The captors of a kidnapped US journalist in Iraq have threatened to kill her unless US forces release all female prisoners in the country. On Tuesday, the Arabic television network Al-Jazeera broadcast a videotape of Jill Carroll, a 28-year old freelance reporter working for the Christian Science Monitor. It was the first time she has been seen since she was seized in Baghdad earlier this month. The video contained no audio. Al-Jazeera said the captors identified themselves as members the previously unknown group the “Brigades of Vengeance.” The group gave a 72-hour deadline for the US to comply with their demand.
In other Iraq news, 10 Iraqi security workers were killed today in an ambush on their convoy in Baghdad. A Malawian engineer working for the Iraqi telecom company Iraqna was kidnapped in the attack. Another engineer from Madagascar was reported missing. Meanwhile, on Tuesday gunmen shot dead seven people working as food supply workers for the Iraqi army.
Here in the United States, New York Senator Hillary Clinton is drawing criticism from Republicans after comparing their control over Congress to a plantation.
: Republicans immediately denounced Clinton for making what House Speaker Dennis Hastert called a “racist” comment. But Al Sharpton, who hosted Clinton’s speech, defended the remark, saying he had already made the same comparison. During the speech, Clinton also lashed out at the Bush administration.
In Afghanistan, 22 people have died in one of the biggest suicide bombings the country has seen since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The attack in the border town of Spin Boldak left another 27 people seriously injured. In a statement to Agence France Presse, a man claiming to speak on behalf of the Taliban denied the group’s involvement, saying the Taliban does not target civilians. The attacks followed two separate suicide bombings in just over 24 hours that killed at least six people, including a Canadian diplomat.
In other news, the US government has refused to express regret over last week’s CIA bombing in Pakistan. The attack killed a reported 17 people, including women and children. The U.S. has said little about the bombing but it is believed to have been carried out by a CIA Predator drone. On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack told reporters only: “The United States clearly values innocent human life. And that is why we’re fighting the war on terror.” Meanwhile, Pakistani officials said Tuesday the strike had killed up to 5 suspected militants.
In Lebanon, nearly 10,000 students marched on the US embassy near Beirut to denounce what they called Washington’s interference in their country. The students chanted slogans including “America out” and “death to America.” The protest came three days after police clashed with anti-US demonstrators at a smaller protest in downtown Beirut. The US has sided with anti-Syrian groups in Lebanon, and pushed for the disarmament of Hezbollah. Meanwhile, the US embassy denied a report in a Lebanese newspaper that said it had pushed for the firing of Shi’ite ministers, including two from Hezbollah. The embassy said that the story had been invented in order to provoke tensions in Lebanon.
In Europe, a Swiss Senator has said there is no longer any question that the CIA undertook in illegal activities in Europe by secretly transporting and jailing suspected terrorists. The official — Dick Marty — is heading up a European investigation into allegations that the CIA operated secret prisons in Poland and Romania. He also said blame has to be placed on all European nations who have helped the U.S. carry out its covert operations.
Last week a Swiss newspaper published the text of an intercepted Egyptian memo about U.S. interrogation centers in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The memo had been faxed from the Egyptian foreign ministry to the Egyptian embassy in London. But it had been intercepted by the Swiss secret service and then leaked to the press.
In Haiti, two Jordanian troops with the UN mission were killed Tuesday in a gun-battle in the poor neighborhood of Cite Soleil. UN troops have stepped up armed raids on Cite Soleil amid pressure from business leaders and foreign officials.
In Britain, the British government has denied allegations that a memo detailing a conversation between Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush includes talk of bombing the Arabic television network Al Jazeera. The denial came as the Blair government turned down Al Jazeera’s request for access to the memo. A Blair spokesperson declined to say what the memo contained. The two men who leaked the document — a British civil servant and a parliamentary researcher — are facing charges for passing on classified government information.
In this country, the Supreme Court has voted to protect Oregon’s one-of-a-kind assisted suicide law, blocking a Bush administration initiative that would have punished doctors who help put terminally ill patients to death. The court ruled former Attorney General John Ashcroft acted improperly when he invoked a federal drug law to pursue Oregon doctors for over-prescribing lethal doses of prescription medicines. Oregon’s landmark law has been used to end the lives of over 200 people. The ruling marked the first loss for Chief Justice John Roberts, who was by joined in his dissent by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
In New Orleans, a federal judge has approved a settlement that forces the city to give residents at least seven days advance notice of any house demolitions. The settlement resolves a lawsuit launched by residents last month following newspaper reports the city planned to demolish over 2500 homes without notice.
Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, has increased its count of people displaced from the Gulf Coast by hurricanes Katrina and Rita to 2 million people, an increase by nearly a third. FEMA attributed the increase to an earlier reporting error. FEMA says it’s paying rental assistance to over 685,000 families, an increase of 32 percent over a month ago.
In other news, the New York Times is reporting a high-level Bush administration intelligence assessment concluded in early 2002 that the sale of enriched uranium from Niger to Iraq was “unlikely.” The claim, since discredited, that Iraq sought to purchase the uranium played a key role in the Bush administration’s attempts to justify the invasion of Iraq. The Times reports a secret memo by State Department intelligence analysts concluded the sale was improbable for several reasons, including that it would have required Niger to send “25 hard-to-conceal 10-ton tractor-trailers” filled with uranium across 1,000 miles and at least one international border. A Bush administration official interviewed by the Times would not say whether President Bush saw the memo before he made the Niger claim in his infamous State of the Union address in January 2003 — over 10 months after the intelligence assessment was made.
In Washington, the Bush administration is refusing to reveal details of its meetings with scandal-plagued lobbyist Jack Abramoff. On Tuesday, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan acknowledged Abramoff had “a few staff-level meetings” with White House officials. But he would not say with whom Abramoff met, which interests he was representing or how he got access to the White House, telling reporters: “We are not going to engage in a fishing expedition.” Abramoff pleaded guilty earlier this month to conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion as part of a corruption scandal that has implicated several Republican lawmakers and their aides.
And in Texas, a 55-year old former Marine has been arrested for avoiding military service in the Vietnam War. Ernest McQueen, born Ernest Johnson Jr, fled his North Carolina military base in 1969 — over 36 years ago. McQueen told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Monday his desertion was motivated by news of the My Lai massacre of Vietnamese civilians, growing anti-war protests in the US and disturbing stories he had heard from returning Marines. McQueen said: “I just decided I didn’t want to be part of killing anybody. That’s as plain as I can say it.” McQueen is currently a Texas prison. He could face up to three years in jail.