What's New in the News?

Monday, June 19, 2006

For everyone keeping score - good weeks in Iraq: 1, bad weeks in Iraq: 156 and counting

Despite having what’s been described as “a really good week” in Iraq, which included the killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and President Bush’s drive-by summit with the new Iraqi cabinet, the bad news just keeps on comin’.

First, last week saw the surpassing of a significant milestone as the 2,500th American soldier lost his life. Another 1,900 have gone home with serious injury and these numbers don’t include casualty numbers from coalition partners or the incalculable thousands of Iraqi civilians that have been killed or injured.

Earlier today in Baghdad a car bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol, exploded killing four civilians and injuring ten others. This followed yesterday’s violence where in four separate drive-by shootings eight people were killed and numerous others were injured. There was also an earlier car bomb in Mosul Sunday that was targeting a US military convoy but instead killed a high school student and injured 19 others.

But the biggest story to come out of Iraq over the weekend is word that two soldiers went missing Friday after an attack on an area checkpoint south of Baghdad. PFC. Thomas Lowell Tucker, 25, of Madras, Oregon, and PFC. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, Texas were officially reported as missing by the US Army Sunday night. A third soldier, SPC. David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Massachusetts, was killed in the same attack.

A group linked to al-Qaeda called Mujahedeen Shura Council took credit for the kidnapping on a website Monday, although no pictures or video of the captured soldiers were offered. This same group is also claiming to hold four Russian diplomats captured June 5, demanding that Moscow withdraw their troops from Chechnya.

The current status of either the soldiers or the diplomats is unknown.

“Wouldn’t you like that taste of the glory? – See what it tastes like?”

Oiler fans will be on the edge of their seats tonight as it all comes down to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in Raleigh, NC. The battle between the Edmonton Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes has been one of the most exciting finals in recent memory, with the Oilers remaining in contention despite losing goalie Dwayne Roloson in game one and returning to Edmonton for game three down to a 2-0 series deficit. In game six on Saturday night, the Oilers trounced Carolina 4-0 despite the Hurricanes tripling Edmonton in shots on net.

No matter how things end on the ice tonight, undoubtedly Edmonton police will be ready for the reaction when it spills out on to Whyte Ave after the game. The party on Saturday night lasted well into Sunday with 394 people arrested for unruly behaviour out of the roughly 30,000 hockey fans celebrating the win.

Li’l Kim Strikes Back

With the world’s attention focused on the nuclear hijinks of Iran lately, North Korean leader Kim Jung Il wants to remind everyone that he was the first member of the Axis of Evil to get the bomb. To this point it was announced that the communist nation was planning on test firing its fist long-range ballistic missile this week, which may end up being delayed due to bad weather at the launch site.

The missile is believed to be a 35-metre-long Taepodong-2 with a range of 15,000 kilometres, far enough to reach mainland North America. Pyongyang has abided by a moratorium on long-range missiles since 1999, but apparently they’re having none of that anymore saying that they have a right to defend themselves against US aggression.

North Korea has been participating in six party talks about scaling back their drive to nuclear proliferation, but the test of a missile system that could potentially deliver a nuclear payload is obviously not going to help matters. Further, the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea have promised serious consequences should the launch go forward.

This has also put talk of the US missile shield plan back on the front burner, and while the former Liberal government refused participation in the program, the Conservatives will probably be open to the possibility should the subject be broached again.

Of course, those in the know were warning about North Korea and ICBMs back when the US was rattling sabres about the imaginary WMDs in Iraq, but that’s why pencils have erasers. And there is no bigger eraser than the H-Bomb.

Big Chocolate buys big Dieter

In irony news, the Swiss chocolateer Nestle has officially bought the California-based diet business Jenny Craig in a deal that will be finalized in September. Jenny Craig has 600 weight-loss centres across the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and made $400 million US in the last year. But while Nestle is best known for their chocolates this is not their first foray into weight-loss; they also produce the Lean Cuisine line of frozen dinners.

A New (York) reason to not feel safe

Apparently, Al-Qaeda was planning to release poison gas into the New York City subway system in 2003, but thought better of it six weeks out from when the attack was scheduled to go down. This is according to a new book by investigative reporter Ron Suskind called The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9-11.

Supposedly the attack was to involve the use of cyanide gas and be similar in fashion to a gas attack on the Tokyo subway system by a doomsday cult in 1995. If such an attack had gone forward the casualties would have been equal or greater to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

According to Suskind, reaction in the White House at the time was mixed as to what he cancellation of the attacks meant. Apparently there was some fear on the part of President Bush that this was indication that something bigger was about to go down, but many security experts were of the opinion that the device that was supposed to deliver the poison was a dud and no where near as affectively operational as Al-Qaeda hoped.

Whatever the reason, this has further inflamed security issues in the States in what is already a very contentious mid-term election year. Many Republicans feel partially vindicated because they think that Suskind’s book proves that Bush wasn’t playing politics with the terror alert level in the months leading up to the 2004 presidential election. However, they have yet to explain why the ‘yellow’ alert status has been unchanged since November 2004. Probably just a coincidence.

On the other hand, Democrats like New York Senator Chuck Schumer seized the revelation to further prove the point to the Department of Homeland Security that reallocating security funds away from New York is a mistake. "This is just more evidence that what Homeland Security did to us was terribly misguided and just wrong," said Schumer "It shows that New York is the prime target, and shows the importance of prior intelligence and of manpower."

This past spring, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff announced cuts of $124.5 million US (or 40 per cent) to NYC’s federal anti-terrorism funding.

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