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Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks has died at the age of 92. It was 50 years ago this December that she refused to relinquish her seat to a white man aboard a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested and convicted of violating the state’s segregation laws. Her act of resistance led to a 13-month boycott of the Montgomery bus system that would spark the civil rights movement. The boycott would also help transform a 26-year-old preacher named Martin Luther King Junior to national prominence. In 1958 King wrote “no one can understand the action of Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, 'I can take it no longer.''’ Parks had been involved in the fight for freedom since the 1940s. She was active in the NAACP, helped raise money to defend the Scottsboro rape case and attended trainings at the Highlander Folk School of Tennessee. The Rev. Jesse Jackson said yesterday ’'She sat down in order that we might stand up. Paradoxically, her imprisonment opened the doors for our long journey to freedom.'’ Henry Louis Gates Jr called her “the Harriet Tubman of our time.” After he was freed from jail Nelson Mandela recalled how Parks had inspired him and others in the South African struggle against apartheid. We'll have more on Rosa Parks in a few minutes.
This update on the CIA leak case–The New York Times is reporting today that it was Vice President Dick Cheney who first informed his chief of staff Lewis Scooter Libby that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA operative. Lawyers involved in the case say the two discussed Plame on June 12, 2003–weeks before she was outted in the press. Plame is the wife of former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, who has accused the White House of outing his wife because he had publicly criticized the Iraq war. Cheney reportedly learned of Plame from then CIA director George Tenet. This development raises new questions about whether Libby misled the grand jury. Previous reports indicate Libby told investigators that he learned of Plame’s identity from members of the press. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is expected to seek indictments this week.
In news from Iraq the Palestine and Sheraton Hotels in Baghdad came under attack on Monday. The Washington Post described it as one of the most complex and coordinated insurgent attacks of the war. Estimates on the number killed range from six to 20. The Palestine Hotel houses many foreign journalists. The attack began when an explosives-filled car blasted the concrete wall surrounding the hotel. Minutes later a cement truck carrying a massive bomb tried to ram the hotel where the wall had once stood. The truck detonated in an enormous fireball. Iraq’s national security advisor said this was a clear attempt to take control of the hotel and seize western journalists as hostages. No journalists were killed but three staff members from Associated Press Television News were wounded. The New York Times described the bombings as the “first major attacks against a foreign civilian target” since the United Nations and Red Cross were hit.
Meanwhile the Guardian newspaper reports two staff members from the Moroccan foreign ministry are believed to have been kidnapped in Iraq.
Earlier today Iraqi officials announced Iraq’s draft constitution has been approved. In the Shiite and Kurdish areas the constitution was passed by a near unanimous vote. However two Sunni-dominated provinces defeated it by overwhelming margins. In Anbar 97 percent of voters rejected the constitution.
And the U.S. death toll in Iraq is creeping closer to 2,000. The military has announced a Marine died in Ramadi on Sunday bringing the death toll to 1997. Anti-war activists have organized over 300 protests to take place across the country on the day after the US announces the 2000th U.S. soldier killed. On Monday Cindy Sheehan announced she and other peace activists will begin holding a daily vigil each night this week outside the White House.
Residents in southern Florida, Cuba and Mexico are all facing massive cleanups following the devastating Hurricane Wilma. In Florida at least six people have died and six million are without power. In Cuba parts of Havana flooded after a seawall broke Monday. In Cancun, 500,000 residents have lost nearly everything.
The New York Times is reporting Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Director Porter Goss met with Senator John McCain last week to urge him to back exempting CIA officers from a proposed Senate ban on torture. Three weeks ago the Senate voted 90 to 9 to ban the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” of any detainee held by the government. Cheney reportedly said the CIA needed to be exempt because the president needs maximum flexibility in fighting the so-called war on terrorism. Tom Malinowski, of Human Rights Watch, responded to the news by saying “They are explicitly saying, for the first time, that the intelligence community should have the ability to treat prisoners inhumanely.” Meanwhile the American Civil Liberties Union announced Monday at least 21 detainees have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ACLU reached that number based on released Pentagon documents.
British MP George Galloway is back in the news. U.S. Senator Norm Coleman accused Galloway on Monday of giving false testimony when he testified before the Senate earlier this year about Iraq’s oil-for-food program. Coleman, a Republican from Minnesota, claims that Galloway personally solicited and was granted oil allocations and payments from Saddam Hussein’s government. Galloway, who is a leading critic of the Iraq war, rejected the charges and has volunteered to return to Washington to testify.
In other news from the Middle East, Israeli troops have shot dead Islamic Jihad’s top commander in the West Bank. Loai Assadi is the most senior Palestinian to be killed by Israeli troops since the start of an eight-month-old ceasefire. Islamic Jihad vowed revenge and suggested the killing could mark an end to the ceasefire. Palestinians fired a series of rockets into Israel. Overnight Israel bombed the Gaza towns of Beit Hanun and Rafah. Meanwhile the international Middle East envoy, James Wolfensohn, has accused Israel of behaving as if it has not withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, by blocking its borders and failing to fulfill commitments to allow the movement of Palestinians and goods.
In media news, the alternative weekly newspaper publisher New Times announced Monday it is merging with the parent company of the Village Voice. The new company will operate 17 weekly publications across the country including the LA Weekly, San Francisco Weekly, Dallas Observer, Miami New Times and the Village Voice.