Daily News Digest | Sojourners

Daily News Digest

Afghanistan, Government waste, Privacy, McCain in Colombia, Obama's Faith-Based Plan, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Mexico, China, Hunger, Iraq, Mongolia, Endangered species, Fuel prices, and Israel.

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Afghanistan. U.S. Deaths Rise in Afghanistan "June was the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the war there began in late 2001, as resilient and emboldened insurgents have stepped up attacks in an effort to gain control of the embattled country." Afghan Death Toll Up as Iraq's Falls " The violence in Afghanistan has surged at the same time as the number of attacks and American deaths in Iraq have fallen. Among the American-led forces in the two countries, 46 service members were killed in Afghanistan, compared with 31 in Iraq, the second straight month in which combat deaths in Afghanistan exceeded those in Iraq."

Government waste. A Backlog Of Cases Alleging Fraud "More than 900 cases alleging that government contractors and drugmakers have defrauded taxpayers out of billions of dollars are languishing in a backlog that has built up over the past decade because the Justice Department cannot keep pace with the surge in charges brought by whistle-blowers."

Privacy. Groups Sue U.S. for Data On Tracking By Cellphone "Two civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government yesterday, seeking records related to the government's use of cellphones as tracking devices." Obama Voters Protest His Switch on Telecom Immunity "Thousands of them are now using the same grass-roots organizing tools previously mastered by the Obama campaign to organize a protest against his decision."

McCain in Colombia. Improve Human Rights, McCain Tells Colombian President "Senator John McCain pressed President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia to do more to improve human rights in a meeting on Tuesday evening here." McCain Stressing Trade On Latin American Trip "Sen. John McCain arrived here Tuesday night on his third foreign trip since clinching the Republican presidential nomination, the latest attempt to embellish his international credentials at a time when the electorate is increasingly focused on domestic issues." McCain observes Colombia's drug war "Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain turned his attention to the illegal drug trade today, touring a port to look at interdiction efforts."

Obama's Faith-Based Plan. Obama Proposes Expanding Faith-Based Program "Sen. Barack Obama, seeking to reach out to religious voters, proposed strengthening the White House program assisting faith-based social service organization Tuesday, while insisting that those groups not discriminate against aid recipients or aid workers." Obama Seeks Bigger Role for Religious Groups "Barack Obama outlined a plan to expand federal spending on faith-based initiatives, a goal set by President Bush." Obama pledges to expand aid to religious charities "He embraces a core piece of President Bush's legacy as he tries to win over Republican-leaning evangelical voters, but distances himself from some aspects of the controversial program." Obama would overhaul Bush's faith-based initiatives "But in supporting religious charities, he runs the risk of alienating some Democrats."

Zimbabwe. Mugabe rival rejects unity call "Zimbabwe's opposition leader rejects forming a unity government if he is not recognised as presidential winner." Mugabe Tells African Peers To Examine Own Records "A defiant President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe on Tuesday fended off an effort by African leaders to sanction him for his country's recent election violence, telling them that their claims to power were no more legitimate than his." African Union Calls for Settlement in Zimbabwe " The African Union on Tuesday urged the creation of a government of national unity in Zimbabwe to heal the nation's deep political wounds after President Robert Mugabe's 'triumph' in a one-candidate runoff election widely condemned as a sham." Doctor sees Zimbabwe horror up close "X-rays of injuries from the political violence show the use of horrendous force. 'It's an illustration of unbelievable, intentional brutality,' he says." Tsvangirai: no talks until violence ends "Zimbabwean opposition leader refuses talks with Mugabe until Zanu-PF ends campaign of violence."

North Korea. Message to U.S. Preceded Nuclear Declaration by North Korea "Just days before North Korea delivered to China last week its long-awaited declaration on its plutonium-based nuclear programs, Pyongyang privately acknowledged the United States' long-standing concerns about alleged uranium-enrichment activities and possible proliferation."

Iraq. U.S. Embassy Cites Progress in Iraq " The embassy's evaluation, compiled in May, contrasts sharply with other recent assessments that Iraq has failed to achieve many of the goals that the Baghdad government and President Bush said would be reached by the end of 2007. A report by the Government Accountability Office, released last week, cited little improvement in the political and economic spheres and noted continuing military problems despite a significant decline in overall violence."

Iran. Softer Tone From Iran Has Experts Guessing " Iranian officials on Tuesday continued their long history of befuddling Western diplomats, as two top officials sounded conciliatory notes about the prospects of eventually breaching the impasse between the West and Tehran over the country's nuclear ambitions." Iran Appears to Warm to Diplomacy " In a long interview with American journalists, Iran's top diplomat also indicated a readiness to negotiate a U.S.-backed proposal to end the standoff over Iran's nuclear program." Iran remarks point to split in leadership "Ali Akbar Velayati warns against 'provocative' statements on the nuclear dispute, apparently in reference to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his loyalists." Will the U.S. open an office in Iran? "Secretary Rice has floated the idea of an interests-section office - a step down from an embassy."

Mexico. Videos of Violent Police Training Appear as Mexico Awaits U.S. Aid "Videos showing Mexican police learning torture methods appeared on the Internet this week as the country, soon to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. anti-drug aid, is seeking to improve its human rights record." Police videos cause a stir in Mexico "Human rights officials express concern about videos of Leon city officers practicing torture techniques. The police chief says they were only training exercises."

China. China Resumes Negotiations With Envoys of Dalai Lama " Chinese officials and senior envoys of the Dalai Lama opened their latest round of negotiations over Tibet on Tuesday, as international pressure for a breakthrough intensifies ahead of the Olympic Games." Christianity in a Chinese workplace? For some. "A strategic semiconductor firm gets leeway on promoting faith in its halls."

Hunger. Plea for Aid to Avert Starvation " Warning that rising food and oil prices pose a crisis for the world's poor, Robert B. Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, is calling on President Bush and other leaders convening in Japan next week in an economic summit meeting to make new aid commitments to avert starvation and instability in dozens of countries."

Iraq. U.S. spies on Iraqi army, sources say "Satellites are allegedly being used to track the American-backed force after breakdowns in trust and coordination." Marine snipers' killing rules weren't clear, lieutenant testifies "A platoon leader says that as he left for Iraq, he tried and failed to get clarification. He was testifying at a hearing for sniper charged in the deaths of 2 wrongly suspected of planting a bomb."

Mongolia. Election violence in Mongolia leaves five dead "The capital is under a state of emergency after perceived voter fraud ignites a riot." State of emergency declared in Mongolia " The sudden outbreak of violence in the capital, Ulan Bator, is the worst for decades, say experts. Thousands of rock-throwing protestors besieged the Mongolian People's Revolutionary party (MPRP) headquarters yesterday, torching the building and overturning vehicles around the centre of the capital."

Endangered species. Wildlife extinction rates 'seriously underestimated' "Endangered species may become extinct 100 times faster than previously thought, scientists have warned, in a bleak re-assessment of the threat to global biodiversity."

Fuel prices. At $9 per gallon, British driving habits change "As more people opt for fewer car trips, carpooling, and public transportation, environmentalists point out that high fuel prices are also leading to reduced carbon emissions."

Israel. Bulldozer driver shot dead after rampage in Jerusalem "At least three people killed and dozens injured after man ploughs bulldozer into buses and other vehicles." Deadly Jerusalem bulldozer attack "A Palestinian in a bulldozer targets Jerusalem traffic, killing three people before being shot dead by police." New laws aim to revoke Israeli Arab terrorists' citizenship "The Knesset approved in a preliminary reading on Wednesday two bills that would enable the government to revoke the citizenship of Israeli Arabs involved in terror activities as well as that of their families."

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