In Iraq, the US-appointed Governing Council signed an interim constitution this morning in Baghdad. The signing was originally scheduled for last week but was delayed twice after five Shia leaders walked out in protest. Council President Mohammed Bahr al-Uloum called the event a “historic moment, decisive in the history of our glorious Iraqi people”. The Associated Press reported that just before the ceremony started, a large explosion was heard in Baghdad. No casualties were reported. On Sunday at least seven rocket strikes hit the al-Rashid Hotel and the Baghdad Headquarters of the Coalition Provisional authority. One U.S. contractor was wounded.
Ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide met with reporters for the first time today and said that he was kidnapped and forced from power by the U.S. On Sunday at least six people were killed and about 30 injured in Haiti when gunfire erupted in Port-au-Prince as thousands of marchers celebrated the overthrow of Aristide.
Meanwhile Senator John Kerry has condemned President Bush’s handling of the Haiti crisis saying he would have sent in international troops to support the country’s democratically elected leader. Kerry said Bush’s response sent “a terrible message to the region, democracies, and it’s shortsighted.” Kerry also accused Bush of “stonewalling” separate investigations into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and prewar intelligence on Iraq.
Israeli forces killed 14 Palestinians Sunday including three boys aged 8, 12 and 15. Almost 80 people were wounded including 40 minors. Israel claimed the attack in the al-Bureij and Nusseirat refugee camps targeted Palestinian militants. The BBC reported that most of the Palestinians killed were members of Hamas. There were no reports of Israeli casualties. The Associated Press reported it was the deadliest Israeli raid in Gaza in 17 months. On Saturday six Palestinians died in a failed suicide bombing attack near a border crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
Meanwhile Haaretz is reporting that Israel is now planning to delay its pullout from Gaza and removal of Jewish settlements there until after November at the urging of the White House. The paper reported that the Bush administration was concerned the pullout could cause political problems in the United States.
In economic news, new labor statistics show that the U.S. economy added 100,000 fewer jobs than projected in February. According to the Labor Department, the entire gain of 21,000 jobs was the result of government hiring. There was no increase of jobs in the private sector. Sen. Kerry responded to the news by saying QUOTE “At this rate the Bush administration won’t create its first job for another 10 years.” Since he took office the U.S. economy has lost about 2.2 million jobs.
Radio host Howard Stern is predicting his show may be pulled off the airwaves as early as this week because he has begun openly criticizing President Bush. Stern said last week “My days here are numbered because I dared to speak out against the Bush administration and say that the religious agenda of George W. Bush concerning stem cell research and gay marriage is wrong. And that what he is doing with the FCC is pushing this religious agenda.” Radio giant Clear Channel recently pulled Stern off its stations and now the Federal Communications Commission is threatening to levy a major indecency fine on the program. Stern said the criticism from Clear Channel and the FCC began when he started criticizing the Bush administration. Stern said “There’s a religious agenda. They are winning. They control the media. Clear Channel, Fox , all of them, all part of the religious right. We’ve lost. We’ve lost our airwaves. We’ve lost our freedoms. We will be a religious state within 20 years.”
Meanwhile the Republican National Committee is warning 250 tv stations across the country to stop running ads from MoveOn.org criticizing President Bush. The RNC claims the ads violate federal election law. MoveOn defended the ads and said it is not surprising that the Republican party QUOTE “continues to make false claims about the legality of our campaign in order to silence us.”
The former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq Hans Blix has told the Independent of London that the war in Iraq had no lawful justification and was illegal under international law.
US Hires Former Pinochet Commanders To Work in Iraq
The Guardian of London is reporting the US has begun hiring mercenaries from Chile to replace US soldiers on security duty in Iraq. The private security company Blackwater USA last month began training 60 former Chilean commandos including some who trained under Pinochet.
The Independent of London is reporting that Britain’s top scientific advisor, Ivan Rogers, has been muzzled by Tony Blair’s government after he warned that global warming was a more serious threat than international terrorism.
A new report from Human Rights Watch charges U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan have arbitrarily detained civilians, used excessive force during arrests of non-combatants, and tortured detainees. The group reported that civilians are being held in a legal black hole–with no tribunals, no legal counsel, no family visits and no basic legal protections.
And in Seattle, the city’s mayor has announced he will sign an executive order today requiring the city to recognize the marriages of gay city employees who get married elsewhere. Mayor Greg Nickels also said he’ll ask the City Council to pass an ordinance that would require contractors doing business with the city to recognize gay marriages among their own employees.