In Iraq, at least 39 people died in attacks on Sunday. The deadliest incident attack occurred in Tikrit when a suicide bomber blew up a truck loaded with explosives. Seven Iraqi soldiers died and 17 more wounded. The killings came as the Iraqi government faced a stalemate over the new constitution. Major disagreements remain over the role of Islam, a definition of federalism and the future of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
Meanwhile President Bush’s poll ratings have reached a new low. A new survey by Newsweek found only 38 percent of the country approve of the president’s handling of the war in Iraq. Overall his approval rating is just 42 percent–the lowest of his presidency.
In news on Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s family said today that it has dissolved the Jordan-based international legal team that is representing the former president. The family has now appointed an Iraqi lawyer as Saddam’s “one and sole legal counsel.”
In Texas a mother whose son was killed in Iraq has begun a month-long protest in Crawford in an attempt to meet with President Bush who is vacationing there at his ranch. Cindy Sheehan was joined on Saturday by 50 other anti-war activists. The Secret Service blocked the group from approaching the President’s ranch and they were forced to gather four miles away from the site. Sheehan’s son Casey was killed last year in Sadr City at the age of 24. She told reporters, “I want to ask George Bush: Why did my son die?”
Britain’s former foreign secretary Robin Cook has died at the age of 59. He collapsed while walking in the Scottish highlands with his wife. Cook resigned from Tony Blair’s government in March 2003 just before the Iraq invasion. In a speech that generated a rare standing ovation at Parliament, he charged that intelligence on Iraq was being fixed. “I fear the fundamental problem is that instead of using intelligence as evidence on which to base the conclusion of a policy, we used intelligence as the basis on which we could justify a policy on which we had already settled,” Cook said. Last week in one of his last interviews Robin Cook said the situation in Iraq was worse than his greatest fears. He said “The violence continues to escalate and part of the reason is that the conduct of US forces has been trigger-happy.”
A former CIA commander is accusing the Pentagon of allowing Osama Bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 by not giving the CIA enough military support. The commander–Gary Berntsen–says he had definitive intelligence that the leader of Al Qaeda was holed up at Tora Bora and that he could have been caught. This according to a report in Newsweek. Berntsen is attempting to publish a book about the matter. He has accused the CIA of holding up the book’s publication.
Newsweek is reporting that President Bush is considering naming his personal friend Robert McCallum to replace outgoing Deputy Attorney General James Comey. Comey has been the only official overseeing special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation over who within the Bush administration leaked the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. McCallum currently serves as Associate Attorney General. He is friends with President Bush and is a fellow member of the secretive Skull and Bones society at Yale University.
In Israel, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has resigned his post as finance minister to protest the government’s plan to vacate the Jewish settlements in Gaza. “I cannot be a party to a move that I think compromises the security of Israel, tears the people apart and enshrines the principle of withdrawal to the indefensible ’67 line and, I think in the future, will also risk the unity of Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. The withdrawal is set to begin next week. In other news from Israel, residents of the Israeli-Arab town of Shefaram is in mourning after four of its residents were shot dead on a bus by an Israeli army deserter wearing military fatigues. The four Arabs killed were all Israeli citizens. After the soldier shot dead his four victims, he was beaten to death by bystanders.
In Mexico, Zaptista rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos has spoken publicly for the first time since 2001. Wearing military fatigues and a black ski mask, Marcos appeared before a crowd this weekend to criticize Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — the former Mexico City mayor who is the leading candidate in next year’s presidential race. Marcos vowed not to vote for him or any other candidate. “What we want is to be sincere, because 12 years ago, we told you and many others that we believed in the PRD party,” Marcos said. “We were wrong to think that these people were going to carry out the actions that they spoke about. We are not going to make the same mistake because they make a mistake over there and they lose the elections, we make a mistake here and we lose everything we have.”
ABC news anchor Peter Jennings has died at the age of 67. He led the network’s nightly newscast from 1983 until April. On April 5, he confirmed on his show that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. It would turn out to be his final broadcast. “To be perfectly honest, I am a little surprised at the kindness today from so many people. That is not intended as false modesty, but even I was taken about by how far and how fast news travels,” Jennings said. “Finally, I wonder if other men and women ask their doctors right away, 'Okay doc, when does the hair go?' At any rate, that is it for now on world news tonight. Have a good evening. I’m Peter Jennings. Thanks and goodnight.”
In Atlanta, tens of thousands marched Saturday to call for the renewal of the Voting Rights Act. The landmark legislation was signed 40 years ago this week after years of protest organized by civil rights activists. Provisions of the law are set to expire in 2007. The Atlanta tv station WSBTV estimated 100,000 people took part in Saturday’s march.
In Hawaii, 15,000 people marched in Honolulu Saturday to protest last week’s federal court ruling that struck down a local school’s policy of admitting only native Hawaiians. The decision has shocked the Native Hawaiian community. The school in question was established in 1883 — 10 years before the U.S. helped overthrow the Hawaiian government. The school was set up with money from the will of a Hawaiian princess who feared the Native Hawaiian population would become extinct. For over a century the mission of the school has been to rebuild and restore Native Hawaiian culture.
And in Northampton Massachusetts, hundreds of community radio producers and supporters gathered this weekend for the 10th annual Grassroots Radio Conference and the launch of the city’s new community radio station Valley Free Radio. With help from the Prometheus Radio Project the low power FM station went on the air at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Valley Free Radio is airing on 103.3 FM in Northampton, Massachusetts.