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Dozens of people are dead following a wave of attacks targeting Shiite and Sunni areas of Baghdad. On Sunday, at least forty-two people were killed when masked gunmen attacked a Sunni neighborhood. Within hours, at least nineteen people were killed and fifty-nine wounded when two car bombs hit a Shiite mosque in northern Baghdad.
Four more soldiers have been charged with the rape of a young Iraqi woman and the murder of her and three family members. Prosecutors say the troops conspired with ex-soldier Steven Green, who was arrested last week. A fifth active soldier was also charged with dereliction of duty for failing to report the crime. A newly-released copy of her identity card shows the rape victim, Abeer Qasim Hamza, was fourteen years old. For more than a week since the killings came to light US officials have claimed she was twenty. Abeer Qasim Hamza would have turned fifteen next month.
Meanwhile, a high-ranking military probe has concluded senior Marine officers were negligent in investigating last year’s massacre of twenty-four Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha. The investigator, Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, says the officers failed to question inaccurate and misleading information when it was first reported to them. Chiarelli has recommended unspecified disciplinary action. If charged, the Marine officers would be among the most senior US military officials to be brought to justice since the start of the Iraq war.
In other news from Iraq, the Los Angeles Times is reporting brutality and corruption continue to pervade Iraq’s police force. According to government documents, the known abuses include the rape and killing of detainees, the release of terrorism suspects in exchange for bribes, assassinations of police officers and participation in insurgent bombings. The vast majority of cases have gone unpunished. In one case, the infamous force responsible for keeping scores of detainees in the basement of an Interior Ministry compound remains intact — and works in the same building as US officials.
The death toll from Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip has now hit forty-three. All but one are Palestinian. On Saturday, an Israeli air strike killed a mother and two her of children as they held a family barbecue in the backyard of their home. Another family member was left badly injured. United Nations aid agencies are warning Gaza is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster and say civilians are paying the price of Israel’s attack. The UN says food prices have increased by ten percent in the last three weeks due to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza border. The UN also called on Israel to repair the damage to Gaza’s main power plant. Gaza has been without power for up to eighteen hours per day. In a statement, the agencies said the offensive has: "brought increased misery to hundreds of thousands of people and will wreak far-reaching harm on Palestinian society." Palestinian leaders continued their pleas for international aid.
In Mexico, supporters of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have filed a request for a full vote-by-vote recount of last week’s Presidential election. Conservative candidate Felipe Calderon was declared the winner by just over half a percentage point. Lopez Obrador says the elections were marred with numerous mistakes and abuses at at least 50,000 voting stations. On Saturday, Lopez Obrador addressed his supporters at a rally attended by more than a quarter of a million people in Mexico City.
Lopez Obrador also called on supporters to gather at electoral offices across the country Wednesday for a massive march on Mexico City. His opponent, Felipe Calderon, cannot be declared president-elect until Mexico’s electoral court rules on the case. But Calderon has already taken congratulatory phone calls from several foreign leaders — including President Bush.
In East Timor, Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta was sworn in today as the country’s new Prime Minister. Horta was appointed following the resignation of Mari Alkatiri. Alkatiri had been blamed for three months of unrest following his decision to dismiss hundreds of troops from the military.
Here in the United States, a Congressionally ally of the Bush administration has revealed the White House is concealing at least one major intelligence operation. Congressmember Peter Hoekstra, a Republican of Michigan who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, says he learned of the operation from government whistleblowers concerned the White House had not briefed Congress as it is required to do on under federal law. Hoekstra wrote a letter to the Bush administration in May that says: "If these allegations are true, they may represent a breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of law, and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the members of this committee who have ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies." Hoekstra has been a vocal supporter of the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping and financial spying.
The FBI has revealed new details of the alleged plotted to bomb a New York commuter tunnel.
Initial reports had listed the target as the Holland Tunnel. Three people are in custody, including alleged mastermind Assem Hammoud in Lebanon. Authorities say Hammoud was arrested with blueprints of the targets and plans for bombing them on his computer. They say he later confessed to Lebanese authorities he was acting on orders from Osama bin Laden. But questions are being raised about the case. A senior intelligence official told CBS News the alleged plot amounted to "jihadist bravado" and never reached beyond talking over the internet. Officials also said investigators determined the tunnels were being targeted after piecing together code words from the online conversations. Hammoud’s mother says her son is an economics teacher who drinks alcohol and has showed no signs of being a religious extremist.
This news from Guantanamo Bay — the US government is coming under criticism for what lawyers and critics call a new assault on the rights of detainees. The military has suspended detainees’ rights to receive confidential papers from their attorneys. Prosecutors are also asking for court permission to go through thousands of pages of documents currently protected by attorney-client privilege. The government says it has evidence last month’s three suicides were part of a larger plot aided by the use of confidential lawyer-client papers and envelopes that could be exchanged without interference from guards. Defense lawyers say the government is making the allegations to hamper their ability to represent their clients. Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents hundreds of Guantanamo detainees, called the allegations "patently offensive" and "outrageous."
The website CNET News.com is reporting the FBI has drafted legislation that would open the door to massive surveillance of internet users. The legislation would force Internet service providers to create wiretapping hubs for police surveillance and require manufacturers to build in "backdoor" technology into computer networks that would allow for easy eavesdropping. The surveillance would be approved under an expansion of the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.
A former leader of a Haitian death squad who now lives in New York was arrested last week for taking part in mortgage fraud. During the early 1990s, Emmanuel "Toto" Constant led the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti or FRAPH. Human rights group estimate FRAPH killed thousands of supporters of Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide. Constant has since admitted he was on the payroll of the CIA and has lived in New York for the last decade. Despite a deportation order, Constant has been allowed to stay in the US since he threatened to reveal the extent of his ties with the CIA. Constant is also the target of a pending lawsuit that alleges his forces gang-raped women in Haiti. On Friday, a judge set bail at $50,000 dollars over the protests of prosecutors and human rights groups.
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