Daily Briefing


Dissenting by Degrees
Mobilizing for Peace
An AIDS Breakthrough?
The Caspian Pipeline

WAR WATCH
Dissenting by Degrees

Just last week, it appeared that Congress would eagerly and quickly accede to President Bush’s demand for a resolution supporting war against Iraq. No longer.

The Associated Press reports that Congress is now divided on the issue, with Democratic leaders vowing to place strict limits on any resolution and emphasising the need for Washington to seek international support for any military adventure.

The dissent, heard from just a small group of die-hard progressive lawmakers just five days ago, is now comimg from Congressional powerbrokers, such as Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts — who The Boston Globe praised for “recognizing the difference between ‘questioning policy and questioning motives.'” Jim VandeHei of The Washington Post reports, Daschle is emerging as Bush’s most awkward obstacle. Having initially come out in support of giving the president a free hand in Iraq, VandeHei writes that Daschle “has grown increasingly distrustful of the president’s political motives and effort to win the backing of most Democrats.” The editorial board of The Des Moines Register praise Daschle for his belated change of direction, arguing that Democratic leaders are finally “doing exactly what the party of loyal opposition should do.”

Of course, Daschle’s mid-course correction hasn’t convinced everyone. Alex Gourevitch of The American Prospect, noting that “Democratic opposition has been highly qualified,” questions whether Daschle and other Democratic leaders will in fact oppose the president’s plans. Marie Cocco of Newsday is more blunt, predicting that Democratic leaders will mount only token opposition. The only real dissent, Cocco argues, is coming from longtime progressives such as Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Marty Jezer, taking an equally pessimistic slant in Common Dreams, suggests that, so far, most Democratic dissent could be characterized as mere murmurings. The National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg, as might be expected, offers an even more scathing assessment. Goldberg argues that Democrats have already disgraced any hopes for relevant opposition through the pro-war pandering of presidential hopefuls.

WAR WATCH
Mobilizing for Peace

In what organizers are calling one of Europe’s largest anti-war rallies ever, more than 150,000 people marched through London on Saturday to protest a US attack on Iraq, the BBC reports. While a broad range of groups took part in the protest, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown of The Independent argues that the marchers delivered a clear message of opposition to “the weapons of mass deception that are being deployed by politicians and sections of the media to mobilise public opinion into backing the bloodlust of the American administration.”

Meanwhile, the peace movement in the US remains largely muted, even on college campuses. But Lee Hockstader of The Washington Post reports that, in a recent survey of undergraduates at 10 universities around the country, “the largest number of students interviewed were skeptical, overtly cynical or downright hostile to the administration’s determination to oust Hussein.

HEALTH
An AIDS Breakthrough?

Researchers report they have isolated a group of natural proteins that makes a tiny minority of HIV-positive people resistant to AIDS, a finding that could lead to new therapies, reports Dave Brown of The Washington Post. Though other prominent AIDS researchers disagree with some of the study’s conclusions, all say it represents a step forward in the search for an elusive AIDS cure. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that a group of South African scientists have announced they will begin manufacturing three promising new AIDS vaccines and testing them on humans.

FOREIGN NEWS
The Caspian Pipeline

Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey have started construction on a 1,091-mile long oil pipeline which will pump crude from the Caspain Sea over a route bypassing both Russia and Iran. Noting that the pipeline project “marks a US victory in the geopolitical jockeying over world oil supplies,” the editors of The Christian Science Monitor argue that the project will foster economic development in the region while reducing America’s dependence on oil from the Middle East. Still, The Moscow Times‘s Chloe Arnold explains that many in Azerbaijan expect the windfall will benefit only the nation’s powerful. “It’s all very well building a giant oil pipeline to Turkey,” a man tells Arnold, “But if the president doesn’t give any of the money it makes to his people, I can’t really see the point.”

Iraqi Intransigence Boon for Bush
Anti-Globalization’s Awkward Stage
A Leftist Leader in Brazil?
Gun Makers in the Dock

WAR WATCH
Iraqi Intransigence Boon for Bush

Last month, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein threw a diplomatic spanner into the Bush administration’s war-planning works when he offered to allow UN arms inspectors back into his country. Now, however, some are suggesting that Baghdad’s failure to deliver on that proposal could actually hasten a war.

Weapons inspectors are demanding they be given free access to all suspect sites in Iraq, including the so-called presidential palaces and locations inspectors have been barred from in the past, Willima Kola of the Sydney Morning Herald reports. In response, Baghdad appears to be backing away from its earlier pledge, the Associated Press reports, with Iraqi officials vowing to reject any changes to the existing UN resolution on inspections.

Paul Reynolds of the BBC writes that US and British diplomats have redoubled their efforts to build support for a new resolution forcing Iraq to comply with all UN demands — and authorizing military action if Baghdad refuses. While China, France and Russia — all Security Council members with veto power — have expressed concern about Washington’s plan, Ken Moritsugu and Diego Ibarguen of The Philadelphia Inquirer report that the Iraqi intransigence could serve to push dissenting Democrats in Congress and even some doubtful foreign leaders into line behind the president. Moreover, as David E. Sanger of The New York Times reports, Iraq’s rigid stance “has given the White House new hope that allies that have been unwilling to sign up for the overthrow of a sovereign government may now rethink their position.” Even Iraqi officials appear to recognize the increasing likelihood of war, Andrew Gumbel and Kim Sengupta of The Independent report.

Of course, some continue to criticize the Bush administration for failing to articulate a coherent, consistent reason for invading Iraq. The Washington Post‘s William Raspberry outlines a number of questions the Bush administration hasn’t yet answered: what actual threat does Iraq pose to the US, and what is the purpose of the war? Going a step further, Michael Kinsley chides the Bush administration for its dishonesty in explaining the war. “The arguments have been so phony and so fleeting that it’s hard to know what Bush’s real motive is,” he writes in Slate.

GLOBAL ECONOMY
Anti-Globalization’s Awkward Stage

If the protests in Seattle served as a coming-out party for the anti-globalization movement, this weekend’s protests in Washington may serve as its uncomfortable passage into a new, more nuanced state.

With many movement leaders advocating a step away from confrontational tactics, police outnumbered protesters on Washington’s streets, Reuters reports. While some demonstrators attributed the low turnout to the lingering effect of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Larry Elliott of The Guardian suggests that the quiet weekend also reflects the changing nature of the globalization debate. “In one sense, the protesters have been the victims of their own success,” Elliott writes. The predictions of many anti-globalization pundits have come true, Elliott says, and the leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and other global financial bodies now openly concede many of the points made by the Seattle protesters.

Drake Bennett of The American Prospect writes that the Washington protests appeared both scripted and largely disconnected from the actions of the finance ministers they were meant to target. ” Besides all that, there was the discouraging impression that the whole thing was simply being tolerated, like a tantrum,” Bennett opines. “It was a sort of Potemkin protest, with journalists nearly outnumbering demonstrators, everything cleanly hemmed in by lines of police in samurai-like riot gear.”

Meanwhile, the finance ministers gathered for the weekend meetings made stabs at a few much-hyped matters — including a plan to help countries that default on their international debts, Reuters reports. But, as the editors of The Washington Post note, the status quo remains largely unchanged. Finally, Carolyn Lochhead, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, says that Washington’s true anti-capitalists carried on, ignored by the protesters.

FOREIGN NEWS
A Leftist Leader in Brazil?

Leftist presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva “is within a stone’s throw of sweeping to the highest political office in Brazil,” reports Paul Knox of the Globe and Mail. According to a recent poll, Lula, as the Workers Party candidate is known, is supported by 41 percent of likely voters — far outstripping his closest competitor, Jose Serra, who has the support of only 19 percent. Steven Dudley suggests in The Progressive that, with the possible exception of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, “Lula has done more to upset the balance of power in the region, and perhaps the hemisphere, than any Latin American politician in the last twenty years.” That popular assessment is sending foreign investors and finance ministers into tizzy, with some openly predicting that Brazil will follow Argentina into economic collapse. In fact, Tom Gibb of the BBC reports that many investors are blaming a recent crash in the Brazilian stock market on pre-election jitters. The editors of the Financial Times, while asserting that “it would be pointless to underestimate the risks Brazil faces if Mr da Silva does become president,” still hold out hope. Noting that Workers Party governments in several cities and states “have provided pragmatic, efficient and clean administration,” the FT editors argue that da Silva might follow suit.

LAW & JUSTICE
Gun Makers in the Dock

Following a policy hailed by gun control advocates and decried by gun makers, California Governor Gray Davis signed several bills last week that strengthen the state’s already stiff gun control mandates, including one that opens gun manufacturers to negligence lawsuits, the Associated Press reports. The new legislation comes as lawyers begin arguments in a lawsuit filed against the gun industry by 12 cities and counties in California. As Fox Butterfield of The New York Times explains, the suit claims that gun makers willfully overlook — and so are responsible for crimes resulting from — the distribution of guns to criminals and juveniles.

ICC Compromised Again
Ideologies Clash over Estrada
Australia’s White Death

LAW & JUSTICE
ICC Compromised Again

In an attempt to blunt US criticism of the International Criminal Court, the European Union announced this week that member nations could make bilateral agreements with the US exempting US soldiers and civilians from prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity. According to the BBC, the “Article 98” impunity agreements “are not reciprocal, so that EU citizens are not granted immunity in return. Presently, only a dozen non-EU countries are considering such an agreement (the website of the Coalition for the ICC has a complete listing of all member nations and their positions on the issue). European officials, including EU president Per Stig Moeller, insist that “there’s no concession, there’s no undermining of the spirit of the ICC.”

But Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth Roth argues in Common Dreams that impunity agreements would “be no more than a fig leaf to disguise this effort to undermine the ICC’s oversight function. The entire point of the ICC was never to trust unverified national pledges to bring the worst human rights criminals to justice.” And according to The Financial Times, it’s not likely that the EU concessions will mollify US officials who warned that “Washington would be hard-pressed to accept any proposal that did not extend blanket immunity from ICC prosecution for all its citizens..”

POLITICS
Ideologies Clash over Estrada

After a rancorous Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last Thursday, it appears that the nomination of controversial attorney Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals’ D.C. Circuit will be further stalled, reports Jonathan Groner of Legal Times. President Bush’s conservative nominee — who would become the first Hispanic federal judge — has become the rallying point for an intense political grudge match between Democrat and GOP agendas.

Nicholas Confessore writes in The American Prospect that, “while both parties profess to care about competence and experience, and the Bush White House pretends to consult with senators about judicial nominees, the process is in fact a war of ideology.” Likewise, The Nation‘s Jack Newfield suggests that both Estrada’s qualifications and his ideology should be discussed “openly and honestly.” Newfield cites an op-ed piece written by New York Senator Charles Schumer last year: “ The not-so-dirty little secret of the Senate…is that we do consider ideology, but privately…. Pretending that ideology doesn’t matter–or, even worse, doesn’t exist–is exactly the opposite of what the Senate should do.” Newfield also alleges that Estrada himself has blocked liberals from clerking positions because of their beliefs.

Meanwhile, Byron York asserts in The National Review that the Democrats began last week’s hearings with “nothing to throw at Estrada,” but succeeded in ambushing him and turning the allegations reported by Newfield — a non-issue, according to York — into a “masterful job of prosecutorial sleight-of-hand,” leaving the Estrada nomination smarting.

ENVIRONMENT
Australia’s White Death

Scientists are warning of a mysterious new disease infecting the vibrantly-colored coral of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Michael Christie reports for Reuters. So far, little is known about the rapidly-spreading disease — called “white syndrome” for the white patches it leaves on dead coral — but researchers speculate that warmer water temperatures due to global warming and El Niño might be a factor.

The Torch Flames Out
Homeland Security Shelved?
EPA Enforcement Falls Short
Ivory Coast on the Brink

POLITICS
The Torch Flames Out

Democrats scrambling to retain control of the Senate have been delivered a gift, as the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the state party could choose a candidate to replace the disgraced Sen. Robert Toricelli on the November ballot.

Party officials have indicated they will run former Sen. Frank Lautenberg in Toricelli’s place, a maneuver which, as Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post reports, has Republicans in New Jersey and Washington crying foul and vowing to appeal. Still, with Lautenberg’s candidacy in legal limbo, the post-mortem of Toricelli’s political career — and dramatic departure — is well underway.

Jules Witcover of The Baltimore Sun writes that Toricelli’s decision to bow out may save the Democrats, but it won’t save his reputation. “Now the question is whether Mr. Torricelli, thanks to his bad timing as well as his bad taste, may have so poisoned the well – not only by his ethical lapses but also by his self-proclaimed martyrdom – that no Democrat will be able to pick up the pieces in the short time remaining,” Witcover opines. The editorial board of The Hartford Courant is equally as dismissive of Toricelli, claiming that “[e]ven in getting out, the vain, self-pitying and unethical Mr. Torricelli can’t do it right.” Tom Ferrick Jr. of The Philadelphia Inquirer goes even further: “Here was a moral pygmy proclaiming himself to be a giant among men, using equal measures of self-absorption, self-pity and self-aggrandizement. Yuck.”

POLITICS
Homeland Security Shelved?

Once on the fast-track to passage, legislation creating a Department of Homeland Security could be shelved for the year, Newsday reports. The crux of the disagreement remains President Bush’s demands that employees of the new agency be exempt from many existing civil service labor rules. But, after a week of partisan sniping, charges and counter-charges, the deadlock appears as driven by politics as policy.

The disagreements over the bill itself are hardly new. Democrats argue that the Bush administration’s version — passed by the GOP-controlled House — unnecessarily reduces labor protections, and are proposing an alternative which would limit the president’s control over labor bargaining and staff reorganization. Then, of course, Bush suggested that the Senate was more interested in protecting special interests than in protecting the nation. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle fired right back, accusing the president of politicizing the debate and demanding Bush apologize for his comments. Soon, the pundits were weighing in. An editorial in The Wall Street Journal took Bush’s statement one step further, arguing that Bush “should have said they’re willing to put union interests above the security of the American people.” Johnathan V. Last of The Daily Standard followed suit in more vitriolic fashion, claiming that Daschle and other “Democratic whiners” were intentionally misinterpreting Bush’s statements for purely political reasons.

There are voices calling for restraint, including the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which contends, evenhandedly, that Bush overreached and Democrats overreacted. But, with Bush vowing to veto the Democratic measure if it reaches him, and Republican senators embracing a filibuster, Daschle insists he is resolved to drag out a compromise, reports David Firestone in The New York Times. The upshot? Don’t expect a vote this year.

Finally, some are suggesting that the partisan flap over who might be politicizing what has overshadowed the vital, ongoing investigation of what went wrong at intelligence and security agencies leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks, writes Gail Chaddock in The Christian Science Monitor. Indeed, the editorial writers at The Plain Dealer proclaim, ominously, that “we remain dangerously exposed to the same sorts of insidious threats that brought down the World Trade Center at the cost of more than 3,000 lives.”

ENVIRONMENT
EPA Enforcement Falls Short

Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts is taking aim at the Environmental Protection Agency, The Boston Globe reports, releasing a report which contends that enforcement of environmetnal laws has fallen precipitously under the current administration. Markey’s study alleges a “huge decline in costs to polluters resulting from EPA enforcement,” when compared to the penalties imposed during the Clinton administration. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that the agency itself has released some damning statistics, indicating that more than a third of rivers and about half of lakes and estuaries are too polluted for swimming or fishing. The pollution, according to the EPA’s report, is caused in part by agricultural and sewage runoff. Moreover, the agency is predicting a $500 billion shortfall in funds for water quality improvement over the next two decaces. The editorial board of the Washington Post argues that the Bush Administration has severely neglected isolated rivers and wetlands in the wake of a Supreme Court decision last year limiting the scope of the Clean Water Act.

FOREIGN NEWS
Ivory Coast on the Brink

The Ivory Coast is on the brink of all-out civil war, the Associated Press reports, as rebel troops push toward the capital, foreigners flee the country and African leaders frantically try to jump-start peace talks. As Norimitsu Onishi of the New York Times notes, the conflict is a direct result of opportunistic politicians playing on long-held ethnic and religious divisions, setting the country’s Christian south against its Muslim north — a strategy that has, in a few short years, plunged one of West Africa’s most prosperous and modern countries into chaos.

The Democratic Divide
Bush Backs Logging, Again
The AIDS Profiteers
Cracking Down on Sex Traffickers

POLITICS
The Democratic Divide

So much for Democratic unity. Ron Hutcheson of The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that “ Congressional opposition to President Bush’s war plans all but collapsed Wednesday” after House Democrats, led by Rep. Dick Gephardt, declared their support for the administration’s use-of-force resolution.

Now, those who have criticized the president’s demand for sweeping war powers have a new target: Gephardt. The editorial board of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch blasts the Missouri Democrat, arguing that “ the concessions he won were minor, and his actions appear to be driven by the political imperatives of the coming election.” David Corn offers a more pointed critique in The Nation, lamenting that the impending war now also belongs to the Democrats, not only to Bush and the GOP. In the end, Corn argues, the Democrats will emerge the clear losers — split, without a coherent policy direction, falling into positions apparently motivated by political calculation. Corn has unexpected company in this assessment: Robert Novak exclaims in The Chicago Sun-Times that the Democrats have missed a huge opportunity to distinguish themselves: “ By giving tacit assent to Bush on Iraq, Democrats submerge the issues they see as needed to win control of Congress on Nov. 5.”

Dave Boyer of The Washington Times offers another reason for Gephardt’s sudden expression of support — one that many Republicans are eagerly suggesting. The administration’s divide-and-conquer approach, Boyer says, “perhaps were aided by the well-publicized visit to Iraq last week by three House Democrats who criticized U.S. policy while there.” Those three Democrats — Reps. Jim McDermott, David Bonior and Mike Thompson — have been vilified by conservatives and ignored by Democrats. George Will calls the three “collaborators,” likening them to an infamous Nazi propagandist. Neo-conservative web-logger Andrew Sullivan adds to the vitriol: “I think what we’re seeing now is the hard-core base of the Democratic Party showing its true colors, and those colors, having flirted with irrelevance and then insouciance are now perilously close to treason.”

Chris Suellentrop writes in Slate that the Republican attacks, while unfounded and unreasonably vicious, are also effective. “Bonior and McDermott may not have played into Saddam’s hands, but they did play into the GOP’s,” Suellentrop says. Still, while McDermott, Bonior and Thompson have become punching bags for the country’s conservatives, they have become heroes for those opposed to the administration’s push for war — including many of their constituents. Erik Lacitis of The Seattle Times says McDermott’s staff in Washington has recognized a pattern in the thousands of messages they’ve received: “The constituents who got through appear to be 75 percent to 80 percent in support of him. It was the nonlocals who kept calling him a traitor. .”

ENVIRONMENT
Bush Backs Logging, Again

In a bid to ease restrictions on logging in the Pacific Northwest, the Bush administration plans to eliminate safeguards that environmentalists deem essential for protecting old growth forests, Michael Milstein reports in The Oregonian. Timber companies insist the regulations are unnecessary impediments, but, as The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel argues in an editorial, logging companies shouldn’t be given carte blanche to do as they please under the guise of reasonable streamlining of rules. Brad Knickerbocker argues in The Christian Science Monitor that the administration’s decision is typical of its habit of putting the bottom line before the environment. “From global warming to endangered species to clean air and water, there’s a tendency to favor economic solutions to problems that aren’t easily measured in dollars and cents,” he writes.

HEALTH
The AIDS Profiteers

On Thursday, Dutch authorities exposed a ring of AIDS drug profiteers, accusing them of diverted nearly $15 million in low-priced AIDS drugs destined for Africa for resale in more lucrative European markets, The Washington Post reports. Since July 2001, the Post reports, nearly a quarter of all drug shipments en route to Africa from pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline have been pipelined back into Europe by fraudulent wholesalers. Geoff Dyer of The Financial Times reports that Glaxo remains committed to the discount program, despite the company’s earlier threat to reduce funding of AIDS research if the two-tiered pricing system fell apart. Finally, Aidsmap compares the European profiteering problems to those in Uganda, where the National Drug Authority closed down 10 pharmacies implicated in the resale of life-support drugs meant for free distribution to AIDS patients.

LAW & JUSTICE
Cracking Down on Sex Traffickers

In a Seattle Times op-ed, former US Rep. John R Miller calls for a crackdown on sexual slavery around the world– and in the US. In particular, Miller cites the recent indictment of five Seattle men accused of luring young Asian women to America with promises of education and jobs, only to force them into prostitution. Gary Haugen of The Washington Post argues that the US State Department has failed to censure countries in which sex trafficking flourishes. “Massive sex trafficking takes place only in countries where it is tolerated and protected by local authorities,” he opines. And the State Department isn’t the only US agency at fault. According to a Time Asia exposé, GIs at US army bases around the world regularly patronize establishments known to be run by sex traffickers: “The fact that the women may have been forced into prostitution doesn’t seem to bother most of their soldier-patrons,” Donald MacIntyre reports.