Sharon’s ill health has drawn a mixed reaction, with well-wishes from leaders from around the world including the Palestinian Authority. In Iran, state media reported Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said: "Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Chatilla has joined his ancestors is final" — a reference to the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon where over 1,000 Palestinians were killed in 1982. An Israeli commission on inquiry concluded Sharon bore "personal responsibility" for the incident. Meanwhile, Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson indicated Sharon’s condition was a consequence of his decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.
The Guardian of London reported on Wednesday Robertson is heading a consortium in talks with the Israeli government over building a sprawling biblical theme park by the Sea of Galilee.
The Financial Times is reporting the US government is planning the construction of a high-security prison in Afghanistan to hold detainees. The planned site for the jail is Pol-e-Charki, a rundown prison near Kabul that dates back to the Soviet era. The jail would be phased in as an alternative to the US military prison at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba, where the US is currently holding more than 500 people. Another 500 prisoners are under US detention at military facilities and secret locations across Afghanistan.
In other news from Afghanistan, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Southerrn Oruzgan province Thursday, killing ten people and wounding several others. Afghan officials said the bombing occurred during the visit of U.S. ambassador Ronald Neumann to the area.
In this country, Pentagon detainee Jose Padilla appeared in a Miami court Thursday for after being transferred from a military prison. In 2002, Padilla was arrested on a return trip from Pakistan and declared an "enemy combatant." Then-Attorney General John accused Padilla of involvement in "a terrorist plot to attack the United States by exploding a radioactive 'dirty bomb.'" Padilla was only charged in November after over three years in solitary confinement on a military brig in South Carolina. None of his charges included the most serious of allegations made at the time of his arrest.
Last month, a federal appeals court refused to approve Padilla’s transfer to the Miami civilian court — and suggested the Bush administration only made the request to thwart Padilla’s pending Supreme Court appeal. However, the Supreme Court on Wednesday overruled the lower court, clearing the way for his transfer to Miami.
In Iraq, over 120 people were killed in violence across the country Thursday. Another 200 were wounded in the bloodiest day the country has seen in four months. In Ramadi, a suicide bomber killed at least 67 people and injured more than 100 outside of a police recruitment center. Earlier, at least 44 people died in a suicide bombing at a Shiite shrine in the holy city of Karbala. And 11 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq Thursday, including five in a roadside bombing near Karbala.
Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the American commander in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, will be stepping down by year’s end. One Army general told the Times General Sanchez’s departure is related to the Bush administration’s reluctance to nominate him for another position because of his link to Abu Ghraib. The general said: "It’s a question of simply not being able to get by Senate confirmation," and that nominating General Sanchez for a new job would "stir up too much political bad news in an election year."
Meanwhile, President Bush met with a group of former secretaries of state and defense to discuss his Iraq policy. The group included Bush’s first Secretary of State, Colin Powell, whose former aides have recently gone public with scathing criticism of the Bush administration. Powell reportedly stayed silent throughout the meeting.
In Virginia, Governor Mark Warner has ordered DNA testing on the body of an executed who went to his death maintaining his innocence. The testing marks the first time a governor has asked for genetic testing to help determine the innocence of someone already put to death. Roger Keith Coleman was convicted for the 1981 rape and murder of Wanda McCoy and executed 11 years later. Testing on his remains began last month, with results expected next week, before Gov. Warner’s term expires.
In other news, the Mexican government is calling for an investigation into the death of an unarmed man shot by a U.S. border agent one week ago. 18-year-old Guillermo Martinez Rodriguez was killed last Friday on the US side of the San Diego-Tijuana border. American border officials said Rodriguez had been throwing rocks at an agent. But an investigation by the Mexican consulate found Rodriguez had been shot in the back from at least 15 feet way. Rodriguez ran back to Tijuana where he later died in a hospital. He had reportedly crossed the border looking for work. Mexican consular official Alberto Lozano said QUOTE: "We condemn the use of force in this tragic case…. It’s an abuse of power."
And in New Orleans, residents of one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods by Hurricane Katrina angrily confronted demolition workers Thursday. City officials said they were using equipment to clear streets and sidewalks of debris in the Lower Ninth Ward. But the machinery stoked fears among residents who have been struggling against the city’s plans to demolish 2500 homes with 3,000 more to soon follow. Ishmael Muhammed, an attorney for the residents, said QUOTE: "The difference between a home and debris is nothing in this community. Until you can figure out that issue, there can be no demolition."