By Rowan Wolf
The death toll from the 12/26/04 tsunami heads towards 150,000, and the US raises its commitment to $350 million. However, it is important to realize that the first US offering was not $35 million, but $400,000. Meanwhile, the report that Thai meteorologists got the tsunami warning and did not pass it on is under investigation by the Thai government.
Over the past few weeks the torture of detainees and prisoners by US forces have been back in the news - including new allegations of the practice. In interestingly contrasting articles we get the news that fresh details emerge on harsh methods at Guantanamo which fly in the face of the claim that torture is not part of policy. However, even more interesting is that the Department of Justice has new rules on torture. How can you issue new rules on a policy that doesn't exist?
The new "memo" can be found at the Department of Justice website under the title "Memorandum for James B. Comey, Deputy Attorney General, Regarding Legal Standards Applicable Under 18 U.S.C. § § 2340-2340A," or at this UTJ link. The "memo" is seventeen pages long (which kind of stretches the usual understanding of the word "memo"), and is in Adobe Acrobat format. Also an article from the San Francisco Gate - Justice issues rewritten memo on torture following Iraqi abuse scandal (12/30/04).
The Legislative Challenges Ahead:
Capital Hill Blues provides a synopsis of the legislative "initiatives" likely to be pushed this year: Social Security, taxes, medical liability caps, judges, the deficit, trade, and energy policies. Nothing that we didn't know was coming, but there are some interesting developments along the sidelines. Pushing an agenda, Evangelical leader James Dobson has announced he is going after liberal Democrats in Congress. The pressure towards a very narrow conservatism is internal as well as external. The Christian Science Monitor (12/30/04) reports on five new conservative Senators with an aggressive plan to move legislation and appointments to the far right. Meanwhile, the party who paints itself as "moral" is continuing to undermine Congressional ethics standards
While Bush has clearly signaled his intentions to privatize Social Security, but plans to cut social programs to fund the proposal. And of course we can't leave out medical insurance companies as Bush renews his attempts to medical malpractice awards.
Last, but not least, the changes to the intelligence community are turning into the expected hydra as consolidation and coordination seem beyond the capability of conflicting power bases in Washington.