The Financial Times is reporting that Iraq’s oil-rich southern provinces are considering plans to set up an autonomous region. The move could threaten Iraq’s unity and present the Bush administration another major setback in Iraq. Members of the municipal council of Basra have reportedly been holding talks with officials in the provinces of Missan and Dhiqar. The three provinces account for more than 80 percent of the known oil reserves in Iraq. The three provinces have complained they are not fairly represented in Baghdad. Only one member of =Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s cabinet is from the southern region.
In other Iraq news, at least 37 people have died in a string of bombings near a U.S. convoy in Baghdad. More than 50 people were wounded in the attacks. The bombings reportedly occurred during a ceremony marking the opening of a new sewage system. It is unclear who died in the attacks. News reports indicated a U.S. helicopter evacuated some of the survivors. Earlier today, a car bomb exploded near the Abu Ghraib prison killing two Iraqi police officers and one U.S. soldier. In Fallujah, U.S. air raids continued last night. Iraqi doctors reported at least three civilians were killed.
Newsweek is reporting that the Department of Homeland Security is considering detaining 2,000 foreigners — mostly from Middle East and Muslim nations — ahead of the November election. The Department reportedly has “soft intelligence” on these individuals that suggests they could have possible terror connections and that they may have visa violations. Such a round-up would be the largest since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. This comes as the federal government launches a massive campaign to increase security before the elections. On Monday the Department of Homeland Security sent security bulletins to all 50 states.
Meanwhile the Washington Post is reporting the Bush administration is supporting a provision in a new House intelligence bill would allow U.S. authorities to deport certain foreigners to countries where they are likely to be tortured or abused even though the action was prohibited by international laws against torture that the United States signed 20 years ago. The provision appears as part of the massive bill introduced Friday by Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert. According to the Post, it would apply to non-U.S. citizens who are suspected of having links to terrorist organizations but have not been tried or convicted of any charges. Human rights groups and members of Congress opposed to the provision say it could result in the torture of hundreds of people now held in the United States. Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch said “Since Abu Ghraib, everyone from the president to the Defense Department to Congress has said the United States does not have a policy of torture. If this passes, we will have a policy of tolerating torture.”
A federal judge yesterday ruled a major provision of the USA Patriot Act is unconstitutional. Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union said the decision is a QUOTE “stunning victory against the John Ashcroft Justice Department.” The New York-based federal judge, Victor Marrero, ruled against a provision that allowed the government to secretly obtain Internet and other electronic records from private communication firms without a court order. The judge ruled the provision violated both free speech guarantees and protection against unreasonable searches. In its suit, the ACLU argued that the law gave the FBI unchecked power to obtain private information and gave the recipient no opportunity to challenge the requests. Yesterday’s ruling marks only the second time in the past three years that a federal court has rejected portions of the Patriot Act. More than 350 cities and counties have now passed resolutions condemning the Patriot Act.
The Russian government has approved the Kyoto Protocol designed to control greenhouse gas emissions in order to stop global warning. Environmental groups have expressed hope that Russia’s decision may increase the pressure on the United States and Australia to sign the treaty. The United States, which is the world’s biggest polluter, pulled out of the treaty three years ago.
Meanwhile the New York Times is reporting a major new governmental study has found that global warming is likely to produce a significant increase in intensity and rainfall of hurricanes in coming decades. The study is being described as the most comprehensive computer analysis of hurricanes to date. It was done in Princeton at the Commerce Department’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. One leading scientist at MIT said the study offers a definitive link between global warming and larger hurricanes. Hurricane expert Dr. Kerry Emmanuel said “This clinches the issue.” The study did not determine whether hurricanes would form more or less frequently due to global warming.
The U.S government has denied visas to 61 Cuban scholars who were scheduled to take part in the Latin American Studies Association convention next week in Las Vegas. Meanwhile the U.S has allowed three anti-Castro militants who were recently released from a Panamanian jail to enter the country. The three men were arrested after being caught attempting to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro during a visit to Panama. A column in today’s Daily News summarizes the U.S policy towards Cubans as this “Terrorists yes, scholars no.”
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