In Iraq, the country’s interior minister is estimating that nearly 8,200 Iraqis have been killed over the past six months from attacks carried out by the Iraqi resistance. An average of forty-five Iraqis are being killed each day. The minister estimated another twelve thousand Iraqis have been injured.
Baghdad’s mayor is threatening to resign if the government fails to provide the funds needed to implement development projects in the capital. The Mayor — Alaa Mahmoud al-Timimi — complained that the capital was suffering from constant water shortages. Earlier this month, a rocket attack on a water pipeline near Baghdad left millions without enough water.
The U.S. death toll in Iraq for the month of June is now at least sixty-eight — making it the military’s deadliest month so far this year. More than half of the deaths occurred in the Anbar province near Fallujah. USA Today is reporting that U.S. military deaths in Iraq increased by about one-third in the past year. At least 882 U.S. troops have died in the last year.
A group of Senate Republicans has begun blaming the news media for the military’s recruiting problems. Senator James Inhofe said families are discouraging young men and women from enlisting "because of all the negative media that’s out there." Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas added, "With the deluge of negative news that we get daily, it’s just amazing to me that anybody would want to sign up." The Army is fourteen percent short of its annual target of new recruits. It missed its monthly goals in February, March, April and May. The Army reached its goal for June but that was only because the goal was lower than any other of the year.
A new Zogby polls shows that 42 percent of voters believe Congress should impeach President Bush if it is found that he did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq. While Democrats disproportionately favored impeachment, the poll found twenty-five percent of Republicans would back the measure if it were determined that Bush lied about Iraq. Calls for impeachment have increased since the Sunday Times of London published what is now known as the Downing Street Memo. The memo from the summer of 2002 outlined the Bush administration’s position on Iraq. It said that the invasion of Iraq was inevitable and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed."
In related news, fifty-two members of the House have filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking more documents related to the Downing Street minutes.
Onto the case of Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper — they are the reporters who are potentially facing jail time for refusing to reveal their sources to the government in the case of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame. On Thursday, Cooper’s employer, Time Magazine announced it would hand over copies of Cooper’s notes. Time Inc.'s editor in chief, Norman Pearlstine said, "I found myself really coming to the conclusion that once the Supreme Court has spoken, we are not above the law and we have to behave the way ordinary citizens do." The decision is not sitting well with others involved. Cooper himself said he disagreed with Time's decision. The New York Times — which employs Judith Miller — said it was deeply disappointed. Legal experts said that they knew of no other instance in modern journalistic history in which a major news organization announced that it would disclose the identities of its confidential sources in response to a government subpoena. Miller and Cooper could both still face jail time. On Wednesday a federal judge said he would order the reporters jailed for up to 120 days if they did not agree to testify before the grand jury.
In California, a federal judge ruled Thursday that the state’s prison healthcare system must be placed under the oversight of a federal receiver because the system was in such a state of disarray. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said that he was shocked to learn that an average of one prisoner needlessly dies each week in California because of medical incompetence or neglect. Under the court order, the receiver will report directly to the judge, and will be empowered to order fixes to the prison system.
On Capitol Hill the Senate has passed CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement by 54 to 45. Ten Democrats voted for the trade pact while Eleven Republicans voted against it. The House is expected to vote on CAFTA later this month.
In Canada, attorneys for Maher Arar are now saying that criminal charges should be brought against the U.S. agents who helped to secretly send him to Syria in 2002. Arar is the Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was seized by U.S. officials during a stopover at JFK airport. He was detained briefly in the U.S., then flown to Jordan and then driven to Syria. He was held in a coffin-like cell for nearly a year and was reportedly tortured. Charges were never filed against him. Arar was the first known foreigner to be a victim of the U.S. practice known as extraordinary rendition. Last week in Italy, a judge ordered the arrest of thirteen CIA agents for taking part in a rendition in Milan. The judge likened the practice of rendition to kidnapping.
The Nation magazine is reporting that Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz has written a letter to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to quash a book about to be published by University of California Press. The book, by scholar Norman Finkelstein, is called Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. It expands on a debate Finkelstein and Dershowitz had on Democracy Now! two years ago where Finklestein charged that Dershowitz had misrepresented Israel’s human rights record and had engaged in plagiarism Dershowitz vociferously denied the charges. The issue is gaining momentum with the release of an open letter by University of California Berkeley Professor Beshara Doumani urging the UC Press to ignore Dershowitz’s threats and publish the book in its agreed upon form In the Nation magazine Schwarzenegger’s legal advisor is quoted saying the governor will not intervene in issues of academic freedom.
In Minnesota, the state’s government has shut down for the first time ever over a budget dispute. Under a court order, essential services must still be provided but some 9,000 state workers temporarily have no work.
In Los Angeles, the city’s new mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is being sworn in today. A son of a Mexican immigrant, Villaraigosa is the city’s first Latino mayor in over a century. He defeated incumbent Mayor Jim Hahn in May’s election.
And this news from Mexico — the Zapatista rebel army pledged Thursday to build a political alliance of the left. They plan send a delegation on a nationwide tour to drum up support ahead of next year’s presidential race. The Zapatistas however said they would stay out of electoral politics because "we already know all candidates are neo-liberals." The group said they would push for a new constitution that "recognizes the rights and liberties of the people, and defends the weak against the powerful." The announcement came a week after the rebels declared a "red alert" to hold high-level internal discussions about the future of their movement, and three days after they said they would seek to move toward politics and away from armed conflict.
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