Last night, people across the United States participated in more than 1,500 candlelight vigils calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq. The vigils were called by Cindy Sheehan who is continuing her antiwar protest outside of President Bush’s property near Crawford, Texas. Here is the mother of a soldier who was wounded in Iraq, speaking at a vigil in Washington DC.
One mother of a soldier who served in Iraq, speaking in Washington DC. Meanwhile, in Crawford Cindy Sheehan has been joined by a growing number of people at her protest and has now begun setting up camp on the property of one of President Bush’s neighbors who offered his land to Sheehan. Among the people joining her are several parents of soldiers killed in Iraq, as well as Minnesota State Senator Becky Lourey, whose son died in Iraq, as well as FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley—who is running for Congress in Minnesota. Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is also in Crawford and many more people are expected to pour in for a rally planned for Thursday evening.
Gaza Withdrawal Continues
Now to the Gaza withdrawal. Israeli soldiers have begun dragging Jewish settlers out of one of the most hardline settlements in Gaza on the second day of forced removals. At daybreak, thousands of troops moved in on the isolated central Gaza settlement of Kfar Darom. Troops are also facing resistance from another large crowd holed up at a synagogue in Neve Dekalim. More than half of the 21 Gaza settlements were cleared on Wednesday. Israeli officials say the mission is going faster than expected and may be over within days, instead of the scheduled six weeks.
Security forces in Bangladesh are intensifying their hunt for the people who simultaneously set off hundreds of crude bombs across the country Wednesday, killing two people and injuring about 100. Roughly 200 homemade bombs exploded on the streets, at courts and near key government buildings in various places across the Islamic nation. No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts.
The National Archives is releasing more than 38-thousand documents from Supreme Court nominee John Roberts’ time as associate counsel to President Reagan. The documents cover his views on abortion, school prayer and the war powers of the president. The material is part of nearly 50 thousand pages of records related to Roberts identified in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. This comes as the American Bar Association yesterday gave Roberts the groups highest rating, calling him "well qualified" to sit on the bench.
But as more documents are made public, there is a scandal developing involving missing documents that is giving new ammunition to the movement to block his appointment. The Washington Post and other news outlets are reporting that a file folder containing papers from Roberts’ work on affirmative action more than 20 years ago disappeared from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library after its review by two lawyers from the White House and the Justice Department in July.
Archivists told the paper the lawyers returned the file but it now cannot be located. No duplicates of the folder’s contents were made before the lawyers’ review. The Post reports that it is rare for the Archives to lose documents in its care, adding that the agency has requested an investigation by its inspector general. On Capitol Hill, Sen. Edward Kennedy called for a Justice Department investigation because one of the agency’s lawyers had seen the documents involved. Neither the White House nor the Justice Department would name the lawyers, but the Post s sources as saying that one works for White House counsel Harriet Miers and the other is an aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
In another Roberts development, new details are emerging over a potentially serious conflict of interest. As we have reported previously on Democracy Now!, Judge Roberts was interviewing for a possible Supreme Court nomination at the same time he was presiding over a court case of great importance to the White House. But now the Washington Post has uncovered new details. The paper analyzes Roberts recently released details of the months-long interviewing process. They show that Roberts met with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other administration officials about the Supreme Court job while sitting on the three-judge panel that eventually allowed Bush to resume the use of military officers to conduct trials of terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo. These so-called "military commissions" are central to Bush’s effort to deny constitutional rights to prisoners at Guantanamo.
According to the Post, Roberts met with Gonzales on April 1, six days before hearing oral arguments in the case. That case resulted in a unanimous decision in favor of the Bush administration. Moreover, a top deputy to Gonzales, Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler, argued the case on behalf of the administration. But there’s more. One month later, with the case in progress, Roberts was called to the White House for a meeting with Vice President Cheney, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and Bush’s senior advisor, Karl Rove. President Bush held his final face-to-face interview with John Roberts on July 15. That was the same day Roberts and two other federal judges ruled in favor of the White House in the case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Roberts was formally nominated just days later. We will have much more on this later in the show.
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft has been charged with four ethics violations for failing to report dozens of gifts that included dinners, golf games and professional hockey tickets, deepening a scandal that has rocked Ohio’s Republican Party. Taft is a Republican and a descendant of President Taft. He becomes the first governor in Ohio history to be charged with a crime. Taft could be fined $1,000 and sentenced to six months in jail on each count if convicted. The charges against Taft stem from what some are calling "Coingate:" an investigation into the dealings of Thomas Noe, a coin dealer and prominent Republican campaign contributor Taft appointed to the Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Turnpike Commission. Noe served as chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in northwest Ohio. He is under investigation for losing as much as $13 million in rare coin investments in funds he controls for the state.
Pope Benedict the 16th is in his native Germany for the biggest worldwide gathering of Catholics since the funeral of his predecessor Pope John Paul II. More than 400,000 young Catholics from nearly 200 countries welcomed the new pope to the Catholic stronghold of Cologne for World Youth Day. But as he receives a warm welcome there, he faces serious charges in the United States. Lawyers for the Pope have asked President Bush to declare the pontiff immune from liability in a lawsuit that accuses him of conspiring to cover up the molestation of three boys by a seminarian in Texas. According to The Chicago Sun Times, the Vatican’s embassy in Washington sent a diplomatic memo to the State Department on May 20 requesting the U.S. government grant the pope immunity because he is a head of state. A State Department spokesperson said this week that the pope is considered a head of state and automatically has diplomatic immunity.
Three major health studies published today show that African Americans continue to have less access to operations, tests, medications and other life-saving treatments than whites. The studies find that Black people remain much less likely to undergo heart bypasses, appendectomies and other common procedures. They receive fewer mammograms and basic tests and drugs for heart disease and diabetes.
Now to the ongoing prisoner abuse scandal. An Afghan detainee who died in US military custody in 2002 was injured so severely that his leg muscles were split apart. This according to an Air Force medical examiner’s testimony this week in the trial of a soldier accused in the beating. The examiner who performed the autopsy on the prisoner said his muscles were "crumbling and falling apart." She testified that the injuries could have been caused by repeated knee strikes or by a fist. Army Private Willie Brand is accused of abusing the two prisoners in Afghanistan in 2002. Both later died.
Campaigning in Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential election has entered its second day. The process has already been denounced by government opponents as a farce, with President Hosni Mubarak–who has ruled unchallenged for 24 years almost certain to win again. The election is scheduled for September 7. Several major opposition parties are boycotting the vote, saying claims of open competition are a sham.