Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced his resignation Wednesday, months after becoming the target of two corruption investigations. Olmert will remain prime minister until September 17, when his Kadima party will hold an election to choose a new leader. Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouthi predicted Olmert’s resignation will mark the end of the Annapolis peace talks.
Mustafa Barghouthi: "He shot Annapolis yesterday, when he declared that there is no possibility of reaching an agreement by the end of the year. He destroyed Annapolis by declaring that Jerusalem is not part of the discussion. And today, by this resignation, probably he’s providing the ammunition to kill finally the Annapolis process completely…Olmert is finishing with failures, but his biggest failure is that he has proven that, up ’til, now there is no partner for peace in Israel."
Ehud Olmert has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in connection to the corruption claims that he received cash-stuffed envelopes from a US businessman.
The House Judiciary Committee has voted to recommend that Karl Rove be held in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena to testify about how the White House helped politicize the Justice Department. The committee vote is only a recommendation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would not decide until September whether to bring a contempt citation to a full House vote.
Turkey’s highest court has struck down an attempt to outlaw the country’s ruling AK Party and ban many of its members, including Turkey’s prime minister and president. For years the Turkish military has accused the Islamic-rooted AKP of undermining Turkey’s secular laws. Six of the eleven judges on the Turkish court favored banning the AKP, one vote short of the seven required. Instead, the court sanctioned the AKP by cutting off state funding for the party. The chair of the Turkish constitutional court, Hasim Kilic, said the ruling should be seen as a strong warning for the AKP.
Hasim Kilic: "It is decided not to ban the party. The court decided to impose partial financial penalties. The party will not be banned, but everybody should evaluate the decision very carefully. The decision should be accepted as a very strong warning for AKP. Six court members voted 'yes,' four people voted for 'imposing financial penalties,' and one person voted for rejection of the case."
Supporters of the AK Party accused the military and the court of trying to stage a judicial coup.
A major study prepared for the Pentagon has criticized how the Bush administration has focused on using military might to defeat al-Qaeda in the so-called war on terror. The RAND Corporation study concludes that the current strategy for defeating al-Qaeda has failed in diminishing the group’s capabilities. The study recommends a "fundamental rethinking of US strategy" to focus on minimizing overt military action while increasing intelligence collection and partnerships with law enforcement agencies around the world. The co-author of the study, Seth Jones, said, "Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests there is no battlefield solution to terrorism."
The International Olympic Committee has acknowledged that foreign journalists in Beijing will be blocked from accessing websites critical of the Chinese government during the Olympic Games. Banned sites include Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and the BBC’s Chinese language site. A Beijing Olympics spokesperson defended the censorship.
Sun Weide, Beijing Olympics spokesperson: "Similar to practices in other countries, China is acting in accordance with its laws with regards to control of the internet. According to Chinese law, the internet cannot be used to transmit information that is illegal, such as promoting the evil cult Falun Gong or threatening national security. So we hope that the media will respect Chinese laws and regulations."
Reporters Without Borders has issued a guide on how journalists can use proxy servers to get around China’s censorship. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has sent a fifty-four-year-old school worker to a labor camp for a year for posting photographs online of schools that collapsed during the May earthquake.
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has been taken into custody by the UN war crimes tribunal to face trial at The Hague on charges of genocide. He is due to appear in court today. Serbian journalist Aleksandar Vasovic praised Serbia for extraditing Karadzic.
Aleksandar Vasovic: "This is a major step towards Serbia’s place in Europe where the country belongs. Serbia now must face, through this trial and through every next trial, perhaps of, hopefully of, General Ratko Mladic soon — to face everything that was done and undertaken in the name of the people of Serbia, including crimes, atrocities and everything else."
Radovan Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade last week after thirteen years on the run. Karadzic has said that he does not recognize the UN war crimes tribunal and plans to conduct his own defense.
Ecuador has formally told the Bush administration the US military must vacate its base in the Ecuadorian city of Manta once its lease expires next year. The US has used the Manta base for the past decade to lead anti-drug flights throughout Latin America. Ecuador’s ambassador to the United States, Luis Gallegos, said, "The Ecuadorian people do not want foreign troops on our soil, and the government has to follow the mandate of its people."
Meanwhile, Newsweek reports Chevron is urging the Bush administration to yank special trade preferences for Ecuador if the country’s government doesn’t quash a lawsuit against the oil company. Chevron has been sued for dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into Ecuador’s rain forest. Activists have described the disaster as an Amazon Chernobyl. Earlier this year, a court-appointed expert recommended Chevron be required to pay up to $16 billion to clean up the rain forest. Now, Chevron is lobbying the Bush administration to pressure Ecuador to quash the case. Chevron’s lobbying team includes former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, former Democratic Senator John Breaux and Wayne Berman, a top fundraiser for John McCain. One lobbyist told Newsweek, "We can’t let little countries screw around with big companies like this — companies that have made big investments around the world."
Two boats carrying humanitarian activists are preparing to set sail this week from Cyprus and head to the Gaza Strip in a bid to break Israel’s blockade and raise awareness for Palestinian human rights. Paul Larudee of the Free Gaza Movement spoke in Athens on Tuesday.
Paul Larudee: "The mission is to enter Gaza without passing through the territory of Israel or Egypt, going from international waters directly into Gaza. It hasn’t been done since 1967, and there’s reason to think that no one will interfere with us if we go, because Israel has said that they no longer occupy Gaza, so we want to put it to the test."
Federal and state law enforcement officials in Colorado plan to increase intelligence operations during the Democratic National Convention in Denver and run a fusion center where intelligence analysts will collect and analyze reports of suspicious activity. The Colorado Independent reports the military will also be sharing intelligence information and providing support through US Northern Command, a unit stationed at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs that was created in 2002 for homeland defense. Civil rights advocates fear the fusion center could enable unwarranted spying on protesters exercising their First Amendment rights at the convention.
And Mother Jones magazine has revealed a well-known activist in the gun control movement is actually a secret spy for the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby. Over the past decade, the woman, Mary Lou Sapone, managed to become active in almost every single major gun violence prevention organization. Sapone, who went by her maiden name Mary McFate, helped organize the Million Mom March in 2000 and oversaw the lobbying efforts of States United to Prevent Gun Violence. Mother Jones reports Sapone has a history of spying on activists. During the 1980s, Sapone infiltrated the animal rights community while working as an operative for a Connecticut-based security firm.