At the Vatican, 115 Catholic cardinals from 52 nations are beginning the process today of electing a new pope. The cardinals will cast a series of ballots during the conclave in strict secrecy beginning as early as today.
Over the weekend reports emerged in the British press that a leading candidate to become the next Pope had once been a member of the Hitler Youth movement in Germany. The German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger joined the young Nazi movement in Bavaria when he was 14 in 1941. He soon left after enrolling to train to be a priest.
In Iraq, humanitarian aid worker and activist Marla Ruzicka of Lakeport California died on Saturday in a car bombing. She was the founder of a group called Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. Over the past few years she spent most of her time in Iraq and Afghanistan. She continued going into Iraq even after most international aid organizations and relief agencies had bailed out. The Christian Science Monitor reported that when she died Marla was traveling to visit Iraqi families that she was working to help. Lately, she had been attempting to aid the relatives of a toddler whose parents were killed after the mini-bus they were traveling in was hit by what was believed to be an American rocket. Ruzicka got much of her training in aid work at Global Exchange.
A funeral service will be held in Lakeport, California on Saturday at St. Mary’s Church.
John Bolton–President Bush’s pick to be ambassador to the United Nations–is facing new accusations of misconduct during his time at the State Department. The Washington Post is reporting today that Bolton often blocked then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and, on one occasion, his successor, Condoleezza Rice, from receiving information vital to U.S. strategies on Iran. Sources told the Washington Post of a dozen examples of memos or information that Bolton refused to forward during his four years as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.
A vote on John Bolton’s nomination is scheduled for Tuesday. Every Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote against him. If one Republican joins them, Bolton’s confirmation will be blocked. On Sunday Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska appeared to be wavering in his support for Bolton. He told CNN that he was “troubled with more and more allegations, revelations, coming about his style, his method of operation.”
In news on Capitol Hill, another Republican lawmaker has called for Tom Delay to step down as House Majority Leader. Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo–a conservative from Colorado -has joined with Christopher Shays of Connecticut in splitting with the party leadership in criticizing Delay who has been accused of numerous ethics violations. Meanwhile 10 former Republican Congressmen have co-signed a letter criticizing recent revisions in House ethics rules because they were made to protect DeLay from investigation. The former lawmakers said the changes needed to be reversed “to restore public confidence in the People’s House.”
Meanwhile Delay spent part of the weekend giving the keynote address at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston. At one point he said “When a man is in trouble or in a good fight, you want to have your friends around, preferably armed. So I feel really good.”
The Bush administration has decided to stop publishing its annual report on international terrorism. Last year’s report concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985–the first year the publication covered. Former CIA analyst Larry Johnson and others said the decision was made because the report raised questions about the success of the administration’s so-called war on terror. Johnson sad “Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public.”
The city of New York has agreed to pay out about $230,000 to settle charges filed by over 100 people arrested during the Republican National Convention. The National Lawyers Guild sued the city for violating multiple court orders to release protesters from jail. The lawsuit accused the city of purposely delaying the processing of jailed protesters in order to keep them locked up until after President Bush left the city. National Lawyers Guild attorney Gideon Oliver said “This is just one step in addressing the outrageous violations of constitutional rights of the over 1,800 protesters and bystanders arrested often in indiscriminate mass sweeps.” The city is still facing possiblly hundreds of lawsuits connected to the mass arrests. 570 notices of claim have been filed with the city totaling $859 million in charges. To date few of the protesters arrested have actually been convicted of crimes. According to the New York Times, 83 percent of the cases that have run their full course ended in dismissals or acquittals.
Meanwhile the New York District Attorney’s office is preparing to dismiss charges connected to one of the convention’s most high profiled arrests. On August 29, police arrested 21-year-old Joshua Banno of Arizona. He was jailed for six days with a bail originally set at $200,000. He was accused of setting a large papier-mache dragon float on fire during a protest. He faced a series of charges including assault of a police officer. Last week in court, the DA’s office announced they had misidentified Banno. Video and photographs have emerged that disputes an undercover police officer’s claim that Banno set the fire. The case fell apart after Banno’s attorneys tracked down time-sequence photographs taken by a news photographer that showed him to be far from where the fire began. For Banno the false charges altered his family’s life. He had faced seven years in jail. He had been forced to move to New York to work on his defense. His mother had to refinance her house and took a leave from her job. His father disowned him. Banno told Newsday last week “I feel like I’m waking up from a terrible nightmare. It’s absolutely wonderful.”
The Israeli army has cleared one of its soldiers in the shooting death of British filmmaker James Miller. He was shot dead in Rafah in 2003 while working on a documentary about Palestinian children caught up in the conflict. At the time of the shooting he was carrying a white flag, was wearing a helmet clearly marked TV; and he had told the soldiers that he was a British journalist. Israel’s own advocate general had recommended the soldier involved in the killing be severely disciplined because it marked a clear breach of army rules of engagement. But the head of Israel’s Southern Command overturned that recommendation and dismissed the charges. The Independent newspaper of London reports the British government is formally protesting the decision.
In news from Asia, China has publicly warned that relations with Japan have reached its lowest point since 1972 when diplomatic relations were established. Over the past two weeks a series of anti-Japanese protests have taken place in China. The protests began after the publication of a new school textbook in Japan. Many in China accused the Japanese government of approving a textbook that downplayed some of the atrocities carried out by the Japanese during its occupation of China seven decades ago.
Meanwhile on the Japanese island of Okinawa activists are marking the one-year anniversary of protests to block an attempt by the US Marines to build an air base over a coral reef. Activists and fishermen on the island have been conducting a dawn-to-dusk sit-on on the beach for the past year. The U.S. still stations over 20,000 troops on Okinawa.
And in Denver, more than 2,000 people took part in a memorial march Sunday to mark the death of Chicano civil rights leader Rodolfo Corky Gonzales. He died on Tuesday at the age of 76.