In Iraq, the Pentagon has revealed that last month was the deadliest month so far of the Iraq war for part-time U.S. service men and women. A total of 31 died including 14 members of the Army National Guard and 12 from the Marine Corps Reserve.
Meanwhile the Pentagon has rejected a request from the governor of Montana to temporarily send home members of the Montana National Guard. The state’s governor — Brian Schweitzer — requested the reserves to come home because they are needed to fight summer wildfires in the forests of the Rocky Mountains. The Montana Guard is facing what it describes as an ’’unprecedented” shortage of firefighters and helicopters because of the Iraq war.
In Baghdad, the Iraqi government has announced Saddam Hussein will face 12 charges of crimes against humanity when he goes to trial which is expected to begin in the next two months. The main charges against him include the repression of the 1991 Shiite rebellion, the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the 1988 chemical attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja. If convicted Hussein faces the death penalty.
In other news from Iraq, the U.S. military is reporting it has detained nearly 900 suspected members of the Iraqi resistance in Baghdad over the past two weeks as part of a campaign called Operation Lightning. And U.S. forces reported uncovering and destroying two vast underground bunkers being used by Iraqi fighters.
A top Democratic Senator and the New York Times have both called for the Bush administration to shut down the Guantanamo Bay military prison. Senator Joseph Biden — who is the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — made the call Sunday on ABC’s This Week. The New York Times condemned Guantanamo in an editorial Sunday saying “It is a propaganda gift to America’s enemies; an embarrassment to our allies; a damaging repudiation of the American justice system; and a highly effective recruiting tool for Islamic radicals, including future terrorists.” On Friday night — after the evening news shows had already aired — the Pentagon released new details on how the Koran had been mishandled at Guantanamo. The Pentagon confirmed that in one instance a soldier deliberately kicked the Muslim holy book. In another case, an interrogator stepped on the book. In addition the Pentagon confirmed at least three other cases where the holy book was damaged at the prison. In one case, the Pentagon claimed a Koran was splashed with urine after a solider urinated through an air vent.
On Saturday tens of thousands of people gathered in Hong Kong to mark the 16th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. On June 4, 1989 Chinese troops violently crushed student pro-democracy protests. Human rights groups say hundreds — if not thousands — of unarmed protesters were killed. Hundreds more were arrested and as many as 250 remain in prison. Outside of Hong Kong, there were no public commemorations of the anniversary in China. Dissidents and relatives of the Tiananmen victims were reportedly put under government surveillance and warned not to take part in memorials. Protesters in Hong Kong also called on the Chinese government to release journalist Ching Cheong — the chief China correspondent for the Straits Times newspaper. China has claimed the journalist has admitted to being a spy.
v The Associated Press is reporting that John Bolton helped force out a top international arms control official ahead of the Iraq invasion because he feared the official could interfere with the Bush administration’s war plans. The Senate is now considering Bolton to be Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations. According to the Associated Press, Bolton flew to Europe in 2002 to personally demand that Jose Bustani resign his post as head of a global arms-control agency called the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. At the time Bustani was trying to send chemical weapons inspectors to Baghdad. If the inspectors had been sent in 2002 — they would have uncovered that Iraq had no chemical weapons — a discovery that would have undermined the Bush administration’s rationale for war. One of Bustani’s former aides — Bob Rigg — said the motivation of Bolton and the Bush administration was clear in removing Bustani. Rigg said “They felt they couldn’t rely on [the agency] to come up with the findings the U.S. wanted.” After Bustani refused to resign, the Bush administration successfully removed him during a controversial vote that was later deemed to be unlawful. Ahead of the vote the U.S. delegation threatened to withhold U.S. dues from the agency if Bustani stayed in office.
On Capitol Hill, Senator Patrick Leahy is calling on the Bush administration to investigate whether any U.S. trained troops in Uzbekistan took part in last month’s bloody massacre that left hundreds dead. The Financial Times reported that one U.S.-based human rights investigator said there was “very credible evidence” that at least one Uzbek commander who took part in the killings was trained by the United States.
In Tampa Florida, the trial of former Palestinian professor Sami Al-Arian begins today. The government has accused Al-Arian and eight others of racketeering, conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists. The government alleges that Al-Arian used an Islamic academic think tank and a Palestinian charity to illegally funnel money to the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Until his arrest, Al-Arian was one of the most prominent Palestinian academics and activists in the United States. He was invited to the White House during both the President Clinton and Bush administrations and he campaigned for President Bush during the 2000 election. Al-Arian has already faced one court setback — late last month the court rejected his request to move the trial outside of Tampa. Al-Arian’s defense team had argued that the local media’s biased coverage had prejudiced potential jurors. Al-Arian’s lawyer, William Moffitt said “I am extremely disappointed. This is probably the first time that I will go into a case believing that my client is not presumed innocent.”
In Haiti, as many as 25 people died following police raids in the capital of Port Au Prince. On Friday and Saturday, police raided poor sections of the city that are largely populated by supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Local residents accused the police of setting at least 12 homes on fire. Over the past year, human rights groups have repeatedly accused the Haitian police of carrying out summary executions and abuses against supporters of Aristide.
In news from the Middle East, the Jerusalem city council has ordered the homes of about 1,000 Palestinians to be demolished. The Guardian of London reports this would amount to the city’s largest mass demolitions in recent history. The city council said the homes were built illegally and need to be removed in order to restore the area as a national park. But Israeli human rights activists say the government is trying to forcibly remove Palestinians from an area that is needed to expand Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.
A new study has ranked San Francisco and Portland, Oregon as the most environmentally sustainable cities in the country. The organization SustainLane ranked the cities on 12 categories ranging from transportation to energy use. Other cities ranked in the top 10 were: Berkeley, Seattle, Santa Monica, Austin, New York, Chicago, Oakland, Minneapolis and Denver. At the bottom of the list were Houston, Detroit and Alburqueque.
Criticism over police use of taser stun guns is mounting across the country. In Akron Ohio, protests were held last week following the death of 18-year-old Richard Holcomb who was shot while police were trying to subdue him. In San Jose, California a group called the Barrio Defense Committee has called for protests following the death of Samuel Martinez. Police said they shot the 34-year-old man with a taser after he tried to hit an officer. And in Sacramento police are investigating the death of a man Saturday after he was hit with a taser. At least 110 people have now died in the United States and Canada following police Taser strikes since 1999.
Meanwhile in Florida, a 22-year-old woman is threatening to sue the Boynton Beach Police Department after they tasered her last year during a routine traffic stop. Victoria Goodwin was originally pulled over for speeding just after she dropped her daughter off at daycare. Police then discovered she had a suspended driver’s license, a broken windshield and a broken tail light. Police shot her after she refused to get out of her SUV. Video of the shooting was released last week by the police department.