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In Iraq, seven hostages including the Italians Simona Toretta and Simona Pari were released yesterday along with their two Iraq colleagues. The four of them were kidnapped on Sept. 7 by unknown captors. The two 29-year-old women who worked with A Bridge to Baghdad have returned home to Italy to mass celebrations. The country’s leading daily newspaper writes "It has been a long time since Italy enjoyed a true and spontaneous feeling of joy, capable of uniting the entire nation." Toretta and Pari have worked in Iraq for years with A Bridge to Baghdad, a humanitarian group that opposed much of U.S. foreign policy in Iraq including the sanctions, invasion and occupation. Torretta said she planned to return to Baghdad. She said "I would do it all over again with all the consequences that carries even though I’m sorry for all the suffering my mother went through and didn’t deserve." While seven hostages were released yesterday, the BBC estimates some 30 foreign nationals are still being held captive in Iraq as well as an unknown number of Iraqis.
In an expose in the New York Daily News, Democracy Now co-host Juan Gonzalez has uncovered the story of how a new-born baby may have suffered deformities because her father was exposed to depleted uranium in Iraq. Army National Guard Specialist Darren Matthew tested positive for uranium contamination after he returned from Iraq. He suffered constant migraine headaches, blurred vision, blackouts and a burning sensation whenever he urinated. Shortly after he returned home, his wife became pregnant. When his daughter, Victoria Claudette, was born on June 29 she was missing three fingers and most of her right hand. The family believes the deformities are a result of the depleted uranium contamination. The Daily News headlined the story "The War’s Littlest Victim." Matthew told the Daily News "I just want answers. Are they [the Army] going to take care of my baby?"
In other Iraq news, the New York Times reports that an examination of recent attacks in Iraq show the resistance to the U.S. presence and the U.S.-backed government is far greater than the Bush administration is admitting. Over the last 30 days the country has seen 2,368 attacks spread across the country.
An Army Reserve staff sergeant serving in Iraq may face up to 20 years in prison after the publication of an article he wrote titled "Why We Cannot Win" about the situation in Iraq. The soldier, Al Lorenz, has told Salon.com that his commanders are investigating whether the publication of the article constituted disloyalty and insubordination. If charges are filed, Salon reports the case could mark the first disloyalty prosecution since the Vietnam War. In his article that appeared on the site LewRockwell.com, Lorenz wrote, "I have come to the conclusion that we cannot win here for a number of reasons. Ideology and idealism will never trump history and reality." He then gave four key reasons for the likely failure: a refusal to deal with reality, not understanding what motivates the enemy, an overabundance of guerrilla fighters, and the enemy’s shorter line of supplies and communication. Lorenz has served in the military for over 20 years.
The New York Times has sued Attorney General John Ashcroft in attempt to block the government from obtaining phone records from two of its reporters in an investigation examining who leaked information about Islamic charities tied to suspected terrorists. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is trying to determine whether Times reporters Judith Miller and Philip Shenon were tipped off about developments of an investigation of charities accused of having ties to terrorists after Sept. 11. The government is seeking all of the phone records made by both reporters in the 20 days after the Sept. 11 attacks. The TImes suit charges "Given the scope and the breadth of Mr. Shenon’s and Ms. Miller’s reporting in the fall of 2001, the records sought would likely reveal the identities of not one, or two, but dozens of confidential sources."
More questions have been raised as to why the Department of Homeland Security denied entry to the singer Cat Stevens, also known as Yusuf Islam on national security grounds last week. In a column in the Los Angeles Times, the singer reveals that only two months ago he was allowed to meet in Washington with top officials from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Intiatives. In addition, he notes that he met with New York Senator Hillary Clinton of New York one month after the World Trade Center attack. He writes "Had I changed that much? No. Actually, it’s the indiscriminate procedure of profiling that’s changed. I am a victim of an unjust and arbitrary system, hastily imposed, that serves only to belittle America’s image as a defender of the civil liberties that so many dearly struggled and died for over the centuries."
The Senate has approved sending $680 million more in aid to Sudan to help the hundreds of thousands of refugees in the Darfur region. So far the U.S. government has spent on Sudan a fraction of what it is spending in Iraq. The Center for American Progress estimates the total U.S. aid sent to the Darfur region so far this year — $175 million — is roughly the equivalent of what the U.S. spends each day in Iraq.
The Guardian of London is reporting newly discovered files in the National Archives show that President Bush’s grandfather, the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany. The discovered documents have prompted two former slave laborers at the Auschwitz concentration camp to sue the Bush family in a German court. In addition, a former US Nazi war crimes prosecutor has argued that the late senator’s action should have been grounds for prosecution for giving aid and comfort to the enemy. The newly declassified documents show that Bush served on the board of at least one company that formed part of multinational network of front companies that helped one of Hitler’s main financial backers to move assets around the world.
Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette is demanding a congressional investigation into allegations that the all-volunteer US Army is trying to coerce soldiers to re-enlist. The Democrat’s request comes after the Rocky Mountain News reported that soldiers stationed at Fort Carson were threatened to be sent to Iraq if they did not re-enlist for three more years. DeGette called the reports "disturbing," and said US soldiers who had honorably fought in Iraq and were near the end of their service "should not be threatened with impressment."
John Walker Lindh of California is asking President Bush to commute his 20-year prison sentence for aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan. The 23-year-old U.S. citizen was detained three years ago in Afghanistan and was accused of fighting against U.S. troops. Lindh’s attorney said yesterday that his client’s sentence should be reduced now that Yaser Esam Hamdi is being released after being held for three years as an enemy combatant. Hamdi is also a U.S. citizen who was detained in Afghanistan. Lindh’s attorney said "Comparable conduct should be treated in comparable ways in terms of sentencing.
John Ashcroft’s Justice Department has announced that it will appeal a Nebraska judge’s ruling that declared the so-called Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act as unconstitutional.