In Madrid the death toll has risen to at least 198 in Thursday’s train bombings. Officials say 10 bombs ripped through four trains at the height of rush hour killing nearly 200 and wounding 1,400. The bombings all occurred within 10 minutes of each other. Newspapers in Madrid described the day as “Spain’s 9/11.” It was the deadliest bombing in Europe since 1988 when 270 died in the Lockerbie airline explosion. Spanish officials immediately assumed the Basque separatist group Eta was behind the attack but evidence later emerged that forced officials to investigate a possible Al Qaeda role. An Arabic newspaper in London received a letter from a group with ties to Al Qaeda claiming responsibility. But the letter was viewed with skepticism because the same group had also taken responsibility for last year’s massive black out along the East Coast. A truck containing detonators and an Arabic Koran was found. The attack came exactly two and a half years or 911 days after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington. Spain has begun three days of mourning. Schools, museums and the Central Bank have all been shut down. Millions are expected to participate in rallies tonight to mourn the dead.
The government’s top expert on Medicare costs told colleagues last summer that he would be fired if he revealed that the actual cost of the pending Medicare prescription drug plan was far more expensive than the White House was acknowledging. This according to a report by Knight Ridder. When the House passed the bill in November, the White House said the program would cost just under $400 billion over the next decade. But since then the White House has revised the estimate to be upwards of $150 billion more. It is widely assumed the Medicare bill would not have passed Congress if legislators knew program’s actual cost. The White House had known the program would likely cost about about $550 billion based on calculations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Before the Congressional vote, the Center’s chief Medicare actuary, Richard Foster, wrote an email to friends saying he would be fired if he revealed the higher estimate. Fost was also barred from answering questions about the bill’s cost.
A British man who was held on Guantanamo Bay by U.S. forces has told the Daily Mirror of London that he was beaten and tortured while being detained by the U.S. The man, Jamal al-Harith, said prisoners were kicked, punched and assaulted with batons. They were kept in hand and leg shackles with metal links into the skin for up to 15 hours at a time. Prostitutes were brought into the camp and paraded around naked in front of the devout Muslims. He accused the U.S. of subjecting him to psychological torture in an effort to break him. He also said they were given food rations that were 10 years out of date. The U.S. rejected the claims saying they are completely untrue. The U.S. is currently detaining over 600 men at Guantanamo Bay. None of them have been charged with a crime and are living in a legal black hole where the U.S. claims they have no rights under either U.S. or international law.
The California Supreme Court has unanimously ordered San Francisco to stop marrying same sex couples until the court rules on the legality of the city’s actions. Since Feb. 12, over 4,100 same sex couples have received marriage licenses and other cities around the country have followed suit. The court’s action left the news marriages intact at least, but in jeopardy. According to the Los Angeles Times, the court will decide a fairly narrow question: whether San Francisco officials had the authority to deem a state law unconstitutional. Meanwhile in Massachusetts the state legislature gave preliminary approval Thursday to an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage but establishing civil unions for gay couples. President Bush spoke out against same sex marriages again last night speaking before the national convention of the National Association of Evangelicals. According to the New York Times, the group of 30 million Evangelicals is well aware of its clout in Washington. A slogan on the back of the convention program read: “What Can 30 Million Evangelicals Do For America? Anything We Want.”
In campaign news, President Bush launched his first negative ads yesterday attacking John Kerry claiming he is weak on terrorism and would raise taxes by at least $900 billion. Kerry challenged the claims. Writing in the Washington Post, media critic Howard Kurtz said the ads have “plunged the presidential campaign into a more negative, finger-pointing phase at an unusually early juncture, eight months before Election Day.”
A second cousin of President Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card has been arrested on charges that she spied for the Iraqi government. The woman, Susan Lindauer, was taken into custody by the FBI after she was charged with acting as an agent for the Iraqi intelligence service. Government officials said Lindauer accepted $10,000 from Iraq, traveled to Baghdad and delivered a letter from the Iraqi government to Andrew Card before the invasion in an apparent attempt to stop the attack. As she was being led out of a court house yesterday she said “I’ve done good things for this country; I worked to get the weapons inspectors back to Iraq. When everybody said it was impossible, I worked to do it, and I’m very proud and I will very proudly stand by my achievements. I’m an antiwar activist, and I’m innocent. I’ve done more to stop terrorism in this country than anybody else.” Lindauer used to write for Fortune and U.S. News and World Reports and worked as an aide to several Capitol Hill legislators including Senator Carol Moseley Braun and Oregon Democratic congressmen, Peter DeFazio and Ron Wyden.
The Washington Times is reporting that a U.S. Navy strategic missile was damaged during a mishap at a submarine base last year and came within inches of striking a nuclear warhead. The incident occurred at a submarine base near Silverdale, Washington.
Tulane University has announced it will no longer sell off its oversupply of cadavers that had been donated to science after it was revealed a cadaver broker had sold the bodies to the U.S. military. The military then blew up the cadavers in landmine experiments.
In environmental news, Swiss scientists have determined that Europe suffered its hottest summer in 500 years last year. Researchers at the University of Switzerland reported “an exceptionally strong, unprecedented warming trend” since 1977.