John Bolton — President Bush’s nominee to serve as ambassador to the United Nations — came under intense questioning Monday during the opening day of his Senate confirmation hearings. Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee grilled Bolton on his highly critical comments on the UN and his treatment of intelligence officials in the State Department. “Some have said that sending you to New York would be like sending Nixon to China, I’m concerned it would be more like sending a bull into a china shop,” said Senator Joseph Biden. Bolton vowed he would form a close partnership with the UN. All of the Democrats on the committee are expected to vote against Bolton. If any Republican joins the Democrats, Bolton’s confirmation would be blocked. On Monday Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island said he was inclined to vote for Bolton. Chafee is widely viewed as the most moderate Republican on the committee. Activists from the group Codepink briefly interrupted the hearing by holding up banners reading “NO Bolton, YES UN!”
In Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is making a surprise visit to Iraq to meet with the country’s new prime minister and president. Rumsfeld’s visit comes just three days after supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr staged the largest anti-U.S. protest since the invasion two years ago.
On Monday, Iraqi militants staged a coordinated military-style attack on a Marine base near the Syrian border. The Washington Post reports the militants used gunmen, suicide car bombs and a firetruck loaded with explosives.
On Monday a U.S. contractor was kidnapped in Baghdad. Officials have not released the name of the contractor or his firm.
Earlier today, a suicide car bombing went off in Ramadi killing three and injuring at least 20.
Meanwhile Iraq’s outgoing human rights minister — Bakhtiar Amin–has admitted that the conditions of Iraqi run jails are deplorable. He said “None of the Iraqi detention centers meet international standards for cleanliness, food and the treatment of prisoners. Neither are the buildings up to standard.” Agence France Press is reporting that 17,000 men and women are now being held in US or Iraqi run jails. About two thirds of the detainees have never been formally charged. And court martial proceedings have begun for a U.S. Army Sergeant who killed two of his fellow soldiers in Kuwait by throwing a grenade into their tent.
Newly released court transcripts have given new insight into how detainees at Guantanamo Bay were treated when they appeared before military judges last year. During one proceeding a British detainee — Feroz Ali Abbasi — was ejected from a hearing after he repeatedly challenged the legality of his detention. When Abbasi said '’I have the right to speak” the judge responded saying ’No, you don't.” The judge went on to say '’I don't care about international law. I don’t want to hear the words 'international law' again. We are not concerned with international law.” Later the tribunal found Abbasi to be “deeply involved” in Al Qaeda. However four months later the government released him.
In domestic news… the wholesale price of brand name prescriptions jumped just over 7 percent last year marking the biggest increase in five years. This according to a new report commissioned by AARP. Overall the price of brand name prescription drugs have soared 35 percent since 1999.
This update on the mass arrests made at last year’s Republican National Convention. According to the New York Times, charges have been dropped for over 400 people because video recordings emerged showing thatr the arrested had not committed a crime or that the charges against them could not be proved. In one case it appears the New York Police Department tampered with video evidence. In court the police presented a video of the arrest of a man named Alexander Dunlop who claimed he was wrongly arrested. It turned out that the video presented by the police was edited in two spots–images that showed Dunlop acting peacefully were removed. The court was not told the video was edited. This became known only after a member of the group I-Witness Video found another tape capturing Dunlop’s arrest. Once the second tape was presented to the court, prosecutors immediately dropped the charges. The city now claims that a technician had cut the material out of the video by mistake. Of the nearly 1,700 cases involving convention arrests that have run their full course, 91 percent ended with the charges dismissed or with a verdict of not guilty after trial.
In St. Louis, students at Washington University have entered their ninth day of a sit-in calling on the University to pay all employees a living wage. Last month a student sit-in at Georgetown University led to the school agreeing to increase employee wages.
And the feminist writer and activist Andrea Dworkin has died at the age of 58. She was best known for her feminist critique of pornography which she first outlined in her book Women Hating. She was the author of over a dozen books on pornography and violence against women. In 1983 she helped a drafted a law that defined pornography as a civil rights violation against women. The law was passed in Indianapolis in 1983, but was overturned by an appeals court two years later. She often argued that pornography was a precursor to rape. She said in 1986, “Pornography is used in rape–to plan it, to execute it, to choreograph it, to engender the excitement to commit the act.” Gloria Steinem said of Dworkin, “In every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to evolve. Andrea is one of them.” Four years ago the Guardian newspaper described her like this: “Dworkin is a threat, of course, to exactly the extent that radical feminists have always posed a threat–pointing out unapologetically the degree to which violence against women and children by men remains rampant.” Dworkin died on Saturday at her home in Washington.