Enron’s former chief accountant has pleaded guilty to securities fraud. Richard Causey was scheduled to go on trial next month along with Enron’s founder Kenneth Lay and ex-Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling. But now Causey is expected to cooperate with government prosecutors during the trial. He had been facing more than 20 years in jail but under the terms of the plea deal he will serve no more than seven.
The United Nations has weighed in on the growing controversy over Iraq’s recent parliamentary elections, declaring them fair and credible.
Sunni and secular Shiite parties have alleged voter fraud after early returns gave the religious Shiite coalition the United Iraqi Alliance an overwhelming lead. Dhafir al-Ani, spokesperson for the main Sunni alliance the Iraqi Consensus Front, told the New York Times : "Several international workers sitting inside the Green Zone are not able to evaluate the election matter. We still believe that huge fraud happened in the Iraqi election and it completely changed the results." Final election results are expected next week.
Elsewhere in Iraq, U.S. fighter jets have killed ten people in a bombing of the northern village of Hawija. The military said it launched the attacks after several men were spotted planting roadside bombs. The Washington Post reported earlier this week the number of monthly U.S. airstrikes has increased almost fivefold this year, from roughly 25 in January to 120 last month.
Meanwhile, at least nine Iraqis are dead following a failed escape attempt from a Baghdad military prison. The US military said four prisoners, four Iraqi guards, and an interpreter were killed when a group of detainees seized several weapons from the prison armory. Police and Interior ministry sources have given a different account. Reuters initially reported six prison guards were killed before troops fired into a crowd of unarmed prisoners, killing up to 20 people.
Elsewhere in Iraq, a suicide bomber killed five police officers and wounded several others in Baghdad earlier today.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is saying a military program to fund news websites that pays journalists to promote US policies in Europe and Africa does not violate federal law. This according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. A review was ordered in February following disclosures the US was paying Virginia contractor Anteon to run websites without proper attribution to promote US policies in the Balkans and the Africa’s Maghreb region.
Meanwhile, an inquiry continues into the Washington, D.C.-based Pentagon contractor the Lincoln Group over the disclosure it planted pro-military stories in Iraqi newspapers. A Pentagon official who supports the program told the Times : "We have never been outgunned in any battle, but we are constantly being outmedia-ed. These are things we should be doing more of."
In other news, a former US counterterrorism agent is claiming the CIA’s rendition program to capture terror suspects and question them on foreign soil was launched under former President Bill Clinton. In an interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit, Michael Scheuer, a 22-year CIA veteran who resigned last year, said : "President Clinton, his national security advisor Sandy Berger and his terrorism advisor Richard Clarke ordered the CIA in the autumn of 1995 to destroy Al-Qaeda. We asked the president what we should do with the people we capture. Clinton said ’That’s up to you’."
In February, investigative journalist Jane Meyer reported the Clinton administration carried out rendition operations as early as 1995. Meyer reported US agents helped kidnap wanted Egyptian terror suspect Qassem in Zagreb in Croatia. He was sent back to Egypt, where he was reportedly executed.
In South Korea, national police chief Huh Joon-Young has resigned over the beating deaths of two farmers at a protest in Seoul last month. Chon Yong-chol and Hong Tok-pyo were among hundreds of farmers who rallied against the government’s decision to open up the country to state-subsidized rice of foreign countries. The protest took place ahead of the World Trade Organization summit in Hong Kong this month.
In Brazil, a riot at a northern prison has ended with the release of close to 200 hostages who had been held since Sunday. Detainees at the Urso Branco prison in the northern province of Rondonia demanded better conditions, an end to prisoner transfers, and visits from human rights monitors. The hostages were all relatives and friends of the prisoners who stayed at the facility of their own accord.
This news from Israel and the Occupied Territories — an Israeli soldier and two Palestinians were killed today when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself at a checkpoint near the West Bank town of Tulkarem.
Meanwhile, Israel has launched a relentless bombardment of a northern area in the Gaza Strip. It’s also declared the area a "no-go" zone for Palestinians. Israeli forces pulled out of Gaza earlier this year, but maintain full control over its borders and airspace. The Israeli government called the strikes a response to Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli border towns, which Palestinians in turn describe as a response to Israeli military operations throughout the Occupied Territories. At least 20 shells have been fired into northern Gaza since Wednesday, wounding two Palestinians.
In other news from the area, ruling Palestinian party Fatah has announced its members have resolved a dispute that would have seen it split into separate factions in next month’s parliamentary elections. A younger group of Palestinians led by jailed intifada leader Marwan Barghouti announced earlier this month it would break off from the "old guard" led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas over what it called the PA’s corruption and incompetence.
And in Chile, after years of charges and investigations into human rights abuses under his rule, former dictator Augusto Pinochet has been fingerprinted and had his mug shot taken for the first time. Police are investigating his involvement in the deaths of hundreds of political opponents in the 1970s. Pinochet ruled the country until 1990 after seizing power in a US-backed coup in 1973. Over 3,000 people went missing and 28,000 were tortured under his regime. Pinochet, who is 90 years old, is currently living under house arrest over separate allegations of human rights abuses. His mug shot has not been released.
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