In Philadelphia Mississippi, a jury has found a former Ku Klux Klansman guilty of felony manslaughter in the killings on three civil rights workers in 1964. The verdict against Edgar Ray Killen came down Tuesday exactly 41 years after James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were killed. The three had come to Mississippi to investigate the burning of an African-American church. Prosecutors charged that Killen plotted the murders along with other Klansmen and then arranged for a bulldozer to bury the bodies. Killen will be sentenced on Thursday and faces a maximum of 60 years in jail. The verdict was only a partial victory for state prosecutors — the jury found Killen guilty of felony manslaughter instead of murder. Michael Schwerner’s widow — Rita Schwerner Bender — said “The fact that some members of the jury could not bring themselves to acknowledge that these were murders, that they were committed with malice, indicates that there are still people among you that choose to look aside, not to see the truth.” Edgar Ray Killen’s attorneys said they would appeal the jury’s verdict.
Iraq’s justice minister has accused the United States of trying to delay Iraqi efforts to interrogate Saddam Hussein in order to hide secrets about former ties between Washington and Baghdad. Abdel Hussein Shandal said, “it seems there are lots of secrets they want to hide.” He went on to say, “There should be transparency and there should be frankness, but there are secrets that if revealed, won’t be in the interest of many countries. Who was helping Saddam all those years?” In the 1980s the Reagan administration helped arm Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War. Current defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld personally met twice with Hussein. In 1984 Reagan formally restored ties to Iraq even though HUssein was being accused at the time of using chemical weapons. Meanwhile a group of U.S. soldiers who are guarding Saddam Hussein in prison have told GQ Magazine that he has spoken favorably of Reagan from his jail cell. One soldier recalled Hussein saying “I wish things were like when Ronald Reagan was still president.”
The New York Times is reporting that the Central Intelligence Agency is warning that Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda’s early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat. Officials who have read the new assessment said it made clear that the U.S. war in Iraq was likely to produce a dangerous legacy by dispersing to other countries fighters more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict. According to the Times, the CIA report spells out how the urban nature of the war in Iraq was helping combatants learn how to carry out assassinations, kidnappings, car bombings and other kinds of attacks that were never a staple of the fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980’s.
In other news from the Middle East, Israeli officials have announced they have reinstated a policy of assassinating wanted members of the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. In February Israel agreed to stop the assassinations as part of a ceasefire deal. On Tuesday Israeli forces fired a missile into Gaza in an unsuccessful assassination attempt. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports the attack came just ten minutes after the start of a summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Meanwhile in the West Bank, Palestinian gunmen opened fire earlier today on a building in the Balata refugee camp where Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia was speaking. In addition, an explosive device was also detonated as he and his entourage were leaving the Balata refugee camp. Qureia was not injured.
In Philadelphia Pennsylvania, a 52-year-old police officer died Tuesday after apparently suffering a heart attack while on duty during a protest outside a major biotech gathering. Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson said “We’re not blaming anybody for what happened. Right now, the whole circumstances are being investigated.” The officer, Paris Williams, was working undercover at the time and was near a brief scuffle between police and protesters. But according to the Philadelphia Daily News, the city’s police commissioner said he didn’t believe Williams was involved in the scuffle. In response to the death one protest leader said “We were gathered in Philadelphia today to celebrate and protect life, and any loss of life is a tragedy to us all.” Tuesday’s protest outside the biotech conference focused on three main issues: the high cost of health care, biological weapons, and bioengineered foods.
The Arabic-satellite tv station Al Jazeera is coming under criticism again for its portrayal of the war in Iraq. But this time it’s not the Bush administration that’s complaining — but Al-Qaida. A statement has appeared online from Al Qaeda’s wing in Iraq that says “Where are you heading, Jazeera? Why this hostility toward the mujahideen? All the American army statements are carried and accepted but no one carries the mujahedeen’s side.” Earlier this month Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld blamed Al Jazeera for hurting the image of the United States. Rumsfeld said “If anyone lived in the Middle East and watched a network like the Al Jazeera day after day after day, even if he was an American, he would start waking up and asking what’s wrong. But America is not wrong.”
This news from Africa: the United Nations is sending a special envoy to Zimbabwe to investigate the recent home demolitions that have left as many as 200,000 people homeless. Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has said the demolitions were needed because the homes were built illegally but government critics say the demolitions have targeted political opponents of Mugabe.
In California–new polls show that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has suddenly become one of the most unpopular governors in modern California history. The latest polls show that just 31 percent of the state approve of his job performance.
In news from Capitol Hill, the Washington Post reports the number of registered lobbyists in the district has reached 35,000 — that is twice as many as five years ago. One lobbyist from Hewlett-Packard said “We’re trying to take advantage of the fact that Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House. There is an opportunity here for the business community to make its case and be successful.”
Meanwhile the Chicago Tribune reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been doing some lobbying of its own — of the American public. So far this year, the department has produced three dozen video and radio news segments promoting the signing of CAFTA — the Central American Free Trade Agreement. In one radio segment, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says “I can’t imagine how any senator or House member from ag country could stand up and vote against CAFTA. It makes no sense to me. It’s voting against our producers.” The segments are designed to look and sound like actual news stories and have been given to over 600 radio and tv stations in rural areas to air during news shows. Senators Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, and Sen. Mary Landrieu, of Louisiana have criticized the video news releases saying “We are concerned that many listeners in rural America may believe these releases are objective news reports, rather than political statements from the USDA which are intended to advance a specific trade agenda.” The USDA has defended the segments because they include taglines at the end identifying the agency as the source.
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