Under heavy criticism for its secrecy in December 2005, the White House ordered federal agencies to speed up their responses to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A new FOIA report card issued by the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government concludes that Bush’s directive did not speed up the response rate. “Requests remain heavily backlogged,” the study says. “People seeking records and information remain less likely to get the information they seek than in the past.” In 1998, five of the 26 agencies reported a median waiting time of more than the 20-working-days statutory requirement. By 2005, the number of agencies failing to meet that level of service increased to 13.
Source: Editor and Publisher
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appointed Eliot Cohen, a well-known neoconservative scholar of military affairs—famous for his thesis that claims the war on terror is WWIV (the cold war, according to Cohen, was WWIII)—to be the new counselor of the State Department, a senior policy advisor on a wide range of issues. “As they have done many times before, neoconservatives, with Iran in their sights, have installed one of their own at State to block any war-avoiding rapprochement,” says Glenn Greenwald of Salon.
In late February, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concluded a 14-year-long case, describing the massacre of close to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995 as an act of genocide. Although the court faulted Serbia for not preventing the genocide when it “could and should” have, Serbia itself was not found guilty of the enormous crime. The ruling provided both satisfaction and frustration. Serbia was spared the stigma of being branded a genocidal nation and was also absolved from having to pay war reparations, as demanded by Bosnia. Regardless, Bosnia received what it wanted from the outset of the trial: “a recognition of Serbia’s guilt.”
The ruling agrees with the political wishes of Western countries that hope to pull Serbia into a wider European community rather than see it isolated, allowing its extreme nationalist movement, which denies the genocide, to grow in strength. However, the ruling may strengthen the faction that wishes to abide by the Genocide Convention, which requires immediate punishment of those accused, specifically, General Ratko Mladic, the leader of the Serbian forces during the Bosnian war who’s come to symbolize the campaign of ethnic cleansing against Croats and Muslims. He is currently a fugitive hiding in Serbia.
Source: New York Times
Backed by the ACLU and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, Dr. Lyle Craker of the University of Massachusetts is seeking a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to grow marijuana legally for medicinal research. Last month, a judge appointed by the Department of Justice recommended that it would be in the public interest for Dr. Craker to grow the drug because the government’s monopoly on the legal growing of cannabis hinders legitimate research, and a second licensed facility is needed to maintain a stable supply (Currently, all marijuana for research must come from a government-run farm in Mississippi.) The decision on whether he will be granted a license currently rests with the deputy administrator of the DEA. Lawyers for Dr. Craker recall the case of Donald Abrams, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who sought to obtain cannabis from the national institute to conduct research on how it might help AIDS patients. His research was approved by all necessary authorities, yet he was still refused cannabis. When he changed his research to focus on the dangers of marijuana to AIDS patients, his demand was supplied.
Elsewhere, the British government has encouraged research into cannabis medicines. The research has resulted in a new drug, Sativex, which is currently being used to relieve nerve pain for multiple-sclerosis patients.
Source: The Economist
In a recent interview with the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, potential 2008 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich admitted to having an extramarital affair while leading the charge to impeach President Clinton.
“There are times that I have fallen short of my own standards,” says Gingrich. “There’s certainly times when I’ve fallen short of God’s standards.”
Gingrich does not believe that he should be viewed as a hypocrite for pursuing impeachment because he merely broke the bonds of marriage whereas the former president lied under oath about his extramarital affair. “Clinton was punished for perjury,” says Gingrich.
This year’s opium harvest in Afghanistan could possibly top last year’s record crop, with nearly half of the country’s provinces showing an increase in growing, according to the director of the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime. Of all the provinces, 15 show an increase in planting, including Helmand—the world’s largest poppy-growing region—7 show a decrease, and 6 show no change. Helmand has seen an increased amount of attacks from Taliban fighters who use opium to fund their insurgency. Southern Afghanistan, the area most plagued by insurgency, is exhibiting a continued increase. The lack of security has prevented aid from reaching farmers who have expressed desire to change crops.
“The real increase is taking place in the provinces characterized by insurgency,” says Antonio Maria Costa, director of the drugs and crime office.
Source: New York Times
On March 1, President Bush nominated Michael E. Baroody, executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), one of the nation’s largest trade groups that opposes aggressive product safety regulation, to be the next chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 2001, speaking for NAM, Baroody criticized a Supreme Court ruling that held that the Environmental Protection Agency had acted constitutionally when it issued standards for limiting smog and soot.
“Given that Mr. Baroody has spent his professional career representing the interests of manufacturers over consumers, I believe his nomination deserves the highest level of scrutiny,” said Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AK).
Source: Consumer Affairs
Two county election workers from Ohio were sentenced on March 13 to 18 months in prison for rigging a recount of 2004 presidential election ballots. A county election coordinator and a ballot manager were each convicted of a felony count of negligent misconduct of an elections employee. According to Ohio law, during a recount each county is supposed to randomly count 3 percent of its ballots by hand and by machine. If there are no discrepancies, the rest of the votes can be recounted by machine. If there are discrepancies, a full hand count is ordered. Three days before the public recount, the defendants worked behind closed doors to pick ballots they knew would not cause discrepancies when counted by hand.
“I can’t help but feel that there’s more to this story,” says Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Peter Corrigan.
Source: The Guardian