In Iraq, at least 75 people have died over the past three days in violence across the country. Earlier today, in Mosul a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a hospital killing 12 police officers. In Baqouba a car bomb targeted the provincial police headquarters. 13 people died in the attack and 18 others were injured. On Sunday, 22 Iraqi security forces were killed when a police station south of Baghdad was attacked. On Saturday at least 33 Iraqis died including a member of the Baghdad city council. Meanwhile on Friday the Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena was kidnapped while reporting near Baghdad University. The 56-year-old woman writes for the Italian daily Il Manifesto. In other Iraq news, the New York Times is reporting that leading Shiite clerics are pushing for the new Iraqi constitution to be based on Islamic law. Early election results show the Shiite coalition backed by the Grand Ayatollah Sistani have a commanding lead over the secular Shiite ticket headed by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Time Magazine is also reporting a new scandal has emerged at the U.S-run prison Abu Ghraib. According to the magazine, U.S. jail officials allowed amputations to be performed on detainees by nondoctors. Medical personnel also recycled chest tubs from the dead to the living. And in at least one case, a medic was ordered to cover up a homicide.
President Bush is expected to send a $2.5 trillion budget to Congress later today. Bush is seeking a $19 billion increase in defense spending while proposing cutbacks in a wide range of domestic programs. Faced with a record deficit, Bush is calling for the elimination of some 150 governmental programs. One out of every three of the targeted programs concerns education. Public housing residents, Medicaid recipients and farmers will all suffer from cutbacks. In addition Bush is proposing to cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by $450 million; to cut $100 million from a Bureau of Indian Affairs program that helps build schools and to cut $200 million for home-heating aid for the poor. Meanwhile Bush is calling for the Pentagon’s budget to increase by nearly 5 percent to $419 billion. However that total does not include the cost of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In other news from Washington, The Justice Department has decided not to press criminal charges against several CIA officers for their role in the death of American missionaries in Peru. In April 2001, the Peruvian Air Force shot down a plane, acting on information supplied by civilian contractors working for the CIA that the plane was running drugs. U.S. missionary Veronica Bowers and her 7-month-old daughter were killed. In 2002 the Bush administration agreed to pay a total of $8 million to the survivors of the downed airplane, including Bowers’s husband and her son. The Justice Department made the announcement one day before Alberto Gonzales took control of the office.
In business news, stocks in tobacco companies jumped Friday after the Justice Department ruled that the federal government cannot seek $280 billion in damages from the tobacco industry. The government had filed a racketeering lawsuit against the companies, accusing them of defrauding the American people for 50 years about the dangers of smoking.
In New York, a state judge ruled Friday that a state law that effectively denies gay couples the right to marry violated the state Constitution. the ruling could open the door for same sex couples to get married in the state. The city of New York however has announced it will appeal the ruling.
In news from Africa, the African Union has condemned the military in Togo for carrying out what it describes as a coup. On Saturday Togo’s longtime president Gnassingbe Eyadema died after heading the country for nearly 40 years. Under Togo’s constitution, the parliamentary speaker is supposed to serve as temporary head of state until a new president is elected within two months. However the Togo army quickly installed the deceased president’s son Faure Gnassingbe to be his successor. The ruling party endorsed the move and then passed a series of parliamentary votes to change the country’s constitution. African Union Commission president Alpha Oumar Konare said, "What’s happening in Togo needs to be called by its name, it’s a seizure of power by the military, it’s a military coup d’etat."
And in Ethiopia, tens of thousands gathered Sunday in Ethiopia to mark what would have been reggae star Bob Marley’s 60th birthday. Marley’s family chose Ethiopia as the site of the celebration because it is the birthplace of Rastafarianism. Marley died in 1981 at the age of 36.
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