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Kick Assiest Blog
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Chief Justice, John G. Roberts, libtards are pissing lava
Mood:  special
Topic: News

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn), center, smiles next to Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Arlen Specter, left, and Sen. Mitch McConnell after John Roberts was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill, on Thursday. \/

Roberts sworn in as Democrats warn of battle on next nominee

Feinstein and Boxer among 22 senators to vote against Bush's choice for chief justice

Washington - Even as John Roberts took the oath of office as the 17th chief justice of the United States and its youngest in more than two centuries, Democrats promised a much tougher fight Thursday on President Bush's next nominee to the Supreme Court, which could come as early as today.

Senate Democrats fractured down the middle as half voted with all 55 Republicans and one Independent to confirm the 50-year-old appellate court judge on a 78-22 vote.

California's two Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, voted against confirmation in a rare session in which all the members stood at their Senate desks to call out their votes -- testament to the weight placed on a lifetime appointment to head the nation's judiciary.

Feinstein said afterward she is very worried -- "8 1/2 on a scale of one to 10" -- that the nominee for the seat of retiring centrist Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will be more conservative than Roberts. The president initially chose Roberts to succeed O'Connor when she announced her retirement earlier this summer, but renominated him as chief justice after Chief Justice William Rehnquist died Sept. 3.

President Bush looks on as John Roberts is sworn in by Justice John Paul Stevens as 17th Chief Justice of the United States in the East Room of the White House on Thursday. Roberts' wife Jane holds the Bible. \/

O'Connor, an Arizona Republican, often shifted the court to more moderate or liberal decisions in 5-4 rulings on such divisive social issues as affirmative action and abortion rights. Her replacement could cement a conservative majority on the court, a long-standing and often thwarted Republican goal.

Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat who has led the fight against Bush's court nominees, warned that several names in contention for O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court could draw a filibuster -- a traditional procedural move that minority groups of senators can use to block action they oppose.

Schumer named federal appellate court judges Janice Rogers Brown, an African American and former California Supreme Court justice, and Patricia Owen, a former Texas Supreme Court justice, as likely filibuster targets. Both won spots on the federal bench after the bipartisan "Gang of 14" senators agreed last May to preserve the judicial filibuster, but only for extraordinary circumstances.

That pact could be sorely tested with the next nominee.

President Bush and Chief Justice nominee John Roberts watch the Senate vote on Roberts' nomination Thursday in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. The Senate voted 78-22 to confirm Roberts. \/

Roberts, now the court's youngest justice, was sworn in by the Supreme Court's oldest, 85-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens, at a White House ceremony. Roberts' wife, Jane, held the swearing-in Bible while his family, Bush, senators and Supreme Court justices looked on.

Roberts, the first new justice since 1994, will take his place on the court Monday when it begins its new term. He will be the youngest chief justice since John Marshall was confirmed in 1801 at age 45.

"All Americans can be confident that the 17th chief justice of the United States will be prudent in exercising judicial power, firm in defending judicial independence, and above all, a faithful guardian of the Constitution," Bush said in his introduction.

Roberts turned first to thank Stevens rather than Bush, a notable gesture to his new colleague, as he emphasized the judiciary's independence from the other branches of government.

"What Daniel Webster termed 'the miracle of our Constitution' is not something that happens every generation," Roberts said. "But every generation in its turn must accept the responsibility of supporting and defending the Constitution and bearing true faith and allegiance to it.

"That is the oath that I just took. I will try to ensure, in the discharge of my responsibilities, that with the help of my colleagues I can pass on to my children's generation a charter of self-government as strong and as vibrant as the one that Chief Justice Rehnquist passed on to us."

Roberts said he viewed the morning's Senate vote "as confirmation of what is for me a bedrock principle: that judging is different from politics."

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Arlen Specter, second from left, speaks about the confirmation of John Roberts by the Senate to become the next Chief Justice of the U.S. on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday. \/

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee whose endorsement of the conservative Roberts shocked activists and provided political cover for other Democrats, said he took the judge at his word that he does not have an ideological agenda and will be his own man.

"I hope that he will, and I trust that he will," Leahy said Thursday.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., a moderate and an abortion rights backer who chairs the Judiciary Committee and who will play a central role in the next nomination, hailed the lopsided vote as remarkable, considering that just five months ago the Senate was locked in a fiercely partisan struggle over judicial filibusters. That political battle ended only when centrists from both parties broke with their leaders.

Specter said Bush disarmed his critics with his nomination of Roberts, a former Reagan and George H.W. Bush administration lawyer who was one of the nation's top lawyers practicing before the Supreme Court. Roberts had served the past two years as a federal appellate judge.

"It is my hope that the president will now send us a nominee for Justice O'Connor's spot in the mold of Judge Roberts," Specter said.

Many Republicans are urging Bush to ignore calls to name a woman or a minority to the court -- although Bush could make history by appointing the court's first Latino. They contend that Roberts' easy confirmation offers a road map showing that a conservative of impeccable credentials and a short paper trail of legal writings can be confirmed.

Still, many conservative activists, though publicly supporting Roberts, were shaken by his embrace during his hearings of a privacy right in the Constitution -- the foundation of abortion and gay rights -- and the emphatic weight he placed on precedent as a source of stability in the law.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., an abortion rights opponent, demanded that the next nominee explicitly state his or her views on abortion and other controversial social issues -- and liberals are making the same demands.

Many Democrats who supported Roberts said they will take a harder look at the next nominee, because the stakes are higher for the moderate O'Connor's seat.

Feinstein said she voted against Roberts because she couldn't be assured of his views.

"My belief is that you should be open in public about your views," Feinstein said. "I couldn't penetrate to the extent that I could feel comfortable, knowing the things I care deeply about, that I ran for the Senate for, will be protected."

San Francisco Chronicle ~ Carolyn Lochhead ** Roberts sworn in as Democrats warn of battle on next nominee

Posted by uhyw at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, September 30, 2005 8:19 PM EDT
Friday, September 23, 2005
House backs religion-based school hiring
Mood:  special
Topic: News

House backs religion-based school hiring

WASHINGTON - The House voted Thursday to let Head Start centers consider religion when hiring workers, overshadowing its moves to strengthen the preschool program's academics and finances.

The Republican-led House approved a bill that lets churches and other faith-based preschool centers hire only people who share their religion, yet still receive federal tax dollars.

Democrats blasted that idea as discriminatory.

Launched in the 1960s, the nearly $7 billion Head Start program provides comprehensive education to more than 900,000 poor children. Though credited for getting kids ready for school, Head Start has drawn scrutiny as cases of financial waste and questions about academic quality have surfaced nationwide.

Overall, the House bill would insert more competition into Head Start grants, require greater disclosure of how money is spent and try to improve collaboration among educators in different grades.

Yet on Thursday, the dispute over religion eroded the bipartisan support for Head Start's renewal.

The House passed the bill 231-184; only 23 Democrats voted for it.

GOP lawmakers, with backing from the White House, contend that preschool centers should not have to give up their religious autonomy to receive federal grants.

"This is about our children, and denying them exemplary services just because the organization happens to be a religious one is just cruel," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.

The Republican plan would, for example, let a Catholic church that provides Head Start services employ only Catholic child care workers.

Democrats and Republicans offered different interpretations of whether the Constitution, federal law and court rulings protected - or prevented - federally aided centers from hiring based on religion.

"Congress should not be in the business of supporting state-sponsored discrimination," said Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla. Said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.: "The (Republican) majority has decided to choose religious discrimination over what could have been a rare bipartisan agreement."

Billings Gazette ~ Associated Press ** House backs religion-based school hiring

Posted by uhyw at 7:18 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, September 23, 2005 7:42 PM EDT
Sunday, September 18, 2005
U.S.: 2 al-Qaeda Leaders Captured in Mosul
Mood:  celebratory
Topic: News

U.S.: 2 al-Qaida Leaders Captured in Mosul

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Coalition forces have arrested two alleged leaders of the al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist group, the U.S. military said Saturday.

The two men were identified as Taha Ibrahim Yasin Becher, whose alias was Abu Fatima, and Hamed Saeed Ismael Mustafa, also known as Abu Shahed. The statement said the two men, who were holding a meeting at the time of their capture, headed al-Qaida's organization in Iraq's third-largest city.

The statement said Abu Fatima took over as al-Qaida's top-ranking operative in Mosul 12 days ago, after his predecessor also was captured by coalition forces.

"The simultaneous capture of both leaders damages the organizational structure of al-Qaida in Iraq's northern network," Saturday's statement said.

On Thursday, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said the security forces had killed 226 militants and captured 757 in recent operations in Mosul and its vicinity. On Saturday, however, Iraqi authorities in Mosul announced that 500 detainees "who have not been proven guilty" had been released from detention.

Also Saturday, the military said that Iraqi forces and U.S. troops killed two insurgents and captured six in the city of Tal Afar, site of a major joint operation about 30 miles west of Mosul.

Yahoo News ~ Associated Press ** U.S.: 2 al-Qaida Leaders Captured in Mosul

Posted by uhyw at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, September 19, 2005 2:37 AM EDT
Friday, September 16, 2005
U.S. troops find chemical weapon in Tal Afar
Mood:  chatty
Topic: News

The did NOT have chemical weapons, didn't you hear that G.W. Bush parachuted in and planted the WMDs before the raid...come on people, keep up!

U.S. troops find chemical weapon in Tal Afar stronghold

U.S. commander derides enemy's 'unscrupulous' actions

ARLINGTON, Va. - While taking down the insurgent stronghold of Tal Afar, U.S. troops discovered a crude chemical weapon, the commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment said Tuesday.

The troops had just entered a building when their ears and throats started to burn, said Army Col. H.R. McMaster in a briefing to reporters.

U.S. forces determined insurgents had rigged the chemicals to explosives, McMaster said, though he did not identify the type of chemical.

"We evacuated the civilians from the area and we demolished that building without a hazard to the people," McMaster said.

He said several families were living near the building, suggesting insurgents intended to detonate the chemical weapon to harm them and blame it on coalition forces, he said.

McMaster hailed operations in Tal Afar as a major success against an "unscrupulous" enemy.

"They are some of the worst human beings on the face of the Earth, and there is no real greater pleasure for us than to kill or capture these individuals," he said.

In recent operations in the Tal Afar area, U.S. forces killed and captured hundreds of terrorists who had taken over the city and ruled by terror, McMaster said.

McMaster called the insurgents "unscrupulous." In one incident, insurgents killed a boy and then put a bomb inside his body and detonated it when his parents came along, he said.

Tal Afar's residents recognized the insurgents for the thugs they are and provided U.S. and Iraqi forces with critical intelligence, McMaster said.

"The people are sick and tired of this violence, of this enemy, and they are very grateful for our efforts and the Iraqi efforts particularly to rid them of this enemy," he said.

Another element in the successful operation was the Iraqi security forces, which served as a capable backup for U.S. troops, McMaster said.

"These Iraqi soldiers are brave, they're courageous, they're building capabilities every day and we are drawing strength from their example," he said.

Still, the Iraqi security forces are not yet able to conduct operations on their own, and coalition forces do not have enough troops to secure Tal Afar, McMaster said.

Stars and Stripes ~ Jeff Schogol ** U.S. troops find chemical weapon in Tal Afar stronghold

Posted by uhyw at 12:37 AM EDT
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Senate Kills Bid for Katrina Commission Spearheaded by Hillary
Mood:  chillin'
Topic: News

Senate Kills Bid for Katrina Commission

WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans on Wednesday scuttled an attempt by Sen. Hillary Clinton to establish an independent, bipartisan panel patterned after the 9/11 Commission to investigate what went wrong with federal, state and local governments' response to Hurricane Katrina.

The New York Democrat's bid to establish the panel _ which would have also made recommendations on how to improve the government's disaster response apparatus _ failed to win the two-thirds majority needed to overcome procedural hurdles. Clinton got only 44 votes, all from Democrats and independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont. Fifty-four Republicans all voted no.

"Just as with 9/11, we did not get to the point where we believed we understood what happened until an independent investigation was conducted," Clinton said.

The Senate vote is hardly likely to be the last word on whether to create an independent commission or as an alternative a special congressional committee to investigate Katrina. The 9/11 Commission was established in 2002 after resistance from Republicans and the White House, and opinion polls show the public strongly supports the idea. In a CNN/USA Today Gallup poll taken Sept. 8-11, 70 percent of those surveyed supported an independent panel to investigate the government's response to Katrina. Only 29 percent were opposed.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has rebuffed a bid by House and Senate GOP leaders to create a committee patterned after the 1987 Iran-Contra panel that would have a GOP majority _ reflecting their dominance of Congress.

Reid has instead vowed that any bid by Republican leaders to establish a special bipartisan committee involving lawmakers from both House and Senate will go forward only if Democrats have equal representation.

Separately, Senate Homeland Security Committee chair Susan Collins, R- Maine, said Wednesday that Post-9/11 changes to improve the government response to catastrophic disasters failed their first major test in Hurricane Katrina's wake.

Despite billions of dollars to boost disaster preparedness at all levels of government, the response to Katrina was plagued by confusion, communication failures and widespread lack of coordination, said Collins as she opened hearings into the disaster.

"At this point, we would have expected a sharp, crisp response to this terrible tragedy," Collins said. "Instead, we witnessed what appeared to be a sluggish initial response."

The hearing marked Congress' first step in investigating major gaps in the country's readiness and response systems that Katrina exposed. It comes even as Republican and Democrats grapple over whether to appoint an unusual House-Senate panel to investigate the matter, or to create an 9/11-style commission.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the committee, said the response to Katrina "has shaken the public's confidence in the ability of government at all levels to protect them in a crisis."

Lawmakers said they did not ask officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Homeland Security Department to appear at the hearing out of fear that would disrupt the ongoing recovery process in the battered Gulf Coast. Instead, a slew of former city and state officials testified about their experiences in facing faced major disasters in their communities.

Calling Katrina a "national tragedy," former New Orleans Mayor Marc H. Morial put the primary responsibility for disaster response squarely on the federal government's shoulders. Morial, president of the National Urban League, was New Orleans' mayor from 1994 to 2004.

Meanwhile, the House, by voice vote, on Wednesday approved legislation that provides liability protections for people and groups providing volunteer aid for Hurricane Katrina victims.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said the Red Cross has cited lawsuit concerns among people interested in taking evacuees into their homes and that doctors traveling to states where they are not licensed face increased liability.

The bill, which needs Senate action, would protect from lawsuit volunteers who in good faith and without expectation of compensation offer aid or medical assistance. It would not protect those who willfully carry out criminal acts.

Other bills, however, to cut federal red tape and otherwise make it easier to get aid to Katrina victims have hit a slow patch as lawmakers wrestle over how to shape their response.

They include proposals to provide Medicaid health benefits to those made homeless by Katrina, lift work rules for welfare recipients, and implement tax changes to help hurricane victims and charitable donors.

Breitbart ~ Associated Press - Lara Jakes Jordan ** Senate Kills Bid for Katrina Commission

Posted by uhyw at 4:39 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, September 15, 2005 1:03 AM EDT
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Case against DeLay associate dismissed
Mood:  cheeky
Topic: News

Case against DeLay associate dismissed

A Texas judge dismissed a civil case against a major fundraiser for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) last Friday.

The federal district-court judge dismissed the case brought by two Texas Democrats against John Colyandro, the former executive director of the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (TRMPAC).

The judge, Lee Yeakel, ruled that lawyers for the two Democrats failed to prove that Colyandro had knowingly broken Texas election law in using corporate contributions to fund campaign ads.

Texas election law prohibits the use of corporate money in races for state office.

In his opinion, Yeakel wrote that the petition against Colyandro and his three co-defendants “fails to allege any facts that Colyandro intentionally or even knowingly violated the applicable sections of the Texas Election Code.”

In May, another Texas judge ruled against Colyandro and co-defendants Jim Ellis and Warren Robold in a separate civil case, ruling that the three had violated state election law by failing to report $684,507 in corporate donations.

Colyandro and Ellis also face criminal money-laundering charges following indictments last year by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle.

The Hill ~ Patrick O’Connor ** Case against DeLay associate dismissed

Awwww. It's ok liberals. Better luck next time... NOT !

Posted by uhyw at 10:14 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 13, 2005 11:40 PM EDT
Iraqi President Says 50,000 U.S. Troops Could Soon Withdraw
Mood:  cheeky
Topic: News

Talabani Says Iraqis Could Replace Many U.S. Troops

President's Claim About Major American Withdrawal by Year's End Conflicts With White House Position

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in an interview yesterday that the United States could withdraw as many as 50,000 troops by the end of the year, declaring there are enough Iraqi forces trained and ready to begin assuming control in cities throughout the country.

After the White House and Pentagon were contacted for comment, however, a senior adviser to Talabani called The Washington Post to say Talabani did not intend to suggest a specific timeline for withdrawal. "He is afraid . . . this might put the notion of a timetable on this thing," the adviser said. "The exact figure of what would be required will undeniably depend on the level of insurgency [and] the level of Iraqi capability."

In the interview, Talabani said he planned to discuss reductions in U.S. forces during a private meeting with President Bush today, and said he believed the United States could begin pulling out some troops immediately.

"We think that America has the full right to move some forces from Iraq to their country because I think we can replace them [with] our forces," Talabani said. "In my opinion, at least from 40,000 to 50,000 American troops can be [withdrawn] by the end of this year."

That assessment differs dramatically from those offered by Bush and by U.S. military commanders in Iraq.

Bush has carefully avoided setting a timetable for reducing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, currently about 140,000, and the Pentagon plans to maintain or slightly increase the force level in anticipation of an Oct. 15 referendum on Iraq's new constitution. White House officials say that Bush's strategy for eventually withdrawing troops hinges on Iraqis' approving the constitution and holding successful elections in December.

Dan Bartlett, a senior Bush adviser, said the president and Talabani have the same goals. "We share the same view: As Iraqis build up their capabilities to defend their country, fewer U.S. troops will be needed to complete our mission," Bartlett said. "The president will continue to work with Iraqi leaders, and base his military decisions on the advice of commanders in the field and the secretary of defense."

A senior Army official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the military does not openly discuss withdrawal timelines, said bringing home as many as 50,000 U.S. troops -- or more than 35 percent of those now in Iraq -- by the end of the year is not under discussion. "Any talk of reduction has been for well after the election time frame," the official said. "Are there discussions about how to pull back and when? Sure. But certainly not that dramatically in such a short time."

Talabani's statement has the potential to put Bush in a difficult position if the troops are not pulled out by year's end, since critics are certain to ask why U.S. soldiers cannot come home when Iraq's own president says they can. The two leaders will hold a joint news conference today after their meeting.

In the interview, Talabani said Iraqi troops are prepared to assume control of security in several cities throughout southern, central and northern Iraq, despite continued violence, suicide bombings and killings. Many military experts predict a spike in insurgent attacks ahead of next month's vote.

Talabani said the number of "well-trained" Iraqi security forces stood at 60,000 and would reach 100,000 by the end of the year. All told, there about 190,000 Iraqis enlisted in the military or local security forces. "Some are well-trained, some are not so well-trained," he said. Iraqi troops have light arms, but he said they need 50 tanks and automatic weapons.

Talabani, who is Kurdish, could be influenced by the fact that the Kurds are fairly capable of defending their territory in northern Iraq and are less in need of U.S. military support, said Michael O'Hanlon, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies Iraq.

Many Sunni Arabs oppose the draft constitution, and they are organizing in record numbers to vote against it in Sunni-dominated regions. Talabani raised the possibility of an addendum to the constitution in coming days in an effort to appease Sunni factions. "Of course, we would like to have consensus on all articles of the constitution," he said.

In the interview, Talabani said he did not want to speak critically of neighboring Syria, which the top U.S. envoy to Iraq chastised for interfering there. Many of the foreign insurgents fighting in Iraq are believed to have entered the country along the porous Syrian border. "Our patience is running out, the patience of Iraqis [is] . . . running out. The time for decision . . . has arrived for Damascus," Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters at the State Department.

Commenting on the upcoming trial of ousted president Saddam Hussein, Talabani insisted that the former leader had confessed to the killings of tens of thousands of Kurds in the late 1980s, an assertion denied by Hussein's attorney.

Hussein is scheduled to go on trial Oct. 19 on charges stemming from a massacre of Shiite Muslims following a failed assassination attempt on the Iraqi leader in the northern town of Dujail in 1982. Hussein allegedly retaliated for the plot by killing at least 143 people and razing much of the town.

Talabani, based on a conversation with the judge in the case, recounted a scene right out of the movie "A Few Good Men." Asked about the mass killings, Hussein sat silent, refusing to utter a word, Talabani said. But Hussein was taunted, asked if he was afraid to say he carried out such an act. Hussein said, "I am not afraid," and defiantly admitted he ordered the killings. Talabani said the judge has a video and recording of the confession.

Staff writer Josh White contributed to this report.
Washington Post ~ Jim VandeHei ** Talabani Says Iraqis Could Replace Many U.S. Troops

Posted by uhyw at 12:59 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 13, 2005 1:05 AM EDT
Thursday, September 8, 2005
200 Suspected Insurgents Arrested in Iraq
Mood:  cool
Topic: News

200 Suspected Insurgents Arrested in Iraq

TAL AFAR, Iraq - U.S. and Iraqi forces have encircled the insurgent stronghold of Tal Afar, and Iraqi authorities on Thursday announced the arrest of 200 suspected insurgents there - most of them foreign fighters.

The Iraqi military said 150 of those arrested Wednesday in this town near the Syrian border were Arabs from Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Jordan.

The joint forces have reported heavy battles on the outskirts of the city and several deadly bombings that have mainly killed civilians. Iraqi authorities reported most of the civilian population had fled the city, which is 260 miles north of Baghdad and about 35 miles from the Syrian border.

"Our forces arrested 150 non-Iraqi Arabs yesterday in addition to 50 Iraqi terrorists with fake documents as they were trying to flee the city with the (civilian) families," said Iraqi army Capt. Mohammed Ahmed.

"We ordered the families to evacuate the Sunni neighborhood of Sarai, which is believed to be the main stronghold of the insurgents," Ahmed said.

Eight civilians were killed in the city Wednesday by a suicide car bomber at an Iraqi checkpoint, he said.

Tal Afar is 90 percent Turkmen, and 70 percent of them are Sunnis. After the ouster of Saddam Hussein, the United States installed a largely Shiite leadership in the city, including the mayor and much of the police force.

The Sunni majority has complained of oppression by the government and have turned to the insurgents - who are mainly Sunnis - for protection.

Early Thursday, a militant Web site carried a videotape showing the destruction of a U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Tal Afar. The video, emblazoned with the logo of al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed the armored vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.

The military issued no immediate response to the claim. The militant video did not say if there were casualties, although the force of the blast would suggest there had been. There were several large explosions of ordnance in the tank after the initial blast.

Twenty miles south of Baghdad, police Thursday reported finding 14 unidentified bodies near the farming town of Mahmoudiya. "All the bodies are in civilian clothes and have no identification documents," said Lt. Adnan Abdullah of the Mahmoudiya police. They had been shot to death, he said.

Two more decomposing bodies, blindfolded and handcuffed, were found on the outskirts of Baghdad, near a sewage plant, police said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. military, acting on a tip, raided an isolated farmhouse outside Baghdad and rescued an American businessman held hostage for 10 months. The kidnappers, who had kept their captive bound and gagged.

Roy Hallums, 57, was "in good condition and is receiving medical care," a military statement said after U.S. forces freed him and an unidentified Iraqi from the farmhouse 15 miles south of Baghdad.

Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, a U.S. military spokesman, said the tipster whose information led to Hallums' release was captured just a few hours before the operation.

Hallums, formerly of Newport Beach, Calif., was kidnapped at gunpoint from his office in the Mansour district of Baghdad on Nov. 1, 2004. At the time, he was working for the Saudi Arabian Trading and Construction Co., supplying food to the Iraqi army. The kidnappers also seized a Filipino, a Nepalese and three Iraqis, but later freed them.

"Considering what he's been through, I understand he's in good condition," said Hallums' ex-wife, Susan Hallums, 53, of Corona, Calif.

The family Web site was topped with a headline: Roy IS FREE!!!!!! 9/7/05.

More than 200 foreigners have been abducted in Iraq since the war began in March 2003; more than 30 have been killed.

The rescue coincided with two deadly bombings detonated around the southern city of Basra. A roadside bomb killed four private American security agents working for the State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security. And an Interior Ministry official said 16 people were killed and 21 were injured in a car bombing at a restaurant in a central market.

The bombing was noteworthy because attacks against Americans around Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, are rare. The U.S. has only a minimal presence in the area. Also, Shiites, who are the dominant population in the south, have found themselves the political winners as new government structures take shape after the U.S.-led invasion.

In a statement posted on a Web site known as a clearing house of militant claims, al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack.

The car bombing later Wednesday at a takeout restaurant in a central Basra market killed 16 and wounded 21, said an Interior Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The felafel restaurant is in the Hayaniyah district market, a Shiite section of the city, Basra police Lt. Col. Karim al-Zaidi said. Two police vehicles and several nearby shops were destroyed in the blast.

Despite a peaceful postwar history in the south, violence has spiked in the past two months with attacks on Britons.

Also Wednesday, an official of the court that will try Saddam Hussein discounted a claim by Iraq's president that the former leader had admitted wrongdoing in a confession to mass killings and other crimes during his rule.

In an Iraqi television interview aired Tuesday, President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said Saddam had confessed he ordered the killing of more than 180,000 Kurds in the north of the country in the late 1980s.

The official of the Iraq Special Tribunal, which will put Saddam on trial Oct. 19, said Saddam made a statement last month, but did not confess to criminal activity. The former dictator "boastfully" acknowledged a campaign against the Kurds in 1987-88.

"He said it was legal and justified," according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Saddam has charged that Iraqi Kurds - part of a disaffected ethnic minority that is spread across northern Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria - were aiding the enemy in Iraq's eight-year war against Iran. Millions died in the conflict, which Saddam started.

Associated Press writers Jeremiah Marquez in Los Angeles and Paul Chavez in Corona, California, contributed to this report.
UK Guardian ~ Associated Press - Jacob Silberberg ** 200 Suspected Insurgents Arrested in Iraq

Posted by uhyw at 10:40 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, September 8, 2005 10:47 PM EDT
Tuesday, September 6, 2005
U.S. troops hand Najaf over to Iraqi army
Mood:  chatty
Topic: News

In handing over Najaf Tuesday, U.S. troops relocated to a base outside the city. >>>>>

U.S. troops hand Najaf over to Iraqi army

BAGHDAD - U.S. jets struck targets Tuesday near the Syrian border where al-Qaeda has expanded its presence, and civilians fled fighting in the northern city of Tal Afar, complaining they were running short of food and water.

To the south, U.S. troops handed the Iraqi army control of a Shiite city that saw bitter fighting last year — a sign of the uneven pattern of insecurity in this fragmented country.

The U.S. command also said four more Americans had been killed in action.

The airstrikes took place near Karabilah, about 185 miles west of Baghdad and one of a cluster of towns near the Syrian border used by foreign fighters to slip into Iraq.

In the first attack, Marine F/A-18 jets dropped bombs shortly after midnight on two bridges across the Euphrates River that the U.S. command said insurgents used to move fighters and arms toward Baghdad and other cities. (Related video: Marine jets attack bridges)

Hours later, a Marine jet destroyed a building used by insurgents to fire on U.S. and Iraqi troops, a U.S. statement said. One Iraqi soldier was wounded when Marines and Iraqi soldiers stormed the building, killing two foreigners and arresting three, it said.

Late Tuesday, Iraqi civilians reported a suicide bomber struck a checkpoint in Haditha, 60 miles east of Karabilah. There were no reports of casualties.

The airstrikes occurred about six miles east of the border city of Qaim, major parts of which have fallen under control of al-Qaeda-linked foreign fighters.

Iraqi officials and residents say al-Qaeda in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, took over parts of Qaim after residents fled fighting between tribes supporting and opposing the insurgents.

The U.S. military maintains a presence in the area, but U.S. officers have complained privately that they don't have enough American and Iraqi troops to secure Qaim.

Elsewhere, thousands of civilians fled Tal Afar, a predominantly ethnic Turkomen city 260 miles northwest of Baghdad where U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are trying to wrest control from insurgents.

Plumes of smoke rose from the city, which sits along a major trade and smuggling route to Syria. Ambulances were seen carrying at least 10 wounded civilians toward nearby Mosul.

Some of those who fled sought refuge in the village of Taha, where local officials scrambled to provide for about 700 families. Some of the refugees disputed claims by Iraqi officials that foreign fighters had joined local insurgents in the fighting inside Tal Afar.

"We did not see any strangers like Saudis, Syrians or others," said Hazem Mohammed Ali, deputy chairman of a Turkomen association in Tal Afar. "The people are suffering from lack of food stuff, drinkable water and blankets, because it is getting cold during the night here."

One U.S. soldier was killed Monday in Tal Afar, the military reported. Two others died Tuesday in a roadside bombing in Baghdad, and another was killed the day before near Ramadi west of Baghdad.

The deaths brought to at least 1,893 the number of U.S. military personnel who have died since the war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Despite the fighting, security is better in Shiite Muslim areas of central and southern Iraq, including the holy city of Najaf, scene of heavy combat last year between American soldiers and Shiite Muslim extremists.

But the Shiite clerical hierarchy mediated a truce, and the area was deemed peaceful enough for U.S. forces to hand over one of their bases in the city to Iraq's army. The transfer of Forward Operating Base Hotel means Iraqis are fully responsible for security in the city.

During a ceremony Tuesday, Lt. Col. James Oliver handed the ceremonial keys to the base to the new Iraqi commander, Col. Saadi Salih al-Maliky. About 1,500 Iraqi soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 8th Division marched by.

U.S. troops relocated to a base outside the city in case their help is needed in a major security crisis.

The move is the first step in a plan to gradually hand over areas once Iraqi forces are deemed capable of ensuring security. The goal is for the United States and its international partners to begin drawing down their troop numbers next year and focus on the insurgency-ridden Sunni Arab areas to the north.

"This is indeed a very important day for the province of Najaf," said Brig. Gen. Augustus L. Collins, commander of the 155th Brigade Combat Team. "It gives me great pleasure to say the Iraqi army in Najaf can control the area."

U.S. and Iraqi officials also hope a new constitution, which goes to the voters in an Oct. 15 referendum, will weaken the insurgency by luring Sunni Arabs into political participation.

However, Sunni negotiators rejected the proposed charter last month and vowed to defeat it in the referendum. The bitter, protracted talks appeared to raise tensions among Iraq's ethnic and religious communities.

USA Today ~ Associated Press ** U.S. troops hand Najaf over to Iraqi army

Posted by uhyw at 10:34 PM EDT
Monday, September 5, 2005
Bush Nominates Roberts for Chief Justice
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Topic: News

Bush nominates Roberts for chief justice

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Monday nominated John Roberts to succeed William H. Rehnquist as chief justice and called on the Senate to confirm him before the Supreme Court opens its fall term on Oct. 3. Just 50 years old, Roberts could shape the court for decades to come.

The swift move would promote to the Supreme Court's top job a newcomer who currently is being considered as one of eight associate justices. It would also ensure a full 9-member court, because retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has said she will remain on the job until her replacement is confirmed.

"I am honored and humbled by the confidence the president has shown in me," Roberts said, standing alongside Bush in the Oval Office. "I am very much aware that if I am confirmed I would succeed a man I deeply respect and admire, a man who has been very kind to me for 25 years."

"He's a man of integrity and fairness and throughout his life he's inspired the respect and loyalty of others," Bush said. "John Roberts built a record of excellence and achievement and reputation for goodwill and decency toward others in his extraordinary career."

The selection of Roberts helps Bush avoid new political problems when he already is under fire for the government's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina and his approval ratings in the polls are at the lowest point of his presidency.

A brief delay in confirmation hearings for Roberts, which had been set to start Tuesday, was likely in light of his new nomination and Rehnquist's funeral this week.

Senate officials are considering three options: starting Roberts' confirmation on Tuesday with a delay built in on Wednesday for Rehnquist's funeral; starting the confirmation hearing on Thursday; or starting the confirmation hearing next week, the scenerio considered to be the most likely.

But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he still expects Roberts to be confirmed before the new court session begins on October 3.

"The president has made an excellent choice," Frist said Monday. "Mr. Roberts is one of the most well qualified candidates to come before the Senate. He will be an excellent chief."

Democrats said Roberts will now be held to a higher standard, although they had found little in his record to suggest they would thwart his nomination as associate justice.

"Now that the president has said he will nominate Judge Roberts as chief justice, the stakes are higher and the Senate's advice and consent responsibility is even more important," Democratic leader Harry Reid said Monday in a statement. "The Senate must be vigilant."

The president met with Roberts in the private residence of the White House for about 35 to 40 minutes on Sunday evening, then officially offered him the job at 7:15 a.m. Monday when Roberts arrived at the Oval Office.

"This had been something that had been in the president's thinking for some time — in case the chief justice retired or that there otherwise was a vacancy," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "The president when he met with him, knew he was a natural born leader. The president knew Judge Roberts had the qualities to lead the court."

McClellan said the White House is confident that Roberts can be confirmed by the Senate by Oct. 3. Bush still has to pick a successor for Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, although she said at the time of her retirement announcement that she would remain until a replacement were seated.

McClellan said Bush called O'Connor from Air Force One en route to Louisiana Monday to talk with her about his decision. "He indicated that he was going to move quickly to find her replacement as well," the president's spokesman added. Talking to reporters who accompanied the president on a hurricane-damage inspection trip to the South, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was unable to say whether O'Connor reiterated her earlier promise about temporarily staying on the court.

Getting a new chief justice of Bush's choosing in place quickly also avoids the scenario of having liberal Justice John Paul Stevens making the decisions about whom to assign cases to and making other decisions that could influence court deliberations. As the court's senior justice, Stevens would take over Rehnquist's administrative duties until a new chief is confirmed.

"The passing of Chief Justice William Rehnquist leaves the center chair empty, just four weeks left before the Supreme Court reconvenes," Bush said. "It's in the interest of the court and the country to have a chief justice on the bench on the first full day of the fall term." (Related story: Chief justice dies)

Bush said Roberts has been closely scrutinized since he was nominated as an associate justice and that Americans "like what they see. He is a gentleman. He is a man of integrity and fairness." He said Roberts has unusual experience, having argued 39 cases as a lawyer before the Supreme Court. Bush also said Roberts was a natural leader.

The move was engineered to have all nine seats on the high court filled when the court opens its fall term.

The White House is not opposed to a delay in Roberts' confirmation hearings as long as senators vote on the confirmation before the court session begins on the first Monday of October.

"We believe they have enough time to move forward to meet that goal because of all the work that's already been done and Justice O'Connor had previously indicated that she was going to stay on the court until her position was filled," McClellan said.

Bush already had nominated Roberts to take O'Connor's place. It requires just a little paper shuffling to change the nomination for Rehnquist's seat.

White House chief of staff Andy Card informed members of Congress, calling Frist and Reid. He also called Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the ranking Democrat on the committee; and House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

The White House counsel's office notified the Supreme Court through Justice John Paul Stevens, the senior-most member of the court.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the judiciary panel, said the nomination "raises the stakes" in making sure that the American people and the Senate knows Roberts' views.

"Judge Roberts has a clear obligation to make his views known fully and completely at the hearings and we look forward to them," Schumer said.

Liberal groups have expressed opposition to Roberts because of his conservative writings as an attorney for the Reagan administration and his rulings as an appeals court judge. However, it does not appear that his opponents have enough votes to block Roberts' confirmation.

That alone might have been impetus for Bush to rename Roberts for chief justice. Bush, with low standing in the polls, might not have the political capital he would need to win a Senate battle over a conservative ideologue who would draw intense opposition.

Rehnquist, 80 at his death, served on the Supreme Court for 33 years and was its leader for 19 years.

Rehnquist, a World War II Army Air Corps veteran, will be buried in a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery alongside his wife, who died in 1991, following a funeral that morning at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington. He died Saturday at his home.

His body will lie in repose in the marble Great Hall of the Supreme Court building on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning with the public invited to pay its respects.

Five members of the court have lain in repose there: Chief Justices Earl Warren and Warren Burger, and Justices Thurgood Marshall, William Brennan and Harry Blackmun.

USA Today ~ Associated Press ** Bush nominates Roberts for chief justice

Posted by uhyw at 11:38 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, September 5, 2005 11:48 AM EDT

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