News Journal Editorial Acknowledges Biden As A Consistent Iraq Policy Opponent, But Says Other Candidates Should Be Wary Of Using War Debate For Their Own Personal Sound Bites

January 30th, 2007

From the editors of the News Journal, “Our View” Jan. 30 - “If we must debate war, make it a real debate, not a colloquy of hot air,” excerpts below:

It seems an odd time to debate a course of action. We always thought public-policy discussions took place before a democracy committed lives, treasure and reputation to a military battle.

But now is as good a time as any to debate our four-year-old Iraq adventure.

Delaware’s Sen. Joe Biden is encouraging his Senate colleagues to debate President Bush’s plan to increase troop levels in Iraq.

He predicted that the president would be lucky to get 20 senators to back his proposal. “This president has no credibility,” Sen. Biden told one Sunday morning talk-show audience.

Maybe so, but the Senate has to be careful. Americans are aware that a multitude of senators are running for president themselves and their remarks will be judged in that light.

Senator Biden, at least, has long been out in front, with both his criticism of the Bush Administration policies, and his own proposed solution to the Iraqi conflict.

It is interesting to watch other short-on-substance senators twist and turn their positions to catch the latest political winds.

But the American people want a solution, not more opportunities for hot air.

Leave the finger-pointing history examinations to the historians. Concentrate on solutions.

Likewise, Bush Administration officials should stop criticizing people who disagree with them as less than patriotic. That attitude helped get them into the trouble they are in.

Both sides need to think beyond the moment.

So it is imperative that this be a real debate, one that considers consequences and not just sound bites.

Read more of this News Journal “Our View” article here.

Read about the Biden-Gelb Plan For Iraq here.

To read the text of the Biden, Hagel, Levin Senate Resolution criticizing the Bush plan for a U.S. military troop surge in Iraq, click here.

Read the New York Times news article about Senator Biden’s call for a full debate on the planned troop surge here.

Sinn Fein’s Vote To Cooperate With Police Brings Ireland’s Catholics And Protestants One Step Closer To Peace

January 30th, 2007

[Relatives on both sides of my family have been speaking about this for years - my Irish mother and my British father, that is…and we can only hope that this vote and agreement will stay in place, and work.-EM]

From Kevin Sullivan for The Washington Post Jan. 30, excerpts below:

Northern Ireland’s largest pro-Catholic political party voted overwhelmingly Sunday to cooperate with the predominantly Protestant police force, a remarkable reversal toward cementing peace in a British province recovering from three decades of sectarian war.

“Today you have created the potential to change the political landscape on this island forever,” Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams told about 2,000 party members after the nearly unanimous show-of-hands vote.

The vote by Sinn Fein, the political affiliate of the Irish Republican Army, which waged a bloody struggle to free Northern Ireland from British rule, was a required step toward restoring a Catholic-Protestant power-sharing government in the province.

The British government has given the bickering parties in Northern Ireland until March 26 to form a local government or see the province’s affairs fully controlled by the central government in London.

Catholics have long argued that the police have been a corrupt partner with Protestant paramilitary groups in systematically discriminating against them, often to the point of disregarding beatings and murder.

Catholic mistrust of the police was underscored last week by a report that concluded police had colluded with Protestant paramilitary informers and protected them from prosecution even when they were implicated in murders and other violent crimes.

The report cast doubt on whether Sinn Fein members could put aside their deeply held animosity toward the police and vote to endorse them .

Traditionally, many Catholics in Northern Ireland have essentially boycotted the police force. Many have refused to become officers or even report crime, relying instead on informal networks within their own communities to settle disputes and address crimes.

Sinn Fein’s vote clearly suggested that party members were willing to cooperate with police for the sake of peace. But many also said that the province’s Catholic minority would trust the police only if officers gave them fair and legal treatment.

Read more of this Washington Post news article here.

Miami City Commission Plans “Castro’s Dead” Celebration At Orange Bowl; The Only One Not Invited Is The Guest Of Honor

January 30th, 2007

From the Associated Press for MSNBC Jan. 29, excerpts below:

With Fidel Castro seriously ill, the city of Miami is making plans to throw a party at a local football stadium when the Cuban president dies — complete with themed T-shirts.

The city commission earlier this month appointed a committee — whose official job is to “discuss an event at the Orange Bowl in case expected events occur in Cuba” — to plan the party.

The Orange Bowl was the site of a speech by President Kennedy in 1961 promising a free Cuba, and in the 1980s it served as a camp for refugees from the Mariel boatlift from Cuba.

“(Castro) represents everything bad that has happened to the people of Cuba for 48 years,” City Commissioner Tomas Regalado, a Cuban American who came up with the idea, told The Miami Herald newspaper. “There is something to celebrate, regardless of what happens next … We get rid of the guy.”

“Basically, the only thing we’re trying to do is have a venue, a giant venue ready for people, if they wish, to speak to the media, to show their emotions. It’s not that we’re doing an official death party,” Regalado said Monday.

Many in Miami would prefer to celebrate on the streets of the Little Havana neighborhood. “This is not a mandatory site,” Regalado said of the Orange Bowl. “Just a place for people to gather.”

Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of the Miami-based Democracy Movement organization, worries about how the party would be perceived by those outside the Cuban exile community. Even when Castro dies, his communist government will still be in place, he said.

“Although everybody will be very happy that the dictator cannot continue to oppress us himself, I think everybody is still very sad because there are still prisons full of prisoners, many people executed, and families divided,” Sanchez said.

Read more of this MSNBC news article here.

Global Warming Report To Be Released This Week: World’s Scientists Gather In Paris To Finalize Findings

January 29th, 2007

From Angela Charlton, AP for The York Daily Record Jan. 29, excerpts below:

Scientists from around the world gathered Monday in Paris to finalize a long-awaited, authoritative report on climate change, expected to give a grim warning of rising temperatures and sea levels worldwide.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is to unveil its latest assessment of the environmental threat posed by global warming on Friday.

As the panel meets, the planet is the warmest it has been in thousands of years - if not more - and international concern over what to do about it is at an all-time high. “At no time in the past has there been such a global appetite” for reliable information on global warming, the panel’s chairman, Rajendra Pachauri of India, told the conference.

Scientists are keeping quiet about the contents of the report, but say it is both more specific and more sweeping than the panel’s previous efforts.

That debate may be central at this week’s meetings at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. After four days of closed-door, word-by-word editing involving more than 500 experts, they will release the first of four major global warming reports by the IPCC expected this year.

“We’re hoping that it will convince people that climate change is real and that we have a responsibility for much of it, and that we really do have to make changes in how we live,” said Kenneth Denman, one of the report’s authors and senior scientist at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis.

Last week, President Bush referred to global warming as an established fact, after years of arguing that not enough was known about global warming to do anything about it.

The early versions of the new report predict that by 2100 the sea level would rise between 5 and 23 inches. That is far lower than the 20 to 55 inches forecast by 2100 in a study published in the peer-review journal Science this month. Other climate experts, including NASA’s James Hansen, predict even bigger sea level rises.

In recent years, scientists have documented a dramatic retreat of the Arctic sea and the virtual collapse in mountain glaciers around the globe.

Indonesia’s environment minister warned Monday that rising sea levels stand to inundate some 2,000 of his country’s more than 18,000 islands by 2030.

Read more of this York Record news article here.

Biden Encourages Full Debate Over Planned Troop Surge: “If America’s Enemies Are Being Emboldened, It’s By This President’s Failed Policies, Not Our Criticism”

January 29th, 2007

From Brian Knowlton for The New York Times Jan. 29, excerpts below:

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, predicted today that no more than 20 senators would voice support for the president’s troop increase in Iraq when the Senate debates resolutions opposing that plan.

Biden and other Democrats angrily contested the Bush Administration’s suggestion that their criticism of the war was emboldening the nation’s enemies. The senator emphasized that a full debate by the Senate over President Bush’s troop increase was more important than the actual vote totals that the various resolutions get.

Republican leaders are working hard to limit defections, and competing resolutions may dilute support for a resolution backed by Mr. Biden that finds a troop increase would not be “in the national interest.”

Mr. Biden’s remarks today provided an early gauge of Democrats’ confidence that doubts about the war reach well across the aisle. Last week, Mr. Biden’s committee approved a nonbinding resolution critical of the troop increase by a 12-to-9 vote. Other resolutions, in less critical language, are also expected to be voted on. “This president has no credibility,” he remarked.”

“I will make you a bet,” he said to his interviewer, George Stephanopoulos, “you will not find 20% of the Senate standing up and saying the president is headed in the right direction.”

And Mr. Biden said that if America’s enemies were being emboldened, it was by “the failed policy of this president, going to war without a strategy.”

Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, argued that the new pressure on the Iraqi government was already producing results, and that American diplomats were also successfully enlisting diplomatic support from mainly Sunni neighbors of Iraq, like Saudi Arabia.

He also asserted that Mr. Bush himself was showing new sensitivity to Congressional sentiment. One sign of that, Lugar said, was a rare and unexpected early-morning phone call he received from the president on Friday to discuss Iraq and energy policy.

To proceed now with resolutions critical of the president, Mr. Lugar said, could be harmful “around the world as well as in our body politic.”“We really need, at this point, to get on the same page.”

Mr. Biden tried to flip Mr. Lugar’s assertion, crediting the debate in Washington for helping change behavior in Baghdad and in the White House.

“Maybe the president wouldn’t be calling Senator Lugar at five minutes to eight were this resolution not out there,” Mr. Biden said. “I respectfully suggest the ground has moved beneath the president’s feet.”

Read more of this New York Times news article here.

Read about the Biden-Gelb Plan For Iraq here.

To read the text of the Biden, Hagel, Levin Senate Resolution criticizing the Bush plan for a U.S. military troop surge in Iraq, click here.

Iranian Ambassador Announces Reconstruction Aid Package For Iraq

January 29th, 2007

From James Glanz for The New York Times Jan. 29, excerpts below:

Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad outlined a plan on Sunday to greatly expand its economic and military ties with Iraq — including an Iranian national bank branch in the heart of the capital — just as the Bush Administration has been warning the Iranians to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs.

The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, said Iran was prepared to offer Iraq government forces training, equipment and advisers for what he called “the security fight.”

Iran’s plan carries the potential to bring Iran into further conflict here with the United States, which has detained a number of Iranian operatives and says it has proof of Iranian complicity in attacks on American and Iraqi forces.

The political and diplomatic standoff that followed the Dec. 21 raid until the Iranians were released nine days later has contributed, along with a dispute over the Iranian nuclear program, to greatly increased tensions between the United States and Iran. This month, American forces detained five more Iranians in a raid on a diplomatic office in the northern city of Erbil.

“They worked in the security sector in the Islamic Republic, that’s clear,” Mr. Qumi said, referring to Iran. But he said that the Iranians were in Iraq because “the two countries agreed to solve the security problems.” The Iranians “went to meet with the Iraqi side,” he said.

Mr. Qumi said opening a bank in Iraq was just the first of what he said would be several — an agricultural bank and three private banks also intend to open branches. Other elements of new economic cooperation, he said, include plans for Iranian shipments of kerosene and electricity to Iraq and a new agricultural cooperative involving both countries.

He would not provide specifics on Iran’s offer of military assistance to Iraq, but said it included increased border patrols and a proposed new “joint security committee.”

Any Iranian military assistance to Iraq would be fraught with potential difficulties. Aside from provoking American objections, such assistance could further alienate Sunni Arabs, many of whom already suspect that Iran, overwhelmingly Shiite, is encouraging Iraq’s Shiite-led government in persecuting them.

“We are welcoming all the initiatives to participate in the process of reconstruction,” said Qasim Daoud, a former national security adviser who is now a secular Shiite member of Parliament. “My belief is that our strategic alliance is with the Americans, but at the same time we are looking for the participation of any country that would like to participate,” Mr. Daoud said.

Barham Salih, a deputy prime minister who is Kurdish and whose duties include economic matters, took sharper issue with Mr. Qumi’s criticism of the American presence.

“Iraqi national interest requires seeking good neighborly relations with Iran as with other neighbors, but that requires respect for Iraqi sovereignty,” Mr. Salih said.

Mr. Qumi also warned the United States against playing out tensions in what he called “the nuclear file” in Iraq. “We don’t need Iraq to pay the cost of our animosity with the Americans,” Mr. Qumi said.

Read more about this New York Times article here.

Read about the Biden-Gelb Plan For Iraq here.

UN Sec’y General Calls On African Union To Join Efforts For Peace In Darfur: “It’s The Largest Humanitarian Crisis In the World”

January 29th, 2007

From the United Nations news center Jan. 29, excerpts below:
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Africa’s leaders to use the same unity of purpose and partnership with the UN in Darfur that brought peace to Burundi and Sierra Leone in tackling the intractable issue.

“Together, we must work to end the violence and scorched-earth policies adopted by various parties, including militias, as well as the bombings which are still a terrifying feature of life in Darfur,” he told an African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“And we must persuade non-signatories to join, while building consensus for the urgent deployment of a UN-AU force on the ground,” he continued, referring to rebel groups seeking greater autonomy who did not join in a peace accord signed last May, calling the situation in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”

He said his Special Envoy on Darfur, Jan Eliasson and AU Envoy Salim A. Salim would go to Khartoum and Darfur in early February to support peace-making efforts, and the President welcomed the mission. He also called for an early Government response to plans for a hybrid UN-AU force in Darfur of 17,000 peacekeepers and 3,000 police.

In his summit address, Mr. Ban also urged the leaders to bring unity of purpose to other intractable crises “that bleed like open wounds on the face of the Continent,” such as the conflicts in Somalia and Côte d’Ivoire. “Liberia, too, shines as an example of what can be achieved through our collective will for peace and security in Africa,” he added.

He drew on his own experiences as a child growing up in war-torn Korea in the 1950s to deliver a message of hope to Africa. “I have seen the hardship and hunger, the degradation and disease, that come with prolonged warfare,” he said. “Elderly women scavenging for scraps, toddlers weak from malnutrition and unsafe drinking water, buildings dilapidated, corn fields rotting, an infrastructure on its knees.

“This I witnessed as a young boy, and the images haunt me to this day. But I also witnessed how, through unity of purpose, my country was able to transform itself from a traumatized nation with a non-existent economy, into a vibrant, productive society and a regional economic power,” he added. “Let us bring the same unity of purpose to bear on development in Africa.”

Turning to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 to slash a host of social ills, such as extreme poverty and hunger, by 2015, Mr. Ban noted that some African countries had made remarkable progress, but much remained to be done.

“How Africa fares in reaching the Millennium Development Goals is a matter of life and death for millions of Africans. It will be one of my priorities to ensure that we meet that test – and I will take steps to strengthen the Organization accordingly.”

Read more of this United Nations news here.

To read Senator Biden’s OpEd, ” U.S. Must Act Now to End the Genocide in Sudan,” published in the Baltimore Sun, click here.

To read more about Senator Biden’s legislation calling for a Special Envoy to Darfur and enactment of a No-Fly zone, click here.

Senator Biden pressed the Arab League to get involved in the Darfur crisis; read more of this news here.

Bob Novak: “The Fact Remains, There Is Almost No Enthusiasm For The Surge In The Senate”

January 29th, 2007

From Robert Novak for The Washington Post Jan. 29, excerpts below:

The Democratic plan was for Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to sit down over the weekend with his longtime Republican colleague Sen. John Warner and hammer out a consensus, bipartisan resolution opposing President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq. But as of last Thursday, Warner, who has been making backroom deals for 28 years in the Senate, informed Biden, no deal.

Warner wrote that the “will of the Senate” should be determined in “open” session, not closeted negotiations. That killed the Democratic leadership’s dream of passing a Biden-crafted anti-surge resolution by 70 votes or more. Such a proposal now cannot get the 60 votes needed for cloture to end a filibuster (and could fall short of the 50 needed for a simple majority). Conceivably, the Senate might pass no resolution at all.

Biden wanted to force through his sharply worded (though nonbinding) resolution. Biden and his principal Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Chuck Hagel (the second-ranking Republican on Foreign Relations), said Wednesday that they were ready to begin negotiating with Warner, the former Armed Services Committee chairman.

Democrats complained that resolution wording left the door open to further troop increases, and some questioned its first paragraph affirming the president’s constitutional role as commander in chief. Such language was supposed to have been massaged over the weekend.

Bush aides hope that pressure from Cabinet members and the president himself have diminished GOP support for anti-war resolutions.

The fact remains that almost no enthusiasm for the surge can be found in the Senate.

While many Republicans want to give their president “one last shot” at a military solution, there is pervasive pessimism about the new strategy. Republicans think withdrawal of troops must begin in the next six months for their party to have any chance at retaining the presidency in 2008.

Read more of this Washington Post article here.

Read about the Biden-Gelb Plan For Iraq here.

To read the text of the Biden, Hagel, Levin Senate Resolution criticizing the Bush plan for a U.S. military troop surge in Iraq, click here.

Biden Predicts Only One In Five Senators Still Believe Bush Is Headed In The Right Direction

January 28th, 2007

From the Associated Press for The Boston Herald Jan. 28, excerpts below:

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman on Sunday dismissed criticism that a resolution opposing a troop buildup in Iraq would embolden the enemy, and estimated that only 20 senators believe President Bush “is headed in the right direction.”

“It’s not the American people or the U.S. Congress who are emboldening the enemy,” said Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, a White House hopeful in 2008. “It’s the failed policy of this president - going to war without a strategy, going to war prematurely.”

The Democratic-controlled Senate plans to begin debate this week on a nonbinding resolution declaring that Bush’s proposal to send 21,500 more troops to Baghdad and Anbar province is “not in the national interest.”

Last week, Biden’s committee approved the measure on a near party-line vote of 12-9.

With the Senate having just confirmed a new top U.S. commander for Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it was “pretty clear that a resolution that in effect says that the general going out to take command of the arena shouldn’t have the resources he thinks he needs to be successful certainly emboldens the enemy and our adversaries.”

Senate Republicans mostly oppose the committee-passed measure. They are lining up alternatives that express concern about a buildup and in some cases set performance benchmarks for the Iraqi government.

Biden acknowledged that votes in Congress could splinter among several competing proposals. “It’s less important what the vote on my resolution is. … What’s important is the voices you’re going to hear.”

“We will have a full throated debate on this policy,” Biden said. “I will make you a bet, you will not find 20 percent of the Senate standing up and saying the president is headed in the right direction.”

Read more of this Boston Herald news article here.

Read about the Biden-Gelb Plan For Iraq here.

To read the text of the Biden, Hagel, Levin Senate Resolution criticizing the Bush plan for a U.S. military troop surge in Iraq, click here.

New York Times Political Trivia: Who Was The Youngest Elected Senator?

January 28th, 2007

From Greg Giroux in The New York Times, tomorrow’s issue date Jan. 29, excerpts below:

Delaware Democratic Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., who will formally enter the 2008 presidential race on Wednesday, was first elected to the Senate in November 1972, about two weeks before his 30th birthday. What is the minimum age requirement that the Constitution sets for service in the U.S. Senate?

(a) 21
(b) 25
(c) 28
(d) 30

Answer: (d). Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution says, in part, “No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen.”

While Biden was still 29 years old at the time of his election, he turned 30 before he was formally sworn in in January 1973.

According to statistics maintained by the Senate Historical Office, Biden ranks as the sixth-youngest senator in history.

Ranking fourth on the list is Rush Dew Holt, a West Virginia Democrat who was elected in 1934, at age 29, but did not take his seat until June 1935, two days after his 30th birthday. Holt, who died in 1955, is the father of Rush D. Holt, who currently represents New Jersey in the U.S. House.

Three senators who served in the early 19th century were sworn in before they turned 30. According to the Senate Historical Office, the Senate in those days ignored the constitutional age requirement “in the absence of specific challenges to the credentials of senators-elect below that age.”

The youngest senator ever was John Henry Eaton of Tennessee, who was 28 years and 4 months old when he was sworn in in November 1818.

Read more of this New York Times article here.

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