Protests are continuing throughout the country against proposed legislation that could criminalize the nation’s 12 million undocumented workers. In New York, tens of thousands of immigrants and immigrant rights activists marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday. Meanwhile student walkouts are expanding across the country ever since 40,000 students walked in the Los Angeles region last Monday. Since then walkouts have occurred in San Diego, Houston, Detroit, El Paso, Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas, Tucson, Phoenix, Austin, Washington D.C. and Washington state. In Ennis Texas as many as 130 students were barred from their high school prom on Saturday night for taking part in walkouts earlier in the week. We’ll have more on the New York march in a few minutes.
In Iraq, the U.S. effort to push out Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari is gaining momentum. Last week the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad notified Shiite politicians that President Bush no longer supported Jaafari and wanted a new leader. Over the weekend one of Iraq’s leading Shiite political blocks joined the growing call for Jaafari to resign. On Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British foreign minister Jack Straw made a surprise visit to Baghdad and urged Iraqi leaders to form a new government. Meanwhile a group of prominent Shiite clerics are now calling for the expulsion of US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad from Iraq. They accuse him of being anti-Shiite.
Here in this country, calls for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfled to resign are increasing. On Sunday, Gen. Anthony Zinni, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, accused Rumsfeld of committing a “series of disastrous mistakes” in Iraq.
Meanwhile Condoleezza Rice admitted that the United States had probably made thousands of errors in Iraq. She made the admission on Friday during a meeting in Britain. “I know that we made tactical errors, thousands of them I’m sure,” Rice said. “This could have gone that way or that could have gone that way, but when you look back in history what will be judged is did you make the right strategic decisions and if you spend all your time trying to judge this tactical issue or that tactical issue I think you miss the larger sweep.”
Protesters greeted Condoleezza Rice throughout her trip to Britain. In Blackburn, the hometown of Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, demonstrators chanted “Shame on you” so loud that the screams could be heard inside the city’s town hall where Rice was meeting. A planned visit to the town’s mosque was canceled because of the protests. At the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts, half a dozen students, with the school director’s permission, lined up just inside the school’s front door and stood with arms crossed over black T-shirts that read: “No torture. No compromise.” Then when Rice attended a performance by the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, one prominent musician refused to perform, in protest against the Iraq war.
Freed kidnapped journalist Jill Carroll has been reunited with her family. On Sunday she met with her parents and twin sister in Boston. Carroll said “I finally feel like I am alive again. I feel so good.” She was freed on Thursday after being held hostage for 82 days. On Saturday Carroll announced she was forced to appear in a propaganda video as a price of her freedom. Her editor Richard Bergenheim, of the Christian Science Monitor read a statement of hers on Saturday: ” Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not. The people who kidnapped me and murdered Alan Enwiya are criminals, at best. They robbed Alan of his life and devastated his family. They put me, my family and my friends—and all those around the world, who have prayed so fervently for my release—through a horrific experience. I was, and remain, deeply angry with the people who did this.”
In Washington, President Nixon’s former legal counsel John Dean testified on Friday in favor of censuring President Bush for ordering the National Security Agency to conduct domestic surveillance without legally required court warrants. Dean spoke at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to discuss Sen. Russell Feingold’s calls to censure the president. Also testifying in favor of censure was Bruce Fein, a conservative legal scholar and former Reagan administration official. He said that Bush’s claim of inherent constitutional authority “has no stopping point.” So far Feingold has received little support from his own party — only two other Democrats attended Friday’s hearing: Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin.
The London Telegraph is reporting senior military officials from Britain are meeting today to discuss possible military strikes against Iran and the consequences of a U.S. attack. According to the paper, British officials now believe that the Bush administration is prepared to attack Iran on its own or with the assistance from Israel even if there is little international support. The paper outlined one possible attack scenario like this: U.S. ships and submarines stationed in the Gulf would begin by firing tactical tomahawk cruise missiles at Iran’s air defense systems. Then B2 stealth bombers would drop satellite-guided bunker-busting bombs on suspected sites connected to Iran’s nuclear program. One senior official in the British Foreign Office told the newspaper “The belief in some areas of Whitehall is that an attack is now all but inevitable.” But some British officials are concerned that an attack within Iran will unhinge southern Iraq where British troops are stationed.
Meanwhile the Washington Post is reporting that U.S. intelligence and terrorism experts now believe Iran would respond to U.S. military strikes by deploying intelligence operatives to carry out attacks against U.S. targets abroad and civilians in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. The Iranian-backed group Hezbollah has carried out attacks against the U.S. targets before including the 1983 truck bombing of a Marine barrack in Beirut killing 241 and a 1996 truck bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. service members.
In other news from Britain — Tony Blair’s government is now acknowledging for the first time that the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq provided motivation for the four British suicide bombers who killed 52 people in London last July. According to the Observer newspaper, the British Home Office is preparing a report that concludes the men were radicalized by Britain’s foreign policy particularly in Iraq. Shortly after the July 7th attacks, British MP George Galloway said Londoners had “paid the price” for the British government’s decision to attack Iraq and Afghanistan. But until now the government has tried to claim there were no ties between the bombings and the Iraq war.
Meanwhile the Times of London reports high ranking British intelligence agents have warned Tony Blair in a top secret memo that the war in Iraq will make Britain a target of attacks by Al Qaida for many years to come.
In news from Capitol Hill, a former top aide to Rep. Tom DeLay has pleaded guilty in connection to a lobbying scandal involving Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The aide — Tony Rudy — is Delay’s former deputy chief of staff. He admitted accepting cash and other gifts and favors while working in the leadership office as well as after leaving government to become a lobbyist. In November, Delay’s former press secretary Michael Scanlon also plead guilty as part of an expanding Congressional corruption probe.
In New Orleans, over 2,000 demonstrators rallied on Saturday to protest the city’s plans for this month’s city elections. The Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and others called on the city to set up satellite polling places in areas like Houston to allow city residents who evacuated after Hurricane Katrina to vote in the city election. “The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is currently in the courts right now to attempt to provide satellite voter locations similar to those awarded Iraqi citizens and Bosnian citizens,” said Algenita Scott Davis, the former head of the National Bar Association. “We want that same right. We want satellite voting for citizens or the election delayed. People don’t know where they can vote, they don’t know how to vote, they’re being charged a poll tax of transportation just to come to vote.”
In labor news, janitors at Nova Southeast University have voted to join janitors at the University of Miami in a strike against UNICCO — the company hired by both schools to clean the campus. Janitors at both schools have accused the company of unfair labor practices.
Meanwhile in Denver, transit workers have gone on strike for the first time in 24 years.
And the New York Times is reporting, New York City’s black population is declining for the first time since the draft riots during the Civil War. According to census data, 30,000 fewer African-Americans lived in the city in 2004 than in 2000.