The number of Iraqi children suffering from malnutrition has almost doubled since the U.S. invasion two years. The United Nations is now estimating eight percent of all Iraqi children are chronically undernourished. Worldwide the UN estimates some 17,000 children die every day from hunger-related diseases. Jean Ziegler of the United Nations said "The silent daily massacre by hunger is a form of murder. It must be battled and eliminated."
Meanwhile the number of Iraqi prisoners being held by the United States has more than doubled in the past five months. Over 10,000 people are now in the U.S. run jails. In addition the number of detainees in U.S. run jails in Afghanistan have also jumped in recent months. As of January the U.S. was holding 500 prisoners in Afghanistan. A more up-to-date tally in Afghanistan is no longer possible. The Pentagon recently started classifying the number of detainees there and the legal basis for their detentions.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that every Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to reject John Bolton’s nomination to be US ambassador to the United Nations. This would mark the first time that committee Democrats unanimously opposed a diplomatic selection by President Bush. It could also put Bush’s nomination in peril if any Republicans defected to vote against Bolton. Hearings will be held on April 7. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California said of Bolton "He’s been contemptuous of the U.N. There’s a lot to talk about at this hearing. It’s going to be very contentious." Several groups opposed to Bolton have launched campaigns to urge Republican Lincolon Chafee of Rhode Island to vote against his nomination. Chafee is the most moderate Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. We’ll have more on the Bolton nomination in a few minutes.
The board of the World Bank is reportedly set to approve Paul Wolfowitz today to become the bank’s new president. On Wednesday Wolfowitz received the support of the European Union after meeting with officials in Brussels. Wolfowitz has been serving as the Deputy defense secretary. He was one of the main architects of the Iraq invasion and a leading neo-conservative thinker.
The Supreme Court has made it easier for older workers to sue for age discrimination. In a ruling issued Wednesday the court said older workers can sue for age discrimination without having to prove that the discrimination was intentional. The AARP hailed the ruling as a QUOTE "huge victory for older workers."
In the Terri Schiavo case, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to intervene in the case for the sixth time. In addition a Florida appeals court also declined Wednesday to intervene. It has been nearly two weeks since the courts ordered doctors to remove the feeding tube of the severely brain damaged woman.
At Columbia University, an ad hoc faculty committee has cleared a group of professors in the Middle Eastern studies department of being anti-Semitic. The New York Times has obtained a copy of the report which concludes that it had found "no evidence of any statements by the faculty that could reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic." Last year a group pro-Israeli students released a video that purported to show students at Columbia and Barnard being intimidated by professors because of their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The faculty report does say it found one instance in which a professor "exceeded commonly accepted bounds" of behavior during a classroom discussion.
The city of Los Angeles is expected to announce today it will end up paying a total $70 million in settlements to citizens who were abused by the police as part as what is known as the Rampart Division police scandal. Over the past five years the city has been sued more than 200 times for police mistreatment and abuse. The Rampart scandal began in September 1999 when Officer Rafael Perez pleaded guilty to charges that he had stolen three kilos of cocaine from LAPD evidence facilities. In exchange for a five-year sentence, he promised to tell authorities about a case in 1996 in which he and his partner shot a young man then planted a gun on him to justify the shooting. Attorney Gregory Yates, who represented clients who were abused, said he was disappointed that none of the major lawsuits went to trial in front of a jury. A trial, he said, "would have exposed how massive and widespread the corruption was."
In Zimbabwe, voting has begun in the country’s parliamentary elections. President Robert Mugabe has predicted "a mountainous victory" for his party. But opponents have accused Mugabe of rigging the vote. Mugabe dismissed the claims. A total of 120 parliamentary seats are up for election. If Mugabe’s party can gain a two-thirds majority it would then have the power to revise the constitution. The 81-year-old Mugabe has been president since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980. He has accused his opponents of being stooges of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. But Mugabe himself has been widely accused of rigging the polls. Opposition candidates say food aid to opposition supporters has been cut off and that many international election observers have been barred access to the polls. The Guardian of London reports Army officers have been placed in charge of polling stations and ballot boxes have been made of transparent plastic so opposition voters can be identified. In one of the first reports of trouble, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change said one of its candidates in southern had disappeared after an attack by ruling party supporters on the eve of the poll.
The ousted president of Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akayev, has accused the United States of being behind what he describes as a "anti-constitutional coup" that forced him to flee the country last week. This according to a report in the Guardian of London. Akayev said he would only resign if given sufficient a guarantee of his personal safety.
In Canada, animal rights activists have staged protests against the country’s annual seal hunt. The Guardian is reporting an estimated 320,000 seals will be killed this year in the largest hunt in more than 50 years. The seals are usually shot to dead or killed with clubs. They are then skinned to provide coats, hats, handbags and other accessories for the European fashion trade. Animal rights activists claim the pups are often skinned alive, but sealers and government officials insist the pups die instantly in compliance with strict guidelines.
And the Vatican is expected to announce that it will open the process for Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero to possibly become a saint. Romero was assassinated 25 years ago last week as he celebrated Mass at a hospital chapel. He was a vocal critic of the death squads in El Salvador’s civil war. On Saturday Vatican officials plan to hold a ceremony in San Salvador to announced the opening of the beatification process — a move that would put him closer to sainthood.