Iraqis Rally on 6th Anniversary of Fall of Baghdad
Tens of thousands of Iraqis rallied in Baghdad today to mark the sixth anniversary of the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s government. The crowd burned an effigy of former President George W. Bush as it hung from a pillar where Saddam’s statue once stood. The rally came one day after at least seven people were killed and twenty-three wounded in the second straight bombing in a Shiite district of Baghdad.
US to Join Iran in Global Talks
The Obama administration has announced it will now join international talks over Iran’s nuclear program. The move reverses a Bush administration policy supporting the negotiations between Iran and Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China but refusing to take part. Earlier in the day, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad renewed calls for talks with the US, but called on the Obama administration to be "honest."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "If a hand extended to the Iranian nation is truly extended with honesty, justice and respect, Iran welcomes it. But if, God forbid, it is a hand that is pretending to be honest, but in reality is dishonest, the response of the Iranian nation would be the same response that it gave to Mr. Bush."
Jailed Iranian American Journalist Accused of Spying
In other Iran news, the Iranian government has charged a jailed Iranian American journalist with espionage. Thirty-one-year-old Roxana Saberi has been imprisoned in Iran since January. A freelance journalist, she has reported for the BBC, National Public Radio and Fox News. She was working in Iran despite an Iranian government ban on her reporting since 2006.
Report: Pakistan Rebuffs US on Attacks, Requests Control of Drones
The Pakistani government is reportedly showing new resistance to US military activities within its borders. The Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports Pakistani officials have rejected a US proposal for joint operations in tribal regions near the Pakistani border with Afghanistan. The message was reportedly delivered to regional envoy Richard Holbrooke and Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullen during their visit to Pakistan earlier this week. Pakistani officials also reportedly asked that the US hand over control of the deadly drone missions that have killed hundreds of people. On a visit to India Wednesday, Holbrooke addressed Indian concerns the US is favoring Pakistan.
US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke: "We are working intensively with our friends in Pakistan to achieve a common goal. That is what we’re doing. We know it’s going to be difficult, but the national security interests of all the three countries are clearly at stake. The administration, which we represent, is committed to this. We’re going to do it, but it’s going to be difficult."
Palestinian Villagers Wounded Following Settler Attack
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, at least twelve Palestinians were wounded after an attack by Israeli settlers on a West Bank village. The settlers smashed car windows and damaged homes before fleeing. Israeli soldiers then arrived at the scene and shot at demonstrating Palestinian residents. Nasri Sabarneh of the Beit Ummar council said one of the victims was seriously injured.
Nasri Sabarneh: "When the Israelis came, they started firing live bullets and tear gas. As a result, seven residents were injured, one of them was eighteen-year-old Thaer Nasir Adi, who was hit by live bullets in the neck and is now undergoing an operation at the Al Ahli hospital."
Sinn Fein Leader Condemns Gaza Siege
Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, Gerry Adams of Ireland’s Sinn Fein visited areas damaged by the three-week Israeli attack earlier this year. Adams condemned the ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza.
Gerry Adams: "I witnessed what was happening here back in Ireland on the television screens, and I said then that what is happening here is totally and absolutely wrong, and it should cease. And nothing prepares you for the sight that’s all around us and that confirms my view that what happened here is wrong and it should stop."
Adams went on to call on both Israelis and Palestinians to halt violence and begin negotiations.
US Captain Seized by Somali Pirates
At sea near the Horn of Africa, an American captain remains in captivity after his cargo ship was briefly seized by a group of Somali pirates. The pirates hijacked the ship but were later overtaken by the crew. The US Navy has sent a destroyer ship to the waters where the ship was seized.
Posada Accused of Lying on Bombing Role in New Indictment
Back in the United States, the former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles has been indicted on charges of lying about his role in several 1997 bombings at tourist areas in Cuba. The new charges mark the first time the US government has acknowledged Posada’s role in carrying out attacks. A militant right-wing Cuban exile long supported by the US government, Posada is also wanted in Cuba and Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed seventy-three people. The Bush administration harbored Posada and rejected calls for his extradition. The new indictment accuses Posada of "soliciting other individuals to carry out...bombings in Cuba."
Obama to Address Immigration Overhaul
The Obama administration is planning to unveil new immigration proposals that will likely include a way for undocumented immigrants to receive legal status. The New York Times reports President Obama will speak publicly on immigration next month and convene working groups to craft legislation for as early as the fall.
US Considers Easing Emissions Auctions
President Obama is considering backing off a campaign pledge to auction off all emissions permits issued under a proposed cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas. In an interview with the Washington Post, White House science adviser John Holdren said the administration might auction only some of the permits and give the rest away. Energy industry leaders have lobbied against the blanket auctions, calling them too costly.
Obama Establishes Office on Healthcare Reform
President Obama has formalized his establishment of an administration panel for reforming heathcare. In an executive order Wednesday, Obama established the White House Office of Health Reform. In the order, Obama said the US healthcare system suffers "serious and pervasive problems." The Obama administration has come under criticism for its rejection of a single-payer universal healthcare system favored by a majority of Americans.
Maine Legislators Call for Single Payer
Meanwhile, in Maine, the state legislature has approved a measure calling for the establishment of single payer. The Maine Senate passed the non-binding resolution Wednesday, one day after its passage in the state House.
LA Hospital Admits to "Dumping" Homeless, Mentally Ill
In California, a Los Angeles area psychiatric hospital has admitted to abandoning more than 150 mentally disabled homeless patients in dangerous neighborhoods over a two-year period. College Hospital will pay a $1.6 million penalty under a settlement with city attorneys. So-called "hospital dumping" is believed to be a widespread practice in the United States.
Panel: Private Utilities Fail to Protect from Cyber Attacks
A new government-backed study has found the nation’s mostly privately run electric utilities have failed to properly safeguard their equipment from computer-based attacks. In a new report, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation says so-called cyber-attackers retain the potential to disrupt "multiple assets at once, and from a distance." The warning came as the Wall Street Journal reported "cyberspies" have penetrated the US electrical grid and left potentially disruptive software programs behind. According to current and former national security officials, spies from China, Russia and other countries have infiltrated the electronic networks that control the nation’s utilities. Officials don’t see an immediate threat but warn the infiltrations could prove dangerous if the US ever goes to war.
NY Gov. to Propose Gay Marriage Bill
In New York, Governor David Paterson has announced plans to introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. The announcement came one day after the Vermont legislature made US history as the first to legalize gay marriage.
Report: Obama Mulls Bonds for Toxic Securities
And in bailout news, the New York Times is reporting the Obama administration is considering a plan that would encourage Americans to directly invest in the troubled assets of taxpayer-rescued corporations. The proposal would essential create the equivalent of bonds to buy up the toxic securities such as bundled subprime loans. The plan is being promoted by financial industry lobbyists, including the money management giant BlackRock.