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HeadlinesMarch 23, 2004

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International Community, Except U.S., Condemns Assassination of Hamas Leader

Mar 23, 2004

In the Palestinian territories and the Arab world hundreds of thousands protested on Monday against Israel’s assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas.

The killing was widely condemned by international leaders with the exception of the U.S. which called it deeply troubling but did not outright condemn the attack.

The assassination was opposed by some top Israeli officials including the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Avi Dichter. This according to a report on Israel’s Channel Two TV.

When Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the assassination of Yassin last week, Dichter argued that the assassination will lead to revenge attacks in the short run and ultimately will leave a vacuum within the Palestinian leadership.

After the attack Israel bolstered security at its embassies around the world. The Israeli army was put on heightened alert. And border crossings were closed off.

Haaretz is reporting that at least five Palestinians, including a 13-year-old boy, were killed and dozens injured, in clashes with Israeli forces during the day on Monday.

Groups Call for the Resignation of 9/11Commission Director

Mar 23, 2004

A pair of public interest groups, The 9/11 Family Steering Committee and 9/11 Citizens Watch, have called for the resignation of the director of the independent 9/11 commission, Philip Zelikow.

The calls for resignation come after former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke revealed that Zelikow participated in Bush administration briefings on al Qaeda prior to Sept. 11.

In a letter, the Family Steering Committee wrote “It is clear that [Zelikow] should never have been permitted to be a member of the commission, since it is the mandate of the commission to identify the source of failures. It is now apparent why there has been so little effort to assign individual culpability. We now can see that trail would lead directly to the staff director himself.”

Rumseld, Powell, Albright, Cohen To Testify Before 9/11 Commission

Mar 23, 2004

Today, the independent commission will hold public hearings with testimony by Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, as well as their counterparts in the Clinton administration, Madeleine Albright and William Cohen. Tomorrow testimony will be given by CIA Director George Tenet; Samuel Berger, former assistant to Clinton for national security affairs; and Richard Clarke.

White House Launches Attack on Critic Richard Clarke

Mar 23, 2004

The White House launched a massive campaign Monday to discredit Richard Clarke, its former counterterrorism czar, who publicly criticized the Bush administration for failing to focus on al Qaeda before Sept. 11 while being obsessed with attacking Iraq.

Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and claimed that Clarke “wasn’t in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff.”

Cheney’s comments contradicts a report in the Washington Post today that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice ordered Clarke to be the “crisis manager” on the morning or Sept. 11 to oversee the U.S. response to the attacks.

Meanwhile Rice herself appeared on all five network morning shows defending the administration. By 11 a.m. the Washington Post reported the White House had booked 15 interviews on cable news channels.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan dismissed Clarke’s criticism by saying “This is Dick Clarke’s ’American grandstand.” He also charged that Clarke, who was a registered Republican in 2000, came forward for political reasons. McClellan said it’s “more about politics and a book promotion than about policy.”

Democratic operative Jim Jordan told the Washington Post the White House attack on Clarke was expected. He said “Anything that contradicts the legend and recasts Bush as weaker and less sure-footed than previously thought is a huge problem for Bush, and Clarke’s account certainly does that.”

Meanwhile the liberal think tank Center for American Progress posted internal government documents on its website Monday that add more proof to Clarke’s charges. One document shows Attorney General John Ashcroft proposed a reduction in counterterrorism funds one day before the 9/11 attacks. Another shows that before Sept. 11 dealing with terrorism was not one of the Justice Department’s seven strategic goals. And a third shows the White House slashed the FBI requested counterterrorism budget by two-thirds after Sept.11.

Once Suspected Military Spy Gets Reprimanded for Adultery

Mar 23, 2004

The case of Muslim Army chaplain James Joseph Yee took another odd turn Monday. In September Yee, who worked with detainees at Guantanamo Bay, was arrested and officials said he faced a number of serious charges including espionage, mutiny and aiding the enemy.

The West Point graduate was detained for over two months in solitary confinement on a military bring alongside suspected members of al Qaeda. At one point the government suggested Yee was involved in a plot to infiltrate Guantanamo Bay.

When charges were finally filed the most serious was illegally transporting classified files. He was also charged with committing adultery and for downloading porn on a government computer. On Friday the government dropped all of the criminal charges in an apparent victory for Yee. But yesterday an Army general found Yee guilty on the adultery and porn charges. For that Yee will be given a written reprimand on his permanent record.

Yee’s attorney Eugene Fidell, said he plans to appeal the ruling saying, “This officer is the victim of an incredible drive-by act of legal violence.”

Judge Dismisses Tulsa Reparations Suit

Mar 23, 2004

A federal judge has ruled the survivors of 1921 race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma can not force the state of city government to pay reparations for harm done eight decades ago. Over a span of two days in the spring of 1921 a prosperous African-American section of Tulsa known as Greenwood was destroyed in race riots. Up to 300 people died. 1200 homes were torched and leveled. The federal judge who made the ruling said the incident marked “the worst civil disturbance since the Civil War” but he said statute of limitations barred any reparations lawsuits.

Some legal experts were hoping a positive ruling in the Tulsa case would open the doors to other reparations lawsuits to hold the government responsible for discrimination against African-Americans.

Harvard professor and reparations advocate Charles Ogletree, Jr. said the ruling would be appealed. He said “this is not the final word from us. This 20th century travesty deserves a 21st century solution.”

FDA Issues Warning About Antidepressants

Mar 23, 2004

The Food and Drug Administration urged drug makers yesterday to put new warning labels on popular antidepressant medications, including Paxil, Zoloft, and Luvox. The agency’s chief of neurological drugs Dr. Russell Katz said of the advisory “It warns physicians that patients depression may become worse [and] that they may develop suicidal thinking or behavior after the initiation of treatment.”

Aging Russian Nuclear Ship 'Could Explode'

Mar 23, 2004

The nuclear-powered flagship of Russia’s northern fleet has been ordered to head to land because the ship’s condition has deteriorated so much that it could explode at any time.

Two Finnish businessmen Killed in Baghdad
In news from Iraq, two Finnish businessmen were shot dead in Baghdad.

And Shiite leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said the US backed interim constitution could lead to the break-up of the occupied country.

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