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Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has acknowledged mistakes in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys but is refusing calls to step down. This comes as the House Judiciary Committee has released a series of emails and documents showing the White House initiated the process that led to the dismissals. The decisions were made in part on whether the prosecutors “exhibited loyalty to the president and attorney general.” On Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers say they want to question White House adviser Karl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers.
Meanwhile, two Democratic congressmembers are asking Congress to investigate another attorney dismissal, this one from five years ago. Congressmembers George Miller of California and Nick Rahall of West Virginia want to look into the firing of Frederick Black of the island of Guam. Black had begun investigating the activities of the now-convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff at the time. The probe ended shortly after Black was let go.
In Mexico, a protest outside the U.S. Embassy against President Bush’s visit grew violent Tuesday as demonstrators clashed with police. Police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of people. The scuffles came hours after President Bush promised to reform U.S. immigration laws.
President Bush: “The United States respects the rule of law, but in the debate of migration I remind my fellow citizens that family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River, that there are decent, hard-working, honorable citizens of Mexico who want to make a living for their families. And so, Mr. President, my pledge to you and your government, but more importantly the people of Mexico, is I will work as hard as I possibly can to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
Protests continued to follow President Bush throughout his visit to Mexico. Earlier Tuesday, hundreds turned out in the city of Merida.
Gerardo Fernandez, a spokesperson for the opposition Democratic Revolution Party: “This carpet is for the Bush/Calderon meeting so that when Calderon kneels before Bush his knees won’t get hurt because here the floor is made of sharp stones.”
Mexico is the last stop of President Bush’s Latin America tour. He returns to the U.S. today.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has reportedly told aides he fears the Bush administration will force him out if the Iraqi Parliament fails to pass a draft oil law by the end of June. The Associated Press reports the U.S. has told Maliki he should have a coalition government in place that would be acceptable to the main Sunni U.S. allies — Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.
The U.S. military is expanding two major prisons in Iraq ahead of an expected rise in Iraqi prisoners from the new crackdown in Baghdad. Thousands of prisoners are expected on top of the 17,000 already behind bars.
The U.S. is being accused of bringing its practice of secretly transferring prisoners to East Africa. Human rights advocates in Kenya say the Bush administration has engineered the secret transfers of more than 150 people captured during the recent conflict in Somalia. The prisoners are said to include children as young as seven months. They were held in Kenya before being transferred to secret locations in Somalia and Ethiopia. The McClatchy news service says the State Department declined to respond to questions over its involvement.
In Zimbabwe, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been hospitalized in intensive care as he recovers from a beating at the hands of police. Tsvangirai and dozens of his supporters were detained Sunday as riot police stopped a planned mass protest. Attorneys say he may have suffered a skull fracture and internal bleeding. Earlier Tuesday, Tsvangirai appeared in court for the first time. Accompanied by opposition Senator Arthur Mutambara, he was asked about his condition following the beating.
Morgan Tsvangirai: “Terrible, terrible. Well it was a sadist attack on defenseless people.”
Arthur Mutambara: “We don’t recognize this illegitimate regime of Robert Mugabe. We are going to continue to defy them. We don’t recognize POSA (Public Order Security Act). We don’t recognize Robert Mugabe. They’re criminals.”
The Sudanese government has rejected a U.N. Human Rights Council report accusing it of orchestrating and taking part in international crimes in Darfur. More than 200,000 people have been killed and at least two million driven from their homes over the past four years. On Tuesday, Sudan said the report is invalid and that the humanitarian situation in Darfur has improved. Meanwhile, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour called for more international pressure on Sudan.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour: “The first step is not to suppress the truth, to ensure that the public is properly informed, accurately informed on what is happening on the ground, and that governments collectively put to the government of Sudan their expectation that what is happening in Darfur will stop, that the targeting of the civilians will stop.”
Britain has become the first country to unveil legislation that would set binding limits on emissions of greenhouse gas. The proposal calls for a reduction of 60 percent by the year 2050. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the targets would set the stage for a continent-wide standard in Europe.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair: “At the heart of our approach is to set a series of tasks for ourselves as a country here, nationally, but then secondly to make sure we tackle climate change at a European level, and last week’s agreement in the European Council was again an epoch-making agreement. It’s the first time a group of nations has come together and agreed such ambitious targets for the reduction of emission of greenhouse gases.”
Several environmental groups say the legislation should go further. The British group Christian Aid is calling for a targeted reduction of 80 percent.
Back in the United States, a controversial case of “high-flying profiling” is now headed to court. Six Muslim leaders removed from a US Airways flight last year have filed suit against the airline for discrimination. The imams were on their way back from a religious conference in Minneapolis. They were led off the plane in handcuffs and questioned for several hours after they were seen praying together before boarding. US Airways denied them passage on any of its other flights and refused to help them obtain tickets through another airline. The airline has refused to apologize.
One of the nation’s largest evangelical groups has come out against the Bush administration on the treatment of detainees in the so-called war of terror. The National Association of Evangelicals has endorsed a statement saying the administration’s policies have crossed “boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible.” The declaration continues: “Tragically, documented cases of torture and inhumane and cruel behaviour have occurred at various sites in the war on terror, and current law opens procedural loopholes for more to continue.” The National Association of Evangelicals represents nearly 45,000 churches in the United States.
In military news, new figures show the number of openly gay and lesbian servicemembers discharged from the military under “don’t ask, don’t tell” dropped sharply last year. Critics say the figures show the Pentagon is abandoning the policy not because it’s discriminatory, but because of the need for more troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Around 600 gay and lesbian troops were dismissed last year — fewer than half the number let go in 2001. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network spokesperson Steve Ralls said: “It is hypocritical that the Pentagon seems to retain gay and lesbian service members when they need them most, and fires them when it believes they are expendable.” The news comes as General Peter Pace, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has refused to apologize for calling homosexuality “immoral.” Pace says he regrets making the comments but stands by his beliefs.
The state of Georgia has stopped enrolling new children in its child health insurance program over a more than $100 million shortfall in federal funding. On Tuesday, legislators said they’ve reached a temporary agreement that would keep currently enrolled children in the program, but warned their services could run out when funds dry up at the end of the month. Georgia is one of 14 states facing child insurance shortfalls.
Here in New York, one of the four police officers involved the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo has filed suit against the New York Police Department to return him to active duty. Kenneth Boss says he has been effectively blocked since his acquittal and his time served as a marine in the Iraq War. Boss and three other officers were cleared in Diallo’s killing eight years ago. The unarmed Diallo was shot 41 times.
And a grand jury in Queens could decide today on whether to indict any of the police officers involved in the shooting of the unarmed African American, Sean Bell. Bell was killed the morning of his wedding day. New York Police commissioner Raymond Kelly says 1,700 police officers are on standby to deal with any unrest following the grand jury’s decision.