In India, President Bush has signed a controversial deal to foster nuclear cooperation between the United States and India. Under the agreement, the U.S. would end a decades-long moratorium on sales of nuclear fuel and reactor components to India while allowing the country to substantially step up its nuclear weapons production. India is one of only three countries that has refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The deal was criticized by some lawmakers in Washington who said it could lead to the spread of nuclear weapons. House Democrat Ed Markey, co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation called the agreement “a historic failure of this president to tackle the real nuclear threats that we face.”
Democrats have renewed calls for an independent investigation into the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. The calls follow the release Wednesday of confidential video footage from President Bush’s final briefing before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. The President was given dire warnings the storm could breach levees and threaten the lives of residents of New Orleans. Yet days later, President Bush said the breach of the levees hadn’t been anticipated.
In other news, investigative journalist Murray Waas is reporting President Bush was personally delivered intelligence reports before the Iraq war that cast doubt on his administration’s stated reasons for launching an invasion. One report, delivered in January 2003, said Saddam Hussein was highly unlikely to attack the United States unless “ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime.” Another intelligence report dated October 2002 said both the Energy Department and the State Department’s intelligence bureau had concluded Saddam Hussein’s attempts to purchase aluminum tubes were “intended for conventional weapons.” Waas writes that the disclosure is “the first evidence that the president himself knew of the sharp debate within the government over the aluminum tubes during the time that he, [Vice President Dick] Cheney, and other members of the Cabinet were citing the tubes as clear evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program. Neither the president nor the vice president told the public about the disagreement among the agencies.”
In Washington, 15 activists were arrested outside the White House Thursday at a protest against torture. The protest was called by Witness Against Torture. In December, the group marched on the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where hundreds of detainees are being held without charge.
Meanwhile, the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair has joined the calls for an end to the use of torture. In a speech and accompanying article Wednesday, Cherie Booth said the use of torture in the so-called war on terror amounted to “terrorism of the state”.
In environmental news, the Washington Post is reporting scientists have found the Antartic ice sheet is shrinking by as much as 36 cubic miles a year. Researchers say the results, published in the journal Science, provide the first evidence that the sheet’s total mass is shrinking significantly. Scientists said the decrease is likely linked to global warming.
In other news, the New York Times is reporting the National Archives have directed intelligence agencies to stop removing thousands of previously declassified historical documents that had previously been available to the public. The program began in 1999 and intensified after President Bush took office. Documents that have been re-classified include intelligence estimates from the Korean war and reports on “Communism” in Mexico in the 1960s.
In the Occupied Territories, the Palestinian Authority has given back $30 million dollars in aid from the US government. The US has demanded that none of its aid reach a government led by the Palestinian group Hamas. Israel has already halted its monthly remittance of $60 million dollars in taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinians. The aid refund comes as a new UN report is warning a donor freeze and the withholding of tax funds will lead to the shutdown of several essential services in the Occupied Territories.
In the Philippines, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has lifted a week-old state of emergency. The measure was called after government officials said they had discovered a plot to overthrow her. It allowed the government to ban rallies and arrest dozens of people without warrants. Police occupied the offices of the opposition Daily Tribune newspaper last weekend. Representative Teodoro Casino, a politician accused of involvement in the alleged plot, said: “We still have a lousy president, and the military and police are still after ’the enemies of the state. She lifted it to escape the snowballing protest against the proclamation.”
Back in the United States, the Senate approved the renewal of the USA Patriot Act Thursday. The final vote was 89-10.
In Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour said this week he would probably sign a bill that would ban most abortions in the state. The measure would allow abortion only if it would save a woman’s life. It makes no exception in cases of rape or incest.
In Kenya, the government is coming under heavy criticism for staging a police raid against Kenya’s second biggest media group. The raid forced CCTV off the air for several hours. It comes days after the station’s sister newspaper, the Standard, published stories critical of the government. Raphael Mutila, an employee of the Standard newspaper said: “All of us were told to lie down, then meanwhile after around two minutes, they ordered us to take the all the newspapers outside there where they forced us to burn all of them.”
And in Chicago, a proposal to erect a tribute to slain Black Panther Fred Hampton is drawing opposition from local police. Hampton was assassinated by Chicago police in a December 1969 raid on his home. Chicago has nearly 1300 honorary street signs. The president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police said the city shouldn’t honor someone who advocated violence against police officers. Alderperson Madeline Haithcock, who proposed the street naming, said: “If you read the history of Fred Hampton… all he said is he was going to defend himself against policemen, and evidently he didn’t because they murdered him.”