For the first time in 11 years, there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. On Friday, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her resignation. In 1981 she became the first woman to serve on the country’s highest court. President Bush could announce a nominee as early as next week. A battle has already begun in Washington over O’Connor’s replacement both between liberal and conservative groups as well as within the conservative movement. The Washington Post reports that political groups could spend as much as $100 million in the lead up to the Senate confirmation vote. On the divided court, O’Connor often cast the deciding decision. She voted to uphold the landmark abortion decision Roe vs. Wade. She also ruled to overturn sodomy laws, uphold affirmative action and against the death penalty in many instances. In 2000 she ruled in Bush v. Gore to stop all presidential recounts thus giving President Bush the White House. For President Bush, this might become the first of three seats he fills over the next three years. It had been widely speculated that Chief Justice William Rehnquist would retire this year. It is also considered likely that the court’s oldest member — the 85-year-old John Paul Stevens — will retire before Bush’s term ends.
In Iraq, Egypt’s top diplomat in Baghdad is still missing after being kidnapped by gunmen on Saturday. Ihab al-Sharif became the first head of a foreign mission to be captured since the war began. He was poised to become the first Arab ambassador to the new Iraqi government. Meanwhile the top diplomat at Bahrain’s embassy was wounded earlier today when gunmen shot him in the shoulder in Baghdad.
On Saturday, U.S. troops opened fire at two cars carrying civilians west of the capital. A woman and her child were killed. The woman’s father-in-law was seriously wounded. The Christian family was driving to Jordan.
Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations — Samir Sumaidaie — is accusing U.S. Marines of shooting dead his 21-year-old nephew. According to the ambassador, his nephew was arrested because Marines found a rifle at his home. After Marines detained him, the young man was found dead with a bullet in his neck.
The Iraqi government has admitted that its security forces are carrying out torture and abusing detainees. The admission came after a report in the Observer of London revealed the existence of secret torture chambers and murder campaigns carried out by government-backed paramilitary groups. A government spokesman blamed it in part on the brutalising of Iraqi society under Saddam Hussein. The spokesman said “These things happen. We know that.”
And on Saturday the Iraqi resistance killed 26 people and injured 50 others in a series of attacks. The killings came exactly two years Bush urged insurgents to bring on more attacks. On July 2, 2003 Bush said QUOTE “There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring 'em on. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.”
President Bush is flying to Scotland today to take part in the Group of Eight summit. While the summit opens on Wednesday, Scotland has already been the scene of mass protests. On Saturday more than 200,000 demonstrators gathered in Edinburgh for the “Make Poverty History” march. That same day simultaneous concerts were held in 10 cities around the world in an attempt to increase the world’s attention about poverty in Africa.
Back in Scotland, on Monday some 2,000 anti-war protesters blockaded Scotland’s largest military base — the Royal Navy submarine base at Faslane. The base is home port for all four British Trident nuclear armed submarines. So far police in Edinburgh have arrested up to one hundred protesters in demonstrations leading up to the G8 meetings. More protests are scheduled throughout the week.
In Afghanistan, the Boston Globe is reporting that 2005 has become the deadliest year so far in Afghanistan for U.S. troops since the invasion nearly four years ago. At least 54 U.S. troops died in the first half of the year. That’s more than the total number killed all of last year. Over the weekend, U.S. forces found the bodies of two Navy Seals who were killed near the site where a U.S. military helicopter was downed last week killing all 16 aboard.
Afghan officials have said a U.S. airstrike has killed 17 villagers — including women and children. The U.S. confirmed civilians had died but maintained the target was a known Taliban compound. President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack. His chief of staff said, “There is no way … the killing of civilians can be justified. … It’s the terrorists we are fighting. It’s not our people who should suffer.”
In Israel, the country’s president Moshe Katsav warned Monday that right-wing Israeli extremists might try to assassinate Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon has been the target of many death threats in recent months by opponents of the planned evacuation of all Jewish settlers from the Gaza strip. Agence France Press is reporting that all Israeli cabinet ministers are now being fitted with flak-jackets which they will wear during public appearances.
And former Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson has died at the age of 89. Nelson, who also served as governor of Wisconsin, helped found Earth Day in 1970 and was one of the architects of the country’s modern environmental movement. Nelson helped pass the Clear Air and Water Acts, preserve the Appalachian Trail, establish fuel efficiency standards and ban the insecticide DDT. President Clinton awarded Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995. Nelson was also a leading opponent of the Vietnam War. He was one of only three senators who voted against the $700 million appropriation that began the nation’s expanded involvement in Vietnam.
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