On Capitol Hill, Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold has introduced a resolution to censure President Bush for authorizing the National Security Agency to conduct warrantless domestic surveillance. “The President violated the law, ignored the Constitution and the other 2 branches of government, and disregarded the rights and freedoms upon which our country was founded,” Feingold said. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist attempted to force the Senate to immediately vote on Feingold’s resolution before anyone actually read it but Democrats protested the move. However few Senate Democrats have yet to publicly support Feingold’s move to censure. Meanwhile in the House, the number of Democrats backing a resolution to impeach the president has now topped 30.
In news from Europe — Slobodan Milosevic’s son claimed earlier today that his father was “killed.” Milosevic was found dead in his jail cell on Saturday in the Hague where he was on trial for war crimes. Meanwhile officials at the United Nations war crimes tribunal official said the late Serb leader may have died after taking unprescribed medication.
The trial of Zacarias Moussaoui has been thrown into turmoil after a federal judge delayed the sentencing trial after it was revealed a government lawyer had violated court rules by improperly coaching government witnesses. Moussaoui has already plead guilty but now a jury is deciding whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison. The government no longer argues Moussaoui was meant to be the 20th hijacker but they claim the Sept. 11 attacks could have been prevented if Moussaoui had told police about the imminent attack when he was arrested on August 16, 2001. On Monday the Federal Judge Leonie Brinkema threatened to end the trial because of the government’s mishandling of the case. From the bench, Judge Brinkema said “In all the years I have been on the bench I have never seen such an egregious violation of the court’s rules on witnesses. This is the second significant error by the government affecting the constitutional rights of this defendant. More importantly it affects the integrity of the criminal justice system of the United States.”
In France, student demonstrations are continuing throughout the country to protest a new employment law that will make it easier for companies to fire young workers. On Monday, hundreds of university students stormed the College de France in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Students hurled stones and cans at the police who responded with tear gas. Nearby the elite Sorbonne University remains closed. Over the weekend police raided the school to force out several hundred protesters who had taken over buildings. Sorbonne was the center of the May 1968 student uprising. Agence France Press reports student strikes are taking place at more than 40 universities across the country. More street demonstrations are planned for today.
A new book by New York Times reporter Michael Gordan has revealed that Britain’s top envoy in Iraq expressed major concerns about how the U.S. was handling the occupation of Iraq as early as May 2003. Four days after arriving in Iraq, the envoy John Sawers wrote that the U.S. occupation forces had “No leadership, no strategy, no coordination, no structure and [were] inaccessible to ordinary Iraqis.” In a series of memos, Sawers identified multiple U.S. mistakes including: a lack of interest by US commander, General Tommy Franks, in the post-invasion phase; the private contractor Bechtel’s failure to quickly reconnect basic services, such as electricity and water; and the decision to sack junior level members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party.
On Monday, President Bush vowed for the first time to turn over most of Iraq to newly trained Iraqi troops by the end of this year. It is unclear how this will happen. Just last month the Pentagon admitted there are no longer any Iraqi battalions capable of fighting without U.S. support.
Bush made the announcement during a speech that launched a new public relations campaign to win greater support for the war in Iraq and his presidency. The latest USA Today/CNN poll shows the president’s approval rating is at just 36 percent. And 60 percent of the country says the war in Iraq is going badly.
During his same speech, Bush attempted to tie Iran to the war in Iraq by accusing Tehran of helping Shiite fighters build improvised devices that have been used against U.S.-led forces and civilians.
In other news on Iran, the Washington Post is reporting prominent Iranian activists say President Bush’s plan to spend tens of millions of dollars to promote democracy inside Iran is endangering the lives of human rights advocates by tainting them as American agents. Last month the government in Tehran jailed two Iranians who traveled outside the country to attend what was billed as a series of workshops on human rights. Two others who attended were interrogated for three days.
Meanwhile back in Iraq, the bodies of 15 men have been found in an abandoned vehicle in a Sunni area west of Baghdad. This brings the total number of corpses found around the capital over the past day to at least 72.
And the country’s leading journalist union is asking the government to provide Iraqi journalists with extra security measures. Two Iraqi journalists have been killed over the past week.
Here in this country a former Vietnam war resister who has been living in Canada since 1968 has been arrested and jailed on desertion charges. The 56-year-old Allen Abney has lived in Canada since he quit the Marines to protest the Vietnam War. He was arrested on Thursday at the Canadian-Idaho border. Last week USA Today reported the U.S. military has been intensifying its hunt for Vietnam-era war resisters. The paper also reported 8,000 U.S. soldiers have deserted the military since the war in Iraq began.
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor warned last week that the United States is in danger of edging towards a dictatorship if right-wingers continued to attack the judiciary. In one of her first public speeches since leaving the bench, O’Connor–who was nominated by Ronald Reagan — sharply criticized Republicans for strong-arming the judiciary. According to a report on NPR, O’Connor said “It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.”
In environmental news, U.S. scientists have determined the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached a new record high. The BBC reports the precise level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is of global concern because scientists fear certain thresholds may be “tipping points” that trigger sudden changes in climate. The chief carbon dioxide analyst for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the latest data confirms a worrying trend. The British government’s chief scientific adviser, David King, said “Mankind is changing the climate”.
Media watchdog groups are expressing concern over the recent sale of Knight Ridder–the country’s second largest newspaper chain. The smaller newspaper publisher McClatchy Company bought out the 32-paper Knight Ridder for $4.5 billion. The new owner has already announced plans to sell off 12 Knight Ridder newspapers including the Philadelphia Inquirer and San Jose Mercury News. “The loss of a media outlet is bad for journalism and for democracy because it decreases the number of voices in the debate,” said Steve Rendall of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. “This is especially clear in the case of Knight Ridder, whose Washington bureau was one of the only mainstream journalism outfits to consistently challenge the government in the run-up to war in Iraq.”
Meanwhile a new report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism is warning there has been a “seismic transformation” in the media landscape as media companies slash the amount of resources put into original reporting. The study said “The new paradox of journalism is more outlets covering fewer stories.” The report notes that in Philadelphia the number of newspaper reporters has fallen from 500 to 220 in the last quarter-century. Five AM radio stations used to cover news in Philadelphia; now there are two. Nationwide it is estimated there are 3,500 fewer professional newsroom jobs since 2000, a drop of 7 percent. Just last week the Washington Post said it would cut 80 newsroom jobs.
In Israel, a historian has revealed that Israeli ministers were secretly warned just after the Six-Day War in 1967 that any policy of building settlements across the occupied Palestinian territories violated international law. The Foreign Ministry’s then-legal counsel Theodor Meron issued a top-secret memo concluding the construction of settlements would “contravene the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention”. Meron would later become the president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The memo is revealed in a new book by Israeli historian Gershom Gorenberg titled “The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements.”
The Observer newspaper of London is reporting the man accused of being an architect of the genocide in Darfur, Major-General Salah Abdullah Gosh, secretly visited London last week to meet senior British officials. Gosh has been accused of having recruited the janjaweed Arab militias responsible for most of the abuses in Darfur. The Foreign Office initially claimed it had issued a visa to Gosh so he could undergo 'medical treatment', but then admitted that he had also met unnamed British officials for 'discussions on the Darfur peace process'.
In Miami, striking janitors at the University of Miami plan to expand their strike to Miami International Airport today, after plans for a meeting between the groups involved in the labor dispute broke down. The janitors at both the school and airport are employed by Unicco Service Co.
And at Pace University in New York, students rallied on Monday to call on the school’s administration not to expel two students for their anti-war activism. The students, Brian Kelly and Lauren Giaccone, say the university is threatening to expel them for distributing flyers and for protesting without a permit. The charges were filed after the two students called Bill Clinton a “war criminal” during his speech at the school last week. “They’re telling us that we can face any charge from a verbal warning to expulsion, over this past week Pace has been leaning more towards expulsion, they’ve been following us around campus, coming to our meetings to harass us, monitoring our websites and telling people we know that President Caputo is very angry with us and wants to take the fullest punishment available,” said Lauren Giaccone on Monday outside Pace University.