Just three miles from Ground Zero, President Bush last night accepted his party’s nomination for president in a prime time address that began and ended with references to the Sept. 11 attacks. Claiming that the US is the greatest force for good on Earth, Bush defended the invasion of Iraq and vowed to continue a foreign policy based on preemptive attacks. Bush said “I believe that America is called to lead the cause of freedom in a new century.” On domestic issues, Bush reached out to the socially conservative wing of the party condemning abortion, same sex marriages and so-called activist judges. He also promised to simplify the tax system, allow private investments of Social Security funds and push policies that would make it easier to own homes, though he offered few details.
Bush’s speech was disrupted twice by members of Code Pink. The anti-war group has managed to infiltrate the convention each of the last three nights.
A New York state judge yesterday ordered the city of New York to release about 500 prisoners arrested during mass protests against President Bush during the Republican National Convention. The judge ruled that the police had illegally held the protesters without charges for more than 40 hours. Civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel accused the city of attempting to hold the protesters until after President Bush spoke at the convention. Manhattan Criminal Court Judge John Cataldo held city officials in contempt of court for failing to release more than 500 detained demonstrators by 5 p.m. The judge threatened to impose a fine of $1,000 per day for each person kept in custody longer than 24 hours without being arraigned.
During the past week of protests, police have arrested almost 1800 people — nearly three times as many arrests made during the historic 1968 convention in Chicago. Nearly two thirds of the arrests took place on Tuesday in what the Associated Press is now calling one of the largest mass arrests in the country’s history. No president has ever faced larger protests during a political convention.
The Washington Post is reporting the FBI is investigating whether Pentagon officials leaked classified information to Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi who headed the Iraqi National Congress. The revelation comes a week after it emerged that the FBI was investigating whether a top analyst in the Pentagon was spying for Israel. According to the Post, the two investigations are part of a larger counterintelligence probe, the scope of which is still not clear. The New York Sun is reporting that Attorney General John Ashcroft has ordered the FBI not to make any arrests in the Israeli spy case investigation.
In Russia, troops have stormed a school where hundreds of students and adults are being held hostage. Reuters is reporting that some of the hostage takes have been shot dead but the fate of the hostages remains unclear. Many people covered in blood have been able to flee the premises. The number of people killed is unknown. A roof in the school collapsed and the BBC reports parts of the schools have been blown up. Some of the survivors say the total number of people inside may be far higher than previously estimated. Police had originally said about 300 hostages had been taken. But one survivor said about 1,500 people are inside. Over the past month Russia has suffered a series of attacks including the twin plane crashes that killed 89 and a suicide car bombing that killed 10.
In other campaign news, Democrat John Kerry yesterday criticized Vice President Cheney for attacking his patriotism during the Republican convention on Wednesday. Kerry said “I’m not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq.”
In news from the Korean peninsula, South Korea has admitted for the first time that its scientists have produced a small amount of uranium pure enough to be used to make nuclear weapons.
And after nearly three weeks thousands of Palestinian prisoners have announced they are stopping their hunger strike. The strike was called to protest jail conditions in Israel.
In Florida, more than 2.5 million residents have been ordered to evacuate their homes as the state prepares to be hit by a major hurricane for the second time in three weeks. Hurricane Frances is expected to hit Florida by mid-morning. Three weeks ago Hurricane Charley hit Florida killing at least 27 people. Hurricane Frances is a massive hurricane stretching 1,000 miles across — roughly the width of Texas. Over 90 percent of Florida residents live in areas under hurricane watches and warnings. The evacuation order is the largest in state history.