Showing posts from May, 2008

Bhutto said to have traded nuke tech for Nork missile tech

Washington Post: Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, on a state visit to North Korea in 1993, smuggled in critical data on uranium enrichment -- a route to making a nuclear weapon -- to help facilitate a missile deal with Pyongyang, according to a new book by a journalist who knew the slain politician well. The assertion is based on conversations that the author, Shyam Bhatia, had with Bhutto in 2003, in which she said she would tell him a secret "so significant that I had to promise never to reveal it, at least not during her lifetime," Bhatia writes in "Goodbye, Shahzadi," which was published in India last month. Bhutto was slain in December while campaigning to win back the prime minister's post. The account, if verified, could advance the timeline for North Korea's interest in uranium enrichment. David Albright , president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a research organization on nuclear weapons programs, said the

Pfleger Pfinally Pfalters

Chicago Sun-Times: The Rev. Michael Pfleger, who helped reignite Barack Obama's pastor problems by mocking Hillary Clinton, said this evening he's received "thousands of hate threats" since his videotaped pulpit rant. "They want to kill me," Pfleger told parishioners during a service in a St. Sabina Church chapel on Chicago's South Side this evening. "It's been very ugly." The firebrand Catholic Priest made his controversial Clinton comments last Sunday at Trinity United Church of Christ, home church of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor. Pfleger mocked Clinton for crying on the campaign trail, and suggested it was "white entitlement" leading Clinton to believe the Democratic nomination should go to her -- not Obama. His speech was videotaped, and quickly made the rounds on the Internet and on television, leading Obama to express his "disappointment" in the activist priest, whom he has known for year

Brits say Taliban on the run

Observer /Guardian: The Taliban have been tactically routed in southern Afghanistan, with enemy forces 'licking their wounds' after a series of emphatic defeats, say senior British military commanders. In one of the most bullish assessments yet of the conflict in Helmand province, Brigadier Gordon Messenger said the Taliban's command structure had been 'fractured' and its fighters forced on to the backfoot. As British forces continue to consolidate positions throughout the Helmand valley, Messenger said latest intelligence indicated that the ferocious fighting that had defined Helmand for the past two summers was unlikely to be repeated. 'It's become apparent that the Taliban are very much on the backfoot. Their leadership both south of the border [Pakistan] and also their local leadership has been severely dislocated and fractured. 'We are not complacent and suggesting that they do not have the capacity to regenerate, but they are very much off the fron

Former Mossad agent could be Israel's next woman PM

Sunday Times: The frontrunner to become Israel’s next prime minister, Tzipi Livni, was a Paris agent for Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence agency, in the early 1980s when it ran a series of missions to kill Palestinian terrorists in European capitals, according to former colleagues. They say Livni, now foreign minister, was on active service when Mamoun Meraish, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organisation, was shot dead by a Mossad hit squad in Athens on August 21, 1983. She was not directly involved in the killing, in which two young men on a motorcycle drew alongside Meraish’s car and opened fire, but her role in Mossad remains secret. Shortly afterwards Livni resigned and returned to Israel to complete her law studies, citing the pressures of the job. A quarter of a century later, Livni, 49, is poised to become prime minister amid accusations that Ehud Olmert, who has led Israel for the past 2½ years, accepted bribes from an American businessman. ... Livni j

News you can use

From the Sunday Telegraph: Golf 'adds five years to your life' Too bad I can't hit a ball that is not even moving.

This was not necessary when I was in school

The Sunday Telegraph: Teachers told to report hungover pupils I am pretty sure it was not a problem when my kids were in school. Maybe it is a UK thing. The teachers are supposed to "refer repeat offenders to addiction clinics."

Head of al Qaeda European network killed in recent attack

Observer /Guardian: An al-Qaeda trainer and explosives specialist involved in a range of European terrorist networks has been killed in Pakistan, the latest senior militant to die in a spate of controversial American missile strikes. The death two weeks ago of Abu Suleiman al-Jazairi, a highly experienced Algerian militant, has been confirmed only in the last few days, intelligence sources in Pakistan and Western Europe told The Observer. Al-Jazairi, thought to have been 45, died along with at least 15 others when the house in which he was staying in Pakistan's Bajaur tribal district was hit by a missile fired from a Predator, an American pilotless drone. Details are only now emerging about the strike on Damadola, a village near the Afghan-Pakistan border hit twice in the past. The house targeted and destroyed by the drone is believed to belong to a former Afghan Taliban defence minister, Maulvi Obaidullah, members of whose family, including women and children, are thought to have

Koran lesson abuse kills boy

Sunday Telegraph: The parents of a blind seven-year-old who was sent to a religious school in Pakistan have told how he was hung by his feet from a ceiling and beaten to death after failing to memorize the Koran. The parents of Mohammed Atif admitted that they had ignored their son Mohammed's repeated complaints about abuse at the madrassah. Police in the Punjab province said that Mohammed's religious teacher, Qari Ziauddin, was now in custody charged with torturing and murdering the boy on Thursday. Police said Ziauddin, whose title "Qari" signifies he is a mullah, had suspended the boy from a ceiling fan for an hour before he beat him. When he realised how badly Mohammed was hurt, he apparently fled instead of taking him to hospital. The boy's body was not discovered until the next day when fellow pupils, including Mohammed's cousin, realised he had not slept in his bed. They searched the madrassah and found his battered

Obama leaves his Chicago church

Gateway Pundit has several links to Obama's decision to leave Trinity United Church of Christ. I can't say I blame him. They have embarrassed him repeatedly during this campaign. But their real sin is to expose what a fraud his message of unity has been. If he can't bring the people he worshiped with for 20 years to reason on issues of race and common sense, how can he bring people who are not his friends together? By leaving he accepts his failure. Jeff Zeleny at the NY Times Caucus blog says: ... Mr. Obama, as he prepares for a general election campaign against Senator John McCain, was seeking to put the controversy over his church behind him. It remains an open question whether this move will do that or will simply draw more attention to his decision to be a member of the church for two decades. I think he is correct. He will be asked what he did in his 20 year association with the church to heal the racial scabs that many in the church kept picking at. What all t

Any time any place?

Trochilus Tales reminds us that Obama has said he is ready to debate John McCain anytime and any place on issues of national security. Trochilus suggest that debate take place in Iraq. Heh.

Careful al Qaeda, you have to sleep sometime

AP: Muslim extremist women are challenging al-Qaida's refusal to include — or at least acknowledge — women in its ranks, in an emotional debate that gives rare insight into the gender conflicts lurking beneath one of the strictest strains of Islam. In response to a female questioner, al-Qaida No. 2 leader Ayman Al-Zawahri said in April that the terrorist group does not have women. A woman's role, he said on the Internet audio recording, is limited to caring for the homes and children of al-Qaida fighters. His remarks have since prompted an outcry from fundamentalist women, who are fighting or pleading for the right to be terrorists. The statements have also created some confusion, because in fact suicide bombings by women seem to be on the rise, at least within the Iraq branch of al-Qaida. A'eeda Dahsheh is a Palestinian mother of four in Lebanon who said she supports al-Zawahri and has chosen to raise children at home as her form of jihad . However, she said, she als

Irag military getting control in Mosul

NY Times: The recent successes in quieting violence in Basra and Sadr City appear to be stretching to the long-rebellious Sunni Arab district here in Mosul, raising hopes that the Iraqi Army may soon have tenuous control over all three of Iraq’s major cities. In this city, never subdued by the increase of American troops in Iraq last year, weekly figures on attacks are down by half since May 10, when the Iraqi military began intensified operations here with the backing of the American military. Iraqi soldiers searching house to house, within American tank cordons, have arrested more than 1,000 people suspected of insurgent activity. The Iraqi soldiers “are heady from the Basra experience,” Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the commander of American forces in Mosul, said in an interview. “They have learned the right lessons.” The crucial lesson, in fact, over the past month appears to be that all sides — the Iraqi military as well as various insurgent groups — prefer, at the moment, not

How low has al Qaeda sunk?

It is claiming credit for a failed attack on a refinery in Yemen according to Reuters. ... " Al Qaeda Organisation in the Arabian Peninsula -- Yemen Soldiers Brigades -- carried out the blessed operation with three mortar shells ... on the refinery used by Yemen's despot to supply fuel to the Crusaders (Western states) in their war against Islam," the group said on an Islamist website. ... These guys sound like they have been stealing their material from late night comedy writers. The mortar attack caused no damage to the refinery. The internet claim does some damage to al Qaeda's reputation as terrorist and being PR savvy.

Shia rebels in Yemen are fighting within 12 miles of capital

AP /San Diego Union-Tribune: Yemeni government forces have beaten back an advance by northern rebels who brought their fight to within 12 miles of the capital, officials and witnesses said Saturday. Eyewitness Hamoud Mohammed said many houses were demolished in the village of Bani Heshiash near San'a after three days of airstrikes and shelling by government forces battling the rebels. Artillery shells could be heard exploding in the area over the weekend. “The bodies of the dead were seen in the streets, left unburied because of the intensity of the strikes,” Mohammed said. “Water and medicine is scarce and the injured have to drive dangerous roads to the capital for proper treatment.” Tribal officials and medics said scores have been killed on both sides in fighting over the past few weeks. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns and the government did not provide any casualty figures. The rebels from the al-Zaydi sect of Shiite Islam have been fighting i

Egypt finds big arms cache in cave near Gaza

Jerusalem Post: An Egyptian police official says boxes of ammunitions, RPGs and anti-aircraft missiles have been uncovered inside a mountain in the northern Sinai peninsula. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said the weapons were to be smuggled into the neighboring Gaza Strip. The mountain is about 80 kilometers (48 miles) south of Rafah on the Gaza border. It has been used before as a shelter for local Islamic groups that carried out three major bomb attacks starting October 2004 in Sinai. They killed 125 people in total. The official said some 2,200 bullets, 30 anti-aircraft missiles, several sacks packed with hand grenades and automatic rifles, and RPG launchers were stored inside the mountain. ... The story does not indicate the origin of the cache. I would be very curious to know whether the weapons were from Iran. Hopefully the Egyptia

Gen. Mattis to testify in Chessani's Haditha case

NCT: Military prosecutors will call on Marine Gen. James Mattis to testify Monday about whether a lower-ranking officer improperly influenced his decision to file criminal charges against a Marine tied to the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha, a civilian defense attorney said Friday. Mattis is in charge of U.S. Joint Forces Command, and also is the supreme allied commander in charge of military modernization for NATO. It is rare for a four-star general to testify in a court-martial or pretrial proceedings. Lt. Col. Sean Gibson, a Marine Corps spokesman for the Haditha trials, would not confirm whether Mattis would testify. He said the Marine Corps does not provide witness lists for court matters in advance of the hearing, nor do they discuss the travel plans of generals. Mattis is based in Norfolk, Va. Defense attorney Brian Rooney, who represents Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, said Friday that government prosecutors are calling Mattis to rebut a military judge's finding that t

The ignorance of Barack Obama

Jack Kelly: HE GENERATES even more gaffes than Dan Quayle. "We have not exhausted our nonmilitary options in confronting the Iranian threat; in many ways, we have yet to try them," Sen. Barack Obama says on his Web site. "If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization." ... "Perhaps Mr. Obama is unaware that one of [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad's first acts was to freeze Tehran's efforts for securing WTO membership because he regards the outfit as 'a nest of conspiracies by Zionists and Americans,'•" wrote Amir Taheri in the Wall Street Journal this week. In 2006, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice offered Iran a package of incentives including "improving Iran's access to the international economy, markets, and capital, through practical support for full integration into international structures, including the WTO." .... should

Communist economy doesn't work in Cuba, neither do many Cubans

Miami Herald: Loraicys is 27 years old, has never worked, and refuses to take just any job. She is not alone. As Raúl Castro embarks on an ambitious plan to kick-start the communist nation's economy, he faces daunting challenges: Many Cubans simply do not work. Decades of measly salaries and vast government subsidies have kept many young people off the labor rolls because it's more lucrative to hustle on the street. Others live comfortably enough off remittances from Miami and elsewhere. Loraicys passes on neighborhood janitor positions in hopes of higher-paying work at nearby resort hotels, where she also would have a chance of earning tips in dollars. ''I am not going to tell you something different: there are jobs here in Cárdenas where I live. Doing what? Cleaning hospitals for 150 pesos ($7) a month,'' said Loraicys, a single mom. ``For 150 pesos, I would rather stay home with my kid. I am willing to work really hard, but not for nothing in return.''

"I came here to learn"

Scott Stroud: When my 9-year-old daughter first told us about her school's Student Council elections, it sounded like one of those harsh early lessons we all have to learn about politics. “It's all about who's popular,” she said at dinner the other night. But as the story unfolded, her mom and I found it more compelling than she expected — and not in the way she expected. The “popular” student elected Student Council president was Abakar Baraka, a 10-year-old “resettlement student” who enrolled at Colonies North Elementary School on Feb. 12. A refugee from the Darfur region of Sudan, Abakar is one of several hundred students from all over the world who've been welcomed into the Northside Independent School District this year through the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program. Our daughter wasn't in Abakar's class and didn't know him well, but she theorized he won because his supporters included dozens of ref

Aid for the enemy

Reuters /Washington Post: A U.S.-backed paramilitary force in Pakistan's lawless border area may be aiding Taliban fighters, according to American officials who say the support may cause Congress to freeze some security funds for Islamabad. Signs that Pakistan's Frontier Corps is helping Taliban and al Qaeda-linked groups cross into Afghanistan only exacerbates U.S. frustration over Pakistan's plans to secure peace deals with fighters in that region, where Osama bin Laden is thought to hide. "We cannot rely on Pakistan to stop the traffic of terrorists crossing that border despite the strong statements of its leaders," said Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the U.S. Senate's committee on armed forces. Levin and some U.S. defense officials said Taliban fighters may also be getting assistance from Pakistan's army. "If that's our intelligence assessment, then there's a real question as to whether or not we should be putti

The Mugabe campaign

From the BBC: Troops 'must back Mugabe or quit' I guess orders are orders. The shameful government of Zimbabwe has given up the pretense of a fair election long ago but this order seems to make it official. What kind of legitimacy does the Mugabe government think it can get from this type of election? It might be more humane to just quit pretending and tell everyone Mugabe intends to be a dictator.

Economic slander

Michael Barone: ... By any historic standard, our economic numbers are good, though possibly headed in a negative direction. April's unemployment was 5 percent -- a figure that once upon a time was considered full employment. The Consumer Price Index was up 3.9 percent, largely due to price rises in energy and food. "Core inflation" was 2.3 percent. Productivity was up 2.2 percent. Those are numbers that would have been taken as a sign of very good times when I was growing up. Then, we had recessions every four or five years and bad bouts of inflation in the 1940s, 1950s and 1970s, and unemployment sometimes surged to 10 percent nationally and to 15 percent in industrial states like Michigan. In contrast, we've had only two mild recessions since 1983, with a third now possible but not yet in view. In those 25 years, we have had low-inflation economic growth more than 90 percent of the time -- something never before achieved in American history. Alan Greenspan ti

Will McCain get Hillary's voters?

Jennifer Rubin: There is a lot of bitterness out there. And it’s not coming from rural voters in Appalachia. There are legions of Hillary Clinton supporters—from Emily List activists to NARAL members to middle-aged female fans—who do not like the impending outcome of the Democratic primary. They are downright angry about some of the language employed by the media to describe Clinton, and at what they see as the media’s undue haste in shoving her out of the race. And they don’t like some of the phrases tossed around by Barack Obama (“Sweetie”; “You’re likable enough, Hillary”) either. The major newspapers now regale us with stories about the many women, especially but not limited to the Geraldine Ferraro generation, who threaten to withhold their votes from Obama. Such angry and disillusioned female Democrats seem, for the moment, to be everywhere. But even if we accept that this phenomenon is real (even if encouraged by Clinton herself), the question going forward is this: Will thes

War against women extends to the womb

Mark Steyn: "Someone wins, someone doesn't win, that's life," Nancy Kopp, Maryland's treasurer, told The Washington Post. "But women don't want to be totally dissed." She was talking about her political candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Democratic women are feeling metaphorically battered by the Obama campaign. "Healing The Wounds Of Democrats' Sexism," as the Boston Globe headline put it, will not be easy. Geraldine Ferraro is among many prominent Democrat ladies putting up their own money for a study from the Shorenstein Center at Harvard to determine whether Sen. Clinton's presidential hopes fell victim to party and media sexism. How else to explain why their gal got clobbered by a pretty boy with a resume you could print on the back of his driver's license, a Rolodex apparently limited to neosegregationist race-baiters, campus Marxist terrorists and indicted fraudsters, and a rhetorical surefootedness that makes Dan Qua

Why is al Qaeda on the run?

Wall Street Journal Editorial: A year ago in July, a National Intelligence Estimate warned that al Qaeda had "protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability," meaning it could be poised to strike America again. The political reaction was instantaneous and damning. "This clearly says al Qaeda is not beaten," said Michael Scheuer, the former CIA spook turned antiterror scold. What a difference 10 months – and a surge – make. CIA Director Michael Hayden painted a far more optimistic picture in an interview yesterday in the Washington Post. "On balance, we are doing pretty well," he said. "Near strategic defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al Qaeda globally – and here I'm going to use the word 'ideologically' – as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam." What happened? To certain sophisticates, this is all al Qaeda's

Pessimist says we are not winning

Washington Post: Previewing the world for the next U.S. president, a top U.S. intelligence official this week predicted that the Bush administration would make little progress before leaving office on top national security priorities including an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, political reconciliation in Iraq and keeping Iran from being able to produce a nuclear weapon. A regenerated al-Qaeda will remain the leading terrorism threat, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Donald M. Kerr said. Pakistan's "inward" political focus and failure to control the tribal territories where al-Qaeda maintains a haven, he said, is "the number one thing we worry about." Kerr's analysis, in a speech Thursday evening that he posited as a presidential intelligence briefing delivered on Jan. 21, 2009, contrasted with more optimistic administration forecasts of rapprochement among Iraq's political forces and a possible Middle East peace agreement in

How did George Bush let this happen?

NY Times: On a recent evening here, Greg Tew, 28, considered the question: What is it like to work in a state that is creating more jobs than workers? He was sitting in the lobby of a new hotel in downtown Des Moines, part of an extensive redevelopment investment to attract workers to Iowa . “It is noticeable,” Mr. Tew, a computer programmer at EMC Insurance Companies, said of the jobs surplus. “You’re a hot commodity. Salaries go up just because companies are fighting to retain the talent they have.” His friend Stacy Berenguel, 28, a financial advisor at Citi Smith Barney, said that while she was very conscious of talk of a national recession, some of her friends in Iowa were switching jobs over company amenities, like fitness centers. “Even when I’ve had friends laid off, they had no problem finding jobs,” she said. “So I’m willing to take financial risks, like splurging. Last weekend I went to Chicago and shopped for clothes and shoes. It was great. There were sales everywhere.” Ar

Narco terrorism in Mexico

NY Times: A massacre here two weeks ago has turned this once sleepy town into a ghostly emblem of the drug violence that has swept Mexico over the last year and a half, gutting local police forces, terrifying citizens and making it almost impossible for the authorities to assert themselves. On the night of May 17, dozens of men with assault rifles rolled into town in several trucks and shot up the place. They killed the police chief, two officers and three civilians. Then they carried off about 10 people, witnesses said. Only one has been found, dead and wrapped in a carpet in Ciudad Juárez. The entire municipal police force quit after the attack, and officials fled the town for several days, leaving so hastily that they did not release the petty criminals held in the town lockup. The state and federal governments sent in 300 troops and 16 state police officers, restoring an uneasy semblance of order. But townspeople remain terrified. “Yeah, we’re afraid, everyone’s afraid,” said José

Cowboys the rage in Paris

Times: They turn out in their hundreds in Stetsons and boots as hits such as the Crazy Foot Mambo and the Cowboy Strut echo around their village halls. They are drawn by a love of American culture - although definitely not American politics - and a passion for line dancing, which enables them to swing but avoid all human contact. Now country and western has become so big in France that the country's bureaucrats have decided to bring the craze under state control. The French administration has moved to create an official country dancing diploma as part of a drive to regulate the fad. Authorised instructors who have been on publicly funded training courses will be put in charge of line dancing lessons and balls. The rules, which come into force next year, come after the rapid spread of country and western in France, where an estimated 100,000 people line dance several times a week. Jean Chauveau, the chairman of the country section of the French Dance Federation, said: “It'

Rebellion against the climate change control freaks

Tom Blumer: While the three remaining presidential candidates try to out-green each other, the rest of the world is rebelling at the astronomical costs involved. “Somehow” this rebellion has received little U.S. media attention. This explains how Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain can still advocate government- and tax-heavy approaches with straight faces. Meanwhile, my nearly daily emails from the indefatigable Benny Peiser of CCnet , whose assemblages of environment and science links and summaries are essential for anyone who wants to keep up with worldwide environmentalist mischief, tell me that: Governments elsewhere are balking at meeting mandatory targets for reducing so-called greenhouse emissions. A recent G8- and Europe-related example is here (”Rich nations must lead on climate change: UN official”). Those same governments are using “climate protection” as a crutch as they attempt to do what governments do best — raise taxes. Citizens, and politicians preferrin

Greenland likes global warming

The Scotsman: RARELY a month goes by without another scientific survey proclaiming that Greenland's ice sheet is melting faster than previously thought. But for the 56,000 people who live on the giant Arctic island, climate change is now being seen as an opportunity rather than a threat: a passport to prosperity, perhaps even independence. The self-governing Danish territory didn't miss the chance to promote itself on the world stage this week when diplomats from Denmark, Norway, Russia, Canada and the United States gathered in the town of Ilulissat, halfway up the west coast, to discuss competing claims for territory in a region believed to contain a quarter of the world's un-discovered oil and gas reserves. "We are the first ones to notice climate changes, so it's important people co-operate with us," said Greenland's prime minister, Hans Enoksen. "We live in the Arctic and are daily users of the natural world, so we feel it's importa

Pak nuke proliferator tries to recant

AP /San Antonio Express-News: Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan says he was forced to confess to passing nuclear secrets to North Korea, Libya and Iran, a British newspaper reported Friday. Khan was detained in 2004 after admitting to passing on nuclear technology to other countries and has been held under house arrest in Islamabad. But in an interview with The Guardian, Khan was quoted as saying he was forced into making the confession. "It was not of my own free will. It was handed into my hand," Khan is quoted as telling the newspaper. He did not deny that Pakistan had secretly passed nuclear technology to other nations. But he said he did not profit from the smuggling. "I never sold anything and I never got any money. Nobody has proved this and nobody can prove it," he said. Experts have said they suspect that Khan was persuaded to make the confession in order to conceal government involvement in the trafficking. Though reviled in the West, Khan

McCain trusted more than Obama on Iraq, national security, taxes

Rasmussen Reports: When it comes to the economy, 47% of voters trust John McCain more than Barack Obama . Obama is trusted more by 41%. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey also found that, when it comes to the War in Iraq , McCain is trusted more by 49% of voters. Obama is preferred by 37%. McCain has an even larger edge--€”53% to 31%--on the broader topic of National Security. These results are little changed from a month ago. Obama enjoys a 43% to 39% advantage when it comes to government ethics and reducing corruption. McCain has a 44% to 38% advantage on taxes. It is interesting to note that while McCain has the edge over Obama on these issues, Democrats are trusted more than Republicans on a generic basis. This ability of McCain to outperform the party label helps explain why he is competitive with the Democrats in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking poll . When it comes to the economy, men trust McCain more by a 55% to 33% ma

May 2008 one of the least violent months of Iraq war

USA Today: This May has been one of the least violent months of the Iraq war. The relative calm follows a cease-fire agreement by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia in the face of steady pressure from U.S. and Iraqi forces. Eighteen U.S. servicemembers have been identified as having died in Iraq so far in May, according to the Pentagon. To date, the least deadly month of the five-year war was February 2004, when 21 U.S. troops were killed in a 29-day period. The number of wounded also has fallen. Overall, militant attacks in Iraq have dropped to levels not seen since spring 2004, U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll said this week. Attacks are down 70% since President Bush ordered a U.S. troop increase, or "surge," early last year. ... In contrast May of 2007 was one of the most violent months. Clearly the surge has made a significant difference. It is time for Democrats to be paying a political price for being wrong about it.

Venezuela imports of petroleum increase 150%

AP /IHT: Venezuela's state petroleum company, PDVSA, increased petroleum imports by nearly 150 percent between the first quarter of 2007 and the same period this year, bank statistics show. A report by the Venezuelan Central Bank this week demonstrated that petroleum imports reached US$1.5 billion (€964 million) during the first quarter of 2008. The imports — which include diesel oil, gasoline and chemical additives for gasoline products — are the country's highest in more than a decade. ... While Venezuela is still a net exporter, the fact that they have to import certain petroleum products suggest that since Chavez take over of the industry they have become more dependent on foreign sources. This makes Chavez vulnerable in much the same way Iran is because it lacks a domestic refinery capacity.