While Spain’s new prime minister announced he would bring Spanish troops home from Iraq, relatives of US troops killed in Iraq marched in Delaware calling on President Bush to also bring American troops home. On Sunday the families, marched to the Dover Air Force Base, the site of the military’s largest mortuary to honor all those killed and wounded in Iraq. Today the families plan to walk from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the White House. Meanwhile in Iraq six U.S. soldiers died over the weekend in bomb attacks. 564 U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq since the year invaded Iraq a year ago this week.
Near Boston a member of the Florida National Guard is planning to surrender to military police today. The soldier, Staff Sgt Camilo Mejia, has spent the last five months in hiding after refusing to go back to fight in Iraq. And in Oakland, a welcome-home party was held Sunday for former Marine reservist Stephen Funk. He is believed to be the first conscientious objector of the Iraq war and was recently released from six months in jail.
The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting the Selective Service System is considering starting a targeted military draft of Americans with special skills in foreign languages and computers.
Haitian president Jean-Betrand Aristide is currently on a Gulfstream jet over the Atlantic ocean. Later today, over the objections of Washington, he will make a historic return to the Caribbean two weeks after he was ousted in a coup. Aristide left the Central African Republic early this morning for Jamaica with a delegation led by Congressmember Maxine Waters. Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman is one of only two journalists traveling with the delegation. We’ll hear exclusive reports from her in a few minutes.
In Russia President Vladimir Putin was re-elected by a landslide vote. But the U.S. and human rights groups criticized the election process for largely shutting out opposition candidates. Secretary of State Colin Powell said “a level of authoritarianism [is] creeping back” into Russian society. Some opposition groups had urged voters to boycott the elections. Minutes after the polls closed, a massive fire engulfed a historic 19th-century building near Red Square. Two firefighters died in the blaze.
In southern Israel, at least 11 people died on Sunday after a double suicide bombing hit a port community near the Gaza Strip. The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility. A member of the group said it was revenge for the killing of five members of the group by Israeli troops in Jenin.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats called Saturday for an investigation of charges that the Bush administration threatened to fire a top Medicare official if he publicly revealed the true costs of a contested Medicare legislation. 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.
Federal investigators are examining whether the Bush administration broke a law that bars the government from using federal money for “publicity or propaganda purposes.” In question are a series of fake TV news segments prepared for Spanish-language TV stations that feature people posing as journalists who praise the benefits of the new Medicare law. The segments were produced by a private company for the government using scripts written by the administration. Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg, of New Jersey said “The distribution of these videos is a covert attempt to manipulate the press.”
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