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Israel held national elections Tuesday with one of the lowest turnouts in its history. Kadima, the party founded by ailing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, won the election with 28 parliamentary seats — far lower than had been projected. The Labor party took second place with 20 seats. The Likud party, headed by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, came in fifth place with just 11 seats. Kadima leader Ehud Olmert campaigned on a platform to impose unilateral borders on the West Bank. Under the plan, Israel’s final borders would stretch deep into the West Bank to incorporate the three largest Jewish-only settlement blocs. Palestinians say the plan carves up their territory and prevents them from having a viable state.
Meanwhile, Arab leaders meeting at the annual Arab League summit in Sudan issued a statement reiterating a four-year-old land-for-peace offer to Israel. Under the proposal, the Arab states would offer diplomatic recognition in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal from land occupied in the 1967 war. Israel has rejected the offer.
In this country, President Bush announced the resignation of Chief of Staff Andrew Card Tuesday, amid growing calls for a shake-up of key White House personnel. Card will be replaced by current budget director Joshua Bolten next month. Bolten is seen as a key insider in the Bush administration.
In Supreme Court news, oral arguments began Tuesday in a case that will decide whether the Bush administration can use military tribunals to try detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison. Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who worked as Osama bin Laden’s driver in Afghanistan, is challenging the tribunals. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia took part in Tuesday’s hearing despite growing calls for his recusal. In a recent speech, Scalia dismissed the idea detainees have rights under the U.S. Constitution or international conventions.
In New Orleans, a government audit has painted a bleak of assessment of the city’s health care needs. According to the Government Accountability Office, New Orleans has only 456 staffed hospital beds, compared with more than 2200 before Hurricane Katrina. The audit also found that some patients have waited up to two hours to be unloaded from ambulances. Patients have been placed in the emergency room because of unavailable beds. Three quarters of the medical clinics that treated low-income New Orleans residents before the storm are now closed. The audit also noted the government’s estimate for the cost to repair two Lousiana State University hospitals meets only ten percent of actual needs.
In Iraq, a relief agency says more than 25,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since last month’s bombing of a holy Shiite shrine in Sammara. The International Organization for Migration says scores of shelters and tent cities are housing increasing numbers of displaced Sunni and Shiite families. Aid officials say the internal migration is only continuing.
In Afghanistan, a US soldier and a Canadian soldier were killed in an attack on their military base. 12 rebels were also killed in the attack.
Uruguay and Argentina have agreed to stop sending soldiers to train at the School of the Americas. Frequently dubbed the “School of the Assassins”, critics say the school — now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation — is responsible for training some of the worst human rights abusers in Latin America.
In Nigeria, former Liberian leader Charles Taylor has been arrested trying to enter Cameroon. Taylor is wanted in Liberia to stand trial for war crimes. He went missing from his villa Monday after the Nigerian government said it would allow Liberia to take custody of Taylor. Taylor has lived in Nigeria since 2003.
In France, students and unions staged a massive country-wide strike that shut down schools, businesses and public services and brought more than a million demonstrators into the streets. The strike was called in response to a government law that makes it easier for employers to fire young workers. More than 800 arrests were made around France. In Paris, police fired tear gas at the end of a rally after some officers were hit with projectiles.
In Britain, up to 1.5 million government workers went on strike across the country Tuesday over a government measure that would make it more difficult to retire at an earlier age. Eleven unions took part in the strike — one of the biggest Britain has seen in 80 years.
And this update on a story we’ve been following — students at the University of Miami held a sit-in Tuesday in support of striking janitor workers. The sit-in ended earlier today after University of Miami officials released a statement affirming the right of its workers to join unions free of intimidation. Janitors working for the university contractor UNICO say the company has tried to prevent them from joining the Service Employees’ International Union.