Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships have invaded the Gaza Strip for the first time since withdrawing ten months ago. Israel says it’s launched the raid to recover captured soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit was seized in a Palestinian operation on Sunday. The raid began after Israel rejected Shalit’s captors demand for the release of all Palestinian females and Palestinians below the age of eighteen in Israeli prisons. Israel opened the attack with a series of air strikes on three bridges and Gaza’s main power station. The attack left the power station in flames and knocked out electricity in most of Gaza City. Palestinian militants have reportedly taken up defensive positions around Gaza — setting the stage for a potential firefight with the invading soldiers.
A major new report on electronic voting has concluded that the three most common types of electronic voting machines are all vulnerable to software attacks. The study by the Brennan Center for Justice concluded that a single person with technical knowledge could alter the outcome of an election by tampering with the software. The study is considered the most comprehensive ever done on electronic voting machines. The report calls for electronic voting machines to produce voter-verifiable paper records, a ban on wireless components on all voting machines, new safeguards to detect software attacks, as well as routine audits.
In news from Iraq, the United Nations is estimating 150,000 Iraqis have been displaced from their homes in the past four months due to increased fighting. The mass displacement began after the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February.
Meanwhile the U.S. military has acknowledged that the security situation has barely improved in Baghdad despite a two-week-old security clampdown involving 75,000 Iraqi and U.S. troops. On Tuesday at least 18 people died in Iraq including a U.S. Marine and three U.S. soldiers.
In Russia, lawmakers have lashed out at the United States following the killing of four Russian hostages in Iraq. By a unanimous vote, Russia’s lower house of parliament approved a resolution that decried the killings and criticized the occupying countries in Iraq for losing control in the country. The resolution said the abduction of the hostages occurred because of the deepening crisis in Iraq where terror and violence are becoming the order of the day. .
In Mexico, presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is expected to hold a massive campaign rally today in Mexico City ahead of Sunday’s election. Under Mexican law, candidates must stop campaigning tonight. The latest polls show the populist Lopez Obrador has a slight lead over the conservative Felipe Calderon. Lopez Obrador has been running on a progressive platform calling for greater aid to the poor; free medical care and food subsidies for the elderly; the rewriting of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement; and the end to the further privatization of the country’s oil and gas industries. Meanwhile Felipe Calderon has received the strong backing of the business community. During a campaign stop on Tuesday Calderon warned that Lopez Obrador would ruin Mexico’s economy:
That was Mexican presidential candidate Felipe Calderon. Meanwhile Andres Lopez Obrador rejected the accusation.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate has rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban the desecration of the American flag. The Republican-led initiative fell a single vote short of passing.
In other news from Washington, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said he is seriously considering suing the White House over President Bush’s use of signing statements. Bush has maintained that he has the right to revise, interpret or disregard hundreds of laws on national security and constitutional grounds. Since his election, Bush has issued more than 750 signing statements — more than all previous presidents combined. Senator Specter raised the possibility of suing the White House during a hearing on the legality of presidential signing statements. At the meeting Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy called the president’s use of signing statements a grave threat to the nation’s constitutional system of checks and balances.
The U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona is urging lawmakers to ban smoking in all public buildings because of the dangers of secondhand smoke. The government estimates 50,000 non-smoking Americans prematurely died last year because of secondhand smoke. Carmona also urged parents to stop smoking inside their homes because, he said, children are especially vulnerable. Recent studies have linked secondhand smoke to heart disease and lung cancer as well as breast cancer, childhood cancer, nasal sinus cancer, ear infections and asthma. Scientists have also established a clear link between second hand smoke and sudden infant death syndrome. Some tobacco companies have rejected these claims. A statement on the RJ Reynolds website reads: ’’It seems unlikely that secondhand smoke presents any significant harm to otherwise healthy nonsmoking adults."
In Tennessee, Sedley Alley was executed early this morning, becoming only the second person to be executed in the state in 45 years. The New York-based Innocence Project had called for Alley’s execution to be put off because the state had refused to allow DNA testing on crime scene evidence. Alley’s lawyers said they would continue to press for DNA testing that they believe will show an innocent man was put to death. Alley had been convicted on raping and murdering a young Marine named Suzanne Collins in 1985. A second prisoner on Tennessee’s death row named Paul Dennis Reid was also scheduled to be killed today but a federal judge halted that execution.
A British watchdog group called Privacy International has launched a campaign to urge European banks to stop releasing confidential financial records to the U.S. government. Last week the New York Times revealed that the Brussels based-Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications has allowed the Bush administration to secretly monitor millions of international bank transactions without court-approval. Privacy International said it had filed complaints with data protection and privacy regulators in 32 countries. The Belgian prime minister has also asked the country’s Justice Ministry to investigate whether the Bush administration’s secret program violated Belgian law. Meanwhile in Washington, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, has accused the New York Times and other press outlets of acting irresponsibly by reporting on the secret program. Roberts has asked John Negroponte, the director of the national intelligence, to assess the damage could be the press reports. Roberts wrote '’we have been unable to persuade the media to act responsibly and to protect the means by which we protect this nation.'’ The editors of the National Review have called for the government to strip the New York Times of its press credentials.
In other news from Europe, the European Union’s top justice official has acknowledged that U.S. intelligence agents have kidnapped individuals inside Europe as part of a secretive program called extraordinary rendition. On Tuesday the Council of Europe, voted to continue investigating alleged CIA secret flights and prisons in Europe and called for safeguards to prevent human rights abuses by foreign intelligence agents and European countries. The Council also endorsed the findings of Swiss Senator Dick Marty. Earlier this month he concluded 14 European countries have been involved in or complicit in secret CIA operations since the Sept. 11th attacks. On Tuesday Marty warned that the Bush administration’s secret operations are hurting the so-called war on terrorism.
Code Pink, Global Exchange and Gold Star Families for Peace have announced they will launch a hunger strike on July 4th outside the White House to protest the war in Iraq. Dozens of military family members, veterans, activists and celebrities have vowed to take part in the hunger strike. The list includes Cindy Sheehan, Dolores Huerta, Willie Nelson, Danny Glover, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. Cindy Sheehan said in a statement: "We’ve marched, held vigils, lobbied Congress, camped out at Bush’s ranch. We’ve even gone to jail. Now it’s time to do more."