NEWS CLUES: Like A Volunteer Army Of The Night

Carter Negotiates Peace In The Middle East, White House Calls Him An Asshole

jimmy_carter.jpgJERUSALEM — Jimmy Carter said here on Monday that in talks in Damascus, Syria, over the last several days, he obtained a significant concession from the militant group Hamas regarding Israeli-Palestinian peace and found Syrian leaders eager for a full peace treaty with Israel. Mr. Carter said he extracted a promise from Hamas to respect the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip negotiated by Hamas’s rivals in the Palestinian Authority if it were ratified by a referendum of the Palestinian people.Furthermore, Syrian leaders told him, he said, that “about 85 percent” of the issues between Syria’s government and Israel had been resolved in prior negotiations and that it wanted a peace deal “as soon as possible.” Given the general pessimism surrounding Israeli-Arab peace, Mr. Carter’s upbeat assessment had a contrarian quality to it, as did his decision to meet in Damascus with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the Hamas leadership. The Bush administration has shunned Syria and considers Hamas a terrorist group, as does Israel, and had asked him not to hold the meetings. Israelis have not generally welcomed Mr. Carter on this trip. Many of them consider him hostile to Israel’s interests, especially since the publication of his book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” in 2006. [via NEW YORK TIMES/portrait by OCTAVIO OCAMPO]


A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND: Army Greenlighting More And More Felony Recruits

war_1.jpgThe US Army and Marine Corps recruited significantly more people with criminal records last year than in 2006, amid pressure to meet combat needs. Statistics released by a congressional committee show 861 people were granted waivers to enlist, up from 457 in 2007. “The significant increase in the recruitment of persons with criminal records is a result of the strain put on the military by the Iraq war,” said Democratic Representative Henry Waxman. Mr Waxman chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that released the figures drawn up by the US Department of Defense. Among the convictions, many were for stealing, including burglary and car thefts, and drug offences. Waivers were also granted to three people convicted of manslaughter, nine guilty of sex crimes, and nine convicted of making terror threats, including bomb threats. In addition, the Army and Marine Corps granted 27,671 “conduct waivers” covering what are regarded as serious misdemeanours, up from 25,098 in 2006. “We’re digging deeper into the barrel than we were before,” an official told the Washington Post. The Army also argues that its ranks reflect the society they are drawn from. Only three in 10 Americans of military age meet the army’s medical, moral, aptitude, or administrative requirements, army officials point out. [via BBC]


CAN’T HAPPEN HERE: U.S. Retailers Begin Rationing Food Supplies

fastfoodronamcriveter-thumb.jpgMOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Many parts of America, long considered the breadbasket of the world, are now confronting a once unthinkable phenomenon: food rationing. Major retailers in New York, in areas of New England, and on the West Coast are limiting purchases of flour, rice, and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. There are also anecdotal reports that some consumers are hoarding grain stocks. At a Costco Warehouse in Mountain View, Calif., yesterday, shoppers grew frustrated and occasionally uttered expletives as they searched in vain for the large sacks of rice they usually buy. “Due to the limited availability of rice, we are limiting rice purchases based on your prior purchasing history,” a sign above the dwindling supply said. An employee at the Costco store in Queens said there were no restrictions on rice buying, but limits were being imposed on purchases of oil and flour. Internet postings attributed some of the shortage at the retail level to bakery owners who flocked to warehouse stores when the price of flour from commercial suppliers doubled. Spiking food prices have led to riots in recent weeks in Haiti, Indonesia, and several African nations. India recently banned export of all but the highest quality rice, and Vietnam blocked the signing of a new contract for foreign rice sales. [via NEW YORK SUN]

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