Republican Congressman Tom Delay has announced he is resigning and will give up his House seat within the next few months. The former House Majority Leader has been one of the most powerful — and controversial — Republicans on Capitol Hill. DeLay announced his resignation just days after a former top aide, Tony Rudy, pleaded guilty in connection to a lobbying scandal involving Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Last November, Delay’s former press secretary Michael Scanlon also plead guilty to related charges. Delay was up for his re-election but polls showed he would likely lose. Last year Delay was forced to give up his position as House Majority Leader after he was indicted on criminal charges of conspiracy to violate Texas election laws. Federal investigators have also probed Delay’s personal dealings with Abramoff. DeLay’s wife worked for the lobbying firm Alexander Strategy Group which had close ties to the Republican lobbyist.
In Iraq, the deaths of nine U.S. troops were announced on Monday making it the deadliest day of the year for the United States. 13 U.S. troops have already died this month, nearly half the number who died in all of March.
In other news from Iraq, new statistics show that nearly eight times as many Iraqis died in March in execution-style killings than in suicide and roadside bombings. This has prompted many Iraqis not previously involved in fighting to begin carrying weapons for protection. The Financial Times is reporting middle class Sunni neighborhoods are now forming their own militias to counter the Shiite militias and death squads.
In news on the reconstruction of Iraq the Washington Post reports the U.S. is far from reaching its goal of building 142 primary health clinics. The U.S. government gave the private company Parsons $200 million to complete the project but so far only 20 clinics have been built. Iraq’s medical system has been devastated from the war and a decade of U.S.-imposed sanctions.
Also in Iraq, new criminal charges have been brought against Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi tribunal is charging him with genocide and crimes against humanity in the 1980s crackdown against the Kurds, including the gassing of thousands of civilians in the village of Halabja. Hussein is already on trial for the killing of Shiites in a town north of Baghdad.
The Supreme Court has voted not to take a case that would have determined whether the president has the power to indefinitely jail U.S. citizens without ever pressing charges. By a 6-3 ruling, the Court decided not to hear an appeal filed by Jose Padilla. He is the U.S. citizen who was held without charge on a Navy brig for three and a half years. He accused of plotting to set off a dirty bomb. The majority of the justices on the court said Padilla’s claim was merely hypothetical because Padilla is no longer being held as an enemy combatant.
In Virginia, a federal jury ruled Zacarias Moussaoui is eligible for the death penalty in connection to his role in the 9/11 attacks. Moussaoui was arrested in Minnesota in August 2001 but did not tell law enforcement about an eminent plan to attack the World Trade Center and Pentagon with hijacked planes. The jury determined that by lying to the FBI after his arrest, Moussaoui was directly responsible for at least one death in the 9/11 attacks.
In Sierra Leone, former Liberian President Charles Taylor has pleaded not guilty to war crimes. He faces 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with his backing of Sierra Leonean rebels during the 1990s when more than 50,000 people died in fighting. Charges include mutilation, sexual slavery and sending children into combat. Taylor appeared in front of the war crimes tribunal for the first time on Monday. Taylor was indicted three years ago but had been living in exile in Nigeria up until last week. Taylor is the first former African president to be brought to trial to face charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Human rights officials have expressed hope that other African leaders such as Chad’s former dictator Hissene Habre will also be tried for war crimes.
In other news from Africa, Sudan is blocking the top humanitarian official at the United Nations from visiting the Darfur region. The official, Jan Egeland, accused Sudan of trying to hide the ethnic cleansing that is occurring in the area.
Meanwhile the Los Angeles Times is reporting that disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff once proposed to sell his services to the Sudanese government to help improve its reputation in the United States. Sudan’s ambassador to the United States revealed that Abramoff offered to lobby on Sudan’s behalf in Washington but the multi-million dollar deal never went forward. Last week Abramoff was sentenced to nearly six years in jail.
In other news from Africa — the government of Niger is barring the BBC from reporting on the country’s increasing hunger crisis. The BBC recently revealed that the country is facing severe food shortages and that 1,000 children were recently admitted within a single week to a feeding program for the malnourished. Officials said international and local media would not be allowed to do stories about the food situation as they did not want that subject touched.
In business news, ExxonMobil tops the new Fortune 500 list of the nation’s largest publicly traded companies. Last year Exxon pulled in $340 billion in revenue and a record $36 billion in profits. Wal-Mart came in second on the Fortune 500 list.
In France, nationwide protests are occurring again today to protest a new law that will make it easier for companies to fire young workers. Transport strikes have been reported in 32 towns and cities.
And in Haiti, the group Reporters Without Borders is urging the Haitian government to reopen an investigation into the killing of the pioneering radio journalist Jean Dominique. He was gunned down in the courtyard of Radio Haiti Inter on April 3rd 2000. Dominique was profiled in Jonathan Demme’s documentary The Agronomist two years ago.