Twenty Palestinians and three Israeli troops died Wednesday in one of the bloodiest days in Gaza in weeks. Many of the Palestinians killed were civilians, including at least five youths under the age of sixteen.
Among the dead was twenty-three-year-old Fadel Shana, a cameraman for the Reuters news agency. He was killed when an Israeli tank shell struck his clearly marked jeep. Shana was filming at the time of his death. Reuters released the video from his camera. It shows the shell being fired from a distance and then moments later the camera goes black. Reuters editor-in-chief David Schlesinger called Shana’s death tragic.
David Schlesinger: "What’s clear to me is that we need a thorough and immediate investigation by the Israeli Defense Forces into what happened. This is a tragic incident, one that really shows the risks that journalists take every day around the world. But all organizations, governments included, have an obligation to let professionals do their job without fear of death."
Danny Seaman, an Israeli government spokesperson, said the shooting of the journalist was not intentional and that Israel should not be blamed for what happened.
Danny Seaman: "The tragic loss of life today of a Reuters photographer in Gaza is the direct result of the cynical behavior of the Hamas army. This army, which chooses to fire against Israeli civilians, also uses the Palestinian civilians as a shield."
In campaign news, ABC News is coming under intense criticism for its handling of last night’s Democratic debate in Pennsylvania. It was the last before next week’s primary. Media critic Greg Mitchell said it was "perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years." During the first forty-five minutes of the debate, the moderators focused on Obama’s comments that some voters in Pennsylvania were bitter, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, Clinton’s Bosnia "sniper fire" story, flag pins…and the Weather Underground. We’ll have more on the debate and play excerpts after headlines.
In Iraq, the US military has released Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein after holding him without charge for two years. The military had once accused Hussein of being a "terrorist media operative who infiltrated the AP." Upon his release, Hussein said, "I have spent two years in prison even though I was innocent. I thank everybody." The Committee to Protect Journalists praised the release of Hussein but condemned the US treatment of journalists. Joel Simon, the group’s executive director, said Hussein joins a growing list of journalists detained in conflict zones by the US military. Simon said, "This deplorable practice should be of concern to all journalists. It basically allows the US military to remove journalists from the field, lock them up and never be compelled to say why." The US is still imprisoning at least two other journalists without charge. Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj is being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Jawed Ahmad, a journalist with Canada’s CTV, is at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
Several states have announced plans to resume carrying out executions by lethal injection after a major Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday. In a seven-to-two decision, the court upheld Kentucky’s method of execution by lethal injection. The court’s decision effectively lifts a de facto moratorium on lethal injections. The decision came one day after Amnesty International named the United States one of the top five executioners in the world, along with China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
On his second day in the United States, Pope Benedict XVI expressed deep shame over the priest sexual abuse scandal and said Catholic bishops must work hard to bring Americans back into the Church. At the White House, President Bush praised Pope Benedict’s message.
President Bush: "In a world where some invoke the name of God to justify acts of terror and murder and hate, we need your message that God is love. And embracing this love is the surest way to save men from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism. In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred."
During his meeting with President Bush, Pope Benedict also discussed the treatment of Latino immigrants in the United States. The Pope said the US must do everything possible to fight all forms of violence, so that immigrants may lead dignified lives.
While the Pope was in Washington, immigration agents were raiding plants run by the chicken processing company Pilgrim’s Pride. 400 immigrant workers were detained. The raids occurred in Batesville, Arkansas; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Live Oak, Florida; Morefield, West Virginia; and Mt. Pleasant, Texas. It was the largest immigration roundup at a workplace this year.
A group of liberal advocacy groups have launched a campaign calling for the resignation of Secretary State Condoleezza Rice after ABC News revealed Rice personally oversaw meetings where top Bush administration officials selected specific torture techniques. As part of the campaign, a new TV ad has been produced by Brave New Films.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has announced it has obtained documents from the Pentagon confirming the military’s use of unlawful interrogation methods on detainees held in US custody in Afghanistan. The documents include the first on-the-ground reports of torture in Gardez, Afghanistan to be publicly released.
In Miami, federal prosecutors have been dealt another setback in a closely watched terrorism case. For the second time, a mistrial has been declared because of a deadlocked jury in the trial of six Miami men accused of providing material support to al-Qaeda to destroy FBI buildings and Chicago’s Sears Tower. University of Miami Law Professor Bruce Winick said, "The jury doesn’t trust the government’s credibility here. It’s a trumped-up, overblown case." The US attorney’s office in Miami has until Wednesday to decide whether to seek a third trial.
In news from Capitol Hill, the House has passed a bill that could lead to the cancellation of debts for two dozen developing nations, including Haiti, Kenya, Vietnam and Georgia. The Jubilee Act directs the Bush administration to begin negotiations with international creditors to allow up to twenty-four nations to qualify for international debt relief.
President Bush announced a new goal of stopping the growth of US global warming emissions by 2025, but he offered few details on how this would be done. The goal falls far short of what is needed, according to many climate researchers. Last year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that global emissions must peak no later than 2015 to prevent catastrophic effects of global warming. President Bush urged Congress not to pass any climate change legislation that demands immediate cuts in emissions.
President Bush: "I believe that congressional debates should be guided by certain core principles and a clear appreciation that there is a wrong way and a right way to approach reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Bad legislation would impose tremendous cost on our economy and on American families without accomplishing the important climate change goals we share. The wrong way is to raise taxes, duplicate mandates, or demand sudden and drastic emissions cuts that have no chance of being realized and every chance of hurting our economy."
In Richmond, Virginia, three people were arrested this week while blocking the entrance of the headquarters of Dominion Power. The activists with Blue Ridge Earth First were protesting Dominion’s plan to build new coal-fired power plants.
The Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv has reported that Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly said the September 11 attacks have been good for Israel. Netanyahu said, “We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq." Netanyahu then reportedly said that these events “swung American public opinion in our favor.” Netanyahu’s comments came during a conference at Bar Ilan University.
And in news from Africa, Nigerian authorities have freed four US documentary filmmakers and their Nigerian colleague after detaining them for five days. The Seattle-based filmmakers were detained in the Niger Delta while working on their documentary Sweet Crude about oil production in Nigeria. Nigerian officials accused them of traveling without a military escort.
And the renowned actor, director and writer Tim Robbins is making news this week, not for his latest on-screen performance, but his keynote address at the National Association of Broadcasters. Robbins called on the nation’s broadcasters to do a better job of upholding their responsibilities to the public, and he warned about the dangerous lack of diversity of opinion that characterizes the state of broadcasting today.
Tim Robbins: "This is a nation divided and reeling from betrayal and economic hardship. And you, the broadcasters of this great nation, have tremendous power and a tremendous potential to effect change. You have the power to turn this country away from cynicism. You have the power to turn this nation away from the hatred and the divisive dialog that has rendered such a corrosive effect on our body politic. You can lift us up into a more enlightened age. Or you can hide behind that old adage, 'I’m just a businessman, I provide what the audience wants.' Well, I’m here to tell you that we don’t need to look at the car crash. We don’t need to live off of the pain and humiliation of the unfortunate. We don’t need to celebrate our pornographic obsession with celebrity culture. We are better than that."