Hours after she was released from a nearly-three month kidnapping, US reporter Jill Carroll gave an interview with Iraqi television in which she addressed her ordeal. Asked how she was treated, Carroll replied: “Very good treatment. I was kept in a very small, safe place, in a safe room. Nice furniture. They gave me clothing, plenty of food. I was allowed to take showers, go to the bathroom whenever I wanted. They never hit me, never even threatened to hit me… I felt I was not free. You know, it was difficult because I didn’t know what would happen to me.” Carroll is a freelance reporter working for the Christian Science Monitor in Iraq. She was seized in January outside the offices of a prominent Sunni politician in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, Jill Carroll is already coming under attack for saying that she was treated well by her captors. Writing for the National Review, John Podhoretz wrote: “It’s wonderful that she’s free, but after watching someone who was a hostage for three months say on television she was well-treated because she wasn’t beaten or killed — while being dressed in the garb of a modest Muslim woman rather than the non-Muslim woman she actually is — I expect there will be some Stockholm Syndrome talk in the coming days.”
Carroll is also being attacked for another video that was reportedly filmed while she was in captivity and posted on the web the day of her release. On the video, Carroll is questioned by her captors. She reportedly says the insurgents are fighting a “good fight.” Carroll goes on to say: “While the Americans are here, the occupying forces, you know, treating the people in a very, very bad way. So I can’t be happy totally for my freedom because there are people still suffering in prisons, in very difficult situations.”
This news from Iran — at least 66 people were killed and over 1,200 injured in three earthquakes and aftershocks that hit Western villages. Several villages were reduced to rubble.
In other news, the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency said Thursday Iran does not pose a nuclear threat and should not be subjected to sanctions. International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei said: “We need to lower the pitch… [the] only durable solution is a negotiated solution.” The US has threatened to impose sanctions if Iran fails to halt uranium enrichment activities.
This news from the Occupied Territories: Israel has launched air attacks on Gaza after a suicide bombing killed four Israelis at a West Bank settlement.
In France, the Constitutional Council has approved a controversial job law that has drawn protests from millions of French citizens. The law makes it easier for employers to fire young workers. French President Jacques Chirac will have 24 hours to sign the measure into law or reject it under pressure from mass protests.
In Jamaica Thursday, longtime member of Parliament Portia Simpson Miller became the first woman Prime Minister in Jamaica’s history. Thousands of people turned out for the ceremony.
On a visit to cement ties with the government of Indonesia, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was met with several questions about the invasion and occupation of Iraq from students at an Islamic boarding school. One student asked: “Does your excellency ever ask your best friend Mr. George W Bush, the president of the United States of America, to stop the war in Iraq because I heard that United Kingdom is the country that always help America to defeat Iraq, even if they know America is completely wrong. Thank you very much.”
Blair replied: “Whatever we thought about the original decision to remove Saddam, today we should work with the United Nations and with other countries to make sure that the Iraqi people get the same rights as we have in the UK and you have here and that’s what I want to see.”
In military news, the Pentagon has announced it will no longer allow soldiers to wear body armor other than what is given to them as part of their army service. Thousands of soldiers and their families have turned to purchasing extra armor amid complaints they have not been equipped with adequate protection. A secret Pentagon study last year concluded that up to 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from upper-body wounds could have survived had they been given extra body armor. The Pentagon says it is banning outside armor because of concerns soldiers are purchasing untested or insufficient gear.
The city of New York has revealed undercover police officers have been routinely videotaping political demonstrations over the last two years. The city maintains the surveillance was legal under police authority expanded in 2003 to stop terrorist attacks. At a court hearing this week, one city attorney said the taping was necessary because rallies could become targets of terrorist attacks. But Jethro Eisenstein, a civil rights lawyers challenging the videotaping, said the policy was “Orwellian,” and accused the city of adopting “a bullying view of the terrorism threat to block critical thinking.”
On Capitol Hill, the House blocked a measure proposed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to investigate members of Congress linked to Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The measure was tabled by a vote of 216 to 193. Abramoff was sentenced this week to 70 months in prison on fraud charges stemming from his purchase of a Florida casino. Abramoff is still awaiting sentencing on federal charges of bribing government officials and defrauding at least four Native American tribes out of tens of millions of dollars.
This news from New Orleans — the government has announced the reconstruction of New Orleans’ levees will cost around $10 billion dollars — nearly three times more than originally forecast. The higher costs mean several Gulf Coast areas may not be protected when hurricane season begins in two months. Louisana Democratic Congressmember Charlie Melancon criticized the revised cost, saying: “Now all of a sudden they say they made a $6 billion mistake?” The news comes as the Bush administration announced Thursday it may take up to 25 years to repair New Orleans.
In Massachusetts, a court has ruled that homosexual couples that are not state residents cannot be legally married if their home state wouldn’t recognize their marriage. In making the ruling, the court upheld a century-old judgment originally intended to ban interracial marriage.
And in Canada, a US soldier who fled to avoid serving in Iraq is having his asylum case heard in front of an immigration board. Josh Key, who served in Iraq for eight months, said he decided to desert military service after witnessing several atrocities commited by the US military. In an interview with the BBC, Key said: “The only people that were getting hurt was the innocent; that was innocent Iraqi people, as well as innocent soldiers.”