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HeadlinesAugust 21, 2006

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Kofi Annan: Israeli Raid Violated Ceasefire

Aug 21, 2006

The United Nations is warning the week-old ceasefire in the Middle East could soon unravel. On Saturday, Israel airlifted a team of commandos to raid a Hezbollah outpost. Dressed as Lebanese troops, the Israeli soldiers carried out the attack apparently as part of a rescue mission or to capture a high-ranking Hezbollah official named Sheik Mohammed Yazbek. One Israeli officer was killed in the raid. No Hizbollah leaders were arrested. Israel claimed it was trying to stop the shipment of arms to Hezbollah.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan called the Israeli raid a violation of Security Council Resolution 1701.

  • Senior UN Envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen: “At the same time, we are at the tilting edge still and this can easily start sliding again and lead us quickly into the abyss of violence and bloodshed. This is why diplomacy is so important because it is only forceful, energetic diplomacy in the political field, nationally in the region and internationally, which can produce that up side and prevent that horrible down side which we have seen the results of over the last few weeks.”

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mark Regev defended the raid.

  • Mark Regev: “We had specific information that a weapons shipment from Syria for Hizbollah. That is in direct violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution that established the ceasefire and we were responding to that violation of the ceasefire. Had the Lebanese forces and the international forces been there at the border as the resolution says they should be preventing such a shipment of weapons of course we wouldn’t have had to act.”

Over the weekend, Israeli officials vowed to assassinate Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. In addition, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Israel is making preparations for what he called the “next round” of war.

Israel Accused of Carpeting Lebanon With Cluster Bombs

Aug 21, 2006

A British group that clears landmines has accused Israel of “carpeting” Lebanese border villages with deadly cluster bombs. The Telegraph newspaper of London reports that the Mines Advisory Group has found that extreme quantities of cluster bombs had been dropped on scores of Lebanese villages during the final days of the conflict last week. At least four people, including two teenage boys, have died after stepping on the cluster bombs. 16 other people been injured.

Israeli Reservists Sign Petition Criticizing Gov’t Handling of War

Aug 21, 2006

In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is coming under increasing pressure over his handling of the war. Hundreds of Army reservists have signed a petition criticizing the military’s top brass for failing to clearly define the goals of the war. The reservists wrote “The heavy feeling is that in the echelons above us there is nothing but under-preparation, insincerity, lack of foresight and inability to make rational decisions. It leads to the question: were we called up for nothing?” Many critics of Olmert are calling for the establishment of a state commission to investigate the government’s handling of the war.

Israeli Gov’t Abducts Two More Palestinian Parliamentarians

Aug 21, 2006

The Israeli government has abducted two more members of the Palestinian Parliament. On Saturday, Israeli troops detained the Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Shaer. Then on Sunday, another senior Palestinian parliament figure, Mahmoud al-Ramahi, was seized by Israeli troops. Both officials are members of the ruling Hamas party. In late June, the Israeli military arrested seven Hamas government ministers and some 20 legislators. Palestinian Government Spokesperson Ghazi Hammad accused Israel of trying to destabilize the government.

  • Palestinian Government Spokesperson Ghazi Hammad: “It is an obvious message to the world that Israel does not want a Palestinian political system or even stability in the Palestinian life. You can realize that this arrest comes after two days of (Palestinian) dialogues to perform a unity government. Israel wants to abort this and all the efforts to form this government.”

Israeli Blocks Airplanes From Photographing Oil Spill

Aug 21, 2006

Clean-up crews are continuing to help contain the massive oil spill off the coast of Lebanon. The spill has now polluted about 124 miles of the Lebanese and Syrian coastlines. The spill began when Israel bombed a fuel tank on the Lebanese coast. Over the weekend, the Israeli government rejected a request from the French government to allow an expert in cleaning oil spills to be allowed to fly over the contaminated areas. The expert, Rick Steiner, criticized Israel’s decision.

  • Rick Steiner: “Even with well defined flight plan, in a very clear symbol mission to asses the oil from air we were not allowed to do it. That is really unfortunate in my point of view. I really appreciated that the French made this request on our behalf and were willing to this to support us. I am very disappointed that the Israeli military refused the request.”

Meanwhile Lebanese fisherman say the oil spill has devastated their livelihood.

Snipers Kill 20 Shiite Pilgrims in Iraq; 300 Wounded

Aug 21, 2006

In Iraq, at least 20 Shiite pilgrims died on Sunday after they were shot by snipers as they marched through Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad. Another 300 people were wounded. The Shiites were marking one of the holiest days of their religious year. The shootings came after the Iraqi government imposed a two-day ban on all vehicular traffic in Baghdad.

Length of Iraq War Exceeds Length of U.S. Involvement in WWII

Aug 21, 2006

Meanwhile more than 1250 days have passed since the U.S. invaded Iraq. The length of the ongoing war in Iraq is now a week longer than the U.S. involvement in World War II.

New Trial Opens Against Saddam Hussein

Aug 21, 2006

In other news from Iraq, Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein went on trial today on charges of killing tens of thousands of Kurds with poison gas in the late 1980s. Hussein refused to enter a plea to the charges. At the time of the attacks, Hussein was still backed by the United States. In 1991, U.S. intelligence sources told the Los Angeles Times that they believe that Hussein used American-built helicopters to drop bombs on Kurdish civilians.

U.S. Judge Throws Out Iraqi Contractor Verdict

Aug 21, 2006

Meanwhile a U.S. federal judge has thrown out a $10 million verdict against private military contractor Custer Battles for defrauding the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

Bush “Strongly Disagrees” With NSA Ruling

Aug 21, 2006

President Bush says he strongly disagrees with last week’s judicial ruling that his administration’s warrant-less surveillance program is unconstitutional and must be stopped. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor found that the program violated freedom of speech, protections against unreasonable searches and a constitutional check on the power of the presidency. In her ruling, Taylor wrote: “There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution.” On Saturday President Bush criticized the ruling.

  • President Bush: “This country of ours is at war and we must give those whose responsibility it is to protect the United States the tools necessary to protect this country in a time of war. The judges decision, I strongly disagree with that decision, strongly disagree that’s why I instructed the justice department to appeal immediately and I believe our appeals will be upheld.”

TV Networks Focus on JonBenet Ramsey Case Over NSA Ruling

Aug 21, 2006

The major court ruling on the National Security Agency surveillance program has received scant coverage from the nation’s three major networks. On Thursday, ABC, CBS and NBC all led their nightly broadcasts with the latest in the 1996 murder case of child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. ABC devoted twice as much time in its broadcast to Ramsey as it did to the NSA story. CBS offered seven times as much airtime to Ramsey as it did to the NSA story. And NBC devoted 15 times more airtime to Ramsey.

UK Probes Legality of U.S. Monitoring of Bank Transaction

Aug 21, 2006

The Guardian newspaper reports an investigation is underway in Britain into whether the British government’s violated British and European law when it cooperated with U.S. efforts to monitor international banking transactions.

First CIA Civilian Contractor Convicted for Assaulting Detainee

Aug 21, 2006

In news on Afghanistan, a CIA civilian contractor has been found guilty of assaulting a detainee in Afghanistan. David Passaro is the first civilian to be convicted of abusing prisoners in Iraq or Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch criticized the Justice Department for not prosecuting other civilians who have been involved in the deaths and torture detainees in U.S.-run prisons.

U.S. Names CIA Official to Head Venezuelan & Cuban Spy Ops

Aug 21, 2006

The Bush administration has named a longtime CIA official to oversee spy operations on Venezuela and Cuba. The official, Patrick Maher, was appointed last week. Up until now, a comparable post had only existed for Iran and North Korea. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez decried the decision and nicknamed Maher “Jack the Ripper.”

  • Hugo Chavez: On one hand, this honours us, that they put us with revolutionary Cuba; it honours us that they catalogue us with rebel, heroic and revolutionary Cuba and together with comrade Fidel Castro and the Cuban people, with comrade Raul Castro and all the Cuban political and military officials. It says here: 'the director of intelligence for Cuba and Venezuela co-ordinates the efforts of the U.S. spy community to obtain and analyse intelligence information in both nations.'”

Congo Presidential Run-Off Set For October

Aug 21, 2006

A run-off presidential election is going to be held in the Democratic Republic of Congo. President Joseph Kabila failed to win 50 percent of the vote in last month’s election forcing a run-off in October with runner-up Jean-Pierre Bemba. The July election marked the country’s first multi-party vote in over 45 years ago.

AP: 80 Military Recruiters Disciplined for Sexual Misconduct

Aug 21, 2006

The Associated Press has revealed that more than 80 military recruiters have been disciplined over the past year for sexual misconduct. According to AP, military recruiters have preyed upon more then 100 young women who expressed interest in joining the military. Women were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams. One 18-year-old victim said “This should never be allowed to happen. The recruiter had all the power. He had the uniform. He had my future. I trusted him.” The victims have typically been between 16 and 18 years old. They usually met the recruiters at their high schools and the sexual misconduct almost always takes place in recruiting stations, recruiters’ apartments or government vehicles/

Families of Kidnapped Journalists Plea for Their Release

Aug 21, 2006

The families of the two journalists kidnapped last week in Gaza have pleaded for the release of their loved ones. Fox News correspondent Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig were kidnapped a week ago.

  • Anita McNaught, Olaf Wiig’s wife: “… He and Steve were here because they wanted to be here, because as journalists they wanted to tell the Palestinian story. He cares about the Palestinian people. He is in the hands of the Palestinian people. But because of what has happened to him, we are all hostages now. We are all in jail. It is so destructive. This achieves nothing.”

New Orleans Sued For Abandoning City Resident After Katrina

Aug 21, 2006

A New Orleans man has filed suit against the city and the state of Louisiana for abandoning his 91-year-old mother after Hurricane Katrina. The woman, Ethel Mayo Freeman, died outside the Convention Center on Sept. 1 after she failed to receive needed medical care. She died sitting in her wheelchair. Images of her were broadcast around the world as her corpse remained outside the Convention Center. Her son, Herbert Freeman, says he watched over his mother’s body for two days. But help never came. He is suing the city and state for wrongful death. Her story is featured in Spike Lee’s new documentary on Katrina which premieres tonight.

American Apparel Threatens to Sue Magazine

Aug 21, 2006

In media news, the clothing company American Apparel has threatened to take legal action against the magazine Clamor if it proceeds with plans to publish a series of articles criticizing the company. Clamor magazine’s forthcoming issue features a special section called American Apparel Exposed criticizing the company’s business model and the company’s founder Dov Charney. The company accused the magazine of practicing “gross, blatant, negligent and irresponsible journalism.”

Mexican Mother Stays in Chicago Church to Avoid Deportation

Aug 21, 2006

In Chicago, a rally was held Sunday to support a Mexican woman who is seeking sanctuary inside a Chicago church in an attempt to defy the government’s attempts to deport her. Elvira Arellano has been living in the church since Tuesday, when she was supposed to surrender to authorities for deportation. Arellano is president of United Latino Family, a group that lobbies for families that could be split by deportation. She was born in Mexico and came to the country as an undocumented immigrant. Her seven-year-old son was born in the United States and is a U.S. citizen. “I’m going to fight so that my son and I will be respected,” she said. “So that all undocumented immigrants will be respected.”

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