority of populations were on the brink of extinction, or allow the agency to approve development projects that extirpate individual populations.
- This one is just plain tragic. The parents of Pat Tillman now believe that they were lied to by the US military and that their son's death was used as a public relations device. Pat's father expresses a sentiment that I have been feeling for some time now,
"Maybe lying's not a big deal anymore," he said. "Pat's dead, and this isn't going to bring him back. But these guys should have been held up to scrutiny, right up the chain of command, and no one has."
And Mary Tillman offers a poignant point: "If this is what happens when someone high profile dies, I can only imagine what happens with everyone else."

- It appears, not surprisingly, that the government of Uzbekistan is down playing the extent of the deaths that resulted from their violent crackdown on recent protests

- Still suffering the effects of the authoriatarian rule of Robert Mugabe, who recently stole another election, Zimbabwe faces a food crisis for the fourth consecutive year.

- The ACLU is suing the Deptartment of Health and Human Services over a faith-based abstinence only program that is alleged to be using federal funding to promote religious beliefs. This is EXACTLY what those of us who argued against Bush's faith-based iniatives feared would happen - that this policy would erode the seperation of church and state. This group, Silver Ring Thing, which states that their "mission can only be achieved by offering a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the best way to live a sexually pure life," has received over a million dollars in federal funding since 2003.

And as David Corn points out (although I would like to emphasize I'm not at all comfortable with describing this debate as a "war" as Corn does), that the larger issue is not so much that this occurs, but that a number of advocates for these programs refuse to acknowledge that there is anything wrong with using federal money to prosletyze people in the first place.

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