The number of casualties from last weekend’s earthquake in Indonesia has risen to more than 6200. The number of injured has double to some 46,000 people, with three-quarters of them suffering serious injuries. More than 139,000 homes were destroyed or damaged in the quake.
New evidence has emerged in the case of another alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians at the hands of US troops. The BBC has obtained video footage bolstering accusations first made by Iraqi police that US troops murdered eleven civilians in the town of Ishaqi in March. The dead included five children and four women and ranged in age from 6 months to 75 years old. The Pentagon has insisted only four civilians died in the incident and that they were killed when their home collapsed during a gun battle. But according to the BBC, the new video shows a number of dead adults and children with visible gunshot wounds. Democracy Now covered this story in March. We spoke with Knight Ridder reporter Matthew Schofield in Baghdad. He first obtained the Iraqi police report that accused US troops of the civilian killings.
The latest evidence that a massacre occurred in Ishaqi comes as the US government continues to deal with the uproar over the killings of at least 24 unarmed Iraqis in the town of Haditha. The Army announced Thursday troops will now undergo 30 days of mandatory ethics training.
Meanwhile in Baghdad, senior Iraqi officials called on the US to apologize and hand over files related to the massacre. The Iraqi government wants the files for its own investigation.
In another case, seven marines are being held in the brig at Camp Pendelton. A defense attorney for a US Marine has disclosed the Marines are expected to be charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the shooting death of an Iraqi man in the town of Hamandiya in April. A member of the Navy will also be charged. The victim was reportedly dragged from his home before he was shot to death. Media reports have speculated troops planted a gun near his body to make it appear he was an insurgent.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s Prime Minister has lashed out at the US military over what he has called the "daily phenomenon" of US attacks on Iraqi civilians. In an interview with the New York Times, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said many troops "do not respect the Iraqi people." Maliki went on to say: "They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion. This is completely unacceptable."
And in other Iraq news, an Army dog handler who served at Abu Ghraib was convicted Thursday of using his animal to torment a prisoner. Sgt. Santos Cardona is the 11th soldier to be convicted for the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib. All but one of the 11 convictions has gone to a low-ranking soldier.
This news on Iran — Six world powers including the United States have agreed on the terms of an offer to halt Iran’s nuclear activities. On Thursday, the countries announced they would put aside punitive action and offer several incentives if Iran agrees to suspend nuclear production. Iran has stressed it will enter into talks but will not agree to pre-conditions on negotiation. Several analysts say Iran’s stance is unlikely to change without explicit security guarantees from the Bush administration.
In Chile, the head of the Santiago police special forces has been fired for his unit’s treatment of student protesters during the past week. Scores of students were beaten, tear-gassed and arrested as they took part in a country-wide walk-out to demand more spending on education. The protests drew hundreds of thousands of people, making them the largest student demonstrations Chile has seen in decades. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said her government will listen to the protesters.
In Peru, voters will head to the polls this weekend to elect their next president. The race pits former president Alan Garcia against retired army officer Ollanta Humala. Garcia is leading polls despite holding a 61% disapproval rating among voters. Humala led first-round voting in April. He has attracted wide support among the country’s rural poor for his calls to nationalize Peru’s natural resources, tax foreign mining companies, veto a trade agreement with Washington and end US-sponsored eradication of coca. Humala wrapped up his campaign Wednesday in the capitol of Lima.
Here in the United States, Ray Nagin was sworn in Thursday for his second term as mayor of New Orleans. At the ceremony, Nagin addressed his supporters.
The ceremony came on the first official day of the hurricane season. Weather experts predict New Orleans will be the city most likely to be hit by a major storm this year.
In other news from New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers has released a new report that blames its own failure in building the city’s levees for the breaches that flooded the city during Hurricane Katrina. In a nine-volume, six-thousand page report, the Army Corps concludes: "The hurricane protection system in New Orleans and southeast Louisiana was a system in name only."
In Ohio, a former Republican fundraiser has pleaded guilty to illegally funneling thousands of dollars into the campaign to re-elect President Bush. On Thursday, Tom Noe admitted he used several conduits — including Ohio politicians and former aides to Gov. Bob Taft — to funnel around $45,000 dollars to the President’s campaign. At the time of his indictment, Noe’s case was described as the largest campaign money-laundering scheme since new campaign finance laws were enacted in 2002. Noe was named a "Pioneer" by Bush’s campaign for raising over $100,000 dollars.
The US government has asked Internet service providers to keep the records of the Web-surfing activities of their customers. The government says the records would be used solely for efforts against terrorism and child pornography. FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales reportedly made the request at a meeting with a group of senior executives representing the country’s major online firms. Executives who attended the meeting told the New York Times they were also asked to retain records about whom their customers exchange e-mails with, but not the contents of e-mail messages.