In Iraq, the security chief of the northern oil fields was shot dead earlier today as he traveled to work in Kirkuk.Ghazi al-Talabani is the third top Iraqi official to be assassinated in a week and the killing marks the latest attack on the country’s oil industry which has been crippled by sabotage. Over the past two days Iraq has been forced to stop exporting oil from two if its busiest southern terminals in Basra and Khor Al-Amaya after saboteurs attacked nearby pipelines. A pipeline in northern Iraq was also targeted Tuesday. Iraq is losing an estimated $60 million a day from stalled oil exports. According to the BBC 98 percent of Iraqi government revenues comes from oil.
A new poll commissioned by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Government has found that 92 percent of Iraqis consider the US an occupying force. More than half believe all Americans behave like those portrayed in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse photos. And 55 percent reported they would feel safer if US troops immediately left. As for the so-called handover of power on June 30, 63 percent of Iraqis believe conditions will improve. The AP obtained a copy of the study which the US was not planning to release to the public.
The New York Times reports the 9/11 commission will issue a report Thursday strongly criticizing the Pentagon’s domestic air-defense command for being disastrously unprepared on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. A draft of the report reads "On the morning of 9/11, the existing protocol was unsuited in every respect for what was about to happen. What ensued was a hurried attempt to create an improvised defense by officials who had never encountered or trained against the situation they faced."
In Virginia, three Muslim men were sentenced to up to life in prison after the government accused the men of training for holy war abroad by playing paintball games in the Virginia woods. One man was sentenced to life. Another to 85 years and the third got eight years. The men were accused of being connected to a Pakistani group Lashkar-i-Taiba which is trying to drive India from the disputed region of Kashmir. In an unusual development, the judge in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Lonnie Brinkema, called the lengthy sentences "appalling" and "draconian" but said she had no choice under federal law. She said "We have murderers who get far less time. I’ve sent Al Qaeda members planning attacks on these shores to less time. This is sticking in my craw. Law and justice at times need to be in tune." One of the defendant’s attorneys called the sentence "the greatest miscarriage of justice of any case" he has been involved in 34 years of practice.
The Senate on Tuesday renewed its support for developing a new generation of nuclear weapons. Democrats unsuccessfully tried to kill provisions in a defense bill that allocates $28 million for the study of a nuclear weapon capable of penetrating underground bunkers and $9 million to help develop smaller nuclear weapons.
Vice President Cheney’s office has confirmed that his chief of staff Scooter Libby was contacted in 2002 about Halliburton receiving a secret contract to develop post-war plans in Iraq but Cheney’s office is claiming that the vice president himself was never notified.
In the West Bank hundreds of Palestinian villagers pelted Israeli bulldozers with stones today to protest the beginning of work to incorporate the major Jewish settlement of Ariel within the West Bank wall which Palestinians describe as an apartheid wall. In other news from the area, the Israeli attorney general has dropped a corruption investigation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
A new book by New York University professor Joshua Goldstein is estimating the average U.S. household is now paying $500 per month to cover the costs of the country’s war efforts. Goldstein says it is as if the government set up a meter in each household and forced the residents to put a quarter in every 20 minutes for every day of the year. Goldstein said the $500 figure does not calculate the less tangible costs of war such as lost lives and budget pressures on health care and education. Goldstein reports on his findings in a forthcoming book titled The Real Price of War in which he argues the government should spend even more money to win the so-called war on terror.
In Brunwsick Georgia, 10 people remain jailed nearly a week after they were arrested at protests near the Group of Eight Summit on Sea Island. The activists have refused to give their names or post bail in protest to the government’s crackdown on demonstrations during the summit. In a statement from jail the group — which is being called the Brunswick 10 — said "The injuries we have sustained this week while speaking out have done less damage to our bodies than the Governor’s casual militarization of civilian law enforcement has done to American democracy."
The Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday that it has re-designated frozen french fries as fresh vegetables. Many commentators compared the decision to FDA decision under President Reagan to classify ketchup is a vegetable.
In Australia, the McDonalds fast food chain has launched a multi-million dollar PR campaign against the new documentary Super Size Me. The film chronicles the effects of a man who ate nothing but McDonalds for 30 days. In the US McDonalds has said little about the film but it no longer offers super size meal deals.
In other film news, Michael Moore is appealing the Motion Picture Association’s decision to rate his new film Fahrenheit 9/11 R because it contains "violent and disturbing images and for language." The president of Lions Gate Film responded to the decision by saying "Frankly, I don’t consider any of the images in the film any more disturbing than what we have all seen on the cable news networks and the gratuitous violence that fills the screen of so many PG-13-rated action pictures." Moore said "It is sadly very possible that many 15- and 16-year-olds will be asked and recruited to serve in Iraq in the next couple of years. If they are old enough to be recruited and capable of being in combat and risking their lives, they certainly deserve the right to see what is going on in Iraq." The film opens across the nation a week from Friday.