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  US Military Equipment Wearing Out in IraqNovember 29, 2006 11:08 About 2 billion U.S. dollars' worth of U.S. Army and Marine Corps equipment, from rifles to tanks, is wearing out or being destroyed every month in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. media reported on Wednesday.

The figure is equal to about a quarter of the 8 billion dollars per month in military war costs, said the USA Today, citing military leaders and outside experts.

The wear and tear may lead to future equipment shortages and cutbacks in more advanced weapons, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being developed with allies, and the Army's new high-tech family of weapons and equipment, William Cohen, Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2001, was quoted as saying.

The Pentagon needs 50-60 billion dollars to re-equip and restore units returning from Iraq, said Leon Panetta, the former White House chief of staff from the Clinton Administration and member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

  Judge Strikes Down Bush On Terror GroupsNovember 29, 2006 10:52 A federal judge struck down President Bush's authority to designate groups as terrorists, saying his post-Sept. 11 executive order was unconstitutional and vague.
Some parts of the Sept. 24, 2001, order tagging 27 groups and individuals as "specially designated global terrorists" were too vague and could impinge on First Amendment rights of free association, U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins said.

The order gave the president "unfettered discretion" to label groups without giving them a way to challenge the designations, she said in a Nov. 21 ruling that was made public Tuesday.

The judge, who two years ago invalidated portions of the U.S. Patriot Act, rejected several sections of Bush's Executive Order 13224 and enjoined the government from blocking the assets of two foreign groups.

However, she let stand sections that would penalize those who provide "services" to designated terrorist groups.

  Pelosi Passes Hastings For Intel ChairNovember 28, 2006 10:54 In a decision that could roil Democratic unity in the new House, Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi passed over Rep. Alcee Hastings Tuesday for the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee.
Hastings, currently the No. 2 Democrat on the panel, had been aggressively making a case for the top position, supported by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Critics pointed out that he had been impeached when he was a federal judge and said naming him to such a sensitive post would be a mistake just as the Democrats take over House control pledging reforms.

"I am obviously disappointed with this decision," Hastings, D-Fla., said in a statement thanking his supporters. "I will be seeking better and bigger opportunities in a Democratic Congress."

He learned his bid for the chairmanship was unsuccessful during a closed-door meeting with Pelosi on Tuesday.

In a statement, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Hastings has made national security his highest priority. "He has served our country well, and I have full confidence that he will continue to do so," she said.
  Protests Over US Military Training SchoolNovember 20, 2006 13:51 Thousands held protest outside Fort Benning, Georgia, the home of the US Army's Airborne, Ranger and Infantry training, in their effort to close a military school.

This is part of the 17-year effort to close the school they blame for human rights abuses in Latin America.

Officials with the Muscogee County Sheriff's Department estimated the crowd size at 14,000, but Eric LeCompte, events coordinator for SOA Watch, which organised the protest on Sunday, said they counted 22,000.

Fourteen of the protesters, including two grandmothers, managed to get around, under, or over three chain-link fences - one topped by coils of barbed wire - and were arrested for trespassing on military property.

Each could face up to six months in a federal prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
  Rising Price Of The War On TerrorNovember 20, 2006 13:45 Whether troop levels increase in coming months, or decrease, or stay the same, one aspect of the US military effort in Iraq is unlikely to change: It will be expensive.
The cost of combat in Iraq has now surpassed $300 billion, according to government estimates. Add in activities in Afghanistan, and the total price of the global war on terror is about $500 billion, making it one of the most monetarily costly conflicts in which the nation has ever engaged.

Now the Department of Defense is in the process of drawing up its follow-on request for the remainder of FY 2007. Reports indicate that the Pentagon could ask for $120 billion to $160 billion, which would be its largest funding request yet for the global war on terror.

After they take control of Congress next year, Democrats will almost certainly investigate both the rate of Iraq spending and the manner in which it has been appropriated. Much of the war has been funded through supplementals, so-called emergency bills whose use in this case has become increasingly controversial in Congress.

"We're now at $507 billion for the global war on terror and counting, and almost all of that has been pushed through a process that doesn't give proper scrutiny to the budget. Are we spending it wisely?" says Gordon Adams, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center who was the senior White House official for national security budgets under President Clinton.

  US: Immigrants May Be Held IndefinitelyNovember 15, 2006 11:35 Immigrants arrested in the United States may be held indefinitely on suspicion of terrorism and may not challenge their imprisonment in civilian courts, the Bush administration said Monday, opening a new legal front in the fight over the rights of detainees.

In court documents filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., the Justice Department said a new anti-terrorism law being used to hold detainees in Guantanamo Bay also applies to foreigners captured and held in the United States.

Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar, was arrested in 2001 while studying in the United States. He has been labeled an "enemy combatant," a designation that, under a law signed last month, strips foreigners of the right to challenge their detention in federal courts.

That law is being used to argue the Guantanamo Bay cases, but Al-Marri represents the first detainee inside the United States to come under the new law. Aliens normally have the right to contest their imprisonment, such as when they are arrested on immigration violations or for other crimes.
  Toys For Tots Rejects Jesus DollsNovember 14, 2006 13:58 Way to go Marines! At least someone in our military is thinking about ethnic and religious sensitivity!

A talking Jesus doll has been turned down by the Marine Reserves' Toys for Tots program.

A Los Angeles company offered to donate 4,000 of the 1 foot-tall dolls, which quote Bible verses, for distribution to needy children this holiday season. The battery-powered Jesus is one of several dolls manufactured by one2believe, a division of the Valencia-based Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co., based on biblical figures.

But the charity balked because of the dolls' religious nature.

Toys are donated to kids based on financial need and "we don't know anything about their background, their religious affiliations," said Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Virginia.

As a government entity, Marines "don't profess one religion over another," Grein said Tuesday. "We can't take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family."

Michael La Roe, director of business development for both companies, said the charity's decision left him "surprised and disappointed."

"The idea was for them to be three-dimensional teaching tools for kids," La Roe said. "I believe as a churchgoing person, anyone can benefit from hearing the words of the Bible."
  New ‘Terrorism’ Laws To Protect Animal Abusers’ ProfitsNovember 14, 2006 13:47 A new law moving through Congress threatens to classify non-violent civil disobedience carried out by animal-rights groups as terrorism.

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), already passed unanimously by the US Senate, expands on a previous law aimed at activists who protest the treatment of animals. It reclassifies common activist tactics as terrorism based solely on the cause pursued.

Proponents of the legislation, including co-sponsors Senator Dianne Feinstein (D–California) and Senator James Inhofe (R–Oklahoma), say it will offer protection to scientists, medical researchers, ranchers, farmers and other industries using animals against "violent tactics" used by animal-rights "extremists."

While the bill makes specific provisions to safeguard First Amendment-protected activity, such as peaceful protests and lawful boycotts, animal-rights activists and civil-rights groups say the bill's vague language could brand activists as terrorists for activities that are unlawful yet non-violent, such as blockades, property destruction, trespassing, and the freeing of captive animals.

The Senate passed the bill in September, less than a month after it was introduced. An even stricter version is under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee.

Current law allows the government to prosecute activists for intentionally damaging property used by "animal enterprises" – businesses that use or sell animals. The AETA expands the bill to criminalize activists who also "interfere" with animal enterprises and businesses that work with them, taking into account resulting profit losses. It increases lengths of jail sentences and fines for activists convicted for breaking the law during their protests.

Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the ACLU, said activists could find themselves slapped with terrorism charges for committing non-violent crimes.

"The way the new bill is drafted is not particularly artful," Johnson told The NewStandard. "What we're concerned about is an instance… where protesters conduct a sit-in that causes lost profits. While they may be engaging in civil disobedience and have committed trespass, we don't want them prosecuted for 'terrorism' where the only damage is lost profits."

Additionally, the House version of the bill sweeps in "non-violent physical obstruction of an animal enterprise" as an offense if it causes a loss of profits.

Will Potter, a journalist who tracks how the so-called "war on terror" affects civil liberties, questions the motives behind the legislation.

"If this legislation is only going after so-called violent extremists, how can it spell out sentences for crimes that are, in the words of the legislation, 'non-violent'?" Potter asked.