In Iraq, more than 120 people–including 11 Americans — have been killed since Friday in a wave of car bombings, ambushes and drive-by shootings. In the deadliest incident, a suicide car bomber targeted a Kurdish funeral on Sunday in the city of Tall Afar. 25 people died and two dozen more were injured. Earlier today in Baghdad at least six died after a car bombing hit one of the city’s main shopping districts. The series of attacks began on Friday when at least 17 coordinated bombings rocked the capital city leaving over 50 dead.
Sunday marked the second-year-anniversary of President Bush’s Mission Accomplished speech. On May 1, 2003 Bush said “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” Since then, nearly 1,600 coalition troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed. Agence France Press is reporting 567 Iraqis were killed last month alone. This marks an increase of almost 50 percent over the number killed in March.
Meanwhile a 63-year-old Australian contractor named Douglas Wood has been kidnapped. A video released last night showed him pleading for his life and calling on the U.S. and its allies to withdraw troops from Iraq.
Iraqi officials also announced five suspects are being held in connection to the killing of Margaret Hassan, the head of Care International in Iraq. She was kidnapped and killed last year.
Here in the United States, Lynndie England is expected to plead guilty today for her role in the torture of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. England appeared in several photos mocking Iraqis as they were being abused and tortured. She faces up to 16 years in jail.
Meanwhile the military has denied conscientious objector status for Sergeant Kevin Benderman. The 40-year-old soldier refused to return to Iraq in December. He faces a court martial on May 12 for desertion.
In media news–the New York Times is reporting that the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — Kenneth Tomlinson — is aggressively pressing public television to correct what he and other conservatives consider liberal bias. The CPB is a private, nonprofit entity financed by Congress to ensure the vitality of public television and radio. A number of former Bush administration employees now have top positions at the CPB. In March. Tomlinson hired the director of the White House Office of Global Communications as a senior staff member. And Ken Ferree, a former top aide to Michael Powell at the Federal Communications Commission, is now the acting president of the CPB. In addition, the Times reports that Tomlinson hired an outside consultant last year to keep track of the political leanings of guests on the program Now With Bill Moyers. The consultant was asked to place the program’s guests in categories like “anti-Bush,” “anti-business” and “anti-Tom DeLay,” In December 2003, three months after he was elected chair Tomlinson sent the head of PBS–Pat Mitchell — a letter charging that Moyers’ show “does not contain anything approaching the balance the law requires for public broadcasting.” At the same time, Tomlinson was encouraging public broadcasters to begin broadcasting a weekly show hosted by the editor of the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Tomlinson has rejected charges that he is trying to impose a political point of view on programming.
In news from Africa, the Sudanese government has publicly confirmed it is now working with the Bush administration and the CIA. Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Department issued a statement on Sunday revealing that General Salah Abdullah, held “successful talks recently with his counterparts at the Central Intelligence Agency.” On Friday the Los Angeles Times revealed that the U.S. had quietly normalized relations with Sudan despite the government’s role in the mass killings in Darfur. Eight months ago former Secretary of State Colin Powell accused the Sudanese of carrying out a genocide in Darfur. Already 180,000 have died in the region from fighting or hunger. The aid agency Oxfam is now warning that the humanitarian crisis in Darfur will continue until at least late next year.
In Haiti, there are reports coming out of the country that former prime minister Yvon Neptune is being flown into exile to the Dominican Republic. But it appears Neptune, who has been jailed for the past 10 months, is not going voluntarily. The Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network sent out an alert last night saying that Neptune has not agreed to go into exile. He is reported to be critically ill and can barely speak. He has been on a series of hunger strikes to protest his detention.
A new U.S. military report has exonerated the soldiers involved in the shooting of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena. On March 4, soldiers opened fire on a car carrying Sgrena who had just been released from captivity. The shooting killed the Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari. On Saturday the military released a declassified version of the report online with portions redacted. But due to a technical glitch, readers were able to manipulate the document in order to read the blacked out portions. The Italian government is expected to release its own report today contradicting many of the U.S. findings.
In labor news — tension is escalating inside the AFL-CIO over the labor federation’s future. Four major unions inside the AFL-CIO have demanded that their members’ names be removed from the AFL-CIO’s master list. These unions — Service Employees International Union, Teamsters, Laborers and Unite Here — represent about 1/3 of the AFL-CIO’s 13 million members. For months a debate has been raging inside the AFL-CIO over the union’s direction. Dissident labor leaders including SEIU’s Andrew Stern have been urging AFL-CIO President John Sweeney to focus more on building a grassroots labor movement. For his part, Sweeney proposed last week on nearly doubling how much the union spends on organizing. One close ally to Sweeney described the plan as “the most major change inside the federation of labor since it was created 50 years ago.” But Sweeney’s critics said the proposal would do little. John Wilhelm of UNITE said the proposal is “verbally embracing the call for change without changing anything.”
On Sunday, millions around the world marked International Workers Day or May Day. In Cuba, up to hundreds of thousands gathered in the Plaza of the Revolution. Cuban president Fidel Castro took the occasion to criticize the United States for allowing Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles to enter the country even though he has been tied to the bombing of a commercial airliner in 1976. In other May Day events, some 500,000 people took to the streets of Germany. Police reported making 100 arrests there. In Japan, hundreds of thousands rallied to call for a global ban on nuclear weapons. 60 years ago this summer the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A large anti-nuclear rally was also held in New York ahead of this week’s gathering at the United Nations to review the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And in Nepal, 10,000 people took to the streets of Kathmandu in the largest pro-democracy march since King Gyanendra seized complete power in February.
And civil rights leader Kenneth Clark has died at the age of 90. In 1950 the psychologist published an influential report detailing the destructive effect of school segregation. The paper would go on to influence the Supreme Court in its landmark decision in Brown v. the Board of Education that ruled school segregation was unconstitutional. Dr. Clark was the first African-American to earn a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University. He was also the first African-American to receive tenure in the City College system of New York. He once wrote “a racist system inevitably destroys and damages human beings; it brutalizes and dehumanizes them, black and white alike.”