With daggers drawn for a weakened White House, congressional Democrats return from a short recess this week plotting to further undermine US President George W. Bush's waning political sway.
Even as Bush's signature immigration reform bill was strangled in the Senate last month, Democratic leaders were mapping out new misery for a president beset by rock-bottom poll ratings, the three bloodiest months for US troops in Iraq since the war began in 2003 and a fraying Republican support base.
Nearly half a dozen Republicans senators recently broke ranks with Bush urging him to change course in Iraq.
After a six-week hiatus, Democrats plan a new attack on the unpopular war, and have besieged the White House with subpoenas over simmering legal and constitutional showdowns.
A House of Representatives committee meanwhile is planning on making political hay by probing Bush's decision to commute a two-and-a-half year sentence imposed on former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby, over a scandal sparked by the leaking of a CIA spy's identity.
"Republicans will have the opportunity to not just say the right things on Iraq, but vote the right way, too, so that we can bring the responsible end to this war that the American people demand and deserve," said Senate Majority leader Harry Reid.
But it is unclear whether the new Democratic attacks on Iraq will be any more successful than previous ones.
Bush forced the Democrats into a climb-down in June on efforts to insert troop withdrawal guidelines in an emergency war budget.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to introduce a bill within weeks to authorize troop redeployments to start within four months and to be completed by April 1, 2008, a formula Bush has already blocked once with a presidential veto.
Senate Democrats will introduce their own attempts to force Bush to accept troop withdrawal timelines, extend rest periods for troops between deployments and curtail his congressional authorization to wage war.
Senate sources said veteran Senator Robert Byrd, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will frame an amendment to a defense authorization bill that would sunset Bush's authorization to wage war in Iraq in October -- five years after it was granted.
Meanwhile, Senators Carl Levin and Jack Reed will propose an amendment that would require a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days of becoming law, the New York Times reported yesterday.
Democratic tactics appear designed to fracture the president's firewall of Republican support for his Iraq policy.
Currently, Democrats have attracted only a few Republican anti-war votes and do not have the needed 60-vote Senate super-majority to force Bush's hand.
But his support-base seems to be eroding. Republican Senator Richard Lugar, a reluctant rebel, last month warned the "surge" would not work, and fellow Senator George Voinovich recommended a disengagement.
On Thursday, another key Republican Senator Pete Domenici also called for a change of course, and on Saturday Senators Lamar Alexander and Judd Gregg joined the growing chorus urging a new strategy.
All eyes in the next few weeks will be on Republican John Warner, whose symbolic weight could buckle the Bush support base in the Senate, and give other senators cover to break with the president.
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
Australia is notorious for its venomous spiders, snakes and sea creatures, but researchers have now identified “scorpion-like” toxins secreted by a tree that can cause excruciating pain for weeks. Split-second contact with the dendrocnide tree, a rainforest nettle known by its Aboriginal name gympie-gympie, delivers a sting far more potent than similar plants found in the US or Europe. A team of Australian scientists said that they now better understand why the gympie-gympie’s sting haunts those unlucky enough to brush up against its leaves. Victims report an initial sting that “feels like fire at first, then subsides over hours to a pain reminiscent