Who will run Congress? Polls have opened across the country for the nation’s most contested mid-term election in over a decade. Public opinion polls show Democrats have a chance of taking control of both the House and the Senate. Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats to grab control of the House and a gain of six seats to take the Senate.
Voters will also be deciding about 200 ballot initiatives across the country. Among them a dozen deal with eminent domain, half a dozen are on same sex marriage. Others address the minimum wage and tobacco. In Missouri, residents will vote on a constitutional amendment on stem cell research and South Dakota will vote on banning almost all abortions.
Reports are already coming in about problems at the polls during early voting. In Missouri, the state’s chief elections official said she was asked for photo identification at the voting booth on Monday despite a court ruling striking down the requirement. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said she found the experience to be very troubling. Groups like the Election Protection Coalition have sent election monitors to polls across the country.
Democratic Congressmembers John Conyers and John Dingell have asked the Justice Department and other agencies to investigate the Republican use of so-called robo-calls. Conyers and Dingell said the National Republican Campaign Committee has reportedly spent $600,000 to repeatedly send out pre-recorded phone calls that confuse voters and are designed to generate anger at democratic candidates. The Washington Post reported that one woman from Ohio, called the paper in tears yesterday, saying she could not keep her phone line open to hospice workers caring for her terminally ill mother because of nonstop political robo-calls.
In California, an ad for Republican Senate candidate Dick Mountjoy was forced on to the radio airwaves through the use of the Federal Emergency Alert System. Just after ten o’clock on Monday morning, KFBK, a conservative talk radio station in Sacramento, initiated the required monthly test of EAS. After the end of the standard test, the station also sent the political ad. Listeners to the community radio station KDVS heard the message Monday morning on its airwaves. KFBK reportedly claimed the ad was sent out by mistake.
In news from Iraq, the Washington Post is reporting Iraq’s Interior Ministry has charged 57 employees, including high-ranking officers, with human rights crimes for their roles in the torture of hundreds of detainees once jailed in a notorious prison known as Site 4. The charges mark the first time the present Iraqi government has taken criminal action against members of its own security forces for operating torture chambers inside Interior Ministry prisons.
More questions are being raised over the timing of Saddam Hussein’s sentencing just two days before the U.S. mid-term election. NBC News is reporting the U.S.-funded Iraqi High Tribunal went ahead with the sentencing even though the verdict was not yet completed. On Sunday the presiding judge did not read the actual verdict and reporters still have not received copies.
Meanwhile a number of European nations are opposing the execution of Saddam Hussein.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed the issue on Monday.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers says the trial of Saddam Hussein was neither impartial nor fair. Leandro Despouy said the former Iraqi president should be tried on appeal by an independent and impartial court, backed by the United Nations. Amnesty International’s Nicole Choueiry also criticized the court proceedings.
The Iraqi government has shut down two Sunni television stations after they criticized the sentencing of Saddam Hussein. Police raided at least one of the stations. Iraq prohibits the media from reporting on material that could incite violence. The Iraqi government closed the Baghdad office of Al Jazeera over two years ago and it remains closed.
Meanwhile Iraqi leaders have agreed to a draft law that would allow hundreds of thousands of former Baath Party members to start working again for the Iraqi government. In May 2003 the Bush administration sacked all Baath party government employees and then banned them from holding jobs. It was one of the first moves announced by Paul Bremer.
In other news from Iraq, a third Marine has plead guilty to charges in connection with the killing of an Iraqi civilian in the village of Hamdania in April. On Monday Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He testified that his squad kidnapped and executed a 52-year-old Iraqi man named Hashim Ibrahim Awad. Jackson said his squad leader ordered his troops to get on line and fire rounds at Awad. After he was shot, U.S. soldiers placed a shovel and an AK-47 near his body to make it look like he was an insurgent planting a roadside bomb.
An undercover investigation by ABC News has revealed that Army recruiters are telling students that the war is over in an effort to get them to enlist. One recruiter was recorded saying "We’re not at war. War ended a long time ago." When a student asked another recruiter if soldiers are still being sent to iraq, the recruiter responded "No, we’re bringing people back."
In Mexico, authorities are investigating a series of small bombings in Mexico City. They exploded on Monday morning at Mexico’s top electoral court, the headquarters of the PRI party and a bank. No injuries were reported. The Associated Press reports that a coalition of five leftist groups claimed responsibility for the homemade bombs. In a statement the groups stated "Our political-military action is a response to our determination to reply with revolutionary violence to the violence unleashed by the lords of power and money."
in Oaxaca thousands of protesters and teachers marched for a second day to call for the removal of federal police from the city. One Oaxacan teacher criticized the police.
The international Committee of the Red Cross is calling for the abolition of cluster bombs. Dr. Philip Spoerri of the Red Cross made the announcement on Monday.
The Red Cross said it was stepping up its campaign against cluster bombs because of Israel’s extensive use of the weapons in Lebanon. A US State Department spokesperson said the Bush administration still believes that cluster bombs are a legally acceptable munition,
In Nicaragua, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega appears set to return to power despite efforts by the Bush administration to help his opponents. With more than half the vote counted, Ortega has about 39 percent of the vote in a five-way race. It is unclear if the Bush administration will challenge the fairness of the vote. On Monday the U.S. State Department claimed there were a number of procedural problems in the election including delays in opening polling places, long lines and stations closing while there were still voters in line. But Gustavo Fernandez, an election observer from the Organization for American States said the vote went smoothly.