A bombing in India has killed at least 66 people aboard a train bound for Pakistan. The attack came on the eve of peace talks between the two countries. Most of the victims were Pakistani. Indian officials said explosives were found in two suitcases.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri: “The timing is very, very — I suppose, it’s indicative of the minds of those who’ve done it. I’ll be leaving tomorrow for Delhi to further the peace process. I don’t think governments of India and Pakistan would, or definitely should not, allow this incident to or the perpetrators of the incident to achieve their objectives.”
In Baghdad, 60 people died on Sunday in a pair of car bombings in a mainly Shiite shopping district. It was the deadliest attack in the Iraqi capital since U.S. and Iraqi troops began a security crackdown last week. Minutes before the attack, a joint patrol of U.S. and Iraqi police had posed for pictures on the street corner where the first bomb exploded. The attack came a day after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Baghdad and said the new security effort in Baghdad appeared to be off to a good start. On Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called the crackdown a “dazzling success.” Another 18 people died in a series of bombings in Baghdad today.
On Capitol Hill, the House has passed a nonbinding resolution opposing the escalation of the war in Iraq. The resolution passed by a 246-to-182 vote. Meanwhile in the Senate, Republicans on Saturday blocked a vote on a similar resolution.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: “The passage of this legislation will signal a change in direction in Iraq that will end the fighting and bring our troops home safely and soon.”
Several Democratic lawmakers are now proposing ways to limit President Bush’s power to expand the war.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chair of Senate Armed Forces Committee: “I think we’ll be looking at a modification of that authorization in order to limit the mission of American troops to a support mission instead of a combat mission. And that is very different from cutting off funds. I don’t think there is support to cut off funds. I think that sends the wrong message to our troops. We’re going to support our troops, but one way to support them is to find a way out of Iraq earlier rather than later.”
A group of Republicans are continuing to criticize the Democratic leadership for bringing the nonbinding resolution to a vote.
Texas Congressman Sam Johnson: “Debating nonbinding resolutions aimed at earning political points only destroys morale, stymies success, and emboldens the enemy. The grim reality is that this House measure is the first step to cutting funding of the troops.”
Meanwhile, peace activist Cindy Sheehan criticized the Democrats on Saturday for not doing enough to stop the war. She called for the impeachment of President Bush. She spoke at an emergency summit on impeachment in New York.
On the campaign trail, presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton told voters in New Hampshire that she would not describe her vote in support of the invasion of Iraq as a mistake. Clinton said, “If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from.”
The Washington Post is reporting the U.S. Army’s top medical facility — the Walter Reed Army Medical Center — has turned into a “virtual town of desperation and dysfunction.” The paper reports finding hospital rooms infested with mouse droppings, cockroaches, stained carpets, rodents and black mold. On the worst days, soldiers say they feel like they are living a chapter of “Catch-22.” The wounded manage other wounded. Soldiers dealing with psychological disorders of their own have been put in charge of others at risk of suicide.
The Iranian government is accusing the United States and Britain of being involved in an attack last week that killed 11 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The Los Angeles Times reports Iranian officials said bullet cartridges bearing a U.S. insignia and English lettering were among the weaponry seized last week from Sunni militants allegedly involved in the attack. The Iranian allegations come a week after the Bush administration accused the Iranian government of supplying sophisticated bombs to anti-U.S. forces in Iraq.
Meanwhile, a former congressional aide has revealed that President Bush’s chief adviser Karl Rove personally received a copy of a secret offer from the Iranian government to hold negotiations four years ago. The Bush administration decided to ignore the grand bargain offer. Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice claimed she had never even seen the document. At the time, Iran said it would consider far-reaching compromises on its nuclear program, relations with Hezbollah and Hamas and support for a Palestinian peace agreement with Israel. Rove’s involvement was first reported by the Inter Press Service.
In Israel, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has concluded her talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It marked the first high-level talks in four years. The talks come just a week after the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah agreed to form a coalition government. Even before the talks began, Israeli officials dismissed the new Palestinian government.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni: “The agreements between Fatah and Hamas unfortunately … and before the formation of the future Palestinian government, the understandings doesn’t meet the requirements of the international community. It is crucial to understand that Israel, with the international community, expects any Palestinian government to meet these requirements fully and completely.”
In Afghanistan, eight U.S. troops were killed on Sunday when their Chinook helicopter crashed. Fourteen soldiers were also wounded. The Taliban claimed it shot down the helicopter, but U.S. officials said engine failure caused the crash.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports today that groups of Arab, Pakistani and Afghan militants allied with al-Qaeda have resumed running training camps in Pakistan. Unnamed officials told the paper that senior leaders of al-Qaeda based in Pakistan have re-established significant control over their network. One unnamed official told The New York Times that some within the Pentagon are advocating for American airstrikes against the camps inside Pakistan. But State Department officials say increased American pressure could undermine the military-led government of Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
The United Nations is estimating 18,000 children are dying every day because of hunger and malnutrition. The head of the World Food Program, James Morris, said: “This is a shameful fact — a terrible indictment of the world in 2007.” The largest numbers of malnourished children are in India and China. Morris said the hunger crisis has been caused in part by the growing number of natural disasters around the world. According to the World Bank, natural disasters have increased fourfold over the last 30 years.
In environmental news, U.S. government scientists have determined that last month was the warmest January ever recorded. The scientists studied land and ocean surface temperature around the world. The previous warmest January was in 2002.
In Italy, over 100,000 protesters marched in Vicenza on Saturday to protest a plan to double the size of a U.S. military base in the city. Over 2,700 U.S. forces are already based in the Italian city. Critics of the plan say the base will be used as a staging post for the U.S. military to attack Iraq and Afghanistan. The protesters included several Americans, including John Gilbert, a professor at the University of Florence.
John Gilbert: “We are here today from Florence, Rome and other cities as United States citizens to say no to this mega base. Also in solidarity with the people that is demonstrating in New York today, for the retire of all the U.S. troops from Iraq, this demonstrations are complementary. There is nothing anti-American about them. We want a future for our children, which is a future of peace and global justice, not preventive war, no illegal renditions and torture.”
Saturday’s protest in Italy came just a day after an Italian judge indicted 26 Americans, most of them CIA officers, in connection with the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric from the streets of Milan. The Americans are expected to be tried in absentia. The Italian defense attorney Alessia Sorgato has been assigned to represent the CIA agents but she has never communicated with them.
Alessia Sorgato: “I have never seen them. I have never read something from them. We wrote some letters, but they prefer not to answer to us. But this is the right of a defendant not to come here and not to answer to his lawyer. It’s normal.”
The publication Jewish Week is reporting that major donors to Brandeis University have informed the school they will no longer give it money in retaliation for its decision last month to host former President Jimmy Carter. Carter spoke on campus about his new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” Brandeis is considered to be one of the nation’s premier Jewish institutions of higher learning.
In news from Africa, human rights groups are warning that the situation in Guinea has been deteriorating since the government declared martial law last week. Soldiers have been accused of shooting and raping civilians. At least 270 civilians have been arrested in recent days. So far this year, more than 120 people have been killed during union-led protests against Guinea President Lansana Conté, who has ruled the mineral-rich country for the past 23 years.
The League of United Latin American Citizens says the number of undocumented immigrants currently detained in the United States has reached a record of over 26,000. Many of the detained immigrants are being denied access to legal assistance. In Raymondville, Texas, 2,000 immigrants are being held in a compound made up of a series of big tents without windows. Brent Wilkes of the League of United Latin American Citizens said, “It’s like Guantanamo Bay, but these people are not terrorists. They are just immigrants.”
In New Jersey, the state’s civil union law went into effect today. Early this morning, Steven Goldstein and Daniel Gross of Teaneck became the first same-sex couple to be granted all the state’s legal rights of marriage. On Sunday, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey issued a statement applauding the new rights afforded to same-sex couples but said the new law has many shortcomings. The group’s legal director, Ed Barocas, said, “It is a wonderful moment — and a step toward equality — yet it also marks a sad and unfulfilling moment in the history of our state, as it is the day in which we officially institutionalize discrimination.”
A federal appeals court has refused to overturn the detention of a U.S. Army medic who refused to fight in Iraq. The medic, Agustin Aguayo, will now face a court-martial next month for going AWOL. He faces up to seven years in jail.
And in media news, a new study has shown that cable and radio talk shows spent far more time discussing Anna Nicole Smith than the Iraq War in the two days following her death. According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, cable and radio talk shows dedicated 37 percent of their programming to her death. Fourteen percent of the programming focused on the debate over Iraq, and less than 10 percent focused on the race for the White House.