Iran says it might be open to "new conditions" to resolve the ongoing standoff over its nuclear program. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the announcement earlier today before leaving for the Non-Aligned summit in Cuba. Iran has maintained it’s open to negotiations but doesn’t want pre-conditions. The Bush administration has led the push for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment as a pre-condition for talks.
The news comes as the House Intelligence Committee is coming under fierce criticism from the UN’s atomic watchdog over a recent report on Iran’s nuclear capabilities. According to the Washington Post, the International Atomic Energy Agency has sent the panel a letter decrying its recent report on Iran as QUOTE: "outrageous and dishonest." The report argued Iran’s nuclear capabilities are more advanced than either the IAEA or U.S. intelligence has shown. The IAEA says the House made at least five major errors.
A leading human rights group is accusing Hezbollah of war crimes during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. In a new report, Amnesty International says Hezbollah deliberately targeted Israeli civilian areas in violation of international humanitarian law. Hezbollah fired nearly 4,000 rockets into northern Israel, killing forty-three civilians and forcing hundreds of thousands of residents to flee their homes. Around a quarter of all rockets were fired directly into urban areas. One-tenth of those were packed with thousands of ball bearings that sprayed out across a wide distance. Hezbullah maintains the rockets were aimed at stopping Israel’s attacks that killed more than one thousand Lebanese civilians.
Meanwhile, Lebanon continues to see fighting despite the UN-brokered ceasefire. The Guardian of London reports the UN has recorded more than one hundred violations by Israeli forces in the last month. Israeli troops have also apprehended at least two dozen Lebanese civilians at gunpoint. All were later released.
In Iraq, the death toll from the last two days of violence has topped one hundred. Thirty five people were killed in clashes across the country Wednesday after Iraqi officials said they’d recovered more than sixty bodies overnight.
In Canada, a young woman is dead and at least twenty others wounded following a shooting rampage at a college in Montreal Wednesday. A young man wearing a black trenchcoat carried out the attack. He was shot and killed in a firefight with police. The man’s name has not been released. It was Canada’s worst school shooting since the 1989 slayings of fourteen women at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnic.
In Cuba, a top government official says President Fidel Castro’s condition is improving and that he may even take part in this week’s meeting of the Nonalligned Movement.
Cuba also released new photos of Castro greeting a visitor in his hospital room. A summit appearance would be Castro’s first since he underwent emergency surgery in late July.
In South Korea, a massive show of police force Wednesday broke up a protest to prevent the demolition of homes on the future site of a US military base. More than ten thousand riot police were sent to remove fifty residents and activists. The homes were quickly demolished. The land will be used to expand an existing base as part of a deal to close the main US command in Seoul.
In South Africa, a scandal is brewing over the disclosure a major apartheid-era figure is still on the government payroll. Wouter Basson, nicknamed "Dr. Death" for his work as biological weapons chief under the apartheid regime, is being paid almost seven thousand dollars a month. The news comes seven years after Dr. Basson was suspended and tried for his role in masterminding an apartheid-era germ and chemical warfare campaign against black South Africans, including Nelson Mandela. He was acquitted of all charges in 2002 and allowed to continue a private practice. Last year, South Africa’s constitutional court recommended he be tried for crimes against humanity.
In Pakistan, women’s activists and human rights groups are condemning a so-called "compromise" on plans to change the country’s rape laws. Under current law, rape victims are liable to be prosecuted for adultery unless they can produce four male witnesses. An effort to change that law was set back this week after the government accepted demands from religious conservatives to keep rape under Islamic law rather than strictly the criminal system. Asma Jahangir, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said: "They have hoodwinked women into believing that this is a law for the protection of women. It is a law for the protection of religious extremists."
Here in the United States, the Bush administration’s efforts to legalize its domestic spy program received a boost Wednesday on Capitol Hill. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a White House-backed measure that would subject the program to an optional review by a secret court. The ACLU called the vote a "rubber stamp for the administration’s abuse of power." The bill now goes to the Senate floor.
In other Senate news, Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced a measure Wednesday that would provide nearly two billion dollars in medical care to ground zero workers suffering after-effects of the cleanup of the September 11th attacks. The amendment comes on the heels of a study last week showing seven out of ten workers suffer from chronic lung ailments.
Meanwhile in the House, a new resolution is calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Congressmember John Murtha, the ranking Democrat on the House sub-committee for defense spending, introduced the measure on Wednesday.
In medical news, a new government study is casting doubt on the illness known as Gulf War Syndrome. The Veterans Administration says although thousands of Gulf Veterans suffer numerous medical problems, there is no unique pattern of symptoms that can be classified as a single ailment. Nearly thirty percent of Gulf War veterans suffer medical problems. In another development, the report found evidence veterans face an increased risk of Lou Gehrig’s disease, anxiety disorders, depression and substance abuse.
In Chicago, large retailers have won a major victory over a local effort to impose a living wage. On Wednesday, City Council failed to override Mayor Richard Daley’s veto of an ordinance that required "big-box" chains such as Wal Mart to pay workers at least ten dollars an hour plus benefits by the year 2010. Daley’s veto came following a wave of retail opposition. Wal Mart announced the wage meant Chicago was "closed for business." Target announced it would halt planned stores while it waited to see if the ordinance became law. The original ordinance was passed with thirty-five votes — one more than was needed to override Daley’s veto. But Wednesday’s meeting saw three council members switching their votes. One of the three said she changed her mind after Wal Mart expressed interest in building a store in her district. Proponents of the living wage say the issue will not go away. Alderman Joe Moore, who helped lead the effort, says members will present a revised proposal at the council’s next meeting.
And finally, former Texas Governor Ann Richards has died. She was 73 years old. A Democrat, Richards served as Texas governor for one term before losing her re-election bid to George W. Bush. Her family says she was most proud of two actions that likely cost her re-election. Richards vetoed a bill that would have allow people to carry concealed handguns and another that many feared would have allowed the destruction a major underground water system that now serves nearly two million people in south central Texas. Under the banner of promoting a "New Texas," Richards appointed more women and more minorities to state posts than any of her predecessors. One of her last projects, the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, is scheduled to open in Austin next year. Shortly before leaving office in 1995, Richards said: "I did not want my tombstone to read, 'She kept a really clean house.' I think I’d like them to remember me by saying, 'She opened government to everyone.'"