House Democrats are accusing the Republican leadership of stealing a Democratic victory on the controversial Medicare bill by abusing the rules of Congress. At about 6 a.m. on Saturday, the House passed a bill overhauling Medicare by a 220 to 215 vote. The voting began at 3 a.m. when it was announced members would have 15 minutes to record their votes. But when the vote appeared to be won by the Democrats, the Republican leadership refused to close the vote. It went on for a record two hours and 51 minutes giving time for President Bush and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to put last minute pressure on reluctant Republicans to approve the package. The Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the Republicans “stole” the victory through “undemocratic subversion of the will of the House.” The bill now goes to the Senate where Sen. Edward Kennedy vowed he would lead a fillibuster against the measure.
The Washington Post reports the medicare and energy bill before Congress would give billions in tax benefits to companies run by executives who helped raise millions for President Bush’s campaigns. The energy bill would give billions in tax subsidies to companies run by 22 executives who helped raised at least $100,000 each for Bush’s presidential campaigns. Another 24 people who were major Bush campaign backers work as executives or lobbyists at firms that stand to benefit if the Medicare bill is passed.
In the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, President Eduard Shevardnadze resigned after facing three months of protest. Opposition leaders announced new parliamentary and presidential elections would be held within 45 days. US Secretary of State Colin Powell has already telephoned opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze to offer Washington’s support.
The New York Times is reporting that it has obtained an internal FBI memo that encourages local law enforcement agents to report any suspicious activity by anti-war protesters to the federal counterterrorism squads. The memo also revealed how the FBI was closely monitoring groups that organized demonstrations. Among other things it analyzed training and fundraising methods of protest groups. The ACLU in response warned that this signaled the FBI may be returning to days of Cointelpro when J. Edgar Hoover’s Agency illegally targeted civil rights and anti-war groups. The head of the ACLU, Anthony Romero, said “The F.B.I. is dangerously targeting Americans who are engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and dissent. The line between terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience is blurred, and I have a serious concern about whether we’re going back to the days of Hoover.”
In Columbus Georgia, over 10,000 gathered outside Fort Benning to demand the closing of the U.S. military run training school formerly known as the School of the Americas. Organizers said this year saw a record number of protesters attend. As of 5 p.m. at least 30 people had been arrested after entering the base in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. Meanwhile protests in Miami against the Free Trade Area of the Americas continued Friday. The National Lawyers Guild and United For Peace and Justice have condemned the treatment of the Miami police toward protesters. We’ll have more on the FTAA protests and the School of the Americas protest in a few minutes.
in Iraq over the weekend, the total number of Coalition forces killed since the invasion began exceeded 500 when at least six U.S. troops died. To date 432 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Britain has lost 53 soldiers. Italy has lost 17. And Poland has lost one. The number of Iraqis who have been killed during the same period is unknown.
In the northern city of Mosul, two U.S. soldiers were shot dead in their vehicle. Witnesses said Iraqi teens took the soldiers bodies and dragged them through the streets and pummeled them with concrete blocks.
Also in Mosul the Iraqi police colonel who was appointed by the U.S. to head up security at a nearby oil installation was assassinated Saturday night.
A senior Army officer has told the New York Times, the Army is planning to keep about 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq until at least 2006.
A pair of suicide bombings at Iraqi police stations north of Baghdad killed at least 18 Iraqis on Saturday.
The U.S. has suspended civilian flights into Baghdad after a DHL cargo plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile.
UPI is reporting that U.S. officials fired 28,000 Iraqi teachers last week because they were once members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.
Agence France Press is reporting that U.S. troops have shot dead a Hungarian student who was doing humanitarian work in Iraq. He was shot dead at a checkpoint west of Baghdad.
Agence France Press is also reporting that three Turkish nationals have been arrested in the iraqi city of Kirkuk in connection with a suicide bombing last week that killed five outside the office of the Kurdish political party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
In Afghanistan, five U.S. soldiers were killed and seven were injured when their helicopter crashed near Kabul. The military is investigating the cause of the crash.
Gen. Tommy Franks has predicted that the U.S. may discard the Constitution in favor of a military government if the country is attacked with weapons of mass destruction. In an interview with Cigar Aficionado, Franks said if such a attack occurred “the Western world, the free world, [would] lose what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy.”
On Friday the California Secretary of State announced that California would become the first state to require that all electronic voting machines produce a voter-verifiable paper receipt by the year 2006.
In New York, a jury has awarded $81 million to seven men who were beaten by New York police in 1992. At the time of the attacks, the men were passing out leaflets at a beach urging people to boycott Budweiser beer because of the brewer’s hiring practices. When the men refused to stop leafletting on police orders, they were beaten with nightsticks and flashlights. The attacks were caught on videotape.
The Washington Post is reporting that the FBI has subpoenaed the financial records of dozens of bank counts belonging to the Saudi embassy as part of an investigation into whether the Saudi government help funnel money to Muslim extremists.
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