The Department of Homeland Security warned yesterday that financial institutions in Manhattan, northern New Jersey and Washington D.C. face a high risk of a terrorist attack carried out by Al Qaeda.
Officials specifically cited five targets: the New York Stock Exchange and Citigroup building in New York, the Prudential Financial center in Newark an the International Monetary Fund and World Bank buildings in Washington. In all three areas the terror threat level was elevated to orange or "high risk."
The New York Times reports the source of the new intelligence is a 25-year-old Al Qaeda operative who was arrested in Pakistan on July 13. Officials said they uncovered documents that shows Al Qaeda had begun plotting to target these sites with car or truck bombs before the Sept. 11 attacks.
In Iraq, five Christian churches were attacked on Sunday in Baghdad and Mosul in a series of coordinated car bomb attacks. At least 12 people were killed and dozens were injured. The bombings marked the first significant attacks on Iraqi Christians who account for about 3 percent of Iraq’s population.
The Sunday Herald of London is reporting that the U.S. is holding more than 100 children in Iraqi jails including Abu Ghraib and that some of the children are being subjected to rape and torture.
The Sunday Herald’s investigation is based on an internal UNICEF report written in June titled " Children in Conflict with the Law or With Coalition Forces" and on reports from the Red Cross. UNICEF had found that the US was indefinitely detaining some children without giving them access to their family or the courts.
An Iraqi political group has announced it has conducted a detailed survey that found 37,000 Iraqi civilians died in the first eight months after the U.S. invasion in March 2003. The People’s Kifah released the report over the weekend. The U.S. government has never estimated how many civilians have died. The website IraqBodyCount has put the civilian death toll at between 11,000 and 13,000. But the site has been criticized for only tallying deaths that were recorded by the media.
The Bush administration has announced it now opposes international weapons inspections as part of an international nuclear weapons treaty. The policy shift was announced during last week’s arms control meeting in Geneva. The State Department issued a statement that said allowing weapons inspectors into the United States and other countries "would have been so extensive that it could compromise key signatories’ core national security interests and so costly that many countries will be hesitant to accept it." But critics of the US policy say that without inspections the international community will have no way to verify if countries are abiding by the treaty.
According to the Washington Post, arms control specialists say the Bush administration’s decision virtually kills a 10-year international effort to lure countries such as Pakistan, India and Israel into accepting some oversight of their nuclear production programs.
George Bush plans to use the month of August to attack John Kerry’s record in Washington, according to campaign aides. According to the New York Times, both camps say they will spend the usually slow month of the presidential campaign trying to shift the dynamics of the race. The Bush campaign says they have a week-by-week plan to highlight George Bush’s record and his plans for the next four years. The strategy also calls for Bush to shift emphasis from John Kerry’s military service in Vietnam to his 20 years in Congress, calling his Senate career undistinguished and left-leaning.
On the campaign trail, the Bush re-election campaign has come under criticism after the campaign insisted on knowing the race of a photographer from the Arizona Daily Star before she was allowed to photograph an event featuring Vice President Dick Cheney. The paper refused to tell the campaign. A spokesperson for the campaign defended the request as an appropriate security measure. But the managing editor of the paper Teri Hayt said "One has to wonder what they were going to do with that information. Because she has Indian ancestry, were they going to deny her access? I don’t know."
Meanwhile outside Albuquerque, the Bush-Cheney campaign has come under criticism for requiring members of the public to sign a loyalty oath to the President in order to attend a campaign event held at a public middle school. Tickets were limited to past Republican supporters and to people who would sign the pledge. One local Democrat told the Albuquerque Journal "I am furious. This reminds me of communism. I am appalled. This is supposed to be a free country."
Surveillance measures that drew criticism from civil libertarians during the Democratic National Convention in Boston last week will remain in place, according to the Boston Globe. The Boston Police Department announced that it plans to move new surveillance cameras from the area around the Fleet Center to neighborhoods with high crime rates. And the MBTA, the Boston public transportation system, says it retains the right to search the personal bags of passengers.
The state Republican Party in Florida has begun warning Republican voters to vote by absentee ballot in November because of concerns over the reliability of touch screen voting machines. The party recently distributed a flyer that read "The new electronic voting machines do not have a paper ballot to verify your vote in case of a recount. Make sure your vote counts. Order your absentee ballot today." Governor Jeb Bush and President Bush’s campaign have both distanced themselves from the warning.
In other election news from Florida, the Miami Herald has revealed that Secretary of State Glenda Hood held out two months before scrapping a database of 48,000 felons barred from voting despite knowing about major problems with the list. The list included 2,500 ex-felons who had their voting rights restored. In addition the list contained almost no Latinos voters, a group that often votes Republican in Florida.
On Friday the White House predicted the nation’s budget deficit this year would be $445 billion — the highest ever and 20 percent larger than last year’s record shortfall. The Bush administration attempted to put a positive spin on the news, since the deficit was lower than earlier projections. Democratic Kent Conrad of South Dakota said of the Bush administration’s response "It’s a little like the captain of the Titanic saying there’s good news as the ship goes down, because it’s not sinking as fast as he’d said it would."
The Sudanese army has called a new UN resolution on the Darfur crisis "a declaration of war" and warned it will fight any foreign troops sent into the western region. The UN resolution warns Sudan of an international response if it fails to heed demands to rein in Arab Janjaweed militias and allow aid into Darfur.
In Venezuela, 59 former military officers have been ordered arrested for conspiring against the government of Hugo Chavez. A federal judge issued the ruling two weeks before the country goes to the polls to determine if Chavez should be recalled from office.
Another former FBI officer has come forward to accuse the domestic intelligence agency of institutional inertia and faulty intelligence gathering. Mike German left the bureau in mid- June after 16 years. The veteran agent was experienced in infiltrating white supremacist groups and militias. But when German suggested in 2002 that he investigate U.S. citizens in Tampa who were reportedly planning to support an overseas Islamic group, FBI officials would not grant his request and botched the investigation.
In Paraguay, at least 283 people have died in a massive fire at a shopping center in the capital city of Asuncion.
And former Attica prison inmate Frank "Big Black" Smith has died at the age of 70. He became a chief spokesperson of the prisoners during the uprising. In 2000 he and other inmates won a $12 million agreement with the state of New York.
During the uprising he forced to lie on a table while officers beat and burned him. He was also threatened with castration and death. The federal judge in the Attica settlement Michael Telesca said of Smith, "He was a real peacemaker in the Christian sense." His attorney Elizabeth Fink said "He persevered all of the years because he believed in what we were doing and because what happened to him in the (prison) yard changed him."
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