The FBI has begun examining whether former Republican Congressman Mark Foley broke federal law by exchanging sexually explicit Internet messages with teenage boys who used to work as pages on Capitol Hill. The Florida Republican resigned on Friday after ABC News published transcripts of some of his online discussions. In one exchange with an underage boy, Foley expressed his desire to strip the teenager naked and grab his penis. The Internet messages date back to 2003. Democrats have accused the Republican leadership of trying to cover-up Foley’s indiscretions, which they had known about for months. Speaker of the House Denis Hastert initially claimed he just learned about Foley’s actions but Republican Congressman Thomas Reynolds later revealed that he had personally told Hastert months ago. Hastert allowed Mark Foley to remain the co-chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children up until Friday. Earlier this year President Bush signed legislation that Foley introduced to bolster penalties against sex offenders and increase efforts to target Internet predators. In an interview with NPR in 2002, Foley criticized adults who sexually take advantage of children.
On Sunday former House Speaker Newt Gingrich defended how the matter has been handled. He said the Republicans would have been accused of gay bashing” if they had “overly aggressively reacted” to Foley’s inappropriate actions.
The Senate has unanimously approved spending seventy billion dollars more for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every Democratic Senator approved the money for the Iraq war. Congress has now approved spending just over half of a trillion dollars on the two wars. A new Congressional study found that the war in Iraq is now costing about two billion dollars a week — nearly twice what it cost in 2003. On Friday, the Senate approved the Pentagon’s four hundred forty-eight billion dollar budget for next year. It marks the largest Pentagon budget ever. Congress also approved giving the Israeli military an additional five hundred million dollars. The money is not part of the regular military aid to Israel, which currently stands at over two billion dollars a year.
In Iraq, Baghdad was put on a citywide curfew on Saturday. For the first time since the war began, residents of Baghdad were banned from walking outside for the entire day. All motor vehicle traffic was banned as well. Saturday’s curfew was put in place after a bodyguard for a leading Sunni lawmaker was arrested on suspicion of planning bomb attacks inside the Green Zone. The bodyguard worked for Adnan al-Dulaimi who heads the Iraqi Accordance Front, the main Sunni Arab party in the Iraqi government. Leading Shiite lawmakers are now calling for a shakeup of the Iraqi cabinet to remove Sunni lawmakers with ties to the insurgents. Earlier today the Iraqi parliament voted to extend the country’s state of emergency for another 30 days.
The U.S. government is warning Iraq that it may be forced to withhold funding for Iraq’s security forces unless the Iraqi police improve its human rights record. Under what is known as the Leahy Law, the U.S. government is prohibited from financing foreign security forces that commit “gross violations of human rights.”
A preliminary report from the Iraqi Health Ministry found that about eleven hundred Iraqi civilians died during September. 70 U.S. soldiers also died last month making it the second deadliest month of the year.
On Saturday, President Bush vowed to continue waging attacks across the world. His comment came during his weekly radio address.
In Brazil, a run-off vote is scheduled for October 29 between president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Geraldo Alckmin. During the first round of voting Lula won just under 49 percent of the vote. Alckmin won about 42 percent. Lula is the former union leader who swept to power four years ago on a populist platform but his popularity has decreased following a series of political scandals.
The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture has criticized U.S. lawmakers for authorizing President Bush’s request to strip detainees of habeas corpus, reinterpret the Geneva Convention and detain individuals without trial. Manfred Nowak said “I’m very disappointed. It doesn’t send the signal that we would have expected after Abu Ghraib.” The legislation has already been widely criticized around the world. One Iraqi lawmaker said the law marked the “abandonment of all calls for human rights and democracy.” A number of human rights groups are planning to challenge the constitutionality of the legislation.
Meanwhile Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has warned federal judges not to question the president’s judgments in the war on terror. In a speech at Georgetown University, Gonzales said the Constitution provides the courts with few tools to overturn military and foreign policy decisions, especially during wartime. He urged judges to retain “a proper sense of judicial humility.”
Amnesty International has accused Pakistan of systematically committing human rights abuses by arresting and secretly detaining hundreds of people since the Sept. 11 attacks. Amnesty said bounty hunters — including police officers and local residents — have captured hundreds of individuals of different nationalities, often apparently at random, and sold them into US custody.
The British national Moazzam Begg also criticized Pakistan’s human rights record. Begg was seized from his home in Pakistan in January 2002 and then imprisoned in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Sunday he is not considering resigning. Questions about Rumsfeld’s future resurfaced this weekend after Bob Woodward revealed in his new book that former White House chief of staff Andrew Card twice sought to persuade President Bush to fire Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld spoke to reporters en route to Nicaragua for a meeting of defense ministers from Latin and Central America.
Rumsfeld’s visit to Nicaragua comes two months prior to that country’s presidential election. Polls show former Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega as the front-runner. The Bush administration has openly opposed Ortega’s candidacy and has backed his top opponent, Eduardo Montealegre. Supporters of Ortega have accused the U.S. of meddling in the election. Last year the State Department’s top diplomat for Latin America, Roger Noriega, warned that “Nicaragua would sink like a stone” should Ortega win.
The Mexican government is urging President Bush not to sign a bill that would extend a 700-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. The Senate approved building the wall on Friday.
In other news from Mexico, concern is growing that the Mexican military may soon crush the populist uprising in the city of Oaxaca. Military planes and helicopters have begun flying over the region. Tanks and troop transport trucks have also been sent to the city of Huatulco — about 150 miles from Oaxaca. The protesters — led by thousands of striking public school teachers — have called for Oaxaca governor Ruiz Ortiz to resign.
Members of the 9/11 Commission have expressed alarm over a report in Bob Woodward’s new book over a previously unknown meeting two months before the Sept. 11 attacks between then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, former CIA Director George Tenet and his counter-terrorism head Cofer Black. According to the book, on July 10, 2001, Tenet went over top-secret intelligence pointing to an impending attack and 'sounded the loudest warning' to the White House of a likely attack on the U.S. by Bin Laden. Woodward writes that Tenet and Black felt that Rice brushed off their concerns. The White House has disputed Woodward’s account of the meeting.
In Gaza, fighting broke out on Sunday between members of Hamas and security forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. Eight people died and up to 130 were wounded. It marked the deadliest day of internal violence since Hamas took control of the Palestinian government in March. Hamas officials announced today the complete shut down of all Palestinian government offices. Officials said the move was needed after fighters from Fatah tried to kidnap Hamas officials. Meanwhile, a Palestinian fisherman from Gaza was killed today by fire from an Israeli naval vessel. On Friday Israeli air strikes killed two teenage Palestinian brothers, ages 13 and 16.
In news from Lebanon — the United Nations has announced that Israel refused to cooperate with an investigation into the Israeli air strike that killed four UN observers in southern Lebanon in July. Israel did not allow UN investigators to interview military commanders involved in the incident. The UN was trying to determine why Israel continued to bomb the UN site even after UN workers made repeated calls for the attacks to stop. Meanwhile — the United Nations is disputing Israel’s claim that it has completely withdrawn from southern Lebanon. UN officials say Israel is still occupying the border village of Ghajar.
And war resister Darrell Anderson has returned to the United States after spending two years in Canada. Anderson was the first Iraq war veteran to flee to Canada in order to avoid returning to Iraq where he had won a Purple Heart. On Tuesday he plans to turn himself in at Fort Knox in Kentucky.