Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has died at the age of 75. He passed away earlier this morning at a French hospital. His body is now being transported to Egypt where a funeral is scheduled for tomorrow. He will then be buried at his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah. The Palestinian Authority has declared a 40-day period of mourning to mark Arafat’s death. For decades Yasser Arafat was the embodiment of the Palestinian cause and the symbol of Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation.
Former Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas has been elected chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
In Fallujah, the U.S. military is claiming they have captured 75 percent of the city and are hoping to have full control of the city by Saturday. The number of people killed in the four days of fighting is unknown.
Meanwhile Al Jazeera has aired a video that purportedly shows 20 Iraqi National guard members that have been kidnapped by the Iraqi resistance.
In other parts of Iraq, a car bomb in Baghdad earlier today killed as many as 17. In the northern cities of Mosul, Baiji and Tuz, fighting yesterday killed some 22 people.
In other Iraq news, the U.S. military has revealed that more than 650 of its troops have been infected with a fly-borne parasite known as cutaneous leishmaniasis that causes chronic sores and leaves significant scarring.
In news from Washington, President Bush has nominated Alberto Gonzales to replace John Ashcroft as attorney general. The Los Angeles Times has described the selection as a “disastrous choice.”
Gonzales helped pave the legal groundwork that led to the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib. In 2002 he claimed in a memo that the war on terrorism renders obsolete portions of the Geneva Conventions. He favored altering the 1978 Presidential Records Act to severely restrict access to presidential documents. He is a strong backer of the Patriot Act. And he has often been seen as dismissive of international law. In 1997, during his stint as Bush’s gubernatorial counsel, Gonzales argued that the state of Texas was not bound by international treaties signed by the United States. He made this argument to defend the execution of a Mexican man who was interrogated and tried without being given a chance to contact the Mexican embassy. Several groups have already announced opposition to Gonzales including the Center for Constitutional Rights, People for the American Way and Human Rights First. Gonzales has also been criticized by some conservatives who have been skeptical of his views on abortion and affirmative action.
As the world’s attention focused on the death of Yasser Arafat, Israeli police have re-arrested nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. The arrest comes seven months after he was released from an 18-year jail term for leaking secrets about Israel’s nuclear program. The Guardian of London reports Israeli police arrested him for allegedly passing on classified information to unnamed international parties. Since his release he has been barred from speaking with foreign journalists. But he has broken this ban with a handful of news organizations including Democracy Now. We’ll re-air a portion of our interview with Mordecai Vanunu later in the show.
California Congressman Henry Waxman yesterday called for new Congressional hearings on Halliburton’s contracts in Iraq and Kuwait. Citing newly disclosed State Department documents, Waxman said there is new evidence that employees of Halliburton’s subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root repeatedly tried to extract bribes in exchange for fuel contacts.
””:http://la.indymedia.org/uploads/tanks-on-la-streets.mov And in Los Angeles, anti-war protesters there have expressed shock after two military tanks appeared at a small anti-war demonstration Tuesday night. [ See Video Shot by LA Indymedia] The tanks drove by the protesters, went around the block and then stopped directly next to the scene of the protest in front of the Westwood Federal Building. The Los Angles Police Department claimed the tanks belonged to the National Guard and just happened to be driving by the scene of the protest. The National Guard denied the tanks were theirs but said they might have been Marine tanks. Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that as many as 4,000 combat troops may be deployed to the streets of Washington during the inauguration of President Bush in January.