The newly formed Iraqi national assembly has been thrown into chaos as the parliament failed again to form a coalition government. Both Interim prime minister Iyad Allawi and interim President Ghazi Yawer stormed out of Tuesday’s session before it ended. The session was being broadcast on national TV in Iraq but the acting speaker of the parliament ordered the television feed to be cut off after 20 minutes. Journalists in attendance were kicked out. The Green Zone–where the session was taking place–also came under mortar attack Tuesday. The lawmakers will meet again on Sunday with hopes they can move forward. The Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis can’t decide on who should serve as speaker of the parliament or how to fill certain cabinet positions–especially the oil ministry.
In Indonesia, rescue workers continue to search for survivors from Monday’s large underwater earthquake. Some 1,000 people are presumed dead. The main town on the Indonesian island of Nias has been reduced mostly to rubble.
The Vatican has announced the Pope is now being fed through a nasal tube. This comes a month after doctors inserted a tube in his throat to help him breathe. The Pope made a brief appearance earlier today. He made the sign of the Cross with his hand but was unable to speak. This year marked the first time during his papacy that he was unable to celebrate Easter Mass.
The family of Terri Schiavo won a surprise court decision late last night. A federal appeals court in Georgia agreed to consider a petition by her parents for a new hearing on whether to reconnect their severely brain-damaged daughter’s feeding tube. It has been nearly two weeks since a state court ordered Schiavo’s feeding tube removed. Meanwhile the Rev. Jesse Jackson joined with Schiavo’s family Tuesday calling for her life to be saved. He described the case as “one of the most profound moral and ethical issues of our time.”
At the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan has been cleared of wrongdoing over an Iraq oil deal involving his son. Questions had been raised whether Kofi Annan had helped a company win contracts in Iraq at a time that the company employed his son, Kojo. The UN panel said it still has significant questions of Kojo’s dealings but the panel could not find evidence linking Kofi Annan to the deal. The Secretary General said he viewed the panel’s finding as an exoneration. When asked if he would step down, Annan said “Hell No.” U.S. Senator Norm Coleman, however, again called for Annan’s resignation. Coleman said the incident highlights Annan’s lack of leadership and accountability.
The Financial Times is reporting the Bush administration is drawing up a secret watch list of 25 countries where the United States might decide to intervene because it views the nations as unstable. The list will be compiled by the National Intelligence Council. Last year the Bush administration set up a new office within the State Department to deal solely with reconstruction and stabilization of other countries. That office is headed by Carlos Pascual, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Human Rights Watch announced Tuesday it has uncovered evidence that a Yemeni man being detained at Guantanamo Bay was originally picked up in Egypt three years ago during a business trip. The man–who is an intelligence colonel in the Yemeni government–disappeared during his trip to Egypt and wasn’t heard from for 19 months. He believes he was kidnapped by Egyptian officers who then turned him over to the United States. He was taken to a prison in Afghanistan and later to Guantanamo Bay. Human Rights Watch said it is the first known example of reverse rendition–where a wanted person is seized in a foreign country far from any battlefield and then handed over to the U.S. for interrogation.
In a related story, the New York Times has obtained flight records of the plane that the US likely used to secretly fly Maher Arrar to Syria three years ago. Arrar is the Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was detained by US officials at JFK airport in 2002 during a stopover. He was jailed and then shipped to Syria where he was tortured. Charges were never filed against him. He is now suing the U.S. government. The Justice Department is trying to have the case dismissed on national security grounds.
In business news, a federal judge Tuesday approved a $16 million criminal fine against Riggs Bank. The bank was fined for failing to report suspicious transactions involving foreigners including former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Riggs helped Pinochet hide millions of dollars in secret accounts. U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina described the bank as a “greedy corporate henchman of dictators and their corrupt regimes.”
In Santa Cruz California, the city’s long-time pirate radio station Free Radio Santa Cruz is celebrating 10 years on the air today. It is one of the longest running non-licensed radio stations in the country.
In Tennessee media activists are gathering this weekend to help launch Radio Free Nashville. The community radio station recently received a low power license from the FCC. The so-called barn-raising is being organized by the Prometheus Radio Project.
One of the country’s best known attorneys — Johnnie Cochran — has died at the age of 67. Past clients of Cochran’s include police brutality victim, Abner Louima, Geronimo Pratt of the Black Panther Party, rapper Tupac Shakur and OJ Simpson. We’ll have more on Johnnie Cochran later in the show.
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