In Lebanon, the Syrian-backed prime minister has resigned along with his entire government. The surprise move came Monday as tens of thousands of Lebanese protesters took to the streets of Beirut calling for Syria to end its occupation of Lebanon. Huge celebrations continued into the night in Beirut. Protesters say they will continue holding demonstrations until Syria withdraws its 15,000 troops from Lebanese soil. We’ll go to Beirut in a few minutes.
Meanwhile pressure continues to mount on Syria from both the U.S. and Israel. Syrian President Bashar Assad told the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica,” “the language used by the White House indicates a campaign similar to the one that preceded the attack on Iraq.”
In Washington, Republican Congressman Sam Johnson of Texas has recommended to President Bush that the U.S. consider attacking Syria with nuclear weapons. Johnson recently told a church gathering, “Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on 'em and I'll make one pass. We won’t have to worry about Syria anymore.”
In Iraq, the death toll from Monday’s massive suicide car bombing in Hilla has risen to 125 making it the deadliest bombing carried out by the Iraqi resistance since the war began.
In other Iraq news, a video has been broadcast of a kidnapped French reporter pleading for her life. Florence Aubenas, a correspondent for the French newspaper Liberation, has been missing since January.
Human Rights Watch is criticizing a U.S. plan to deploy a new system of remote-controlled anti-personnel mines in Iraq called the Matrix. The group says the Pentagon has failed to answer crucial questions about the potential harm the mines could pose to innocent civilians.
Meanwhile human rights lawyers are planning to file a lawsuit in federal court today against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of eight men who say they were tortured by U.S. forces in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. The suit is being filed jointly by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First. The detainees were reportedly subjected to torture and other cruel and degrading treatment, including severe and repeated beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation and assault, mock executions and death threats.
In news from Britain, the London Telegraph is reporting that it has obtained evidence that as many as 50 British soldiers are now facing prosecution for murder, assault and other offences committed in Iraq. Publicly the British military has only admitted that 14 soldiers face such charges. But documents seen by the Telegraph show the military is investigating 137 incidents including over 60 that involved the deaths of Iraqis.
Here at home, a federal judge has ordered that the Bush administration can no longer keep U.S. citizen Jose Padilla in jail if he is not charged with a crime. Padilla has been imprisoned for more than two and a half years as a so-called enemy combatant. He has never been charged with a crime and has never appeared in a courtroom to challenge his detention. Judge Henry Floyd ruled “The court finds that the president has no power, neither express nor implied, neither constitutional nor statutory, to hold petitioner as an enemy combatant.” Floyd is a federal judge based in South Carolina. He was appointed by President Bush two years ago. The Justice Department has announced it will appeal the decision. The government alleges Padilla wanted to carry out a “dirty bomb” attack inside the United States
In Israel, the country’s supreme court has ordered the Israeli military to reopen its investigation into the shooting of U.S. peace activist Brian Avery. Avery was shot in the West Bank town of Jenin nearly two years ago. The shooting shattered his jaw and his nose forcing him to undergo a series of facial reconstruction surgeries. Witnesses said an Israeli Armored Personnel Carrier opened fire on Avery but Israel has denied being behind the shooting. Avery returned to Israel last week for the first time since the shooting to attend the Supreme Court proceeding.
In other news from Israel, the head of Israel’s intelligence agency told Cabinet Ministers Sunday that the chances of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon being assassinated by hard-line Israelis is rapidly increasing because of his support of removing settlements in Gaza. Sharon’s cabinet has approved the formation of a special Justice Ministry unit to deal with those suspected of carrying out planned or actual illegal activity.
In other news on Israel, the World Council of Churches has called on member churches to sell off investments in companies profiting from the Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Council is the main global body uniting non-Catholic Christians and represents up to half a billion Christians in over 120 countries. The Council criticized Israel for demolishing Palestinian homes, building settlements on occupied land and constructing a 400-mile separation wall in the West Bank. Last year the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly issued a similar call for divestment from Israel.
In Haiti, at least three supporters of ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide were shot dead Monday by police during a march commemorating the one year anniversary of the coup in Haiti. Dozens of protesters were also hurt. One demonstrator said “The police opened fire on a peaceful march with the UN blue helmets looking on.” We’ll go to Haiti for a report later in the show.
The Financial Times is reporting that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has emerged as a leading candidate to become the next president of the World Bank to replace James Wolfensohn. Wolfowitz was a chief architect of the Iraq invasion and is one of the leading neoconservative voices inside the Bush administration. Also being considered is Randall Tobias, former head of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.
At the United Nations, the Bush administration insisted on Monday that the right to abortion should not be considered a fundamental human right. The administration made the assertion during a major gathering in New York of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. Over 6,000 advocates of women’s rights are meeting in New York over the next two weeks to review progress of the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women.
In Uruguay, Tabar Vazquez, is being sworn in today becoming the country’s first-ever left-wing president. Attending the celebration will be Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Evo Morales of Bolivia and representatives of the Cuban government.
In Chicago, a federal judge who was once targeted for death by a white supremacist leader found her mother and husband dead inside her home when she returned Monday evening. Last year white supremacist Matthew Hale was found guilty on charges that he tried to arrange murder of the judge, Joan Humphrey Lefkow. The judge had earlier ordered Hale’s group to stop using the name World Church of the Creator, which belonged to another religious group with no ties to Hale.
In Vermont, 50 town meetings will be voting tonight on a resolution to call on President Bush to withdraw troops from Iraq and to urge the state’s elected leaders to reconsider the use of Vermont’s National Guard in the war.