At least 68 people have been killed in a massive suicide car bomb attack in Baquba earlier today on the first month anniversary of the so-called handover of power. It was the deadliest bomb blast in Iraq since the handover. The bomb exploded outside a police station where Iraqi recruits were lining up to join the police. Dozens were also wounded in the attack.
The war in Iraq has yet to become a top issue at the Democratic National Convention, where yesterday delegates approved the party’s platform, which has been widely criticized by opponents of the Iraq invasion. The platform reads “people of good will disagree about whether America should have gone to war in Iraq.” Earlier this month, anti-war delegates from the Dennis Kucinich unsuccessfully attempted to push the party to call the war a mistake and to call for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Last night Democratic upcomer Barack Obama and Senator Ted Kennedy criticized Bush for the war in Iraq but both toned down their criticism compared to earlier speeches. Obama said “When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they are going, to care for their families while they’re gone [and] to tend to the soldiers upon their return.”
John Kerry’s wife Teresa Heinz Kerry became the first spouse of a presidential contender to ever give a prime-time convention address. She never mentioned the word Iraq in her prime-time address.
Last night Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama and Senator Ted Kennedy criticized Bush for the war in Iraq but they both toned down their criticism compared to earlier speeches.
Meanwhile, Ron Reagan, the son of Republican icon Ronald Reagan, called for the government to fund stem cell research. While he claimed he was not giving a political address, he ended his speech essentially calling for Kerry’s election. To counter Reagan’s appearance at the Democratic convention, the Houston Chronicle is reporting that Republican officials are now trying to lure Nancy Reagan to attend the Republican National Convention.
Tonight speakers at the convention include Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards and three of Kerry’s former opponents for the Democratic nomination: Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Senator Bob Graham and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
In news outside the convention halls, the Pentagon has admitted it is playing a far larger role at the Democratic National Convention that it has at any previous political convention. The Pentagon has stationed air, land and sea forces around Boston. In an interview with the Associated Press, a Pentagon spokesperson refused to state how many troops are in the city but said the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard all have forces nearby.
By federal law the U.S. military is barred from performing domestic law enforcement duties, but the Pentagon claims an arrangement was made for Boston this week that enables the military to provide support if requested by the U.S. Secret Service. The Air Force is flying combat air patrols around the city and the Coast Guard is patrolling Boston Harbor. According to AP, the Coast Guard is randomly boarding commercial ships to conduct searches.
In news outside the convention halls, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the National Lawyers Guild have sued the Boston subway system, the MBTA, for randomly inspecting passengers and their bags. The suit charges that the searches are an unconstitutional violation of privacy.
The Financial Times is reporting Iraqi’s unelected Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has established a new media committee to impose strict restrictions on print and broadcast media. Any news organization that heavily criticizes Allawi may soon be banned from Iraq. As an example an aide to Allawi said any news outlet that broadcasts last week’s sermon by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr would be banned because Sadr mocked Allawi as America’s “tail”. Ibrahim Janabi, a former Iraqi intelligence agenct and longtime Allawi ally, has been appointed to head the new Higher Media Commission. He has never worked as a journalist.
The new media committee will be located in the same building that housed Iraq’s old information ministry which controlled media outlets under Saddam Hussein.
The families of six Iraqi civilians who were shot or beaten to death by British troops in Iraq are calling for the British government to fully investigate the murders. Two British high court judges have begun conducting a judicial review of the deaths to determine whether the killings were unlawful. But the British government has refused to hold an independent inquiry into the deaths.
In election news, The New York Times is reporting that almost all of the electronic voting records from the first widespread use of touch-screen voting in Miami-Dade County have been lost. The touch screen voting machines were used for the 2002 gubernatorial race. All of the data disappeared after two computer crashes last year making it impossible for an audit or recount.
The loss was discovered by the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition which claims the loss of data highlights the problem with electronic voting. An attorney with the group said “This shows that unless we do something now–or it may very well be too late–Florida is headed toward being the next Florida.”
The Nobel Peace Prize winning group, Doctors Without Borders, has announced it will pull its entire staff from Afghanistan because of safety concerns. Nearly two months ago five members of its staff were killed. The group also accused the US-led forces in Afghanistan of using humanitarian aid for their “military and political motives.”
AdAge is reporting the US Army is set to launch a new $200 million advertising campaign in an effort to recruit 80,000 new soldiers next year. In addition the military continues to use video games as a recruiting tool. On Saturday the Army is hosting a free video game tournament in New York City featuring the Pentagon’s video game called “America’s Army.” Since the Pentagon first posted the America’s Army video game online, more than 3.7 million players have registered.
A group of three dozen international academics and activists led by Tariq Ali and Walden Bellow have signed an open letter expressing support for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. The letter begins “We, the signers of this manifesto, wish to express our solidarity with the struggle that, alongside President Hugo Chavez, the majority of the Venezuelan people are waging in defense of their right to freely determine their future.” On Aug. 15, voters will cast ballots in a presidential referendum which will decide the future of Chavez.
And the city of New York has announced that it is now considering allowing corporations to buy the names of subway stops. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority claims the move may be needed to fill a $800 million budget hole.