Thursday, September 30, 2004

Muslims Welcome Ruling Against Patriot Act

A key part of the USA Patriot Act that allows the FBI to secretly demand information from Internet providers violates the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge said Wednesday in a ruling that could have a broad impact on government surveillance. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero barred the FBI from invoking that portion of the law in the future, saying the mandatory gag orders amount to an "unconstitutional prior restraint of speech in violation of the First Amendment." However, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said on Thursday the Bush administration was likely to appeal against a U.S. District Court ruling that part of the Patriot Act was unconstitutional.

How would the world vote on Nov 2? According to a recent Program on International Policy Attitude poll of 35 countries on their election preferences, in only three (the Philippines, Poland, and Nigeria) was George Bush by relatively close margins the preferred candidate; in two (India and Thailand), the vote was split; in the rest the response was resounding. Kerry, for instance, swept Latin America and took Europe, Poland aside, by enormous margins (Norway, 74% to 7%; Germany, 74% to 10%; France, 64% to 5%; Italy, 58% to 14%; Spain, 45% to 7%; and Tony Blair's UK by a remarkable 47% to 16%). Overall, Kerry was favored globally by a 2-to-1 margin. Even in most countries whose governments had contributed troops to Iraq, significant majorities favored Kerry and believed strongly that U.S. foreign policy was "on the wrong track." This may simply be an accentuation of the anybody-but-George vote in the United States raised to a global level and magnified. Buckle up & get ready for the first presidential debate tonight. This Christian Science Monitor reports that the pressure is mostly on Kerry. Apparently, neither Bush nor Kerry has ever lost a debate, so it will be interesting to see what they both have to offer, without their advisors, campaign ads & sound bytes.

The latest round of violence in Iraq has resulted in deaths of several children according to this piece of news from the BBC: "Officials said at least 34 children were among 37 or more people killed when bombs were detonated near a water treatment plant as US troops passed by. At least 130 more were injured, many from the crowds gathered to watch an opening ceremony at the plant."Informed Comment: Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawir strongly protested US air strikes against Iraqi cities, comparing them to Israeli tactics in Gaza and branding them a form of "collective punishment." Collective punishment was a Nazi tactic during World War II, and was forbidden as a tool to occupying powers in the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Al-Yawir's condemnation of the US use of the tactic is the strongest to date from a high-level Iraqi politician. The comments seem likely to create a diplomatic crisis, and bode ill for Bush administration plans to pursue a scorched earth campaign against Fallujah and other cities in al-Anbar province in November. Al-Yawir is from a Sunni tribal background. Wire services report that ' Thirteen people have been killed since Tuesday night in drive-by shootings, ambushes and grenade attacks south of the capital and elsewhere. 'In one incident, guerrillas attempted but failed to assassinate a local leader of the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The US used a howitzer to kill three guerrillas who had been firing mortars in Baghdad.