In Baghdad, at least 10 people have died and 40 injured after a car bomb exploded outside the area housing the new Iraqi government and the US and British embassies. The bombing killed mostly workers waiting in line to get into the heavily guarded complex which was formerly known as the Green Zone. It was the largest bombing since the so-called handover of power two weeks ago. The BBC reported US forces cordoned off the street after the bombing with tanks while US helicopters circled overhead. The unelected Iraqi Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, vowed to crush those responsible and suggested the attack may have come in response to a recent police sweep. The new Iraqi government has arrested more than 500 people over the past week in Baghdad.
In other news from Iraq the Philippines has begun pulling its troops out of Iraq — against the wishes of the United States — in order to save the life of a Filipino hostage.
And on Tuesday a roadside bombing nearly killed the head of Iraq’s Olympic Committee.
A close associate of Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress has been sentenced to four and a half years in jail in connection with the disappearance of $24 million while he was serving as the chief of staff for the Iraqi Minister of Finance.
The international Committee of the Red Cross said yesterday it believes the U.S. is holding detainees at secret jails around the world. Under the Geneva Conventions, the United States is obliged to give the neutral, Swiss-run Red Cross access to prisoners of war and other detainees to check on their conditions and allow them to send messages to their families. We’ll have more on this later in the show.
A Turkish court has ordered the retrial of Kurdish rights leader Leyla Zana and three other former Kurdish MPs who were freed last month after a decade in prison. The court found that the four did not receive a fair trial in 1994 and overturned their convictions. Zana ran afoul with the law after she spoke in the banned Kurdish language while she was being sworn into the Turkish parliament. She was also accused of having ties to banned Kurdish groups. Meanwhile police in Turkey are pressing for new charges to be filed against Zana and the three others for speaking Kurdish at a recent political rally in violation of Turkish law.
Haaretz is reporting the United Nations will hold an emergency session on Friday to discuss last week’s International Court of Justice ruling that Israel was illegally building a 425-mile wall through the West Bank. Yesterday a draft resolution sponsored by the PLO mission began circulating at the UN. calling on Israel to abide by the ruling. Meanwhile Israeli Army mapmakers said they may reroute the wall by moving it closer to Israel. Israel said it was considering the changes not in response to the World Court ruling but to a recent domestic court ruling.
In Bangkok, at the international AIDS conference, the United Nations predicted yesterday that the epidemic would leave over 18 million children in sub-Saharan Africa without one or both of their parents.
At the conference the US has come under intense criticism for blocking federal scientists from attending the conference and for failing to adequately finance AIDS programs overseas. US AIDS coordinator Randall Tobias attempted to counter the criticism yesterday by saying that the Bush has increased budget for treatment and for abstinence-based prevention programs. Tobias said “Abstinence works. Being faithful works. Condoms work. Each has its place.” During his speech, about fifty protesters in the audience chanted “Bush lies, millions die.” The US Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve generic AIDS drugs for export to Africa and other areas hardest hit by the epidemic. The biennial AIDS conference opened on Sunday when about 1,000 Thai activists unfurled a banner reading “Thaksin Lies,” criticizing the Thai Prime Minister’s role in cutting the country’s AIDS prevention budget by nearly two-thirds. The program had been viewed as a model for developing countries. Two reports from UNAids at the conference revealed that Aids prevention programs had yet to have a significant impact on the spread of the virus. Only 7% of those with HIV who need drugs to stay alive over the next two years are getting them.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and other Republican leaders are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. The amendment defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman. The amendment is expected to die in a procedural Senate vote today. George Bush’s support from the Christian right is based largely on the issue of gay marriage and Bush has spoken out against so-called activist judges that those in Massachusetts who legalized same-sex unions. An amendment in the Senate version of the Constitutional change was designed to win the support of more moderate conservatives, but it is unlikely the amendment will win the 60 votes necessary to cut off debate and move to a vote on the amendment itself.
Steven Hatfill, the former Army scientist who was identified as a person of interest in the 2001 anthrax attacks, has sued the New York Times and Nicholas D. Kristof for defamation. Hatfill accused Kristof as identifying him as the likely culprit in the attacks.
A Sacramento judge yesterday threw out the 14-year-prison sentence of former Symbionese Liberation Army member Sara Jane Olson on Monday. Olson, who changed her named from Kathleen Soliah, was arrested in 1999 after living underground for 25 years. In 2001 she pleaded guilty to taking part in two attempts to bomb the Los Angeles Police Department in 1975. She was initially sentenced to 5 years and four months, but a state judge increased that to fourteen years in 2002. On Monday Superior Court Judge Thomas Cecil ruled that there had been no analysis of how the state Board of Prison Terms decided 14 years was an appropriate sentence. Under the decision, Olson must be granted a new sentencing hearing within 60 days. The judge’s ruling only affected her first sentence. In January 2003, Olson was sentenced to six years for her role in a botched bank robbery that killed a Sacramento woman. She was one of five SLA members sentenced for that robbery.
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