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  House Members Say They Will Try To Block Arms Sales To SaudisJuly 28, 2007 23:22 The Bush administration's plan to sell $20 billion in advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia and five other Persian Gulf countries is running into congressional opposition and criticism from human rights and arms control groups.

Members of Congress vowed yesterday to oppose any deal to Saudi Arabia on grounds that the kingdom has been unhelpful in Iraq and unreliable at fighting terrorism. King Abdullah has called the U.S. military presence in Iraq an "illegitimate occupation," and the Saudis have been either unable or unwilling to stop suicide bombers who have ended up in Iraq, congressional sources say.

Human rights groups warned that new U.S. arms meant to contain Iran's rising influence could backfire, allowing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to rally greater support for his hard-line faction in the run-up to parliamentary elections next spring.

And arms control groups said Bush's strategy would accelerate an already-dangerous trend that could increase tensions rather than generate a greater sense of security.

The administration plans to sell advanced satellite-guided bombs, fighter aircraft upgrades and new naval vessels to six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, U.S. officials say.
  Dick Cheney's Team Shaped Interrogation GuidelinesJuly 19, 2007 20:08 Shortly after the first accused terrorists reached the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Jan. 11, 2002, a delegation from the CIA arrived in the Situation Room. The agency presented a delicate problem to White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, a man with next to no experience on the subject. Vice President Dick Cheney's lawyer, who had a great deal of experience, sat nearby.

The meeting marked "the first time that the issue of interrogations comes up" among top-ranking White House officials, recalled John Yoo, who represented the Justice Department. "The CIA guys said, 'We're going to have some real difficulties getting actionable intelligence from detainees' " if interrogators confined themselves to humane treatment allowed by the Geneva Conventions.

From that moment, well before previous accounts have suggested, the vice president's office played a central role in shattering limits on coercion in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives of lower-ranking officials.

Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a distinction between forbidden "torture" and permitted use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" methods of questioning. They did not originate every idea to rewrite or reinterpret the law, but fresh accounts from participants show that they translated muscular theories, from Yoo and others, into the operational language of government.

A backlash beginning in 2004, after reports of abuse leaked out of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay, brought what appeared to be sharp reversals in courts and Congress — both for Cheney's claims of executive supremacy and his unyielding defense of what he called "robust interrogation."

  Bush Calls For International Mideast Peace ConferenceJuly 16, 2007 10:41 President George W. Bush called for an international conference later this year to include Israel, the Palestinian authority and some of their Arab neighbors to help restart Mideast peace talks and will pledge increased aid to the Palestinian Authority government of Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to lead the peace conference, which will include representatives of Israel and "neighbors in the region," said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Bush spoke Monday afternoon at the White House about the peace conference and US financial and diplomatic support for Abbas, who controls just the West Bank after Hamas gained authority over Gaza in June.

Bush said that now is "a moment of choice" between two paths for the Palestinian people - one represented by the moderate government led by Abbas and his Fatah faction and that of Hamas.

The conference among Palestinian and Israeli officials and other countries in the region would be a way to prod the peace process. It would be one of the few times that Israelis and Arab leaders have met jointly to work out their differences.

Bush also called for Israel to remove settlement outposts in Palestinian Authority territory and end settlement expansion, the official said. In addition, he urged Israel to continue releasing tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority.
  Judge Affirms Ruling To Dismiss Gitmo ChargesJuly 02, 2007 21:53 A military judge on Friday rejected the Pentagon's request to reinstate previously dismissed charges against a prisoner accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan in 2001, officials said.

Judge Army Col. Peter Brownback dropped the charges against Canadian detainee Omar Khadr last month on the grounds Brownback's court lacked the jurisdiction to try him.

Khadr was 15 when he was arrested.

The inability to prosecute centered on Khadr not being labeled an "unlawful" enemy combatant.

Last month, Brownback said new congressional rules on trying detainees specify that a detainee must be designated an "unlawful enemy combatant."

Pentagon officials would not release Brownback's most recent decision, but said he ruled the prosecution had presented no new evidence or arguments to change his mind.

The prosecution has five days to appeal to the Court of Military Commissions Review in Washington.
  South Korea, U.S. Sign Free-Trade Accord; Fight LoomsJuly 01, 2007 09:14 South Korea and the U.S. signed a free-trade agreement today that aims to open the Korean economy to more foreign investment and forge new links for American companies with the fast-growing Asian region.

The agreement, which faces opposition from Democratic leaders in the U.S. Congress, was signed by U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun Chong in Washington today. It's estimated to add $29 billion to the countries' $78 billion-a-year commercial relationship.

``America's economic future depends heavily on more free trade agreements like the one we are signing today with Korea,'' Schwab said at a ceremony in Washington. The Bush administration's trade negotiating authority expires today, and the agreement had to be signed today for it to qualify for rules that force lawmakers to vote for the deal without amendment.

U.S. banks, insurance companies, movie studios and pork producers say that the agreement with South Korea is the most economically beneficial trade deal signed by the U.S. since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.

The signing opens the possibility that Congress may approve it this year, said Myron Brilliant, vice president for Asia of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. ``I hope Congress would understand the stakes,'' Brilliant said before the signing.

  Fda Blocks Entry Of Farm-Raised Chinese SeafoodJuly 01, 2007 09:11 In an announcement released on June 28, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said all shipments of farm-raised catfish, bas, shrimp, dace (related to carp) and eel from china will be detained at the border until it's proved that these products are free of residues of certain drugs that are not allowed for use in farm-raised aquatic animals in the United States.

The action is so taken as the FDA said that American consumers can be protected against unsafe residues that are present in the seafood. But the agency acknowledged that the levels of drugs are the lowest that can be tested and they are not expected to pose any immediate risk. So far, no illness associated with use of these products has been reported. No recall was issued to pull any seafood of these types off the market.

According to the FDA, farm-raised seafood imported from China during October 2006 through May 2007 tested positive for a number antimicrobial agents including nitrofuran, alachite green, gentian violet and fluoroquinolone, which are not approved in the farm-raised seafood in the U.S. Among these drugs, some are allowed for use in seafood in China, but others are not.

To be exempted from FDA’s detention, the exporter must provide evidence to the agency to demonstrate the exporter has implemented measures to ensure that the seafood it handles do not contain any of these substances. The detention action will be in place as long as needed, the FDA said.

China responded to the FDA decision saying that more than 99 percent of farm-raised seafood exported from China meets the requirements and it is unfair for the United States to indiscriminately detain all shipments of seafood imported from China at the US border.