An Armenian passenger plane has crashed off Russia’s Black Sea coast, killing all 113 people on board. Armenian airline officials say they suspect the crash was due to bad weather.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans have dropped a proposal to provide consumers with $100 dollar rebates to offset rising gas costs. The idea was floated last week amidst a growing public outcry over record fuel prices. The abandonment of the rebate plan comes just one day after Republicans said they would also drop a tax proposal opposed by the oil industry and other business leaders. Republican House Speaker Denis Hastert said Republicans would focus their efforts on opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Hastert made the announcement after meeting with ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. Speaking in Washington, New York Senator Chuck Schumer criticized the Republicans’ ties to the oil industry: “The last person in the world you want to make oil policy in America is George Bush. Because George Bush believes in his bones that what is good for Exxon Mobil is good for America that’s how he was raised, that’s how he was brought up, he can’t do anything against. And that’s why the policies that he and his Republican leadership have come up with are sort of a joke.”
In Iraq, 15 people were killed and 30 wounded earlier today when a suicide bomber attacked a recruitment line outside a Fallujah police station. Meanwhile, police in Baghdad said they’ve found the bodies of at least 14 men who had been tied up and shot dead. According to Reuters, Baghdad’s main morgue received at least 65 bodies on Monday and Tuesday.
Meanwhile, an unidentified Iraqi ambulance worker was killed Tuesday when he was shot by a group of American security contractors. The worker’s colleague, Abu Ali, described the attack: “We were driving here to deliver a case (to the hospital) when a bomb went off close to a passing convoy of Americans. They (the Americans) opened fire on him, shooting him in his heart. Their sniper shot him twice and one of them in his heart. What is his crime? We are ambulance drivers who help people during attacks. What have we done wrong?”
In other Iraq news, two German engineers were freed Tuesday after nearly 16 weeks in captivity. The men were abducted in late January from an oil refinery north of Baghdad.
In Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has abandoned his bid to cling to power following his loss in last month’s national elections. Berlusconi submitted his resignation Tuesday. Romano Prodi, leader of the winning centre-left coalition, is expected to be named Prime Minister in the coming weeks.
In Mexico, President Vicente Fox is expected to sign into law a measure that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and heroin. The measure was approved by the Mexican Senate Friday over the strong objection of US officials.
Back in the United States, the release of thousands of de-classified military documents is raising new questions about the role of senior army commanders in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. According to the ACLU, the documents show Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former top U.S. military commander in Iraq, urged his troops to “go to the outer limits” to extract information from prisoners. Previously released documents have linked Sanchez to the use of army dogs during interrogations.
The Bush administration is coming under criticism from consumer and health advocates over a new Federal Trade Commission and Health and Human Services report that advocates say is too lax on food marketing and childhood obesity. Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert, said: “The [junk food] industry will be thrilled that the government recommends no federal restrictions on junk food marketing to children, despite the continued worsening of the childhood obesity epidemic… The report shows, once again, that the Bush administration cares more about the profits of the food industry than the health of our children.”
Meanwhile, the foundation run by former President Bill Clinton has announced a deal with this country’s major beverage companies to end the sale of soft drinks in US public schools. Under the agreement, companies including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Cadbury Schweppes have agreed to sell only low or non-fattening drinks to elementary and middle schools. Diet sodas will be sold only in high schools. An estimated 35 million students will be affected by the deal.
And finally, in Boston, a free speech controversy has erupted at Brandeis University over the removal of an exhibition featuring the paintings of Palestinian youths. The exhibit’s 17 paintings depicted the young artists’ perspectives on life under Israeli military occupation. But just four days into a two-week run, the exhibit was removed by Brandeis officials after several complaints from students. A university spokesperson said the school would consider re-mounting the paintings if they were to appear alongside paintings showing an Israeli perspective. The exhibition was curated by an Israeli Jewish student who said she wanted to showcase a Palestinian perspective on campus. The student, Lior Halperin, said: ’’This was an opportunity to bring to Brandeis the Palestinian voice that is not spoken or heard through an Israeli or an American Jew, but directly delivered from Palestinians. Obviously that was just too much for Brandeis.”