Iraqi P.M. faces revolt in cabinet

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki faced a widening revolt within his divided government as two senior Sunni politicians joined prominent Shiite lawmakers and Cabinet members in criticizing his policies.

“There is a clear deterioration in security and everything is moving in the wrong direction,” the Sunni leader told The Associated Press. “This situation must be redressed as soon as possible. If they continue, the country will plunge into civil war.”

Al-Maliki’s No. 2, Deputy Prime Minister Salam Zikam Ali al-Zubaie, also a Sunni, argued that the president’s government failed to curb the spread of sectarian politics.

A boycott by 30 lawmakers and five Cabinet ministers loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was in protest of al-Maliki’s meeting with President Bush in Jordan yesterday. The Sadrists said the meeting amounted to an affront to the Iraqi people.

Al-Maliki appealed to the Sadrists to end their boycott and admonished them for an action that he said violated the commitment expected from partners in his 6-month-old coalition government.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Officials to turn off city’s red lights

City officials say they will turn off the red lights and shutter a third of the prostitution “windows” in Amsterdam’s famed Red Light District, where scantily-clad ladies of the night have beckoned customers for hundreds of years.

The move is part of a crackdown on crime in the area.

“We’re not knights on a morality crusade, and this is intended to target financial crime, not prostitution per se,” city spokesman Martien Maten said.

The Dutch government legalized prostitution in 2000 to make it easier to tax and regulate.

Maten said the city was now making use of a new law to revoke brothels’ licenses when it suspects operators have used them for money laundering or other illegal financial activity.

But advocacy groups for prostitutes said the move was misguided, since it will hurt the women who act as independent contractors renting space behind the windows. Brothel owners said they would appeal the decision in court.

Mount Pleasant, Iowa
Vilsack announces presidential bid

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination yesterday, positioning himself as a Washington outsider with heartland appeal.

Vilsack also emphasized the nexus between oil dependence, national security and the economy, saying he would give high priority to weaning the nation off foreign oil and promoting alternative energy.

“Energy security will revitalize rural America,” Vilsack told more than 500 cheering backers in the small town where be began his political career as mayor. “Energy security will allow us once and for all to remove and reduce our dependency on foreign oil from foreign countries that do not like us.”

In wrangling in Washington is especially high, political analysts said Vilsack is particularly well-positioned as a Midwestern governor to run for the White House as an outsider.

Nevertheless, Vilsack has a low profile outside Iowa and even he acknowledges his candidacy is a long shot.

Notable Number

Percentage of adults in the United States who were in jail, on parole or on probation at the end of 2005, according a report released yesterday by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.

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