The Bush administration has slipped in a major change to the Senate bill on interrogations that would allow U.S. citizens to be detained as enemy combatants. Initially the bill defined an enemy combatant as anyone who engaged in hostilities against the United States or its allies but the definition has been expanded to include anyone who has materially supported hostilities against the United States or its allies. The Washington Post reports that human rights experts expressed concern that the language in the new provision would be a precedent-setting congressional endorsement for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens. Meanwhile on Monday, a group of activists from Code Pink stood up in protest over the bill during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The activists stood with their backs toward the Senators while wearing t-shirts that spelled out the phrase “No Torture.” The activists called on the Senators to remove a section of the bill that strips detainees of the right to habeas corpus.
Three retired military officers who served in Iraq called on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Monday. This is retired Major General John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq.
General Batiste went on to say that the Iraq war has fueled Islamic fundamentalism across the globe and created more enemies for the United States. Retired Major General Paul Eaton also testified on Monday and called for Rumsfeld’s resignation.
The Los Angeles Times reports the Army’s top officer withheld his required 2008 budget plan from Pentagon leaders last month in protest. Gen. Peter Schoomaker did this to signal to Rumsfeld that the service could not maintain its current level of activity without billions in additional funding. Schoomaker is seeking a 41 percent budget increase for the Army.
Meanwhile the Pentagon announced on Monday that soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division will be extending its staying in Iraq and the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division will deploy to Iraq next month, 30 days earlier than scheduled. The U.S. has 142,000 troops in Iraq.
In other military news, the Pentagon announced on Monday that three U.S. Marines will go on trial for murdering an unarmed Iraqi civilian in Hamdania in April.
In political news, a former college football teammate of Virginia Senator George Allen has publicly accused him of frequently referring to African-Americans by using the N word. The accusation came from a radiologist in North Carolina named Kendall Shelton. Shelton said Allen had nicknamed him Wizard because his name was similar to a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Shelton also recounted an episode 30 years ago in which he and Allen and a third friend shot a deer while hunting. Shelton said Allen cut the deer’s head off, asked directions to the home of the nearest black person, and shoved the head into that person’s oversized mailbox. On Monday Senator Allen called Shelton’s recollections “absolutely false,” “pure fabrication” and “nonsense.” But later that day a professor at Alabama University came forward to say he too heard Allen use an inflammatory epithet for African Americans. The New Republic reported in April, Allen had worn a Confederate flag pin in his high school yearbook picture. Allen’s campaign against Democratic contender James Webb has suffered greatly since he was caught on tape referring to a man of Indian descent as a Macaca.
In other political news, a group calling itself the National Black Republican Association has begun taking out radio ads in Maryland and Ohio urging African Americans to vote Republican. The ads allege that Martin Luther King was a Republican.
The Israeli military is continuing to hold 18 Palestinian lawmakers after an Israeli court denied them bail on Monday. The politicians also face possible trials for their membership in Hamas. They were seized in a series of raids in Gaza and the West Bank. The lawmakers include Palestinian parliament speaker Aziz Dweik and several Palestinian cabinet members. Taleb Assana, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, criticized Israel’s move.
In Nepal, 24 people have died after a helicopter chartered by the conservation group World Wildlife Fund crashed. There were no survivors. On board were 17 Nepalis, a Finnish diplomat, two Americans, a Canadian, an Australian and two Russians.
There is a development in the case of Tariq Ramadan. He is the prominent Swiss Muslim intellectual who was blocked from entering the United States to accept a teaching position at the University of Notre Dame. After a two year wait, the United States has officially rejected his visa on the grounds that he once gave money to a French-based Palestinian charity. The United States claims the organization has ties to Hamas even though it is a legal charity in France. Ramadan criticized the government’s rejection of his visa saying it was done for ideological reasons. Ramadan is now teaching at Oxford.
In Charlotte North Carolina, six people were arrested on Saturday at the city’s Human Rights Fest. Police shot one protester with a Taser stun gun. Another protester — David Crane — was hospitalized with broken ribs and a punctured lung. Protest organizers said four or five police officers held Crane down and beat him. The police attempted to shut down the gathering even though organizers had a permit. 700 people have already signed an online petition calling on the police to drop the charges filed against the arrested protesters. Organizers in Charlotte are planning to hold another rally on Saturday calling for the impeachment of President Bush.
Attorneys in Michigan are preparing to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the state’s Department of Corrections over the death of prisoner who suffered from a bipolar disorder. According to the Detroit Free Press, Timothy Joe Sounders died after spending most of his last four days with his arms and legs strapped to a steel bed in four-point restraints in a hot isolation cell. He was naked and soaked in his urine. He was 21 years old. Authorities haven’t released an autopsy yet but one expert witness called it “death by torture.” The Michigan Department of Corrections initially told his family that he had died in his sleep. Sounders is at least the third mentally ill prisoner to die under similar circumstances in Michigan in recent years. Also expected to be sued in the case is Correctional Medical Services, the private company that handles health services in Michigan’s prisons.
And in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a law requiring the state’s massive pension system divest from investing in some companies in Sudan. The bill is narrowly tailored to force divestment of only those companies that provide revenue or weapons to the Sudanese government and refuse to change their practices.