In Iraq, five Shiite school teachers died Monday after gunmen dressed as police officers burst into their school, seized them and shot them in an empty classroom. The killings took place in a Sunni suburb of Baghdad. It marks one of the first attacks of a school in Iraq since the occupation began. At least 16 died in a series of other shootings and bombings on Monday. In Baquba, a suicide bomber blew himself up earlier today outside a police recruitment center killing 10 people. Meanwhile the Iraqi government is claiming Al-Qaeda’s second highest-ranking man in Iraq has been shot dead in Baghdad. And the Washington Post is reporting that 3,000 people have now died in Baghdad alone since late spring in car bombings and other attacks.
Here at home, a military jury has convicted Lynndie England of abusing Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. The 22-year-old army reservist was photographed holding a naked Iraqi prisoner by a leash and pointing to an inmate’s genitals. She faces up to 10 years in jail. To date no high-ranking Pentagon has faced charges or been reprimanded in connection to the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal.
In Washington D.C. anti-war protests continued on Monday. Police arrested nearly 400 people for taking part in civil disobedience. 41 people were arrested in the morning at the Pentagon. Later Cindy Sheehan and Cornel West were among the over 300 arrested at a sit-in outside the White House. They refused to obey police orders to leave. Sheehan was the first protester to be taken into custody.
Longtime Republican fundraiser Cheryl Halpern has become the new chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, replacing Kenneth Tomlinson whose two-year term had ended. Tomlinson remains on the board. Before President Bush appointed Halpern to the CPB in 2002, she served on the Broadcasting Board of Governors overseeing such government-funded media projects as Voice of America, Radio Marti in Cuba and Radio Free Iraq. She is the former national chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition. She has accused National Public Radio of being biased against Israel. Like her predecessor, Kenneth Tomlinson, Halpern has also criticized the journalism of Bill Moyers. Two years ago she publicly agreed with Senator Trent Lott’s comment that Moyers is “the most partisan and nonobjective person I know in media of any kind.” The website PoliticalMoneyLine.com reports she has given over $300,000 in political contributions in recent years almost all to Republicans. Recipients have included President Bush, Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi and Sam Brownback of Kansas. The group Common Cause warned Monday that the selection of Halpern may “mean more politicizing for public broadcasting,”
The FBI is coming under intense criticism in Puerto Rico after FBI agents shot dead Puerto Rican nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios. Thousands are expected to attend his funeral today. While he was considered a hero to many in Puerto Rico, the FBI viewed him as a fugitive wanted in connection to a $7 million bank heist. Autopsy reports show that Ojeda Rios bled to death after being left alone in his house for 24 hours after he was shot. When agents finally entered his house they found him lying dead on the ground armed with only a pistol. On Monday, Ojeda Rios’ wife publicly said 20 FBI agents surrounded their rural farmhouse and fired the first shots. The FBI is now admitting that Ojeda Rios offered to negotiate but the FBI refused after he asked for an unidentified reporter to be present. On Monday FBI Director Robert Mueller called for an independent investigation into the shooting. In New York over 100 protested the killing at a rally at Federal Plaza.
In Binghamton New York, four peace activists known as the St. Patrick’s Four were acquitted on conspiracy charges Monday but convicted of two lesser charges. Their legal advisor Bill Quigley declared the verdict to be a “major victory.” The four defendants–Clare Grady, Teresa Grady, Peter DeMott and Daniel Burns–were the first peace activists facing conspiracy charges since the Vietnam War. They were all arrested on March 17, 2003 after spilling their own blood inside a military recruiting station. The jury convicted them of misdemeanor counts of trespassing at a government facility, and damaging a government facility. They each face up to 18 months in prison.
CBS News is reporting that the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, has been rehired by the agency to serve as a consultant to evaluate its response following Hurricane Katrina. On Sept. 12 Brown announced his resignation saying “it is important that I leave now to avoid further distraction from the ongoing mission of FEMA.” The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that Brown is still on the payroll but claims it is just because his resignation has not taken effect yet.
FEMA announced on Monday that for the first time it would use taxpayer money to reimburse churches and other religious organizations that helped survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Civil liberties groups called the decision a violation of the traditional boundary between church and state.
President Bush urged Monday for the country to start conserving gas whenever possible by carpooling and using mass transit because Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have damaged the country’s refining capacity. Bush also announced the suspension of some anti-pollution laws. He added, “We need alternative sources of energy. And that’s why I believe so strongly in nuclear power.” President Bush also said he is willing to use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to mitigate any shortfalls that affect consumers
Israel arrested 82 more Palestinians today in the West Bank–raising the total number arrested this week to almost 300. Hamas leaders allege that Israel is targeting its political leaders and that key candidates for Palestinian elections in January were among those rounded up. Israel also continued bombing raids in Gaza. Israel said the actions were needed after Palestinian groups fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel over the weekend.
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