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In Chile, former political prisoner Michelle Bachelet has become the country’s first ever female president. Running on the Socialist ticket, Bachelet beat her billionaire rival in Sunday’s election. Bachelet is the daughter of an air force general who was tortured and died in prison after Augusto Pinochet seized power in 1973. She too was imprisoned by Pinochet’s regime before fleeing into exile.
Meanwhile in Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been sworn in as president, making her Africa’s first elected female leader.
Here in this country, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union are filing separate lawsuits today challenging President Bush’s order for the National Security Agency to conduct domestic spy operations without legally required court warrants.
The New York Times reveals today that after the Sept. 11th attacks the NSA began sending a flood of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of possible terrorists. This forced the FBI to send out hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips every month. According to the Times virtually all of the tips led to dead ends or innocent Americans.
On Monday, former Vice President Al Gore gave a major speech in Washington accusing Bush of "repeatedly and persistently" breaking the law by authorizing the NSA wiretaps. Gore called for Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the abuses. Gore said Bush’s illegal spying program threatened "the very structure of our government."
And Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the head of the Judiciary Committee, has admitted impeachment is a possibility if Bush broke the law. Specter appeared on ABC’s This week on Sunday.
In Pakistan, thousands have rallied across the country to protest a U.S. missile strike that killed at least 17 people including women and children in a village near the Afghan border. In Karachi some 10,000 protested while chanting "Death to America" and "Stop bombing against innocent people." The U.S. has said little about the bombing but it is believed to have been carried out by a CIA Predator drone. Intelligence officials said the target of the pre-dawn attack was Al Qaida’s number two man–Ayman al-Zawahri. Pakistani officials say Zawahri was not killed but U.S. officials claim they remain unsure. Pakistan publicly claims it does not allow the U.S. to carry out attacks inside its borders but this is the third suspected U.S. missile strike in less than two months. This is Pakistani Information Minister Skeikh Rashid Ahmed: "We deeply regret that civilian lives have been lost in Bajaur Agency. While this act is highly condemnable we have been for a long time striving to rid all our tribal areas of foreign intruders who have been responsible for all the misery and violence in the region. This situation has to be brought to an end."
In California, the state has executed its oldest death row prisoner, Clarence Ray Allen, one day after his 76th birthday Allen is the second oldest person executed in the country since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Last week California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger denied clemency to Allen even though he was blind, wheel-chair bound and suffered from severe diabetes and heart disease. The Supreme Court also rejected last-minute appeals. However in one of the appeals, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissent, saying the circumstances of Allen’s death raises a "significant question as to whether his execution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment." Allen, who is a Choctaw Indian, had two Native American spiritual advisers with him last night. The San Jose Mercury News reported he wore a beaded American Indian headband, an amulet around his neck and had a white feather on his chest as he was executed. Allen had been in jail for over quarter-century for arranging a triple murder.
This news on Iran: Britain, France and Germany have announced they will ask the International Atomic Energy Agency to hold a special meeting in two weeks to consider referring Iran to the Security Council over its nuclear program. Russia and China have agreed Iran should freeze its nuclear program but Russia has warned against sanctions being placed on Iran. Meanwhile Iran has lifted a ban on CNN journalists from working in the country. The ban was put in place after CNN misquoted Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying Iran has the right to build nuclear weapons when he had actually said Iran has the right to nuclear energy.
In news on Iraq, famed TV newscaster Walter Cronkite has become the latest advocate for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Cronkite made headlines during the Vietnam War when he declared on air the war was unwinnable. At the time President Lyndon Johnson said "If I’ve lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America." When a reporter asked Cronkite over the weekend whether, given the chance, he would offer similar advice on Iraq. Cronkite said, "Yes. It’s my belief that we should get out now."
Meanwhile there has been no word about the whereabouts of a pair of Americans kidnapped in Iraq. 28-year-old freelance journalist Jill Carroll was kidnapped 10 days ago in Baghdad. Tom Fox of the Christian Peacemaker Team was seized nearly two months ago along with three other peace activists from the group–Norman Kember of Britain and Harmeet Singh Sooden and James Loney of Canada.
And the U.S. has released 500 people from prisons in Iraq. Among the released were two journalists with the Reuters new agency who had been held without charges for over four months.
In other news from the Middle East–Vice President Dick Cheney is in Egypt today visiting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He will then head to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah and then to Kuwait where he will pay his respects to the country’s emir, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah who died over the weekend.
Meanwhile–in Texas, public opinion polls show former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay may face a tough time being re-elected. Just 22 percent of respondents in Delay’s home district say they will vote for him in the upcoming election
In environmental news, British scientists have determined 2005 was the warmest year on record in the Northern Hemisphere and the second warmest year overall since the 1860s when reliable records began. This comes as the Independent of London has published a dire warning from the well-known scientist James Lovelock who believes the world has already passed the point of no return for global warming. Lovelock writes, "Before this century is over, billions of us will die, and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable."
In India, writer Arundhati Roy has refused to accept a prestigious Indian writing award in protest. Roy accused the Indian government of toeing the U.S. line by "violently and ruthlessly pursuing policies of brutalization of industrial workers, increasing militarization and economic neo-liberalization."
And in Washington, about 800 people gathered Saturday at the National Cathedral for a memorial service for Eugene McCarthy. The former Senator and presidential candidate died in December at the age of 89.v In 1968 McCarthy challenged President Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic nomination running on a campaign opposing the Vietnam War.
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