In Rome tens of thousands have begun lining up to see the body of Pope John Paul II lying in state at the Vatican. By Friday, Rome expects more than 2 million pilgrims to come to the city for the Pope’s funeral. 200 heads of states–including President Bush–will attend Friday’s funeral in what the BBC reports will be one of the largest gatherings of world leaders in history. Meanwhile the church’s Cardinals have begun making preparations for the conclave during which they will elect Pope John Paul’s successor.
On Monday South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu called on the church to pick an African pope. The church hasn’t had a pope from Africa in 15 centuries. Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze is seen as one possible candidate to become Pope.
Back in the United States, in response to fierce criticism of the USA Patriot Act, the Washington Post reports Attorney General Alberto Gonzales plans to propose today making minor modifications to the Act. The move will mark the first effort by the Justice Department to address any concerns by critics of the legislation. Gonzales is expected to announce his support for limiting the use of secret warrants strictly for cases involving national security and to allow the targets to mount legal challenges to the search. Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller are appearing today to defend the Patriot Act during Senate hearings on whether certain provisions of the Act should be renewed at the end of the year. Meanwhile Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho and Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois plan to introduce joint legislation today aimed at scaling back major parts of the law. Over the past three years hundreds of local and state governments have passed resolutions criticizing the Patriot Act.
Meanwhile Israel plans to start dumping 10,000 pounds of garbage a month inside the West Bank. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports the project was launched despite international treaties prohibiting an occupying state from making use of occupied territory unless it benefits the local population. Palestinians fear the garbage dump will jeopardize water sources in the West Bank.
In Iraq, gunmen have kidnapped an Iraqi general who commands a special armored unit. Brigadier Gen Mohammad Jalal Saleh was kidnapped while driving in Baghdad earlier today.
Meanwhile the Telegraph of London reports the British government plans to cut in half the number of troops it has in Iraq over the next year. The phased withdrawal calls for the British troop level to decrease from nine thousand (9,000) to thirty five hundred (3,500). At the same time Britain plans to send more troops to Afghanistan to aid in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.
In other Iraq news, the Pentagon has revealed that it has been detaining a U.S. citizen without charges in Iraq since last year. The Jordanian-born man is a naturalized U.S. citizen. His name has not been released. The U.S. has accused him of being a top aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
In Saudi Arabia security forces killed nine militants over the past three days including two persons identified as Saudi leaders of Al Qaeda. More than 50 Saudi officers have been injured in the fighting. The killings marked the bloodiest incident between the Saudi state and militants in the past two years.
Civil rights activists in Georgia are calling on law enforcement agencies to reopen the investigation into a lynching that took place on July 25, 1946 in Monroe Georgia. On that day a white mob of more than 50 men murdered four young African-American sharecroppers. The four were driving near the Apalachee River. They were stopped by the mob, pulled out of their car, dragged down a wagon trail and then fatally shot. On Saturday state lawmaker Tyrone Brooks led a march to publicize the case. Brooks said “This was the most heinous collective crime ever perpetuated against African-Americans in this state.”
A new Amnesty International report has found that executions around the world are nearing record levels. Last year at least 3,800 people were executed. 97 percent of the executions were carried out in four countries–China, Iran, Vietnam and the United States. China carried out the vast majority of the executions. Meanwhile a total of 120 countries have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
In business news, the country’s second largest oil company, ChevronTexaco, has announced it is buying Unocal in a deal valued at $18 billion.
Newly released emails show that government scientists working on the proposed nuclear waste dump site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada knowingly fabricated records in order to help the project move forward. In one email a scientist admitted “I’ve made up the dates and names… I will be happy to make up more stuff.” In another message the scientist wrote: “In the end I keep track of 2 sets of files, the ones that will keep QA happy and the ones that were actually used.” QA apparently refers to “quality assurance.” The emails were written in 1999 and 2000–during the Clinton administration. Yucca Mountain is the proposed site of an underground repository to hold some 77,000 tons of nuclear waste and used reactor fuel from commercial nuclear power plants. The project has been met by widespread fears that the plan to bury the nuclear waste is too risky.
The Department of Homeland Security has launched the country’s largest mock terror drill ever on Monday. The drill began with a mock biological attack at Kean University in New Jersey and a simulated chemical weapons explosion in New London Connecticut. 10,000 people will participate in the mock attacks.
And in Washington, President Bush has nominated Vice President Cheney’s son-in-law to become the general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security. Philip Perry is married to Cheney’s daughter Elizabeth Cheney Perry.