Monday, July 2nd, 2007
US Accused of Killing 8 Civilians in Sadr City Raid
US forces are being accused of blindly firing on innocents in an attack on Sadr City. Local hospital officials say eight civilians were killed in their homes. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki renewed his call for the US military to seek his approval before carrying out similar raids.
2 US Troops Charged in Baghdad Killings
Two US soldiers have been charged in the separate killings of three Iraqis near Baghdad. Both of the accused suspects are charged with premeditated murder and then planting a weapon to cover up the alleged crime.
US Supreme Court to Hear Guantanamo Challenge
The US Supreme Court has decided to consider whether prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their imprisonment. The decision reverses the court's refusal in April to hear an appeal from detainees at Guantanamo challenging the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The law stripped detainees of the right to habeas corpus. Court staffers say the decision marks the first time in sixty years justices have agreed to hear an appeal they initially rejected. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights said, "The Supreme Court will now seek for the third time to resolve the fate of these detainees… who have languished without any meaningful way to challenge their detention for more than five years. The processes the government put in place are a sham. They allow the use of evidence obtained through torture and no real review of the facts."
Leahy Vows to Seek Contempt Citation, Court Ruling over Subpoena Refusals
Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy has announced he's prepared to go to court to seek a contempt-of-Congress vote if the Bush administration resists subpoenas for information on the firing of nine US attorneys. The White House announced last week Bush will invoke executive privilege to deny access to documents from former presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor. Leahy responded in an interview on the Sunday talk show Meet the Press.
He said, "If they don't cooperate, yes I'd go that far. I mean, this is very important to the American people."
5 Arrested in UK Bombing Plot
In Britain, five people were arrested Sunday in an ongoing investigation into an alleged failed car-bombing attempt in London and another in Scotland. On Friday, police found two Mercedes containing gasoline, gas cylinders, and nails parked in London. One day later, two people were arrested after a car crashed into the main terminal at Glasgow airport. Witness Jim Manson described the attack.
Manson said, "It started out with some flames coming up from the front of the car, but then, it was almost as if there was kind of a mini explosion as if there'd be a petrol canister or something. And the flames were shooting right up to the top of the terminal building, which was quite dramatic. And then, the terminal building seemed to catch fire. The front of the terminal building seemed to catch fire, and there was smoke and flames obviously going inside and outside as well. Everyone just ran. I mean they were absolutely terrified, as you can imagine."
The new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the attacks indicate links to al Qaeda and announced increased security measures at airports.
Brown said, "We will have to be constantly vigilant. We will have to be alert at all times. And I think the message that's going to come out from Britain and from the British people is that, as one, we will not yield, we will not be intimidated, and we will not allow anyone to undermine our British way of life."
Israel Transfers Fraction of Owed Palestinian Funds
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Israel has begun transferring some of the hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian tax money it has frozen for more than a year. The initial sum of one hundred twenty million dollars is just a fraction of the total amount Palestinians are owed. The money will go to the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank with none to Hamas-controlled Gaza. Hamas says Israel is trying to intensify the Palestinian divide by increasing Gaza's isolation.
Aid convoys into Gaza continue to move at a trickle pace.
UN humanitarian coordinator John Ging said, "There never was a greater need for us, and yet it was never more difficult to deliver the assistance. But that is our challenge, and we will strive to succeed in that challenge. And I hope that all others in their respective challenges, the political challenge, and so on and so forth, that they too succeed to find solutions that will take the situation forward to a better future."
1,000 Protest Bush-Putin Meeting in Maine
Russian President Vladimir Putin is in the United States for informal meetings with Bush. The two are meeting at the Bush-family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. As Putin arrived, more than one thousand people demonstrated in a nearby town against the war in Iraq and ongoing Russian policy in Chechnya.
Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007
US Airstrike Kills 10 Iraqi Civilians
In Iraq, at least ten civilians have been killed in a US airstrike on the city of Diwaniyah. The Pentagon says it was targeting insurgent gunfire. Iraqi police shot and killed one person while dispersing a crowd of angry residents who had taken to the streets to protest.
McCain Fires Dozens of Campaign Staff
Arizona Senator John McCain has let go of dozens of campaign staffers after falling far short of his fundraising goals. McCain's campaign is struggling with a budget of around two million dollars.
Israeli Nuclear Whistleblower Sentenced to 6-Month Term
The Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu has been sentenced to another six-months in prison for speaking to the international media. Vanunu was released in 2004 after spending18 years in jail for disclosing information that proved Israel had a stockpile of nuclear weapons. Israel barred Vanunu from speaking to the foreign press but he defied the order by speaking to several foreign outlets, including Democracy Now. Earlier this year, an Israeli court convicted him of violating the terms of his release. On Monday, Vanunu's attorney Avigdor Feldman denounced the new sentence.
Feldman said, "Vanunu was convicted for violating a rule that does not exist in any other democratic world that forbids speaking to foreigners regardless of the contents of the conversation. The court convicted him, sentenced him to six months in prison. This sentence is not acceptable and not imaginable."
In addition to his foreign media ban, Vanunu is also barred from leaving Israel. Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Vanunu urged Israel to let him leave.
Mordechai Vanunu said, "My target is to be free, to leave this country. I don't want to live here. I have 18 years in prison now another three years. I want to leave and to start my life. I have the right to be free. I am a free man. I want to be free, and I want to leave...I am not answering any questions now. Thank you."
Mexican Opposition Marks One-Year since Disputed Election
Opposition activists in Mexico are marking the one-year anniversary of a controversial election that brought the country to a standstill. Felipe Calderon, it was declared by a partial court in Mexico, defeated former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by just over half a percentage point.
Calderon's victory was marred by accusations of corruption and fraud. On Sunday, Lopez Obrador joined with tens of thousands of supporters at a major rally in Mexico City.
Obrador said, "One year from the election fraud, we are able to say with pride and decision that the right and supporters were wrong. He we are, and continue, convinced more than ever of the need of pushing for an alternative project for the nation."
Argentine President's Wife to Run
In Argentina, the wife of President Nestor Kirchner has announced she'll run as a candidate in Argentina's presidential election later this year. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will run in place of her husband who is not seeking a second term. In an interview last week, Nestor Kirchner said he is willing to become Argentina's "first gentleman."
He said, "Whether someone is president or first lady or first gentleman, as some say, what does it matter? What matters is that Argentina goes ahead in its process of change. We have the men and women to continue transforming Argentina."
Hundreds Protest US Carrier in India
In India, hundreds of people gathered in the southern city of Chennai to protest the visit of a US aircraft carrier. The nuclear-powered USS Nimitz is the first US aircraft carrier to visit India's ports.
David Pandian of the Communist Party of India said, "We are totally opposed to the visit of this warship, because it is a violation of our foreign policy. India has been, from the inception of its independence, have been, following a neutral policy that has been aiming at world peace; but, now, the Manmohan Singh government has descended down to a low level of implicating for all that we stood for."
Iran, Venezuela Boost Ties
Venezuela and Iran have increased ties with a series of new deals. On Monday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced agreements on a joint petrochemical plant and other economic cooperation. Speaking in Tehran, Chavez said the two countries are forming a "brotherly" front against the Bush administration.
Chavez said, "I finish with this. That is why in Washington they begin to worry when they see us shaking hands with our steel fists, because they represent the steel of the moral of our peoples."
Iran Launches English-News Channel
Iran's state broadcaster has launched its first twenty-four hour English news channel. Press TV director Shahab Mossavat said he hopes to compete with the satellite networks including al Jazeerah and the BBC. "Press TV is a 24-hour English language news network set up here in Iran. We broadcast from Tehran and around the world. Our aims are to be a news provider globally. What we do in terms of output: We have programs that are both global and cover the Middle East."
Trial Begins in Murder of Turkish-Armenian Editor Hrant Dink
In Turkey, eighteen suspects went on trial Monday for the murder of Turkish Armenian editor Hrant Dink. Dink was slain outside his office in January in what many believe was a political killing for his efforts to challenge Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide. More than one thousand people demonstrated outside the courtroom Monday demanding a fair proceeding. Several Turkish newspapers have reported one of the main suspects said he murdered Dink on the orders of police officers. The lead-up to the trial has brought accusations of lackluster investigations and state interference.
Fethiye Cetin, Hrant Dink's lawyer said, "Of course our suspicions continue, because it is a general problem. What happened during the Semdinli investigation is a clear sign of it. Firstly, all control over the legal system must be removed. This is the biggest problem."
Cetin was referring to the recent overturning of a forty-year jail term for two paramilitary officers over their role in a controversial bombing of a bookstore in the eastern town of Semdinli two years ago.
Thursday, July 5th, 2007
Contractors Outnumber US Troops in Iraq
New figures show US troops are now outnumbered by another force in Iraq: Private contractors. According to the Los Angeles Times, there are more than one-hundred-eighty thousand US-paid private contractors in Iraq. That's more than the number of US troops and civilian government officials combined. Most of the contractors are Iraqis. Twenty-one thousand are Americans and forty-three thousand from other countries. The number is likely higher, because not all security contractors were counted in the total.
Pentagon Probes War Crimes Allegations in Fallujah
The Pentagon says it's probing new allegations of wrongdoing during the assault on Fallujah three years ago. US Marines are said to have killed as many as eight unarmed Iraqi prisoners as US forces attacked Fallujah in November of 2004. The Marine unit under investigation is the same involved in the killing of twenty-four civilians in Haditha in 2005.
Iraq Cabinet Advances Oil Law
The Iraqi cabinet has approved part of a controversial oil law. On Tuesday, cabinet ministers voted to send the law on to parliament. US lawmakers have demanded Iraq advance the measure before it approves additional war funding. Critics say the law would leave Iraq's oil open to foreign takeover.
Kidnapped BBC Reporter Freed in Gaza
The BBC reporter Alan Johnston has been freed after nearly four months in captivity in the Gaza Strip. Johnston was released following an undisclosed deal between Gaza's Hamas-led government and his captors. Hours after his release, Johnston spoke from Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh's offices in Gaza.
Alan Johnston said, "There are just hardly no words to say how relieved I am to, that this thing has ended, that I am free again. I dreamt to be free, literally dreamt many, many nights, and now I'm out. And it is, as I say, it is most difficult to describe how good this moment feels, and I'm grateful to so many people that have worked to try to bring this about, people, the Hamas movement, who did a great deal putting a huge amount of pressure on the kidnappers in the last few weeks, especially Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, from the beginning, making clear that he didn't, in any way, approve of this kidnapping and kept insisting that it had to end and kept looking for ways to end it."
5 Palestinians Killed in Israeli Raid on Gaza; Teen Killed in the West Bank
Five Palestinian fighters have been killed in the latest Israeli-military raid. Israeli troops and tanks attacked the al Barij refugee camp in Central Gaza.
In the West Bank, Israeli troops shot and killed a fifteen-year-old Palestinian they mistook for a gunman, because he was carrying a toy weapon.
Palestinian Civil Servants Receive First Salaries in 17 Months
Palestinian-government workers have received full salaries for the first time in seventeen months. Nearly one-hundred forty-thousand employees have been denied wages since the US and Israel imposed an international boycott on the democratically-elected Hamas-led government. Israel began releasing some of the seized Palestinian tax revenue to Palestinian President Mahmound Abbas last week. Abbas is refusing to pay salaries to nineteen thousand government workers allied with Hamas.
Iran Renews Call for US Talks
Iran has renewed calls for talks with the United States. On Wednesday, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghci spoke during a visit to South Africa.
Araghci said, "If Americans want to continue negotiations, we are also available. We don't insist. This is their problem. They have to take care of their own problems, but we are still there to help Iraqi people and Iraqi government."
Friday, July 6th, 2007
US Attacks, Raids Sadr City
US fighter jets carried out air strikes on the Sadr City district of Baghdad Thursday, injuring three people and destroying several vehicles in a parking lot.
Ground troops carried out raids on dozens of homes. Six people were arrested, including two teenage boys. Their mother, Umm Nour, pleaded for their return.
Umm Nour said, "They stormed the house and took my two sons. They took both of them. They are both sick and weak. Please let them free my sons. I want nothing but their freedom."
GOP Senator Domenici Calls for Iraq Withdrawal
New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici has become the latest Republican to abandon the Bush administration on Iraq. On Thursday, Domenici said he would support legislation that would withdraw US troops from Iraq by March of 2008. Domenici is up for re-election. He says he changed his stance following recent conversations with the families of dead soldiers from his home state. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid welcomed Domenici's shift, but added, "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." The Senate reconvenes next week to vote on a series of measures that would cut off war funding and set a date for withdrawal.
Military-Area Newspaper Calls for Iraq Withdrawal
A McClatchy newspaper with a large military audience has come out for a withdrawal from Iraq. In an editorial published on the Fourth of July, The Olympian newspaper of Olympia, Washington says the war in Iraq "isn't worth a single more American life." The Olympian reaches nearby Fort Lewis and McCord Air Force Base.
Israeli Group Warns of Gaza Collapse
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, an Israeli human-rights group is warning the blockade on Gaza threatens to destroy Gaza's already-depleted commercial sector and encourage local support for violent extremism. According to Gisha, three-quarters of Gaza's factories have closed in just three weeks due to a ban on importing or exporting goods. The price for raw materials has risen by up to thirty-four percent. Thirty-thousand people, or one-tenth of the workforce, are expected to lose their jobs. In a further setback, the local UN relief groups are expected to announce today an end to all construction projects in Gaza because Israel won't allow the import of cement. An Israeli military official involved in Gaza policy described Israel's strategy there as "no development, no progress, no humanitarian crisis."
Palestinian Cameraman Loses Legs in Israeli Shooting
Israeli forces have pulled out of Gaza following a raid that killed at least eleven militants and left more than twenty people wounded. A Palestinian cameraman was shot as he filmed clashes between Palestinian militants and Israeli troops. Imad Ghanem was near a group of Palestinian gunmen when he was hit by Israeli bullets. Footage of the attack shows he came under continued fire as he lay on the ground next to his camera. A group of Palestinians tried to rescue him but were sent back as the firing continued. Ghanem was finally rushed to the hospital where doctors were forced to amputate both his legs.
Freed Journalist Thanks Abbas for Release
The newly freed BBC journalist Alan Johnston met with Palestinian President Mahmmoud Abbas in Ramallah Thursday. Johnston was released on Wednesday after nearly four months in captivity. Johnston thanked Abbas for his efforts.
Johnston said, "Thank you to President Abbas for his support and all his troubles. I had a radio, and I was aware of how much he was doing to try and secure my release. I also have come to the West Bank to say thank you so much with all my heart for all the Palestinians here, specially to the civil society organization and specially to the journalists in the West Bank in Nablus, in Jenin, in Ramallah who campaigned so often and so passionately to try and secure my release."
Johnston is expected to return home to Scotland on Saturday.
Hamas: Hostage Efforts Should Encourage Recognition
Johnston was freed following an undisclosed deal between Hamas leaders and his militant captors. In Gaza, Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said Hamas deserved international recognition.
Barhoum said, "What we have put forth is a great achievement for the Arab world and Muslim world, the Palestinian people and entire world. This achievement should really affect the world attitude regarding the recognition of the Hamas movement and the Palestinian authority and to recognize the Palestinian cause. We are a people who want to share with the world under the international system in order to support our rights and expectations."
Pakistani Students Vow Fight to Death in Mosque Standoff
In Pakistan, Islamic students holed up in an Islamabad mosque are vowing a fight to the death in their four-day standoff with government forces. Tensions that have brewed for months came to a head this week after militant students reportedly kidnapped six Chinese prostitutes. An ensuing raid by government forces led to clashes that killed nineteen people. More than one thousand students are believed to remain inside. One surrendering student, identified as Bano, described the scene inside the mosque.
Bano said, "Dead bodies are also lying inside: Two Mujahideen brothers who were martyred last night, then an elderly sister who died the first day, and a girl who died yesterday morning. She went onto the roof and was shot. There are four bodies lying in there."
Yemenis Protest Suicide Attack
In Yemen, hundreds of people gathered in Sanna Thursday to condemn a suicide attack that killed seven Spanish tourists and two Yemenis.
Mohamad Alqusi said, ''We all came here to present our condolences to the families and friends of the Spanish victims. We are with them, our hearts are with their families, and we, the Yemeni people, are united as one against terrorists."
Argentine Chaplain Tried for Dirty-War-Era Abuses
In Argentina, a former police chaplain has gone on trial for alleged involvement in torture, kidnapping, and murder of dissidents during Argentina's Dirty War. Roman Catholic priest Christian Von Wernich is the first clergy member to go on trial for crimes committed by several US-backed military regimes in Latin America during the 1970's and 80's.
Argentina researcher and activist Horacio Verbitsky said, "The case of Von Wernich is an extreme. There is a point at which it's impossible to distinguish the priest from a cop. I mean, he was personally torturing people. So, it is an extreme but it is an extreme within a continuum."
Hundreds of Thousands Rally for Rebel, Government Conciliation in Colombia
In Colombia, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Bogota Thursday to call for an end to the conflict between government forces and rebel groups. Eleven hostages were killed in a botched military rescue mission last week.
Yolando Pulecio, mother of the kidnapped political Ingrid Betancourt, said, "They [the government and the FARC] must converse to free the hostages. It is about a conversation, not with violence or military operations, not with bombs or anything else."
UN Environment Head Backs Castro on Ethanol Warning
The UN's top environmental official has backed Cuban President Fidel Castro's recent warnings that the US-backed reliance on ethanol production will increase food prices and global hunger. UN Environment Program head Achim Steiner spoke Wednesday in Havana.
Steiner said, "What President Castro points to is something that, for instance, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization has also recently also pointed to: That there is significant potential and risk for competition between food production and production for a global biofuels-market. The latest scientific consensus is that we have 10 to 15 years to initiate the kinds of changes that will require fundamental transformations in our energy and transport economies."
Steiner went on to praise Cuba for solving its energy shortages without undermining a pledge to promote environmentally-friendly fuels. Steiner says Cuba has taken important steps towards reliance on wind and solar power.