Morning Report: May 27, 2005

Pakistan bomb kills at least 18. Debka reports: 'Blast at Bari Imam shrine in Pakistan capital of Islamabad kills at least 18 people early Friday. Police believe suicide bomber struck as thousands of Sunni and Shiite Muslim devotees were celebrating festival. Shrine is near government buildings and diplomatic enclave.' Updates at Command Post. (Debka, CP)

AUT ends Israel boycott. Britain's Association of University Teachers voted to strike down a boycott of two Israeli universities. Ha'Aretz reports: 'Britain's biggest union of university teachers voted yesterday to end its boycott of two Israeli universities. The decision to cancel the boycott passed by a two-thirds majority. The council of the 40,000-member Association of University Teachers (AUT) announced it had decided in a special session to overturn the boycott against Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities immediately. The measure, which had drawn outspoken criticism, was put in place last month.' (Ha'aretz)

Iraqi Operation Thunder targets insurgents. A major offensive by Iraqi and US forces called Operation Thunder (no connection with the Iranian dissident action of the same name) is set to begin in western Iraq. Command Post states: 'In the wake of American led offensives in Western Iraq and Haditha, the Iraqi government has stated it is prepared to commit a massive force to take the initiative away from the insurgency. Iraqi Defense Minister Dulaimi has announced Operation Thunder will commence shortly and will consist of over 40,000 Iraqi troops. The purpose is to secure Baghdad then fan out to other trouble spots, presumably in the restive Anbar province. ...' Full details at the link. (CP)

Woman TV host killed in Afghanistan; station won't buckle to terrorists. A woman television host was murdered in Afghanistan, but the station won't give in to intimidation, according to this item from the Feminist Majority Foundation's Feminist Daily News: 'A 24 year-old Afghan woman who was a presenter on a popular music program on a private television station in Kabul was shot and killed in her home last Wednesday. Shaima Rezayee was fired from her job with Tolo TV in March after pressure from conservative mullahs, who complained about the “un-Islamic values” of the show, according to the Times Online. The program was also criticized by the Ministry of Information and Culture for the pop videos that were shown and for “casual” conversations between male and female presenters. Saad Mohsenia, who heads Tolo TV, told the Christian Science Monitor that there are no plans to change the programming following Rezayee’s murder, stating, “…we do not allow individuals to dictate the terms to us, to act as terrorists.” ' (FMF)

US attorney says no authority to enforce gay nondiscrimination. The Washington Blade reports: 'Scott J. Bloch, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, startled gay activists this week after testifying before Congress that he does not have the authority to enforce a ban on discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation. “We are limited by our enforcement statutes as Congress gives them,” Bloch said when asked to explain his stance. “The courts have specifically rejected sexual orientation as a class protection.” ... The White House released a statement in April 2004 expressing President Bush’s support for a longstanding policy that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal workplace. “Longstanding federal policy prohibits discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation,” the memo said. “President Bush expects federal agencies to enforce this policy and to ensure that all federal employees are protected from unfair discrimination at work.” The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal agency that works to protect federal employees from discrimination and from retaliation in cases where employees act as “whistleblowers,” by reporting corruption or incompetence.' The Blade adds that Human Rights Campaign and Log Cabin Republicans have called for Bloch's resignation. GayPatriot clarifies that 'Bloch has based his belief on the fact that since no federal law bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, his office lacks a mechanism to enforce the Executive Order and longstanding policy.' However, GP adds, 'while Mr. Bloch's office may not be able to prosecute federal officials who discriminate based on sexual orientation, it should be able to reprimand them for such discrimination and protect the employee claiming discrimination.' (Blade, GP)

State of the Insurgency. Today's analysis at The Middle Ground concludes that the Iraq insurgency is having difficulty recruiting, and will be operating at a significantly degraded level in the next few months: 'Recall that these groups are small, insular cells. Working relations are built on absolute trust and not easily won. As much as some might believe otherwise, money is not handed over like candy at a barmitvah. Particularly, in today's atmosphere of slowly closing financial resources and other issues making it difficult just to "send money, will write". Requests are made and approved through regular, nearly beaurocratic processes and approved further up the food chain (see AQ manifest and other stories regarding operations, including September 11). Whether Zarqawi died, is wounded or just took the low road out of Dodge to save his ass, operations will be extremely slowed down for a bit. ...' (TMG)

Good news from Iraq. Morning Report is pleased to announce that it will begin carrying the series "Good News from Iraq" on a regular basis. From today's edition: 'You might remember Dhia Muhsin, carpenter from a working-class Baghdad neighborhood of al-Dora, who became a celebrity of sorts back in March, when he and his nephews stood up to insurgents who terrorized his area and in a firefight lasting half an hour killed three of them and forced the rest to retreat. Well, two months on, and Muhsin is still ready to take on any intruders: “I expect them (the insurgents) to come back and I’m ready to face them,” says the 33-year old who seems to have inspired his neighbors ...' Read the rest at the link. (GNFI)