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Leading Iraqi and American Muslims have echoed the calls of family members and colleagues of kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll to plead for her safe release. Carroll, a 28-year old freelance reporter working for the Christian Science Monitor in Iraq, was kidnapped in Baghdad earlier this month. Members of the Muslim-American advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations are traveling to Iraq to attempt to win Carroll’s release. Meanwhile, Muthanna Harith al-Dhari, a prominent figure in the leading Iraqi Sunni group the Muslim Scholars Association, said: "All kidnappings and assassinations are completely rejected... especially when kidnapping a journalist. Journalists are here to tell the world about the occupation so kidnapping a journalist is going to hide the truth." Al-Dhari continued: "This journalist, Jill Carroll... is one of the great journalists who are against the occupation. She is considered one of the best journalists who stood against the American occupation of Iraq and she focused in her articles on... telling the world about the Iraqi people’s suffering."
On Wednesday, Carroll’s colleagues praised the Sunni calls for her release and called for her safe return.
Carroll’s captors have threatened to kill her unless US forces release all female prisoners in the country by Friday. On Wednesday, the US military said they were holding eight women prisoners. In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to comment on whether the US would consider meeting the kidnappers’ demands. Earlier today, the Iraqi government reportedly asked the US to release 6 of the 8 female prisoners — but said their demand was not related to Carroll’s kidnapping.
Meanwhile, in a statement, Caroll’s father, Jim Carroll, said: "Jill is a friend and sister to many Iraqis and has been dedicated to bringing the truth of the Iraq war to the world.We appeal for the speedy and safe return of our beloved daughter and sister."
In other Iraq news, the two Iraqi journalists who were freed this week after being held by the US military without charge for over four months have come forward to describe their ordeal.
Hameed was freed this week from US custody along with Reuters camera operator Ali al-Mashhadani, who was arrested in August. The two were held at the US-run prisons at Abu Ghraib prison and Camp Bucca. At least three other Iraqi journalists working for the international media remain in US custody.
In other Iraq news, the bodies of 36 Iraqis were found in two mass graves north of Baghdad Wednesday. Most of the dead were identified as police recruits.
Meanwhile, at least 16 people were killed in violence around the country Wednesday. The dead included two US security contractors killed by a roadside bombing in Basra.
In Ecuador, police and student demonstrators clashed at an anti-corporate globalization protest in the capitol of Quito Wednesday. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons against the students as they rallied outside the presidential palace, where Ecuadorian President Alfredo Palacios was meeting with Florida governor Jeb Bush. 57 people were reportedly injured and another 23 arrested.
This news on Iran — The International Atomic Energy Agency announced Wednesday it will hold an emergency meeting on Iran’s nuclear program early next month. The Iranian government sparked an outcry last week when it removed U.N. seals on its uranium enrichment equipment and resumed nuclear research. Iran insists it removed the seals to resume research activities, and has maintained a freeze on full-scale uranium enrichment, which can produce nuclear reactor fuel that can be used for bomb material.
Iran has also called for renewed negotiations with leading European states. On Wednesday, several European countries joined the United States in rejecting Iran’s call, saying Iran needed to halt all nuclear activity before any discussions could continue.
Here in the United States, Human Rights Watch released its annual report Wednesday. The report includes a scathing critique of the Bush administration, accusing it of undermining human rights around the world by the way its waging the so-called war on terror. The group also called on Congress to set up an independent panel to investigate U.S. human rights abuses.
In other news, the environmental group Greenpeace continued with its protests against Japanese whaling activities Wednesday. In Germany, activists with the group dumped the body of a dead finback whale in front of the Japanase embassy in Berlin.
The finback whale was transported on a flatback truck after it was found stranded off the coast of Germany’s Baltic Sea Saturday. Japan agreed to an international moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986 but resumed what it called a research program one year later. Greenpeace alleges the research program has been a guise for continued commercial whaling.
In other news, new data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the hourly and weekly pay of most US workers fell behind inflation in 2005. Real hourly wages declined .5 percent last year, with real weekly wages fell .4 percent. Economic Policy Institute Senior Economist Jared Bernstein commented: "The growing economy is showing up everywhere except where it’s needed most: in the paychecks of working families."
In campus news, a UCLA alumni association is offering students up to $100 dollars to monitor and tape-record leftist university professors. The website for the Bruin Alumni Association hosts a list of what it calls the university’s 30 most radical professors. Education professor Peter McLaren, one of the professors included on the list said: "Any sober, concerned citizen would look at this and see right through it as a reactionary form of McCarthyism." At least one member of the group’s advisory board has resigned in protest.
Six former heads of the Environmental Protect Agency — five of them Republicans — accused the Bush administration Wednesday of ignoring efforts to curb global warming and other environmental problems. The ex-EPA chiefs were attending a gathering to commemorate the agency’s 35th year anniversary. The Bush administration has rejected a slew of national and global environmental measures, including the Kyoto protocol, which sets mandatory controls on carbon dioxide. Lee Thomas, who served under the Ronald Reagan administration, said: "if the United States doesn’t deal with those kinds of issues in a leadership role, they’re not going to get dealt with. So I’m very concerned about this country and this agency."
In other news, the Supreme Court issued a ruling Wednesday that backs the right for teenagers to have abortions in the case of medical emergencies. The Court backed a lower court’s ruling to reaffirm the medical emergency exception, but asked it to reconsider its decision to strike down the entirety of a New Hampshire law that failed to include it. The law requires parental notification to a girl under the age of 18 before a doctor can conduct an abortion. The ruling marked the first the Supreme Court has issued on abortion in a six years. It also marked what could be the last case for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who will be stepping down from the Court after 25 years.
And two additional people have been charged in a continuing federal investigation into a string of environmental-related arsons in the Pacific Northwest. Jonathan Paul was arrested Tuesday on charges he took part in a firebombing of a meat-packing plant in Oregon in 1997. Another woman, Suzanne Savoie, remains at large. Meanwhile, three detained members of the Earth Liberation Front have been ordered held without bail in in Sacramento. In total, nine people have now been charged for setting a series of arsons in the Pacific Northwest from 1996 to 2001.