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The New York Times is reporting that Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby is expected to be charged today with making false statements to the grand jury investigating the outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal says that President Bush’s senior advisor Karl Rove was informed Thursday evening that he may not be charged today but will remain under investigation. The Times says that independent counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was likely to extend the term of the federal grand jury beyond its scheduled expiration.
One of the most prominent Republican fundraisers for President Bush in Ohio has been charged with illegally funneling money to Bush’s re-election campaign. A federal grand jury also charged businessman Thomas Noe with making false statements to the Federal Election Commission. The three counts lodged against Noe each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine. The indictment alleges that Noe laundered $45,000 in contributions by recruiting and providing money to 24 friends and associates who made contributions in their names so Noe could avoid the individual campaign contribution limit of $2,000. Another state grand jury in Ohio is investigating Noe’s $50 million investment in rare coins on behalf of Ohio’s Bureau of Worker’s Compensation. The Ohio Attorney General has accused Noe of stealing at least $4 million of it. There continue to be serious allegations of vote fraud in Ohio in the 2004 elections.
Iraq’s political parties have finalized their coalition lists for the December 15 elections. The lists were due today. Three of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite Muslim religious parties have formed a reshuffled alliance. In a surprising move, the political groups of the young cleric Moqtada al Sadr have joined with the two parties that control Iraq’s transitional government — Dawa, led by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Sadr has historically resisted participating in a political process he has denounced as a US-created sham and his forces reportedly joined on the condition that the coalition oppose a normalization of relations with Israel. Meanwhile, the two main Kurdish parties have formed their own coalition, while Sunni Arab leaders formed an alliance. This comes days after fierce Sunni opposition narrowly failed to veto the new, U.S.-backed constitution in a referendum. The new group, called Iraqi Accord Front called on all Iraqis to participate in elections and not to boycott. But what has gotten little attention is the fact that the group says it opposes the US occupation. A prominent Sunni leader, Hussein al Falluji, told Reuters “Our political program will focus more on getting the Americans out of Iraq. Our message to the American administration is clear: get out of Iraq or set a timetable for withdrawal or the resistance will keep slaughtering your soldiers until Judgment Day.”
Time magazine is reporting that the target of this Monday’s attack against Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel may not have been foreign journalists as was originally believed. The magazine, citing sources inside the Iraqi resistance, says the real target was a private security firm based in the hotel. The well-coordinated attack involving truck bombs killed at least six people. Time says resistance fighters believe the targeted security firm is actually a Western or Israeli government intelligence agency.
As the US military death toll in Iraq surpassed 2,000 dead this week, Atlanta Journal Constitution editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich marked the tragic milestone by hand-writing the name of each one in his Wednesday editorial cartoon. Together, their names spell out the question: WHY? The Pulitzer Prize-winning Luckovich told Editor and Publisher, “I was trying to think of a way to make the point that this whole war is such a waste. But I also wanted to honor the troops I believe our government wrongly sent to Iraq.” Luckovich says he spent 12 or 13 hours this past weekend writing in most of the names — roughly in the order of when the soldiers died. The paper’s publisher and various editors were also involved in the effort. When it looked like the names might not be readable, the editors gave permission for the cartoon to be published much larger than Luckovich’s drawings usually appear in the Journal-Constitution.
MTV has compiled some new statistics on the 2,000 US troops killed in Iraq. Nearly a third were between the ages of 20 and 22, with the highest fatality rate—about 12 percent—being among 21-year-olds. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. casualties are under the age of 30. Forty percent left behind spouses and 30 percent were survived by children.
Lawyers for Brooklyn-born Jose Padilla—the man accused of plotting to set off a dirty bomb inside the United States—have asked the US Supreme Court to limit the government’s power to hold him and other U.S. terror suspects indefinitely and without charges. Padilla, who is a US citizen, has been held for over three years in solitary conferment on a Navy brig. No charges have ever been filed against him and he has never appeared before a judge. Justices refused on a 5-4 vote last year to review Padilla’s rights, ruling that he contested his detention in the wrong court. One of Padilla’s attorneys, Donna Newman, said the new case asks when and for how long the government can jail people in military prisons. She said the Bush administration’s position “is not only can we do it, we can do it forever. In my opinion, that’s very problematic and something we should all be very concerned about,” she said. Justices will not decide until late this year whether to hear Padilla’s appeal.
Meanwhile, a federal judge this week upheld the conviction of human rights attorney Lynne Stewart on terror-related charges. In their latest appeal, Stewart’s lawyers allege that a juror on the case feared for her life and had been coerced into voting to convict. In a separate opinion upholding the convictions of Stewart and two co-defendants, the judge also ruled separately that they were not protected by the First Amendment. Stewart was convicted February 10 of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorism by releasing a statement by her imprisoned client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. Stewart is scheduled to be sentenced on December 22.
Cuban President Fidel Castro has denied that his government had accepted U.S. aid following the devastation of Hurricane Wilma. Castro appeared on national television and accused the U.S. and Europe of failing to provide enough help to Guatemala as it recovered from devastating mudslides and Hurricane Stan earlier this month. The U.S. State Department had announced this week that Cuba had accepted U.S. disaster aid. But in his address on Thursday, Castro said that it wasn’t true and he chastised the offer of $50,000:
“Dollars save no one. They arrive at a bank. Doctors carrying their backpacks, who arrive quickly and go in any way they can at any time, they save lives. Fifty thousand. They’re sending 50 thousand. I want to laugh. It’s shameful. They walk around talking about human rights, defending mercenaries of the empire and they don’t send them (doctors) for one simple reason. Some would say it’s because they’re egotistical, because they’re arrogant, because they don’t feel any pain for what’s going on in the third world. They’re all of those things, but they don’t send doctors because they don’t have doctors.”
During Hurricane Katrina, Castro offered to send 1,500 doctors equipped with disaster response backpacks but the US rejected the offer.
This news from the Netherlands. A fire in a detention center for suspected drug smugglers and undocumented immigrants at Amsterdam’s airport has killed at least 11 people. It took the fire squads three hours to bring the fire under control at the detention center that holds some 350 prisoners. One detainee told a Dutch radio station that the fire broke out in one of the cells and that when the prisoners cried out in alarm, they were not taken seriously.
The State Department announced this week that starting next October all U.S. passports will be implanted with computer chips. Sweeping new regulations say that passports issued after that time will have radio frequency ID chips that can transmit personal information including the name, nationality, sex, date of birth, place of birth and digitized photograph of the passport holder. Eventually, the government may add digitized data such as fingerprints or iris scans. Out of the more than 2,000 comments on the plan that were received by the State Department this year, more than 98 percent were negative.
Rosa Parks may become the first woman to officially lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda under resolutions prepared Thursday by lawmakers. She died Monday in Detroit at the of age 92. The resolution calls for Parks to lie in honor in the Rotunda on Sunday and Monday “so that the citizens of the United States may pay their last respects to this great American.” Historically, only presidents, members of Congress and military commanders have been permitted to lie in the Rotunda. Parks would be the first woman and the second African-American to receive the accolade. The Capitol event was one of several planned to honor the civil rights pioneer. From Monday night until Wednesday morning, Parks will lie in repose at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. Her funeral will be Wednesday at Greater Grace Temple Church in Detroit.