Friday, March 28, 2008

U.S. pressure on Pakistan to attack militants may backfire

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Top U.S. officials on Thursday publicly questioned the plans of Pakistan's newly elected civilian government to negotiate with militants in the country's border region with Afghanistan and instead urged the continued use of military force.

[The] visit been widely criticized for taking place before a new government was fully formed.

AP - Pakistanis burn a U.S. flag Tuesday
to protest the visit of U.S. officials John Negroponte
and Richard Boucher.

"To my mind, it seems ham-handed insensitivity that brought Negroponte and Boucher to Pakistan. Because certainly no one has welcomed their visit here," said Pervez Hoodbhoy, one of the country's leading political commentators. "It's a sign of panic, anxiety, of things slipping through their hand."

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Conservative Endorses Obama

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The Wall Street Journal Home Page

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March 24, 2008 11:21 p.m.

Barack Obama's speech on race relations played well in many circles and helped secure him the endorsement of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson last Friday. On Sunday, Mr. Obama was also endorsed by a lesser-known but more surprising figure -- a constitutional law professor who headed the Office of Legal Counsel for both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

Doug Kmiec is a respected professor at Pepperdine Law School, where Ken Starr serves as dean. He certainly hasn't shown much previous inclination towards political apostasy -- earlier this month he was still serving as co-chair of the Mitt Romney campaign's Committee on the Courts and the Constitution.

[Barack Obama]

Mr. Kmiec made his endorsement known in a blog posting on so he clearly wasn't looking for too big a splash. But while he is unlikely to be joined by a posse of other Reaganites, his reasoning deserves some attention.

He begins by acknowledging that Mr. Obama holds views far more liberal than his on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. However, he apparently has embraced the "audacity of hope" in those areas: "I am convinced based upon his public pronouncements and his personal writing that on each of these questions he is not closed to understanding opposing points of view, and as best as it is humanly possible, he will respect and accommodate them."

Then he moves to the crux of his decision, which comes down to the Iraq War: "Our president has involved our nation in a military engagement without sufficient justification or clear objective. In so doing, he has incurred both tragic loss of life and extraordinary debt jeopardizing the economy and the well-being of the average American citizen."

Mr. Kmiec then goes on to assert: "The office of the presidency, which it was once my privilege to defend... has been distorted beyond its constitutional assignment."

Supporters of the Iraq War have every reason to question why Mr. Kmiec would endorse someone who favors a withdrawal within 16 months, with potentially devastating consequences. However, his apostasy is a sign that the Bush administration's intelligence blunders on Iraq, its refusal to consider seeking a Constitutional declaration of war against Saddam Hussein and its shifting justifications for the conflict may be starting to cost Republicans some traditional support they've long enjoyed on the right.

-- John Fund

"We've made major progress, the surge has worked"

"On the security front, I think there's a general consensus that we've made major progress, that the surge has worked. That's been a major success," Cheney told ABC News' Martha Raddatz.

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Baghdad mortuary sees rise in number of corpses

BAGHDAD (AFP) — Baghdad's main mortuary has seen a rise in the number of corpses received in the past fortnight amid a new wave of violence in and around the Iraqi capital, its director told AFP on Monday.

"There is a spike in the number of corpses of people who have died violent deaths in the past 15 days," Redha Ali told AFP.

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``We regret every casualty, every loss,'' Vice President
Dick Cheney told reporters in Jerusalem, when asked about the
number of U.S. dead.

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"He bears the responsibility for the decisions that he's made"

Four U.S. Soldiers Die in Iraq; War Toll Is at 4,000

Here is the data laid out simply and plainly in Bloomberg:

March 24 (Bloomberg) -- Four U.S. soldiers were killed in a bomb attack in Baghdad, taking the American death toll in the Iraq War to at least 4,000, according to the independent group that tallies fatalities in the conflict.

The Multi-National Division-Baghdad soldiers were on patrol in the south of the Iraqi capital yesterday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, the U.S. military said today in an e- mailed statement.

The deaths, days after the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, occurred on the same day Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi government and the American embassy, was hit with mortar fire, and more than 50 people died in attacks across the country.

``He's grieved by the moment,'' White House press secretary Dana Perino said when asked about President George W. Bush's reaction to the 4,000 deaths milestone. ``He bears the responsibility for the decisions that he's made.''

Perino said the president is ``committed'' to winning in Iraq so fallen troops won't have made a sacrifice ``in vain.''

As the war enters its sixth year, there are calls from some U.S. lawmakers to accelerate a drawdown of troops after an extra 30,000 soldiers were deployed last year to halt violence between majority Shiites and minority Sunnis. Some estimates put the cost of the Iraq War as high as $3 trillion.

Costs and Consequences

Bush should change direction on the conflict and provide a clear assessment of its costs and consequences, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez said on March 22 when he delivered the Democratic party's weekly radio address.

Bush said on March 19, the anniversary of the invasion, that the extra forces he ordered into Iraq last year increased security and paved the way for a ``major strategic victory'' in the war against terrorism.

Monthly U.S. military deaths have increased from the 14 soldiers killed in December last year, the lowest since February 2004, according to Defense Department statistics.

There were 34 military deaths in January and 25 in February. As many as 26 have died in March, according to Bloomberg calculations using Defense Department statistics and press statements.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed in an attack northwest of Baghdad two days ago, the military said in a separate statement.

U.S. military deaths were at 3,999, according to Bloomberg's calculations. Agence France-Presse, the Associated Press and other media said the tally was 4,000.

More than 29,000 soldiers have been wounded, 45 percent of them so seriously they haven't returned to duty.

As many as 89,778 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the invasion, according to the latest report on the Web site of, a U.K.-based research group.

``We regret every casualty, every loss,'' Vice President Dick Cheney told reporters in Jerusalem, when asked about the number of U.S. dead.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo at

Last Updated: March 24, 2008 10:18 EDT

Thursday, March 20, 2008


"On the security front, I think there's a general consensus that we've made major progress, that the surge has worked. That's been a major success," Cheney told ABC News' Martha Raddatz.

When asked about how that jibes with recent polls that show about two-thirds of Americans say the fight in Iraq is not worth it, Cheney replied, "So?"

Here is the interview (<-- click)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mr. Obama’s Profile in Courage

It is foolish I suppose to reprint a New York Times editorial in its entirely on the pages of Leaves, but I do so out of pride in the Times. As Leaves readers know, I am as deeply concerned about the role of media in shaping the tone of politics and international relations, as I am about those involved in the political execution of policy and direction.

This NYT editorial soars far above the vile and divisive Steele Op-Ed run by the Wall Street Journal yesterday. To show respect and gratitude for a constructive use of journalistic power, I choose to run this important editorial in its entirety.

The editorial responds to the
Obama Speech on Race (<-- click) . This link will take you to the transcript of the that speech in its entirety

You can watch the entire speech here (<-- click)

March 19, 2008

Mr. Obama’s Profile in Courage

There are moments — increasingly rare in risk-abhorrent modern campaigns — when politicians are called upon to bare their fundamental beliefs. In the best of these moments, the speaker does not just salve the current political wound, but also illuminates larger, troubling issues that the nation is wrestling with.

Inaugural addresses by Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt come to mind, as does John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on religion, with its enduring vision of the separation between church and state. Senator Barack Obama, who has not faced such tests of character this year, faced one on Tuesday. It is hard to imagine how he could have handled it better.

Mr. Obama had to address race and religion, the two most toxic subjects in politics. He was as powerful and frank as Mitt Romney was weak and calculating earlier this year in his attempt to persuade the religious right that his Mormonism is Christian enough for them.

It was not a moment to which Mr. Obama came easily. He hesitated uncomfortably long in dealing with the controversial remarks of his spiritual mentor and former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who denounced the United States as endemically racist, murderous and corrupt.

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama drew a bright line between his religious connection with Mr. Wright, which should be none of the voters’ business, and having a political connection, which would be very much their business. The distinction seems especially urgent after seven years of a president who has worked to blur the line between church and state.

Mr. Obama acknowledged his strong ties to Mr. Wright. He embraced him as the man “who helped introduce me to my Christian faith,” and said that “as imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me.”

Wisely, he did not claim to be unaware of Mr. Wright’s radicalism or bitterness, disarming the speculation about whether he personally heard the longtime pastor of his church speak the words being played and replayed on YouTube. Mr. Obama said Mr. Wright’s comments were not just potentially offensive, as politicians are apt to do, but “rightly offend white and black alike” and are wrong in their analysis of America. But, he said, many Americans “have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagree.”

Mr. Obama’s eloquent speech should end the debate over his ties to Mr. Wright since there is nothing to suggest that he would carry religion into government. But he did not stop there. He put Mr. Wright, his beliefs and the reaction to them into the larger context of race relations with an honesty seldom heard in public life.

Mr. Obama spoke of the nation’s ugly racial history, which started with slavery and Jim Crow, and continues today in racial segregation, the school achievement gap and discrimination in everything from banking services to law enforcement.

He did not hide from the often-unspoken reality that people on both sides of the color line are angry. “For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation,” he said, “the memories of humiliation and fear have not gone away, nor the anger and the bitterness of those years.”

At the same time, many white Americans, Mr. Obama noted, do not feel privileged by their race. “In an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero-sum game,” he said, adding that both sides must acknowledge that the other’s grievances are not imaginary.

He made the powerful point that while these feelings are not always voiced publicly, they are used in politics. “Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan coalition,” he said.

Against this backdrop, he said, he could not repudiate his pastor. “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community,” he said. “I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.” That woman whom he loves deeply, he said, “once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street” and more than once “uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”

There have been times when we wondered what Mr. Obama meant when he talked about rising above traditional divides. This was not such a moment.

We can’t know how effective Mr. Obama’s words will be with those who will not draw the distinctions between faith and politics that he drew, or who will reject his frank talk about race. What is evident, though, is that he not only cleared the air over a particular controversy — he raised the discussion to a higher plane.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Head held high

"I don't know about you, but I'm excited about the year 2008. I intend to finish strong, with my head held high." - President Bush

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Bankers say last week’s near-collapse of one of the most feared and influential US brokerage firms could not have come at a worse time for a sector battered by bad news and huge losses.

The S&P 500 index of financial stocks has already lost one fifth of its value this year and shares in many investment and commercial banks, such as Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers have shouldered even bigger losses

With Bear now on life support in the form of emergency funding from the Federal Reserve and JPMorgan – and likely to be bought or liquidated in the next few days – the hunt is on for the next piece to fall in Wall Street’s shaky domino line.

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"When I say I'm confident, I am so because I understand the mentality of the American people," Bush said. "And I understand the mentality of our candidates. And there's no question in my mind, with your help, 2008 is going to be a great year."

"The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision early in my presidency, it is the right decision at this point in my presidency and it will forever be the right decision," he told religious broadcasters earlier this month. President Bush

WASHINGTON — It was a decision that only President Bush had the power to make: At about 9 a.m. on March 19, 2003, in the Situation Room in the basement of the West Wing of the White House, he gave the "execute order" to begin Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

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Pope: Enough With Slaughters in Iraq
VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI issued one of his strongest appeals for peace in Iraq on Sunday, days after the body of the kidnapped Chaldean Catholic archbishop was found near the northern city of Mosu
"At the same time, I make an appeal to the Iraqi people, who for the past five years have borne the consequences of a war that provoked the breakup of their civil and social life," Benedict said
The Vatican strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. In its aftermath, Benedict has frequently criticized attacks against Iraqi Christians by Islamic extremists. Last year, he urged President Bush to keep the safety of Iraqi Christians in mind
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"The winner of the 2008 elections will command U.S. forces still at war in Iraq, Afghanistan and against elusive terrorists with a deadly reach. The U.S. economy will remain burdened. ... America's moral leadership and decision-making competence will continue to be questioned," begins a study of foreign-policy choices for the next president, which a Georgetown University task force released last month.

Oil prices are at an all-time high, the dollar at new lows against the euro. Surveys find the United States' popularity and respect slipping in every part of the globe except Africa. A poll of 3,400 active and retired U.S. military officers by Foreign Policy magazine found that 88 percent agreed with the statement that "The war in Iraq has stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin."

Because of the invasion of Iraq, "America's strategic position in the world has worsened," said Josef Joffe, the editor and publisher of Die Zeit, a German weekly that's sympathetic to United States. "From a coldly realist perspective, Iraq was the wrong war against the wrong foe at the wrong time."
The removal of Saddam Hussein strengthened Iran and "by entangling itself in an interminable civil war, the U.S. has lost power to spare," Joffe said.

"Since 9/11, the United States has been exporting fear and anger rather than the more traditional values of hope and optimism. Suspicions of American power have run deep," Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state under Bush, and Joseph Nye, a Pentagon official under President Clinton, wrote in a December report published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Entire article here

Friday, March 14, 2008

URGENT - developments in Tibet

Please pray for Monks and all people of Tibet. Please send all information and recommendations for courses of action. These will be published and reported as we receive them

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Deaths reported in Tibet protests
Clashes between protesters and security forces in Tibet's main city of Lhasa have left at least two people dead, according to reports.
Rioters in the Tibetan city of Lhasa, 14/03

An emergency official told AFP news agency that many people had been hurt and an unspecified number had died.

The Dalai Lama, who heads Tibet's government-in-exile in India, released a statement expressing deep concern.

He called on the Chinese leadership to "stop using force and address the long-simmering resentment of the Tibetan people through dialogue with the Tibetan people."

He added: "I also urge my fellow Tibetans not to resort to violence."

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Dr. Phil abandons Spears, turns sites on new target

Bush says "2008 a good year for Republicans"

Washington, DC (AHN)-While giving a speech to the National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday night, President Bush made one thing abundantly clear: he is satisfied with both his two-term presidency and the current state of the Republican national party.

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Bear Stearns Gets Emergency Funds From JPMorgan, Fed

March 14 (Bloomberg) -- Bear Stearns Cos. shares plummeted
a record 53 percent after the New York Federal Reserve and
JPMorgan Chase & Co. stepped in to rescue the fifth-largest U.S.
securities firm with emergency funding.

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Bush optimistic of Mid-East peace
US President George W Bush has said he is still optimistic there will be a Middle East peace deal before he leaves office, despite stalled negotiations.

Blow to truce as Gaza retaliates for Bethlehem dead

Hopes of even an unofficial truce between Israel and Hamas were dealt a serious blow yesterday as 22 Qassam rockets were launched from Gaza in response to the killing by Israeli forces of four Palestinian militants in Bethlehem.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bush hopes Cheney's Mideast visit will rein in oil prices

President Bush HIMSELF just got back from the Middle East on a so-called "peace mission," a peace mission in which he sought to broker over 80 billion dollars in arms sales, followed by a gift receiving bonanza during which time he begged Arabs for more oil and got nada.

At the end of this trip President Bush, in a feisty mood declared his confidence that we would see peace in the Holy Land before the end of his term as US president. Since then we have seen the security wall between Egypt and Gaza breached, open military exchanges between Israel and Gaza, and following newspapers (just to name a few) warning of a 3rd intifada: the Israeli Ynet news, the Christian Science Monitor, the Times of London, Israel national news, the Guardian, and Haaretz.

In response to this, President George W. Bush said Monday that he was sending Vice President Dick Cheney to the Middle East to raise concerns about oil prices and to press Israeli and Palestinian leaders to move toward peace. (huh?)

Sending a lesser figure just weeks after the president of the United States HIMSELF was JUST there, trying to do the VERY SAME THING with no success!

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President George W. Bush said Monday that he was sending Vice President Dick Cheney to the Middle East to raise concerns about oil prices and to press Israeli and Palestinian leaders to move toward peace

Cheney, who leaves Sunday, will meet with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer and the de facto leader of OPEC.

"Obviously, we want to see an increase in production," said Dana Perino, an administration spokeswoman. "The president does want OPEC to take into consideration that its biggest customer, the United States - our economy has weakened and part of the reason is because of higher oil prices. We think that more supply would help, and I don't anticipate that the vice president would have any other message than that one."

The Bush administration is struggling to revive an American economy that is sagging under the weight of a housing slump, rising prices and a credit crisis, and it has had little luck persuading OPEC to increase production levels.

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Please pray for Tibetan monks

China crushes protest by monks in Tibet

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China admitted today that it had quashed a protest by Buddhist monks in the
Tibetan capital of Lhasa, underscoring the opposition Beijing still faces to
its rule in the remote Himalayan region.

Asked about the report, Qin Gang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told
reporters: “Yesterday afternoon some monks in Lhasa, abetted by a small
handful of people, did some illegal things that challenged social stability.

“As for how to deal with these detained Tibetans, they have been dealt with
according to the law."

Chinese troops killed tens of thousands of Tibetans as they quashed the 1959
uprising, according to the Tibetan government-in-exile’s website. Tibet’s
spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled his homeland following the uprising.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Hello, My name is Mr. Bush, and I sell weapons

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Bush and Polish PM see progress on missile shield deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush pledged on Monday to help modernize Poland's military as part a U.S. effort to secure agreement for basing components of a global missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

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The appeal of "radical Islam"

An important article appears today in The Times of India entitled "Young Muslims in UK attracted to radical Islam." The unfortunate reality is described plainly in the headline, but the article fails to unpack the implications of two key elements concealed in the very words of the writer himself.

The first clue appears in paragraph one:

Young Muslims in Britain are increasingly getting inclined towards radical Islam as it presents a more "comprehensive and coherent" ideology than the one advocated by local mosques, a report has suggested.

And the second in paragraph two:

"The growth of monocultural ghettos has led to the radicalisation of young Muslims who see extremism as the only theology available to them," the report, by British home office in 2005 said.

The essence of my commentary is twofold. The first is a call to world, Muslim leadership, especially its theologians, scholars and educators to recognize the implications of this observation. The second is a call to all concerned citizens worldwide to recognize the enduring fact that non-religious elements contribute to this harmful and self-destructive identification with deviant and aberrant "religious" interpretations.

When first reading this Times of India headline, I felt saddened. On balance I tend to admire the UK for its efforts to intuit and implement the all important ideal of religious freedom (as opposed to so many mainland European nations, which for some odd reason are lowbrow in this arena). Thus, why in the UK of all places (as one of the better places to be Muslim) should there be an increase in the trend toward what is called "radical Islam" (a misnomer in my opinion)?

The reasons for this shone through the writer's casual observations. I was not at all surprised to discover that both halves of the equation had little to do with religion per se. Yet even so, the implications for religious leaders and practitioners are great.

The two elements identified in the article as responsible for the rise of "radical Islam" among Muslim youth in the UK are: 1. Monocultural ghettos, and 2. The comprehensiveness and coherence of these evil teachings.

The fact of monocultural ghettoes is a political, economic, cultural, and historical reality, far more than a religious one (if at all). While not a religious reality, it is nevertheless a religious problem, namely something religions (and surely not just Islam) should address and fix. Monocultural ghettos are a problem. These have the potential to lead to anger and violence whether packaged in an ideology or not (for example plain old drug and gang violence), and whether the ideology happens to be the perversion of religious teachings or not (for example Marxism, a religion denying ideology is extremely violent).

The second element that completes the circle in this sad and destructive mix is that the appeal described for "radical Islam" is that it is comprehensive and coherent! Not that it is true, edifying, uplifting, consistent with tradition and historical interpretation, or responsible in anyway to genuinely religious purposes. As with the ghetto problem, comprehensiveness coherence in a thought system are not related necessarily to religion. Any thought system can be comprehensive and coherent, even one claiming to represent a religion despite violating the most important of its basic tenets.

And here with this issue of coherence, (just as it was with the issue of monocultural ghettoes), it is not a matter necessarily related to religious thought, but again it is a religious problem. If Muslim leaders, educators, and parents cannot present a comprehensive and coherent account of the Islam of peace, human equality, social cohesion, and respect for life they leave their precious children vulnerable to villains who can construct a comprehensive and coherent call, even if it is one that defiles all virtue and life itself.

It is not sufficient merely to proof-text or reiterate ad nauseum the incessant declaration that Islam is a religion of peace, and that Islam means peace. It is necessary to compete with the appeal, devotion, and ideological ardor invested in the thought systems generated by militant and violent preachers and recruiters.

The realities sadly happen to be, 1. intolerable and enraging life in monocultural ghettos, combined with 2. selfless (if perverse) devotion and intellectual striving of hateful, violent ideologues. These are the challenges that must be faced and resolved by Muslim intellectuals, leaders and educators. Wherein lies a comprehensive and coherent account of Islam's true beauty that can speak in the midst of this tragedy, this current world of offense, separation, and inequality experienced in Europe's ghettos? This is the most pressing challenge of our time. The lives of a generation of beautiful young men and women depend on our success.

Saudi woman defies driving ban to mark women's day

Saudi Arabia is one of US's closest allies in the region. Last month President Bush offered Saudia Arabia a 20 billion dollar arms deal.

In this country it is illegal for women to drive!

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A Saudi woman activist marked this year's International Women's Day by defying a ban on women driving in the ultra-conservative kingdom and posted a video of her act on YouTube.

Wajiha Huwaidar, a leading activist in a campaign to allow women to get behind the wheel in the desert kingdom, confirmed to AFP on Sunday that it was her in the video posted on the popular website.

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US Catholic church paid 615 mln dlrs for abuse cases in 2007: report

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The Roman Catholic church in the United States paid out 615 million dollars (400 million euros) last year for child sex abuse cases involving members of the clergy, or 54 percent more than the previous year, an official report showed Friday.

Of the monies paid out by the church, 526 million dollars went to settling cases -- almost double the amount paid out in 2006, the annual report on how well the church is implementing a charter to protect youngsters said.

Most victims were male, and more than half were between the ages of 10 and 14 when the abuse began.

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Studies: Iraq costs US $12B per month

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The flood of money into the Iraq war is steadily rising, new analyses show. In 2008, its sixth year, the war will cost approximately $12 billion a month, triple the "burn" rate of its earliest years, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and co-author Linda J. Bilmes report in a new book.

Beyond 2008, working with "best-case" and "realistic-moderate" scenarios, they project the Iraq and Afghan wars, including long-term U.S. military occupations of those countries, will cost the U.S. budget between $1.7 trillion and $2.7 trillion — or more — by 2017.

Interest on money borrowed to pay those costs could alone add $816 billion to that bottom line, they say.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has done its own projections and comes in lower, forecasting a cumulative cost by 2017 of $1.2 trillion to $1.7 trillion for the two wars, with Iraq generally accounting for three-quarters of the costs.

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