Russia has entered a second day of mourning to mark the 335 people killed in the Beslan school siege. In every street in Beslan, people have been burying their dead. Hundreds of men and women walked up and down the town’s main street in mass funeral processions. The Washington Post describes the scene like this: “The wails of those who were grieving joined the cries of those farther down the street until, in some moments, it sounded as if all of Beslan was in tears.” The three-day school hostage ordeal ended in bloodshed and pandemonium Friday when explosions tore apart the gym where more than 1,000 captives were being held, touching off an assault by Russian commandos and fierce gun battles in surrounding streets. The Los Angeles Times reported “The explosions, apparently set off unintentionally by the hostage-takers, turned the gymnasium into a mass of twisted metal, shattered bones and charred flesh, with at least 100 bodies scattered on the floor. After the blasts, half-naked children weak with thirst, many covered in blood, ran crying from the burning building with their captors in pursuit. At least 335 people were killed, about half of them children. 200 more people remain unaccounted for. We’ll have more on this in a few minutes.
In Iraq, 11 U.S. service members have died over the past day in one of the bloodiest 24-hour periods for the US in months. The worst attack came in Fallujah where seven Marines died in a suicide car bombing. Roadside bombs killed three soldiers in Baghdad and a fourth soldier died in Mosul.
Meanwhile in Sadr City US-backed forces have killed at least 33 Shiite supporters of Moqtada al Sadr. Nearly 200 Iraqis were injured in the fighting.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that some cities in Iraq including Fallujah may be barred from participating in upcoming national elections because of continuing violence. The report was based on an interview with U.S. Lt. General Thomas Metz. Metz said “We’d have elections before we let one place like Fallujah stop elections. The rest of the country can go on about a process that heads right for an election.” Metz is the second highest ranking military official in Iraq.
The Iraqi government has announced it is indefinitely banning the Arabic-language tv network Al Jazeera. The government has accused the station of advocating violence and inciting hatred.
Al Jazeera has announced plans to launch an international English-language news channel by the end of next year.
On the campaign front, John Kerry criticized President Bush over the invasion of Iraq. He said it was “the wrong war in the wrong place and the wrong time.”
In other campaign news, new polls by Newsweek and Time show President Bush has jumped to double-digit lead over Senator Kerry. Newsweek’s poll found Bush beating Kerry 52 to 41 percent. Time also gave Bush an 11-point lead. Both polls were taken during the Republican National Convention.
A new book on the Bush family by best-selling biographer Kitty Kelley quotes President Bush’s former sister in law saying that that George W. Bush was a cocaine user and once took it at Camp David when his father was president. Other acquaintances told Kelly that Bush smoked joints and did cocaine while serving in the National Guard. The claims appear in Kelly’s forthcoming book “The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty.”
A new book by Senator Bob Graham charges that two of the Sept. 11 hijackers had a support network in the United States that included agents of the Saudi government, and that Bush administration and FBI blocked a congressional investigation into that relationship. Graham writes “It was as if the president’s loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America’s safety.” In his book, Intelligence Matters, Graham also reveals that Gen. Tommy Franks admitted to him as early as February 2002 that the military was scaling back the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in order to prepare for war in Iraq.
In related news, bond broker Cantor Fitzgerald which lost 700 employees in the Sept. 11 attacks has filed a $7 billion lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda and more than 50 Middle Eastern banks and foundations. The suit charges at least four top Saudi officials “provided funding and material support and substantial assistance” to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The officials include Saudi’s interior minister, defense minister and former intelligence chief.
In Gaza, Israeli forces bombed a training facility killing 14 members of Hamas. Another 40 Palestinians were injured.
In other news from Israel, a state-of-the-art Israeli spy satellite crashed into the Mediterranean Sea over the weekend after a botched launch. The satellite was to be used to spy on Iran and other enemies of Israel.
In Florida, 3 million people remain without power after the state was hit by its second major hurricane in the last three weeks. Hurricane Frances has been blamed for 10 deaths in Florida and Georgia. Meanwhile meteorologists are now tracking another hurricane —- Hurricane Ivan -— that could be heading toward Florida.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has taken out a full-page ad in the New York Times today calling on President Bush to renew the ban on Uzis, AK-47s and other assault weapons. The ban expires on Sept. 13. The ad features photos of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. The text reads: “Four Presidents helped pass the assault weapons ban. One president is blocking its renewal.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union is urging the New York City Council and New York state Attorney General to conduct a full investigation into police practices during the Republican National Convention. The NYCLU said it was particularly concerned with the department’s use of mass pre-emptive arrests, pervasive police surveillance, excessive delays in processing arrestees and the conditions at Pier 57 where many of the 1800 arrested were held. Detainees reported being held in a former bus depot covered with soot and oil__. The civil liberties union has announced it is testing a sample gathered by a medic who was detained.
The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting the Secret Service recently visited a 19-year-old man to question him about an anti-Bush bumpersticker on his car. The Secret Service told Derek Kjar that his neighbors had reported to the government that his car bore a bumbersticker that read “King George–Off With His Head.” The agents visited Kjar at his job at a dry clearning service and asked him whether he had ties to any terrorist groups or whether he enjoyed reading historical accounts of assassinations.