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In Iraq, confusion is running high over the status of the country’s new constitution. On Monday–just minutes before midnight–Shiite leaders presented the Parliament with a draft of the constitution. Midnight was the deadline for the new constitution to be written. Then the speaker of the Parliament announced that a vote wouldn’t be held for another three days. It remains unclear if any Sunni politicians will support the document. On Monday Sunnis rejected several of the constitution’s most fundamental provisions including the decision to allow a large Shiite-dominated autonomous region in the oil-rich southern portion of Iraq. One Sunni politician warned that approving the constitution as written could lead to civil war. The draft constitution that was submitted stipulates Islam is the official religion of Iraq, and is a fundamental source for legislation and that no law can contradict the principles of Islam. Women’s groups are warning that the new constitution could strip women of many basic human rights. We’ll go to Baghdad in a few minutes to speak with Iraqi feminist Yanar Mohammad.
President Bush took a break from his five-week summer vacation to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Salt Lake City. He defended the invasion of Iraq and vowed the war would go on. "We have lost 1,864 members of our Armed Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and 223 in Operation Enduring Freedom. Each of these men and women left grieving families and loved ones back home. Each of these heroes left a legacy that will allow generations of their fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty," said Bush. "And each of these Americans have brought the hope of freedom to millions who have not known it. We owe them something. We will finish the task that they gave their lives for."
While President Bush was speaking, anti-war demonstrators gathered outside calling for the troops to be brought home from Iraq. Protest organizers in Salt Lake City had taken out a permit for a one-thousand person protest–but more than twice that many took to the streets. Celeste Zappala–who co-founded Gold Star Mothers for Peace with Cindy Sheehan–addressed the crowd. Her 30-year-old son Sherwood Baker died in Baghdad last year.
Meanwhile in Crawford Texas, military families, veterans and anti-war activists are continuing their vigil at Camp Casey outside President Bush’s 1,600-acre estate. Folk singer Joan Baez spoke to reporters on Monday. "I think the question that nobody wanted to deal with is the question that they’re posing–why did my kid die in vain," Baez said. "Because the answer is too awful." Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and actress Margot Kidder have also stopped by the Crawford protest site. Kidder–who is best known for playing Lois Lane in Superman–said she became a U.S. citizen last week in order to be able to protest the war in Iraq without facing the possibility of deportation.
In Washington, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey of California has announced she will hold hearings on Sept. 15 on how the U.S. can leave Iraq. She said the hearings will be modeled on the one organized by Congressman John Conyers about the Downing Street Memos. Woolsey said, "We’ll hear from academics, military personnel and other experts about strategies to achieve military disengagement while still playing a constructive role in the rebuilding of Iraqi society." The hearings will come a week before the major Sept. 24 anti-war rally in Washington.
In news from the Middle East... the last Jewish settlers have left the Gaza Strip marking the first time Israel has withdrawn from Palestinian land captured in the 1967 war. Earlier today Israeli forces began evacuating Jewish settlers from two small settlements in the West Bank. Some 10,000 troops have been mobilized to clear out the two settlements where fierce resistance is expected. While most of the settlers have already left, up to 2,000 right-wing Israelis have traveled to the area in order to resist the pull-out. In the settlement of Sa-Nur, opponents burned tires and laid down spikes, on the road. Security forces responded by storming two synagogues and an old British fortress. Meanwhile in Gaza, the demolitions of former settler homes is continuing. Haaretz is reporting that homes have already been demolished in 13 of the 21 Gaza settlements.
This news on Iran: the Washington Post is reporting that a group of U.S. government experts and other international scientists have determined that traces of bomb-grade uranium found two years ago in Iran came from contaminated Pakistani equipment and are not evidence of a clandestine nuclear weapons program. One senior official said, "The biggest smoking gun that everyone was waving is now eliminated with these conclusions." The Bush administration had pointed to the material as evidence that Iran was making bomb-grade ingredients.
In Haiti, the Lavalas Party has announced that priest Gerard Jean-Juste will run as its presidential candidate. But the party vowed to boycott the upcoming elections if Jean-Juste is not released from prison. Lavalas is the party of ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide who was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup last year. Jean-Juste has emerged as a leader of the Lavalas movement but he has been in jail since July 21. Amnesty International has declared him to be a prisoner of conscience. Lavalas also plans to run other political prisoners in the upcoming elections including the musician So Anne who has been jailed for over a year.
The family of Jean Charles de Menezes is in London this week demanding an investigation into his death. Menezes was shot dead by British police in a London subway station last month. At first, British police said they believed Menezes was a suicide bomber. They claimed he had run from police and was wearing a bulky jacket. But since then it has been revealed that he was innocent and that police lied about the circumstances of his death. Menezes’ cousin Alessandro Pereira spoke in London on Monday. "The family has called for a full public enquiry into all the circumstances into the death of my cousin including the shoot to kill policy and the lies we have been told by the Metropolitan Police," Pereira said. "Every day we discover more and more lies. We have heard too many. We seek justice."
Connecticut has become the first state to challenge the No Child Left Behind Act in court. Connecticut’s Attorney General Richard Blumenthal filed the suit on Monday. It argues that Connecticut is not being adequately reimbursed for the cost of expanding to annual testing. Connecticut tests children in fourth, sixth, eighth and 10th grades. The No Child Left Behind Act requires testing in grades three through eight. The law specifically bars the federal government from imposing mandates without financing them. .
This news on Venezuela: Christian televangelist Pat Robertson has called for the assassination of Venezuela’s democratically-elected president Hugo Chavez. Robertson made the comment on his tv program The 700 Club. His comments were recorded by the media advocacy group MediaMatters. "I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war," Robertson said. "And I don’t think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United ... This is in our sphere of influence, so we can’t let this happen." His comments came on the same day that Hugo Chavez traveled to Cuba to meet with Fidel Castro.
Stun gun manufacturer Taser is facing another lawsuit over the safety of its product. This time the lawsuit has been filed by a police chief in Hallsville, Missouri. Jacob Herring has sued the company claiming that he was severely injured after being shocked with a Taser weapon during training. Herring says he suffered at least two strokes, loss and impairment of his vision and hearing, neurological damage, a head injury and "significant cardiac damage" after being shocked by a Taser M26 during a class last year. Taser has now been sued 14 times since 2003 by officers who say they were injured in training.
Meanwhile the magazine New Scientist is reporting that the government is developing a new generation of electric shock weapons that could be fired from across a city street or across a sports stadium. A Texas company called Lynntech is developing a projectile that can be fired from a shotgun or grenade launcher that sticks to the target and delivers an 80,000-volt shock for seven seconds. Further shocks can be triggered via remote control.
And Robert Moog — a pioneer in electronic music — has died at the age of 71. He is best known for inventing the first analog synthesizer known as the Moog. The synthesizer helped changed the sound of popular music. Moog has been used by hundreds of artists over the years including the Beatles, Stevie Wonder and Wilco. He was profiled in the documentary Moog.
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