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Updated: 2 hours 24 min ago

Bush promises to veto homeland security bill.

Sat, 2007-06-16 15:10

Yesterday, the House passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, despite President Bush’s veto threat. The White House objects to a provision that would require DHS contractors to “pay their employees at least the local prevailing wage.” It also “funds the hiring of 3,000 new border patrol agents, rejects the cuts President Bush sought in the training and equipping of first responders, and improves aviation and port security.”

“When I was in the military,

Sat, 2007-06-16 14:24

they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” — the tombstone epitaph of decorated Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, whose “medals, uniform and other personal effects make up the centerpiece of ‘Out Ranks,’ a new exhibit that documents the tortured relationship between gay troops and the U.S. military from World War II to the present.”

Matlovich, who died in 1988, was a decorated Air Force sergeant who came out to his commanding officer a month before the fall of Saigon, hoping to challenge the government’s ban on gay service members. In 1975, the idea of an openly gay combat veteran was incongruous enough to land him on the cover of Time magazine.

The goal of the show, though, is to illustrate that gays are and always have served their country, often with honor and always under the threat of dishonorable discharge. It opened on Flag Day as momentum builds in Congress for repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” policy adopted under President Bill Clinton.

See photos and video from the exhibit HERE.

“Taliban suicide bombers

Sat, 2007-06-16 14:00

launched a second day of attacks in Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least four people in the capital and a northern city, raising tensions in areas that had been considered relatively secure.”

Military mental health disorders spike.

Sat, 2007-06-16 13:23

“Mental health disorders are snowballing as more and more soldiers and Marines are sent back for repeat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan,” CBS News reports.

According to the Pentagon’s latest mental health survey, 31 percent of Marines, 38 percent of soldiers and 49 percent of the National Guard reported psychological symptoms such as anger, depression or alcohol abuse after returning home. As the director of the survey said, combat stress is not something you just get over.

Watch the full report:

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The Impolitic has commentary.

Sacred Ganges river left in peril by global warming.

Sat, 2007-06-16 13:05

“In this 3,000-year-old city known as the Jerusalem of India for its intense religious devotion, climate change could throw into turmoil something many devout Hindus never thought possible: their most intimate religious traditions. The Gangotri glacier, which provides up to 70 percent of the water of the Ganges during the dry summer months, is shrinking at a rate of 40 yards a year, nearly twice as fast as two decades ago, scientists say.”

“This may be the first place on Earth where global warming could hurt our very religion. We are becoming an endangered species of Hindus,” said Veer Bhadra Mishra, an engineer and director of the Varanasi-based Sankat Mochan Foundation, an organization that advocates for the preservation of the Ganges.

Michael Moore talks health care crisis with Oprah.

Sat, 2007-06-16 11:10

Michael Moore’s new film on health care, Sicko, premieres everywhere on June 29. (Much more about Sicko HERE.) Moore recently spoke with Oprah Winfrey about America’s broken health care system, and showed several exclusive clips from the film. Watch it:

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Earlier this week, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), whose congressional health care bill the campaign supports, said: “The release of Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ is one of the most important developments in the national debate on our health care crisis since the Clintons attempted to pass universal health care legislation in 1994.”

Special Counsel Probe Into Rove’s Politicization Of Government Advances

Sat, 2007-06-16 09:48

The Office of Special Counsel, which has already recommended that GSA chief Lurita Doan be suspended or fired for participating in partisan activities while on the job, is now moving forward with its investigation of nearly 20 other administration agencies.

Eighteen agencies have been asked by the Office of Special Counsel to preserve electronic information dating back to January 2001 as part of its governmentwide investigation into alleged violations of the law that limits political activity in federal agencies.

The OSC task force investigating the claims has asked agencies, including the General Services Administration, to preserve all e-mail records, calendar information, phone logs and hard drives going back to the beginning of the Bush administration. The task force is headed by deputy OSC special counsel James Byrne.

The White House has admitted that roughly 20 agencies have received a PowerPoint briefing created by Karl Rove’s office “that included slides listing Democratic and Republican seats the White House viewed as vulnerable in 2008, a map of contested Senate seats and other information on 2008 election strategy.”

Politicization of the federal government has been illegal for decades. The 1939 Hatch Act specifically prohibits partisan campaign or electoral activities on federal government property, including federal agencies. But in 2005, Ken Mehlman, formerly one of Bush’s top political advisers, outlined the White House’s strategy of utilizing government resources for partisan gain:

One of the things that can happen in Washington when you work in an agency is that you forget who sent you there. And it’s important to remind people that you’re George Bush people. … If there’s one empire I want built, it’s the George Bush empire. [One Party Country, p. 102]

With that imperial partisanship in mind, the Bush White House has engaged in an unprecedented quest to politicize the federal government, giving briefings and PowerPoint presentations everywhere from the Interior Department to NASA on how to secure Republican victories. Said one Interior Department manager, “We were constantly being reminded about how our decisions could affect electoral results” (One Party Country, p. 103). Bush loyalists in federal agencies have also helped generate millions for favored political candidates.

U.S. Citing Conservative Calls To Bomb Iran To Pressure Diplomats

Sat, 2007-06-16 09:04

Calls for a U.S. military strike on Iran have grown in recent weeks. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) notably called for Americans “to be prepared to take aggressive military action” against Iran. Norman Podhoretz wrote “The Case for Bombing Iran,” the cover story in the latest Commentary magazine, “widely regarded as the leading outlet for neoconservative writing.” Other prominent neoconservatives, including William Kristol, Fred Kagan, and John Bolton have echoed this line.

The calls have apparently become serious enough that Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, “the chief American strategist on Iran,” has begun using them to pressure foreign diplomats. The New York Times reports:

Mr. Burns and officials from the Treasury Department have been trying to use the mounting conservative calls for a military strike to press Europe and Russia to expand economic sanctions against Iran. Just last week, Israel’s transportation minister and former defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, visited Washington and told Ms. Rice that sanctions must be strong enough to get the Iranians to stop enriching uranium by the end of 2007.

While Mr. Mofaz did not threaten a military strike, Israeli officials said he told Ms. Rice that by the end of the year, Israel “would have to reassess where we are.”

The Times reports that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has “increasingly moved toward” the position that “a military strike would be disastrous.” But Vice President Cheney’s office is well known to feel very differently. In February, the Washington Post reported that John Hannah, Cheney’s national security adviser, said during a meeting that the administration considers 2007 “the year of Iran” and “indicated that a U.S. attack was a real possibility.”

Private contractors in Iraq stage “parallel surge.”

Sat, 2007-06-16 09:02

“Private security companies, funded by billions of dollars in U.S. military and State Department contracts, are fighting insurgents on a widening scale in Iraq, enduring daily attacks, returning fire and taking hundreds of casualties that have been underreported and sometimes concealed, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials and company representatives.”

While the military has built up troops in an ongoing campaign to secure Baghdad, the security companies, out of public view, have been engaged in a parallel surge, boosting manpower, adding expensive armor and stepping up evasive action as attacks increase, the officials and company representatives said. […]

The majority of the more than 100 security companies operate outside of Iraqi law, in part because of bureaucratic delays and corruption in the Iraqi government licensing process, according to U.S. officials.

Second Sunni mosque destroyed in Basra.

Sat, 2007-06-16 08:42

Hooded gunmen clad in black blew up another Sunni mosque in the southern city of Basra today after ordering the police officers at the mosque to flee, and despite a curfew imposed by Iraq’s central government, witnesses and security officials said.

The blast at the Al-Ashrah Al-Mubashra mosque in central Basra — the second Sunni mosque razed in as many days — suggested that Shiite militias south of the capital have rejected calls for restraint from Iraqi leaders after explosions Wednesday toppled two minarets at a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra.

The latest attack immediately heightened tensions between Sunni and Shiite officials, and for some, seemed to confirm that Iraq’s central government has lost the ability to exert much influence, not just on areas of the Kurdish North, but also majority-Shiite strongholds in the South.

NBC’s Tim Russert

Sat, 2007-06-16 08:29

on presidential candidates refusing to have Fox News sponsor their debates: “It’s a TV show. If you can’t handle TV questions, how are you going to stand up to Iran, and North Korea, and the rest of the world?

Steve Benen and Arlen Parsa explain why Russert is wrong. Atrios also highlights this exchange:

Hannity: I think the Democrats have gone further left than anybody would have anticipated. I think these bloggers have really gotten to them. I think they’re really positioning themselves that they’re gonna have a very difficult time moving center. Do you see that?”

Russert: Absolutely…