The Bush administration has announced it will enter into talks with Iran if Tehran suspends nuclear enrichment activities. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the announcement Wednesday.
Iran’s government rejected the overture, calling it “propaganda.” Iran’s Foreign Minister later said Tehran would enter into talks with the US but would not give up nuclear enrichment.
A U.S. military probe has uncovered evidence that implicates both Marines and commanders in a cover-up of the killings of innocent Iraqis in the city of Haditha. An army official told the Washington Post officers gave false testimony to their superiors, who in turn failed to investigate information that should have been pursued. The findings back recent statements by Democratic Congressmember John Murtha, who says he was given credible information a cover-up occurred. In Washington, President Bush made his first public comments on the massacre.
Meanwhile in Iraq, Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki said his government would hold US forces accountable for unlawful killings.
In other Iraq news, US troops shot and killed two Iraqi women Wednesday — one of them about to give birth. The women were in a vehicle rushing to the hospital where one of the victims, Nabiha Nisaif Jassim, was to deliver her baby. US troops said their car failed to stop in a prohibited zone despite warnings. But Jassim’s brother, who drove the vehicle, said he never saw or heard any warnings. Doctors failed to save Jassim’s unborn baby. She was the mother of two children. Her cousin was also killed in the attack.
Meanwhile, at least 50 people were reported dead in violence around Iraq Wednesday. In the day’s worst known attack, nine people were killed and 17 wounded in a mortar attack in southern Baghdad.
And in other Iraq news, the Iraqi government has declared a month-long state of emergency in Basra. The southern city is controlled by British troops. The declaration follows one of Basra’s deadliest months since the Iraq invasion. More than 100 people, including nine British troops, were killed in Basra in May.
In Afghanistan, the US military has admitted it fired directly into a crowd of demonstrators during an anti-US protest held in Kabul Monday. The Pentagon initially claimed soldiers had only fired into the air. An Afghan police commander told the New York Times the shootings killed 4 people. The protests broke out after a US military vehicle spun out of control and smashed into several cars, killing three people. At least 14 died and 160 were wounded in the protests.
In Indonesia, relief agencies are reporting an improvement in aid distribution to survivors of Saturday’s massive earthquake. This is Paul Dillon of the International Organization for Migration.
Although improvements have been seen in some areas, the London Independent is reporting at least six villages in the Java region have yet to receive food or water.
In the Occupied Territories, the UN is calling for a dramatic increase in emergency aid for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. The UN says it needs $385 million dollars — an 80 percent increase — to cope with the impact of the international boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
At the UN Wednesday, delegates convened for the first day of a three-day global summit on HIV/AIDS. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside to demand that world leaders listen to people most directly affected by HIV and fulfill commitments to fighting AIDS. The protesters chained themselves in the lobby of the US mission around a large poster that featured a blowup of a letter addressed to Ambassador John Bolton. Police made at least 21 arrests. This is Jeanne Palmer, who took part in the protest.
Meanwhile, President Bush’s AIDS policy was criticized Wednesday by his former AIDS policy director. Scott Everts told Reuters that the Bush administration has reached out to militant Islamic governments, including some it classifies as terrorist states, to try to ensure the 2006 declaration backs abstinence and fidelity as crucial tools against AIDS.
The Supreme Court has issued a decision critics say will severely limit whistleblowing by government employees. In a 5 to 4 vote, the Court ruled the First Amendment does not protect public employees from punishment for complaining to their superiors about possible wrongdoing in the workplace. The decision was handed down in the case of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Richard Ceballos, who says he was disciplined for accusing a police officer of lying to obtain a search warrant. Steven Shapiro, legal director for the ACLU, said: “In an era of excessive government secrecy, the court has made it easier to engage in a government cover-up by discouraging internal whistle-blowing.”
Former Vice President Al Gore has made what some are calling his harshest comments yet on the Bush administration. In an interview with the British newspaper the Guardian, Gore said the White House is run by: “a renegade band of rightwing extremists.” Gore was in Britain to promote “An Inconvenient Truth”, his new documentary on global warming.
And finally, lawmakers here in New York are protesting a Department of Homeland Security decision to allocate forty percent less counter-terrorism funding to the city that bore the brunt of the 9/11 attacks. The cut was announced Wednesday as part of the department’s annual grant package. Republican Congressmember Peter King called the decision “indefensible” and “disgraceful.” King went to say: “As far as I’m concerned the Department of Homeland Security and the administration have declared war on New York.” While some cities will see an increase in aid, Hurricane-ravaged New Orleans is not one of them — the city will receive half of the $9 million-dollars in Homeland Security grants it received last year.