Press reports out of Mexico indicate the gunmen suspected of murdering New York journalist Brad Will are missing and not in police custody. The thirty-six year old Will died on Friday after being shot by paramilitaries in Oaxaca. He had his videocamera in his hand. Photos taken at the time of the shooting show the armed men who carried out the attack. They have been identified as local police officers and government officials. Initially a local mayor said five men had been detained. But the Mexican papers Milenio and Noticias de Oaxaca are now reporting that no arrests have been made.
The US military has announced the deaths of two more soldiers in Iraq for October. The month’s toll is now one hundred and five, the fourth-highest total since the US-led invasion.
Meanwhile, Reuters is reporting the Iraq Interior Ministry recorded an eighteen percent increase in civilian deaths from September. The figures are considered incomplete because the Ministry did not include all violent deaths.
An Arizona public radio station has uncovered new details on the death of one of the first female US soldiers to die in the Iraq war. KNAU Radio reports Army Specialist Alyssa Peterson took her on own life after objecting to interrogation techniques used on Iraqi prisoners. Peterson was assigned to a US air base in Tal-Afar. She died on September 15, 2003 from what the military called a “non-hostile weapons discharge.” But newly uncovered documents say investigators actually concluded Peterson shot and killed herself with her service rifle. The documents also show Peterson’s death came after she refused to take part in further interrogations after just two days. Military officials refused to describe what techniques Peterson had objected to and said all records of them had been destroyed. Specialist Peterson was twenty-seven years old.
In other Iraq news, a new poll shows Americans favor a specific timetable for the withdrawal of US troops by a margin of almost two to one. According to Princeton Survey Research Associates, sixty one percent of Americans are in favor of a timetable for withdrawal. Thirty percent are opposed. Meanwhile, a New York Times/CBS Poll shows less than one-third of Americans approve of President Bush’s handling of the Iraq war while just one-fifth believe the US is winning it.
In the Occupied Territories, at least three Palestinians have been killed and more than fifteen wounded on the second day of a major Israeli offensive in Gaza. The dead include a seventy year-old Palestinian man shot by Israeli troops when he went tried to take his disabled son inside their home. The violence comes one day after eight Palestinians and an Israeli soldier died during clashes on Wednesday. The raid is one of Israel’s biggest operations since re-invading Gaza last June.
More than one hundred Guantanamo prisoners are challenging a key component of President Bush’s new military commissions law. Attorneys filed a motion Wednesday arguing the military’s authority to arrest people overseas and prevent them from challenging their detentions in US courts is unconstitutional. Also Wednesday, a bi-partisan group of seven retired federal judges filed a brief arguing the new rules would allow authorities to use evidence obtained by torture. The judges write: “We believe that compelling this court to sanction executive detentions based on evidence that has been condemned in the American legal system since our nation’s founding erodes the vital role of the judiciary in safeguarding the rule of law.”
At the United Nations, Guatemala and Venezuela have ended their deadlock over an open seat on the UN Security Council. Neither country was able to achieve a two-thirds majority after nearly fifty rounds of voting. Venezuela accused the US of meddling in the race by openly campaigning for Guatemala. The two countries say they’ve chosen Panama as a compromise candidate.
The German military is facing a new scandal in Afghanistan. The German weekly Stern has published a photograph of soldiers driving a car sporting a Nazi-like emblem. The emblem is similar to one used by Nazi Germany’s “Afrika Corps” during the Second World War. The new photo comes a week after images surfaced of German troops desecrating human remains, including skulls, in Afghanistan.
In France, more than seventy Muslim workers have been stripped of their security clearances at the country’s main airport. Officials at Charles de Gaulle airport say some of the staff members visited terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A group of workers has filed suit claiming discrimination.
Here in the United States, Democratic Senator John Kerry has apologized for a self-described botched joke that said uneducated Americans wind up as US troops stuck in Iraq. Kerry claims he meant to say if students didn’t study they would end up like President Bush and get the nation stuck in Iraq.
Sen. John Kerry: “This was directed at the people who didn’t do their homework, didn’t listen to history, didn’t listen to their own advice, and they owe the American people an apology. Now, I’m coming back to Washington today so that I’m not a distraction, because I don’t want to be a distraction to these campaigns. And the point is simply: They owe America an apology for this disaster in Iraq. And I hope they’re going to provide it.”
Kerry also announced he will stop campaigning for Democratic candidates and return to Washington to avoid being a “distraction” in the elections.
McClatchy Newspapers is reporting the State Department has been screening the views of individuals for criticism of the Bush administration before sending them on foreign speaking assignments. The State Department Inspector General says the practice amounts to: “virtual censorship.” In one case, a conflict resolution expert was excluded from a videoconference in Jerusalem after it was discovered he wrote a book critical of the US-led reconstruction of Iraq. The screenings could violate federal guidelines that mandate the State Department to provide a broad range of speakers abroad that are: “not limited to the expression of US government policies.”
In Maryland, an appeals court has issued a controversial ruling over how rape is defined in the state. A three-judge panel ruled Monday sexual penetration can’t be considered rape if intercourse has begun and consent has been given. The ruling threw out a rape conviction on the grounds the judge should have told the presiding jury that a woman CANNOT withdraw her consent after the start of sexual intercourse. The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault has called the decision “insulting and dangerous.”
The US Air Force is requesting an unprecedented fifty billion dollars in funding for next year. The request amounts to half its annual budget. Defense sources told the Washington Post the extra funds would help pay to transport growing numbers of U.S. soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The engineering giant Bechtel has announced its leaving Iraq after more than three years. The San Francisco-based company has been awarded more than two billion dollars in Iraq contracts since the US-led invasion.
And finally, two government agencies have begun an investigation into whether the Bush administration has suppressed government scientists’ work on global warming. The Inspectors General at NASA and the Commerce Department are looking into whether administration officials prevented climate researchers from making their findings public. In January, leading climate scientist James Hansen said NASA officials had ordered a review of all of his upcoming lectures, papers, writings and requests for interviews from journalists. The results of the probe are expected early next year.