The Washington Post is reporting that the Bush administration will announce today that the US military will be allowed to continue using antipersonnel landmines indefinitely. President Clinton had made an agreement to stop the use of such mines by 2006. Steve Goose, who heads the arms division of Human Rights Watch, said, "It looks like a victory for those in the Pentagon who want to cling to outmoded weapons, and a failure of political leadership on the part of the White House. And it is stunningly at odds with what’s happening in the rest of the world, where governments and armies are giving up these weapons." To date 150 countries have signed an anti-landmine treaty. According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a total of nearly 12,000 people were reported killed by land mines in 2002. The Washington Post report the Bush administration will bar the use of traditional landmines but will continue to allow the use of so-called smart landmines which have timing devices to automatically defuse the explosives within hours or days. In addition the military will continue to use the old type of landmine along the Korea border until the year 2010. The government will also vow to double the amount it spends removing landmines and it will insure that all future landmines contain enough iron in order to be detected by minesweeping devices. Coverage of this issue in the country’s major papers today is remarkably different. The Washington Post runs it as its lead front page story under the headline "Bush Shifts U.S. Stance On Use of Land Mines: Policy Slated for 2010 Won’t Ban All Devices Designed to Kill Troops" Meanwhile the New York Times stuffs the article on page 14 with the headline "New U.S. Land Mines to Pose Less Long-Term Danger."
In Iraq, the country’s most influential religious leader, the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani declared Thursday that he would back an agreement to delay the nationwide elections by six months until the end of this year. Sistani said the interim Iraqi government that takes control after the occupation ends of June 30 should view preparing the country for free, honest elections as its primary task. According to the Washington Post, the US appointed Iraqi Governing Council is scheduled to issue a basic law on Saturday that will serve as an interim constitution. But questions remain over how much autonomy Kurds will receive and the role of Islam in the law.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate is preparing to meet in a secret closed-door session for the first time since 1999 during the height of the impeachment trial of President Clinton. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Senate will meet in the coming weeks to scrutinize flaws in the country’s prewar intelligence about Iraq. One senior Democratic aide said "The senators who voted for the Iraq resolution want to see how the intelligence they based that vote on could be that wrong. This is a very rare occasion, and any time a closed session would be called, it would be about the most important type of debates."
In news from Haiti, Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday openly questioned whether President Aristide can continue to serve effectively as Haiti’s leader. Powell said "He is the democratically elected president, but he has had difficulties in his presidency." Powell’s comments came a day after French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin called on Aristide to resign. In a live interview on CNN yesterday, Aristide said he would not step down and called for a small international force to be deployed to the country saying as little as "a couple of dozen" soldiers could prompt the rebels to stand down. Meanwhile, the number of Haitians fleeing the country has escalated. The Coast Guard says it has intercepted 546 people at sea over the past three to four days.
The Justice Department is attempting to force six Planned Parenthood affiliates to hand over private medical records of women who had received abortions. The Planned Parenthood affiliates are located in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, San Diego, Pennsylvania and Kansas. The subpoenas follow similar demands placed on five hospitals in the Northeast and Midwest. The hospitals have resisted those requests. The Justice Department said it needed to obtain the records in order to help it determine if some late term abortions are medically necessary. Planned Parenthood and other groups have filed lawsuits seeking to overturn the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, which was signed into law last fall.
The mayor of the New York town of New Paltz has announced that several same sex couples would be married today. The mayor of the town, Jason West, said yesterday "I will simply be fulfilling my oath of office as mayor to solemnize a marriage and provide equal protection under the law for all citizens."
The Catholic Church will release an extensive report today that has found that nearly 4,400 priests have allegedly abused as many as 10,000 minors sicne 1950.
Los Angeles Times Questions Scalia Hunting Trips
The Daily News is reporting that former Senator Bob Kerrey is considering resigning from the 9/11 independent investigation board out of frustration from the White House’s efforts to block the panel access to top intelligence officials and materials. Kerrey said "I am no longer ... feeling comfortable that I’m going to be able to read and process what I need in order to participate in writing a report about how it was that 19 men defeated every single defensive system the U.S. put up to kill 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11."