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Shiites Protest New Constitution; Kurds Celebrate

Controversy over Iraq’s new interim constitution continued Monday even after the 25 members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council signed the U.S.-approved constitution. Iraq’s leading Shiite Cleric, Ayatollah Sistani said the interim document hinders democracy and gives the Kurds enough power to thwart passage of a permanent constitution. Meanwhile 12 of the 13 Shiites on the Governing Council, including Ahmed Chalabi, signed a statement saying they intended to amend key portions of the document that they considered to be undemocratic. The Los Angeles Times reports that five Shiite leaders refused to attend the signing ceremony in protest. In Kirkuk, tens of thousands of Kurds took to the streets to celebrate the signing of the new interim constitution claiming that in effect it returned Kirkuk to Kurdistan. But according to the Guardian of London, the huge outpouring of Kurdish emotion disregarded the fact that the constitution does not rule definitively on the future of the contested city, the surrounding areas, and its vast oil wealth. One western official said: "They are going have a nasty hangover when they wake up in the morning. They clearly have not read the new law carefully enough." Meanwhile Turkish officials have protested the new constitution for giving too much autonomy to the Kurds. Turkey’s Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said "The interim law does not satisfy us, it increases our concerns. We see it as an arrangement that will not help the establishment of permanent peace in Iraq."

Haiti Moves To Transition Gov’t; Aristide to Sue

In Haiti, a Council of Sages has formed to put together a transitional government to pick a replacement to Aristide’s prime minister Yvon Neptune. On Monday Boniface Alexandre was officially installed as the country’s interim president. But ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide maintained yesterday that he was still president. Lawyers representing Aristide are planning to serve Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell with papers today asking that the US prosecute the people involved in what they call the kidnapping of Aristide and his wife Mildred, who is a US citizen. Meanwhile In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher dismissed Aristide’s charge that he was kidnapped or his claim to the presidency. Boucher said "If Mr. Aristide really wants to serve his country, he really has to, we think, let his nation get on with the future and not try to stir up the past again."

Bush Blasts Kerry On Intelligence Cuts

On the campaign front President Bush yesterday blasted Senator John Kerry for proposing to reduce the intelligence budget by $1.5 billion in 1995, two years after the first World Trade Center attack. Kerry’s campaign defended the move saying the cut targeted a slush fund for defense contractors. A Kerry spokesperson said "Unlike George Bush, John Kerry does not and will not support every special spending project supported by Halliburton and other defense contractors."

Kerry Prepares for Voting Problems in Florida

Kerry campaigned in Florida ahead of Tuesday’s primary. According to the Boston Globe, the Senator came closer than he has before in questioning the legitimacy of Bush’s elected hold on the White House. He said "You’d think that somebody, remembering what happened here in this great state, who was finally put in office by the Supreme Court of the United States, would actually recognize the division of the nation and try to reach out. But, oh no — they shut the doors on Democrats, my way or the highway on this policy or that policy; misled America time and again." Kerry also announced that he was putting together a legal team to monitor voting districts in Florida that reported problems in 2000. His campaign also plans to "pre-challenge" any irregularities it suspects in the balloting process.

Report: U.S. Supplied 43 Countries Weapons-Grade Uranium

The New York Times is reporting that over the last several decades the US has given a total of 43 countries enough weapons-grade uranium to make 1,000 nuclear bombs. Much of the uranium was loaned, leased or sold starting in the 1950s under President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program. Countries included Pakistan and Iran. A new Energy Department audit found the US is making little effort to recover the large quantities of weapon-grade uranium that it dispersed.

Zimbabwe Seizes U.S. Plane w/ Suspected Mercenaries

Officials in Zimbabwe’s reported yesterday they seized a U.S.-registered cargo plane carrying 64 "suspected mercenaries" and military equipment.

New Potential Scalia Conflict of Interest Raised

The Los Angeles Times has learned that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave a keynote dinner speech in Philadelphia for an advocacy group waging a legal battle against gay rights at a time that the Supreme Court was weighing a landmark gay-rights case last year. A month after the dinner he dissented from a decision that overturned a Texas law made sex between same sex couples a crime.

Air Force Reports 92 Rape Cases in Pacific

A new study by the Air Force found there were at least 92 reports of rape involving Air Force personnel in the Pacific between 2001 and 2003. The internal report criticized flaws in the reporting system of sexual assault claims and assistance provided to victims.

Ashcroft & Kucinich Hospitalized

Attorney General John Ashcroft remains in intensive care five days after being diagnosed with a severe case of gallstone pancreatitis. Meanwhile Congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich was hospitalized Monday with an intestinal ailment.

Writer Spalding Gray Found Dead in NYC

And the actor, writer and monologist Spalding Gray has died. His body was found this weekend floating in New York’s East River. He had disappeared on January 10. It is believed he committed suicide.


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