Thousands of Lebanese refugees are continuing to return home as a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah enters its second day. Residents of the border town of Ayta al-Shaab returned Monday to find it in complete ruins. Entire neighborhoods throughout Southern Lebanon have been destroyed. Meanwhile in Beirut, rescue workers spent much of Monday searching through rubble. Israel continued to bomb southern Beirut up until the ceasefire went into effect. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan praised both sides for largely upholding the ceasefire.
Meanwhile, Israeli cluster bombs are continuing to kill and injure people in Lebanon. One person was killed Monday and at least 18 others were injured when Israeli clusters bomb exploded. A doctor at the public hospital in Nabatieh warned about the dangers posed by unexploded cluster bombs: “Children were playing or holding something from this (unexploded) munition and it exploded,” the doctor said. “One child was killed and a family of five was wounded.” The United Nations and the Lebanese government have urged residents to exercise extreme caution due to the large quantities of unexploded artillery and mortar shells strewn across the countryside. Last week the United Nations Security Counci called on Israel to provide all remaining maps of land mines in Lebanon.
On Monday, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah told supporters in a televised address that Hezbollah had achieved a strategic and historic victory.
Here in the United States, President Bush rejected Nasrallah’s claim of victory.
And in Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to continue to pursue members of Hezbollah.
Aid groups are continuing to send large amounts of food, water and medicine into southern Lebanon. This is Astrid Van Genderen Stort, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
On Monday, President Bush accused Iran of backing Hizbollah as well as death squads in Iraq.
The president’s comments came on the same day that the US military accused Iranian forces of training and providing weapons to Shiite groups in Iraq.
In other news from Iraq, the Los Angeles Times is reporting over one thousand police officers in Fallujah have left their jobs after receiving death threats. The mass resignation occurred after pamphlets were distributed in the city reading “We will kill all the policemen infidels whether or not they quit or are still in their jobs.” The size of Fallujah’s police force has shrunk from two thousand to just about one hundred.
The journalist Jill Carroll has begun speaking about her kidnapping in Iraq. Her newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, is publishing a 10-part series chronicling her 82 days in captivity.
Meanwhile over the past two weeks, six journalists have been killed in Iraq. On August 7, the editor of a Shiite newspaper was shot in his Baghdad house by gunmen. That same day, the body of an Iraqi freelance journalist was discovered in Sadr City. On July 29, gunmen shot and killed a correspondent for the Iranian satellite channel Al-Alam. On the following day, a Shiite reporter for a weekly newspaper was shot in Mosul. The bodies of two other journalists were found on August 1. According to Reporters Without Borders, three other Iraqi journalists are being held hostage.
Meanwhile in Gaza, Palestinian gunmen have kidnapped two journalists working for Fox News. The network says it does not know who seized the men but that negotiations are underway.
In Haiti, the well-known singer and political activist Annette Auguste, has been released after spending over two years in a Haitian jail. Auguste, who is also known as So Anne, was jailed shortly after the 2004 coup that ousted Haitian President Jean Betrand Aristide. She was one of the most prominent Aristide supporters to be jailed under the U.S.-backed Haitian government. Last month Haiti’s former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune was released after spending over two years in jail. Supporters of Aristide are now calling on the new government in Haiti to release all political prisoners.
In Cuba, more evidence has emerged showing that Fidel Castro is recovering from his recent operation. Cuban television has aired footage of Casto’s bedside meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The two met on Sunday, Castro’s 80th birthday. Chavez praised Fidel Castro’s recovery.
In Toronto, at the 16th International Aids Conference, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has criticized the Bush administration’s push for abstinence policies. Gates said the ”ABC” program promoting abstinence, being faithful and using a condom has saved many lives. But Gates said the power to prevent HIV must be put in the hands of women. He said abstinence is often not an option for poor women and girls; being faithful will not protect a woman whose partner is not faithful. And he said that using condoms is not a decision that a woman can make by herself. Gates said “A woman should never need her partner’s permission to save her own life.”
In media news, the New York Times has publicly admitted that it decided not to publish its groundbreaking expose on the Bush administration’s secret domestic surveillance program until after the presidential 2004 election. The paper’s Executive Editor Bill Keller said “the climactic discussion about whether to publish was right on the eve of the election.” The paper decided not to run the story until this past December. When the story finally ran on December 16, 2005, the paper admitted that it had delayed publication for a year after concerns were raised by senior administration officials. But at the time the paper did not reveal the story had been held from before the 2004 election.
In other media news, a Bush administration official is coming under criticism for regularly appearing as a commentator on Fox News and PBS without revealing her government position. The official, Karen Czarnecki, serves as deputy assistant secretary at the Labor Department. She is paid to be a commentator on the PBS show “To the Contrary.” Instead of being identified as a Bush administration official, she is described as a “conservative analyst.” On Fox News, Czarnecki has been described as a “conservative strategist.” The Washington Post reports her television role has been cleared by career ethics staff at the Labor Department. .
A new government report has determined that the number of alleged violations committed by military recruiters has increased by 50 percent over the past year. The Government Accountability Office launched its investigation of recruiters after an Army recruiter in Houston threatened to arrest a young man if he didn’t drop by the recruiting station. Last week two recruiters in Oregon were disciplined after they tried to sign up an autistic teenager from Portland.
In other military news, new figures show that the Defense Department discharged 726 service members last year for being gay. That is an increase of about 10 percent from 2004.
In political news, Republican Congressional candidates are being urged to portray their Democratic opponents as being soft on fighting terror. On Friday the National Republican Congressional Committee sent out a memo that read “In the days to come, you should move to question your opponent’s commitment to the defeat of terror, and in turn, create a definitive contrast on the issue.” The memo came just a day after Vice President Dick Cheney said Ned Lamont’s victory in the Connecticut Democratic primary over Senator Joseph Lieberman might encourage “Al Qaeda types.” On CNN, anchor Chuck Roberts suggested Lamont was the “Al Qaeda candidate.” Lieberman, himself, warned that Lamont’s victory could be viewed as a victory for terrorists. He said, “If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England. It will strengthen them and they will strike again.”
In New York, the police department has proposed a new series of regulations that would criminalize many protests in the city. The NYPD wants the city to require that police permits be required for any gathering of 35 or more people on the city’s streets. Currently groups can hold relatively small protests, such as picket lines or vigils, without a permit as long as there is no sound system. In addition the NYPD wants to make it illegal for bikers to ride in groups of more than 20 people without a police permit. Also the police wants the power to arrest any group of two or more pedestrians or cyclists who violate any traffic law, rule or regulation. Under the proposed rules, the police could arrest a couple for parading without a permit if they jaywalked. A public hearing has been scheduled for August 23.
In a separate initiative, the Speaker of the City Council in New York has proposed that the city’s nightclubs be required to install security cameras at their entrances and exits. The proposal has been widely criticized by New York’s gay community. One longtime gay activist said the idea smacks of Big Brother.
And a memorial service is scheduled for this Sunday in Washington DC for Dorothy Ray Healey. The longtime labor organizer, civil rights activist and radio commentator died last week at the age of 91. From the late 1940s through the 1960s she was chairwoman of the Southern California district of the Communist Party USA. She was also a longtime programmer on Pacifica Radio, first at KPFK in Los Angeles and later at WPFW in Washington. In 1951, she and 14 other Californians were indicted and convicted under the Smith Act for conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence. Although she was sentenced to five years in prison, her sentence was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1957. In 1962 Dorothy Healey explained why she became a communist.