The death toll from last week’s earthquake in South Asia has now passed 53,000. Bad weather continues to hamper the relief effort. The Associated Press reports Pakistani officials are warning cold and wet conditions could cause further deaths among the 2 million or so left homeless by the quake. Pakistan’s relief commissioner Maj. Gen. Farooq Ahmed Khan said: “Some people fear that the death toll could be 100,000 and they may be right.’’
This update on the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame: New York Times reporter Judith Miller is claiming she doesn’t know who gave her Plame’s name but admitted discussing her with Dick Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby. On Sunday the New York Times published two extensive articles on Miller’s connection to the story. The leak is at the center of a growing investigation that could lead to the indictment of both Libby and President Bush’s chief advisor Karl Rove. Miller spent 85 days in jail refusing to testify about her sources.
The New York Times coverage reveals there has been wide discontent at the paper about its handling of the story and about Miller’s reporting in general. When asked what she regretted about the newspaper’s handling of the Miller matter, managing editor Jill Abramson said “The entire thing.” Meanwhile the Times reveals that in 2003 the paper’s executive editor Bill Keller told Miller she could no longer cover Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. Miller had written several of the key articles that claimed Iraq had an extensive weapons of mass destruction program ahead of the Iraq invasion. Miller even wrote “W.M.D. — I got it totally wrong. The analysts, the experts and the journalists who covered them — we were all wrong. If your sources are wrong, you are wrong.”
Questions are also being raised about Miller’s relationship not just with Libby but with the Pentagon. Miller revealed in her article that she had a Pentagon security clearance while embedded with US military teams hunting for banned weapons in Iraq. This means she would have been shown documents that she could not legally disclose to her readers. Retired CBS News correspondent Bill Lynch said “This is as close as one can get to government licensing of journalists.”
U.S. and Iraqi officials are predicting Iraq voters approved the country’s new constitution during Saturday’s nation-wide referendum. The constitution could have been rejected if two-thirds of voters in three or more of Iraq’s 18 provinces voted against it. But reports indicate only two Sunni provinces voted no. Sunni Arabs are overwhelmingly opposed to the constitution, fearful it could ultimately lead to their exclusion from oil-rich Kurdish areas in the north and Shiite areas in the south. Authorities estimated a turnout of at least 60 percent. Sunni leaders contested the early predictions, saying independent monitors had concluded a sufficient amount of voters voted against the constitution. No foreign election observers were present to monitor Saturday’s vote. Representatives of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq reported turnout to soldiers and officials at a command center located on a U.S. base. A U.S. Army Specialist told the Post: “We have to hold their hand to do everything around here.”
Also in Iraq, the U.S. claims military strikes have killed 70 insurgents near the town of Ramadi yesterday. But witnesses say at least 39 of the dead are civilians. A local hospital official told the Washington Post U.S. warplanes attacked bystanders gathered around a burning U.S. vehicle on the side of a road, killing 25. In a separate incident, U.S. air strikes killed 50 people hiding in a building. Witnesses say at least 14 civilians were killed. The attacks occurred after five U.S. Marines were killed in a roadside bombing in the city on Saturday.
The New York Times is reporting U.S. troops have been clashing with Syrian counterparts on the border with Iraq over the last year. Officials told the Times U.S. operations claimed to thwart the alleged flow of insurgents into Iraq have spilled over inside Syria’s borders. These officials added the military is considering plans to conduct special intelligence operations inside Syria. A firefight this summer led to the deaths of several Syrian soldiers. U.S. officials accuse Syria of harboring insurgent training camps inside its borders, a charge denied by the Syrian government. A recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies found the percentage of foreign fighters among Iraqi insurgents is “well below 10 percent, and may well be closer to 4 percent to 6 percent.”
On the tenth anniversary of the Million Man March on Washington, the Millions More Movement converged on the National Mall Saturday. Crowd estimates ranged from the tens of thousands to over one million for the day-long gathering, which featured a long list of prominent African-American leaders, intellectuals and artists. The federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina was a dominant theme throughout. This is Nation of Islam leader and march organizer Louis Farrakhan.
In the Middle East, Israel has suspended talks with Palestinian leaders and reimposed travel restrictions on large portions of the West Bank following shootings that killed three Israelis Saturday. The Israelis were killed in a drive-by shooting near the settlement block of Gush Etzion. The Israeli army sealed off the West Bank towns of Hebron and Bethlehem, and closed off all Palestinian vehicles from traveling the area’s main north-south road. Arrest raids will also be intensified into Palestinian areas, the army said. 19 Palestinians were arrested overnight. The restrictions have been in place for much of the five-year Palestinian uprising, severely hampering freedom of movement and crippling the local economy. Israeli officials told the Associated Press the measures will be in place for a long time.
At least 32 inmates are dead following an alleged riot in an Argentine prison. Prison authorities in Magdalen, located 45 miles southeast of Buenos Aires, say a prison feud led to a fire that caused the inmates to lose their lives to asphyxiation. Buenos Aires Justice Minister Eduardo Di Rocco rejected initial reports a demand for more visiting hours for relatives led up to the incident. Two jailers, including the warden, were seriously injured, he said.
In news from this country, a new study from an independent legal-aid agency says 80 percent of low-income Americans in need of legal assistance do not receive any. The government-funded Legal Services Corporation, or LSC, says roughly one million cases per year are rejected due to a lack of available legal aid resources. The study found for every client served by a program funded by the LSC, at least another will be rejected. Data also shows there is only one legal aid lawyer available for nearly every 7,000 low-income clients, as opposed to one lawyer available for every 525 people in the general population.
A neo-Nazi rally planned for Saturday in Toledo, Ohio led to a riot in which over 100 people were arrested. A group known as “America’s Nazi Party” planned to walk through a predominantly African American neighorhood under police protection. Authorities called off the march when a large counter-demonstration assembled in response. Police allege counter-demonstrators nonetheless hurled rocks, broke windows, and set fire to a local bar. Toledo mayor Jack Ford declared a state of emergency that remained in effect through the weekend.
In environmental news, climatologists are predicting 2005 will be the warmest year on record, continuing a 25-year trend. Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies say that global temperatures today are about 1.36 degrees Fahrenheit above the average between 1950 and 1980. Last month was the warmest month on record since temperatures were first recorded in 1880.