And the winner is … the Israel lobby

Related article: Israel Gives America Go-Ahead To Invade Iran

WASHINGTON – They’re all here – and they’re all ready to party. The three United States presidential candidates – John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Madam House speaker Nancy Pelosi. Most US senators and virtually half of the US Congress. Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. And a host of Jewish and non-Jewish political and academic heavy-hitters among the 7,000 participants.

Such star power wattage, a Washington version of the Oscars, is the stock in trade of AIPAC – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the crucial player in what is generally known as the Israel lobby and which holds its annual Policy Conference this week in Washington at which most of the heavyweights will deliver lectures.

Few books in recent years have been as explosive or controversial as The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, written by Stephen Walt from Harvard University and John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago, published in 2007. In it, professors Walt and Mearsheimer argued the case of the Israeli lobby not as “a cabal or conspiracy that ‘controls’ US foreign policy”, but as an extremely powerful interest group made up of Jews and non-Jews, a “loose coalition of individuals and organizations tirelessly working to move US foreign policy in Israel’s direction”.

Walt and Mearsheimer also made the key point that “anyone who criticizes Israeli actions or says that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle East policy stands a good chance of being labeled an anti-Semite”. Anyone for that matter who “says that there is an Israeli lobby” also runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism.

All the candidates in the House say yeah
Republican presidential candidate McCain is opening this year’s AIPAC jamboree; Clinton and Obama are closing it on Wednesday. Walt and Mearsheimer’s verdict on the dangerous liaisons between presidential candidates and AIPAC remains unimpeachable: “None of the candidates is likely to criticize Israel in any significant way or suggest that the US ought to pursue a more evenhanded policy in the region. And those who do will probably fall by the wayside.”

Take what Clinton said in February at an AIPAC meeting in New York: “Israel is a beacon of what’s right in a neighborhood overshadowed by the wrongs of radicalism, extremism, despotism and terrorism.” A year before, Clinton was in favor of sitting and talking to Iran’s leadership.

Read moreAnd the winner is … the Israel lobby

Italy is stealing cars

Italy has begun confiscating the cars of people driving under the effect of drugs or alcohol in the latest attempt to lower one of western Europe’s highest rates of road casualties.

Two drivers in their early 20s, a woman under the influence of alcohol and a man who had smoked a cannabis joint, have had their cars seized in northern Italy since the legislation came into effect at the end of last month.

The new legislation states that any driver who tests positive for any illegal drug or has blood alcohol levels exceeding set limits can have their car confiscated, as well as toughening fines and jail sentences.

The cars are to be auctioned off or used by the police, as is already the case for vehicles confiscated from mafia offenders and drug dealers.

Breathalyzer testing is not frequent in Italy, where 5,669 people died on the roads in 2006, the most recent data available. National statistics bureau ISTAT said the authorities must focus on curbing drunken driving to make the roads safer.

Wed Jun 4, 1:09 PM ET

Source: Reuters

Lehman hedges lose $500m to $700m

Lehman Brothers lost $500m-$700m on certain hedging positions in the second quarter, contributing to what is expected to be a larger-than-anticipated loss that may lead the bank to raise more capital by selling a stake to an outside investor.

People close to the matter said Lehman had opened talks with potential investors including asset managers and Asian banks.

Read moreLehman hedges lose $500m to $700m

Why are the police using surveillance on journalists?

Police should stop routine surveillance of reporters and photographers covering demonstrations in London, the National Union of Journalists has told Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear made the call in a letter to Smith after receiving complaints that journalists, particularly photographers, were facing what amounted to harassment by members of the Metropolitan Police Forward Intelligence Team (FIT).

Dear said the NUJ had serious concerns about the FIT’s activities in monitoring and recording the activities of bona fide journalists, especially photographers.

“A number of members have alleged that the police’s surveillance action amounts to virtual harassment and is a serious threat to their right to carry out their lawful employment,” he said.

Read moreWhy are the police using surveillance on journalists?

400,000 Troops needed For Afghanistan

No, that’s not a typo. The outgoing US commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan says it would require 400,000 troops to secure that country.

ISAF Commander McNeill has said himself that according to the current counterterrorism doctrine, it would take 400,000 troops to pacify Afghanistan in the long term. But the reality is that he has only 47,000 soldiers under his command, together with another 18,000 troops fighting at their sides as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and possibly another 75,000 reasonably well-trained soldiers in the Afghan army by the end of the year. All told, there is still a shortfall of 260,000 men.

Gen Dan McNeill is one of the straight-shooters of the US military, he says what he means and says it when it needs said. Four hundred thousand troops. As opposed to the less than 200,000 sent to Iraq for the Surge.

Worse, it costs the U. S. three times to maintain a soldier in Afghanistan that it costs it to maintain a soldier in Iraq. Consequently, the U. S.’s maintaining a force of 400,000 in Afghanistan would cost us nearly ten times what we’re spending in Iraq right now.

But as Brandon Freidman points out today, the alternative – what is happening right now – is that the US is losing on the central front of the poorly named “War On Terror”.

Read more400,000 Troops needed For Afghanistan

Fishermen clash with police at EU


Riot police confront fishermen in Brussels

Police have clashed with hundreds of fishermen protesting against the high cost of fuel outside the headquarters of the European Union in Brussels.

Several windows in EU buildings were broken and at least one car was overturned during the demonstration.

Riot police responded by firing water cannon and launching baton charges.

The fishermen have said they will go out of business unless the EU allows national governments to give them more financial aid and subsidise their fuel.

French fishermen have been on strike for several weeks over the price of diesel, which has risen by 240% in the past five years.

In recent days they have been joined by members of fleets from the UK, Spain, Portugal and Italy, who have blockaded ports across Europe, and truck drivers.

Restructuring

With foghorns, flags and flares, hundreds of mainly French and Italian fishermen stopped traffic on the main road in the European district of the Belgian capital.

We came here… to tell Europe to stop getting in the way of the French government trying to help us
Philippe Margoud

After several hours of stand-off, the protest turned violent. A car was overturned, bins were set on fire and windows were smashed by flares.

Riot police lined up behind a barbed-wire barricade in front of the European Commission responded by attempting to disperse the crowd with water cannons and baton charges.

Earlier, a delegation of fishermen met senior EU officials briefly outside the Commission’s headquarters to explain their grievances and demand emergency aid from both the EU and their countries’ governments.

Read moreFishermen clash with police at EU

McCain: I’d Spy on Americans Secretly, Too

If elected president, Senator John McCain would reserve the right to run his own warrantless wiretapping program against Americans, based on the theory that the president’s wartime powers trump federal criminal statutes and court oversight, according to a statement released by his campaign Monday.

McCain’s new tack towards the Bush administration’s theory of executive power comes some 10 days after a McCain surrogate stated, incorrectly it seems, that the senator wanted hearings into telecom companies’ cooperation with President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, before he’d support giving those companies retroactive legal immunity.

As first reported by Threat Level, Chuck Fish, a full-time lawyer for the McCain campaign, also said McCain wanted stricter rules on how the nation’s telecoms work with U.S. spy agencies, and expected those companies to apologize for any lawbreaking before winning amnesty.

But Monday, McCain adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin, speaking for the campaign, disavowed those statements, and for the first time cast McCain’s views on warrantless wiretapping as identical to Bush’s.

[N]either the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. […]

We do not know what lies ahead in our nation’s fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.

The Article II citation is key, since it refers to President Bush’s longstanding arguments that the president has nearly unlimited powers during a time of war. The administration’s analysis went so far as to say the Fourth Amendment did not apply inside the United States in the fight against terrorism, in one legal opinion from 2001.

Read moreMcCain: I’d Spy on Americans Secretly, Too

UK: Compulsory microchipping of dogs

Related article: CASPIAN RELEASES MICROCHIP CANCER REPORT

The Government is being urged to consider the compulsory microchipping of dogs to reduce the number of strays and help combat irresponsible owners.

If that failed to solve the problems, mandatory licences could be the solution, David Bowles, the RSPCA’s head of external affairs, said.

“Why do we still have a stray animal problem? Why do we have an increasing dangerous dog problem? The answer has to come down to education, enforcement of legislation and, in certain cases, microchipping and dog licensing,” he said.

Read moreUK: Compulsory microchipping of dogs

Water Fluoridation: Company Refuses to Give Details of Areas Affected

THE company that could be forced to add fluoride to Hampshire residents’ tap water has refused to tell the Daily Echo exactly where the medicated supplies would go.

Southern Water says it is referring all requests for information on the proposed fluoridation scheme to South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA), because it doesn’t want to run the risk of giving out conflicting details.

As revealed in yesterday’s Daily Echo, more than 36,000 people living outside Southampton’s boundaries would also receive fluoridated water.

But when the paper contacted the company for details of the areas the request was refused.

Read moreWater Fluoridation: Company Refuses to Give Details of Areas Affected

U.S. Internet will shrink to 2 strong players

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – An Internet analyst for a major Wall Street firm argues in a new report that Google Inc and Amazon.com Inc will be long-term winners, while Yahoo and IAC InterActiveCorp fall by the wayside and eBay Inc becomes a merger target.

Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Jeffrey Lindsay argues in a 310-page report entitled “U.S. Internet: The End of the Beginning” to be published on Tuesday that Google and Amazon are best placed to withstand the current economic downturn.

“We expect two players to continue to perform strongly, Google and Amazon,” Lindsay writes. “Both Google and Amazon.com are still racking up annual growth rates in the 30-40 percent range, with only a relatively modest slowdown in sight.”

Lindsay reiterates his previous positions that Yahoo eventually will be sold to Microsoft Corp and that Barry Diller’s IAC e-commerce conglomerate will go ahead in August with its five-way split-up, as planned.

Read moreU.S. Internet will shrink to 2 strong players