A chilly Latin American reception for President Bush. As he “opened a weeklong tour of Latin America” yesterday, “police clashed with protesters in Brazil and across the region.” Adding insult to injury, “Mayan priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate ‘bad spirits’” after Bush visits next week.
Valerie Plame, the former covert CIA agent whose cover was blown by the Bush administration, has agreed to testify before the House Committee on Government Reform “about the disclosure and how the White House handled it.”
“One day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later,” said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), in a “scathing criticism” of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s “handling of the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.”
“More than a quarter of military veterans with disability cases before the Department of Veterans Affairs wait six months or longer for the agency’s decision, creating financial hardships for them and their families. … As of March 3, the VA had almost 401,000 pending cases for disability compensation with almost 115,000 languishing for six months or more.”
The Bush administration said it is “open to holding direct talks with either Iran or Syria over how to help mend Iraq at a regional conference this weekend.” David Satterfield, the State Department’s Iraq coordinator, said yesterday that “if we are approached over orange juice by the Syrians or the Iranians to discuss an Iraq-related issue that is germane to this topic — stable, secure, peaceful, democratic Iraq — we are not going to turn and walk away.”
“Violent crime rose by double-digit percentages in cities across the country over the last two years, reversing the declines of the mid-to-late 1990s,” according to a report by the Police Executive Research Forum. “There are pockets of crime in this country that are astounding,” said Chuck Wexler, the group’s executive director.
A letter to McConnell signed by leaders of two Sept. 11 family groups — Voices of September 11 and Families of September 11 — expressed “grave concern that your recent introduction of highly provocative, irrelevant amendments will jeopardize the passage” of the bill.
Brig. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, a “combat-arms brigadier general from Fort Knox,” “will take over as deputy commanding general of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.” The move is intended to “inject a battlefield perspective into what has traditionally been a solely medical operation.” Meanwhile, Army Chief of Staff Richard Cody “has dispatched teams to numerous Army hospitals around the country to identify any similar problems.”
The European Union has agreed on “ambitious and credible” greenhouse gas emissions targets. The agreement would require “greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by at least 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, and ensure 20 percent of its power comes from renewable energy, a massive increase from the current figure of just over 6 percent.”
And finally: The State Department’s human rights report is “very nice!” “Fictional Kazakh TV reporter Borat has made an unexpected cameo appearance as a victim of censorship in a heavyweight annual human rights report issued by the US State Department. … The report cited Borat’s loss of his Kazakh webpage http://www.borat.kz in late 2005 alongside court cases and limits on free speech faced by the few domestic media critical of Kazakhstan’s long-serving President Nursultan Nazarbayev.”