The Israeli army has begun handing eviction notices to Jewish settlers in Gaza marking the start of Israel’s withdrawal from the Palestinian territory. Gaza’s 9,000 settlers now have until Wednesday to vacate their homes. The army has already sealed off the Gaza Strip and Israeli citizens have been barred from entering any settlement slated for evacuation. Israel has threatened to forcibly remove any remaining settlers beginning on Wednesday. But thousands of residents have vowed to resist their eviction. Settlers have already begun blocking access to the settlements by IDF troops. Meanwhile Palestinians have begun holding celebrations to mark Israel’s withdrawal. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas hailed the move as "historic" but said Israel should also pull out of the West Bank.
The Indonesian government and the Acehnese rebels known as the Gam have signed a deal ending a three-decade struggle for Acehnese independence. Under the agreement, the rebels will disarm and be allowed to form a local political party. Rebels will also be given amnesty, money and farmland in order to ease the transition into civilian life. Indonesia in turn will withdraw some its troops from Aceh. But Indonesia is reserving the right to return troops to the region. The government has also agreed to release some Acehnese political prisoners. Over the past decade the Indonesian military has killed thousands of Acehnese civilians.
In Crawford Texas, Cindy Sheehan has begun day nine of her vigil outside President Bush’s vacation ranch. Sheehan has vowed to remain in Crawford until the president meets with her. Last year Sheehan’s oldest son Casey died in Iraq. He was 24 years old. Hundreds of anti-war activists have now joined Sheehan in a protest that has received international attention. "You know, this is really hard. Not only am I, like, trying to stop the war, but I have to grieve my son every day," Cindy Sheehan said. "Every day I wake up, it’s like April 4th all over again. I have to realize that I have to go for another day without my son, and it’s really, really hard. And then I do this on top of that." On Saturday, Bush defended his decision not to meet with Sheehan. He said "I think it’s important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say. But. I think it’s also important for me to go on with my life." Bush’s comments came before he went on a two-hour bike ride with journalists and aides. In addition, Bush spent Saturday attending a Little League baseball game, having lunch w/ Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, napping, fishing and reading. On Friday Bush attended a political fundraiser. Tensions are also rising in Crawford. One local farmer fired a gun on his property near the protest site. When asked if he was trying to send a message the farmer said, "Figure it out for yourself."
Meanwhile The Washington Post is reporting the Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq. Officials are now saying the U.S. can no longer expect to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges.
This comes as negotiations on a new Iraqi constitution remain deadlocked. Today is the deadline for the National Assembly to draft a constitution. The New York Times reports that Shiite leaders are considering asking the National Assembly to approve the constitution without the agreement of the country’s Sunni leaders. Iraq’s Sunni leadership has criticized a Shiite proposal to create an autonomous Shiite region in the oil-rich southern portion of Iraq. Negotiations are also ongoing over the role of Islam in the state and the rights of women. And the Washington Post reports that U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad attempted to break the deadlock by presenting a U.S.-backed draft of the Iraqi Constitution. One Kurdish legislator described the U.S. draft as a "almost full version of a constitution." He said "The U.S. officials are more interested in the Iraqi constitution than the Iraqis themselves."
This news on Iran: President Bush is warning that "all options are on the table" if Iran refuses to comply with international demands to halt their nuclear program. President Bush comment came during an interview on Israeli television. "As I say, all options are on the table. The use of force is the last option for any president, and you know we used force in the past to secure our country," Bush said. "It is difficult for the commander in chief to put kids in harm’s way. Nevertheless I have been willing to do so as a last resort in order to secure the country and to provide the opportunity for people to live in free societies." President Bush’s warning was criticized by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. He said, "Let’s take the military option off the table. We have seen it doesn’t work."
Now onto the latest in the investigation into who within the Bush administration outted CIA operative Valerie Plame, the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Congressman John Conyers is calling for an investigation into former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s role in the case. Ashcroft initially refused to recuse himself from the investigation despite his longtime association with Karl Rove who was being questioned over the leak by the FBI. At the time, Ashcroft was being personally briefed about the investigation. Conyers described this as a "a stunning ethical breach that cries out for an immediate investigation."
Conyers’ call comes after a new report by investigative journalist Murray Waas that Justice Department officials decided to appoint a special prosecutor in large part because investigators had begun to specifically question the veracity of accounts provided to them by Karl Rove. When first questioned by the FBI, Rove failed to tell FBI investigators that he had talked to Time reporter Matthew Cooper about Wilson’s wife. In addition, Rove claims that he learned of Valerie Plame’s identity during a conversation with a journalist. But according to Waas, Rove was unable to recall virtually anything to investigators about the circumstances about that conversation including who the journalist was or whether it took part in person or on the phone
In Mississippi, a former Ku Klux Klansman has been released on bail less than two months after he was convicted of masterminding the 1964 killing of three civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Edgar Ray Killen was released on bail while he is appealing the convictions. Local resident Jewel Rush McDonald said, " We have worked so hard in trying to clear this dark cloud from over Neshoba County, and as far as I’m concerned the judge just set us back 41 years."
The interim Haitian government has released death squad leader Louis Jodel Chamblain from prison. Chamblain is the former head of the paramilitary group FRAPH, the Front for the Advancement of Progress of the Haitian People. The group killed some 3,000 people in the early 1990s following the 1991 coup of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Chamblain had been in jail since April 2004. He has been convicted several times on murder charges but the convictions were later thrown out by new Haitian government. In other news from Haiti, 29 members of Congress have joined with Congresswoman Maxine Waters in calling for the release of Haitian priest Gerard Jean-Juste. He has been in jail since July 21.
In Sri Lanka, the country’s foreign minister was assassinated on Friday. Up to 10,000 people are expected to attend his funeral today. The government is blaming the Tamil Tiger rebel group but the group has denied it was behind the killing. 12 ethnic Tamils have already been detained.
Lawyers for human rights attorney Lynne Stewart have asked for a new trial claiming that she did not have an impartial jury. In February Stewart was convicted of five counts of conspiracy and lying and of helping her client — the imprisoned blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman — send messages to his followers. One juror failed to disclose that he was biased against criminal defendants. A second juror has said she was intimidated by other jurors to convict Stewart. During the deliberations a fellow juror warned her that if she did not vote to convict that it would be "her fault" if anyone died in another terrorist attack.
In Washington, relatives of incarcerated men and women rallied on Saturday calling for an overhaul of the government’s prison policies. The protest comes at a time that the nation’s prison population is over 2.1 million and growing at a rate of about 900 prisoners per week.
And in Chicago, a funeral is being held today for John H. Johnson, the pioneering African-American magazine publisher. He died last week at the age of 87. He was the founder of Jet and Ebony magazines and was one of the most influential African-American entrepreneurs of the past half-century.