Military officials have revealed the Air Force mistakenly flew a B-52 bomber loaded with five nuclear warheads across part of the country last week. Each of the five nuclear warheads has about 10 times the destructive force of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The B-52 took off from the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and landed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. It took the military hours to realize the nuclear weapons were missing. The incident was first reported in the Navy Times.
Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell: "Well, I think as you all know it’s longstanding policy of this department not to talk about nuclear weapons, so I can’t confirm or deny that indeed nuclear weapons were involved in the incident which you relay to me. I can, however, tell you that the Air Force is currently investigating an error made last Thursday in the transfer of munitions, as you mentioned, from Minot Air Force Base to Barksdale Air Force Base aboard a B-52 Stratofortress."
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) said the incident was absolutely inexcusable. Markey said: "Nothing like this has ever been reported before, and we have been assured for decades that it was impossible." Since the 1960s, the U.S. military has transferred nuclear weapons aboard cargo planes, not on the wings of bombers.
In Baghdad, a U.S. air strike has killed at least 14 people and wounded nine. Several houses in the Mansour district of the capital were destroyed in the U.S. bombing.
A panel of retired U.S. generals is urging the United States to disband and reorganize the Iraqi police force because of infiltration by sectarian militias. The generals also report Iraq’s security forces will be unable to fulfill their essential security responsibilities independently for at least another 12 to 18 months.
On Capitol Hill, the antiwar group CodePink marched to the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to ask Congress to stop funding the war.
CodePink’s Medea Benjamin: "We’re here to say that the people of this country are absolutely disgusted with this Congress that has just laid down and given Bush all the money he’s asked for for this war. They’re being asked for another $200 billion now, and we’re here to say: The people say no, and we’re going to whip you into shape until you start listening to us. No more money for this war."
In campaign news, former actor and Republican Senator Fred Thompson appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno Wednesday to finally announce he will run for president. Thompson chose to appear on Leno’s show instead of taking part in the Republican debate in New Hampshire.
Sydney, Australia, is in a state of lockdown as Asian-Pacific leaders, including President Bush, gather for a major summit. A four-mile, nine-foot-high steel and concrete fence has been erected around the site of the gathering. Police have been given special powers to detain anyone on the streets. Police are also conducting ID and bag searches and preventing tourists from taking photographs at sensitive sites. On Saturday, over 20,000 people are expected to take part in a march against President Bush and the Iraq War.
Australian protester Sandra Sue: "My concerns are about this week, in particular, about the lockdown in Sydney, which I think is totally unjustified. I think that global warming, we do need more action, and we need it now, not next week or the week after. I’m incredibly concerned about the free trade agreement between the U.S. and Australia, because I think if they come in here and want to play around with our health system, we could be doomed."
A new poll finds 52 percent of Australians believe George W. Bush is the worst U.S. president ever.
In Germany, police have arrested three men for allegedly plotting to carry out massive bomb attacks. Possible targets reportedly included the U.S. military base at Ramstein and the Frankfurt airport. Two of the men were German-born citizens, the third was born in Turkey. Police allege the men had attended a training camp in Pakistan by a militant Islamic group from Uzbekistan.
Scientists have announced the Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at record lows. The Guardian newspaper reports experts are stunned by the loss of ice. An area almost twice as big as England disappeared in the last week alone. If the increased rate of melting continues, the summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030. So much ice has melted this summer that the Northwest Passage across the top of Canada is fully navigable, and observers say the Northeast Passage along Russia’s Arctic coast could open later this month.
Environmentalists are criticizing the BBC for canceling a TV special on climate change called Planet Relief. Executives at the BBC said they scrapped plans for the show because it was not the role of the BBC to lead opinion on global warming. Newsnight editor Peter Barron recently said: "It is absolutely not the BBC’s job to save the planet."
Human Rights Watch has issued a new report on last year’s Israel-Lebanon war. The group determined that indiscriminate airstrikes by the Israeli military caused most of the over 900 civilian deaths in Lebanon. Human Rights Watch said Israeli warplanes repeatedly targeted moving vehicles that turned out to be carrying only civilians trying to flee the conflict.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch: "The Israeli government’s claim that civilian deaths in southern Lebanon were due mainly to Hezbollah hiding behind civilians is false. Mark Regev of the Foreign Ministry was the latest Israeli official to put forward that claim. You could read about it in the Jerusalem Post this morning. He said, you know, that it was all because Hezbollah was hiding behind civilians. He’s making that up. That is in no sense the major reason why civilians died."
Kenneth Roth also criticized Hezbollah’s tactics during the war.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is shocked by the level of poverty and hardship at refugee camps in the Darfur region of Sudan. Ban Ki-moon asked for international help to alleviate the suffering of the Sudanese. He told journalists he had made good progress in organizing a date and venue for long-promised peace talks expected to take place in October. Meanwhile, former Irish President Mary Robinson has launched a campaign to raise awareness about the suffering of women in the African nation of Chad, where many Sudanese refugees have fled. She spoke yesterday about her recent trip to Chad.
Mary Robinson: "We believe that somebody must focus on gender-based violence, on the extent of the rape, and currently on the lack of security in the camps and in the surrounds. And that’s one thing that the European Union force can do a great deal to address, but it also needs a wider political solution, both in Chad and in Darfur."
And in academic news, Professor Norman Finkelstein has resigned from DePaul University after the two sides agreed on a private settlement. The deal was announced Wednesday just before a scheduled protest against the school’s decision to deny Finkelstein tenure and to cancel his classes this semester. Finkelstein spoke before a crowd of about 125 supporters wearing T-shirts that read "We are all Professor Finkelstein."
Norman Finkelstein: "I have been recognized as a public intellectual at many of the leading universities in the United States and Europe and have become an internationally recognized scholar in my academic specialties. Based on this record, I should have received tenure. It is now time for me to move on and hopefully find new ways to fulfill my own mission in life of making the world a slightly better place on leaving it than when I entered it."
As part of the settlement, DePaul issued a statement that described Finkelstein as a "prolific scholar and an outstanding teacher." Finkelstein has said DePaul’s decision to deny him tenure was a result of political opposition to his speaking out about the Israel-Palestine conflict. For years, Finkelstein has been one of the most prominent critics of the Israeli government in American academia. On Wednesday, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky said: "The whole affair was an utter outrage, a cowardly attack on academic freedom."
And the opera world has lost its most famous singer, Luciano Pavarotti. The Italian tenor died yesterday at the age of 71 after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer.