At the United Nations, President Bush and Kofi Annan * clashed over Iraq and international law* yesterday during the opening of the General Assembly. Annan said * “Today the rule of law is at risk around the world.”* His comments come a week after he charged the invasion of Iraq was illegal. Among other things he noted how Iraqi prisoners had been “disgracefully abused.” Meanwhile President Bush * defended the invasion of Iraq* and said freedom was finding its way in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he called on UN member nations to help in Iraq. We’ll have more on this in a few minutes.
In others from the United Nations, the Scotsman newspaper is reporting the * Bush administration is facing condemnation* for failing to join more than 100 countries as part of a new campaign to raise an extra $50 billion annually to combat global hunger. The U.S. rejected proposals to raise money to fight global hunger that included a global tax on financial transactions and a tax on the sale of heavy arms. Brazil’s president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva responded to the US decision by saying, “How many more times will it be necessary to repeat that the most destructive weapon of mass destruction in the world today is poverty? We must harness globalisation. We must turn it into a positive force.”
In Iraq, the Justice Ministry has announced a female scientist, * Rihab Rashid Taha*, being held in US custody will soon be released. Hours later the US said the release would not happen. Taha was once nicknamed Dr Germ for her work as a biological weapons scientist. The talk of Taha’s release, came shortly after a resistance group reportedly connected to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi threatened to kill the British contractor Kenneth Bigley if all Iraqi women prisoners are not released from prison. Already this week the group has executed two American contractors, the 52-year—old Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley who would have turned 49 today. A videotape purportedly of Hensley’s killing appeared on the Internet yesterday. The U.S. government has not yet confirmed that Hensley was killed.
In other Iraq news, at least six people have died today following a * car bomb* explosion in Baghdad. At least 40 people were wounded. The U.S. carried out airstrikes in the Sadr City section of Baghdad killed at least 10 and wounding 100.
The Telegraph of London is reporting the US military plans to begin using * high-powered microwave weapons&* in Iraq to fight the resistance movement. The so-called non-lethal weapons shoot high-powered electromagnetic beams that makes victims feel their skin is on fire. The Pentagon claims that the weapons leaves no after effects and that the pain subsides once the target moves out of the beam’s path. The weapon is known as the * Active Denial System*.
Three top political aides to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay were indicted yesterday on charges that they * illegally raised political funds from corporations* to use in the * Republican takeover of the Texas legislature*. About 20 Republican candidates in Texas were helped from the illegal activity. Travis County District Attorney accused Delay’s aides of using corporate contributions to “control representative democracy in Texas.” After Republicans gained control of the Texas legislature for the first time since Reconstruction, GOP lawmakers redrew the state’s Congressional map in a way that would give the Republicans as many as five new seats in Congress. According to the Washington Post DeLay has often cited the redistricting effort as a key reason he expects the Nov. 2 election to expand the Republican’s House majority The Post reports that DeLay was not named as a target of the grand jury’s investigation, but documents disclosed in the inquiry indicate that DeLay was central to creating and overseeing the political fundraising in Texas. Eight corporations were also indicted for illegal political contributions. They include Sears Roebuck, Bacardi and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.
In Haiti, the death toll from the recent flooding has increased to over 700. The 1,000 people are still missing and another 250,000 people are homeless.
The federal government revealed yesterday that it will order the nation’s 77 private airline companies to * turn over millions of passenger records* by November so it can begin testing a new passenger screening program. The information requested includes passenger names, addresses, telephone numbers, the names of traveling companions and meal preferences as well as any comments by the airline crew on the passenger.
Meanwhile in related news a United Airlines flight from London to Washington made an emergency landing yesterday after authorities learned one of its passengers was on a U.S. watch list. The passenger turned out to be legendary folk singer and peace activist * Cat Stevens* also known as Yusuf Islam. Upon landing in Maine, the singer was questioned by U.S. authorities and then denied entry to the country on national security grounds. It is unclear why he was considered a threat to national security. The Muslim convert has publicly criticized the Sept. 11 attacks and the recent school siege in Russia that left 300 dead. Last year to protest the Iraq invasion he re-recorded one of his best known songs, Peace Train.
In other airline news, a Midwest Airlines flight was canceled as it was preparing for take off from San Francisco * after a passenger found a note in Farsi* in an in-flight magazine. An airlines spokesperson admitted they didn’t know exactly what the note said but that it was contemplative in nature.
Haaretz is reporting the United States will soon sell Israel 5,000 satellite-guided smart bombs including 500 one-ton bunker busters
. One senior Israeli security official suggested the bombs may be used to attack Israel’s neighbors. He told * Reuters* “”This is not the sort of ordnance needed for the Palestinian front. Bunker busters could serve Israel against Iran, or possibly Syria.” Government sources said the $319 million deal is one of Israel’s largest weapons deals in recent years.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has picked the 2004 Peace Prize winner but the winner will not be announced until October 8. USA Today is reporting that the International Atomic Energy Agency and its director * Mohamed ElBaradei is the odds-on favorite* followed by former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix. USA Today said odds-makers estimate the chance of nominees President Bush or British Prime Minister Tony Blair winning the peace prize as 1,000–1, roughly the same odds of as former Yugoslavian president Slobadan Milosevic who’s on trial for war crimes.