In Iraq, at least 55 people were killed and hundreds wounded in violence around Iraq Tuesday. Nineteen died and 30 were injured when a suicide bomber hit a line of police recruits in Baghdad. Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced the deaths of four more U.S. troops. At least 45 U.S. servicemembers have been killed so far this month.
The violence comes as the International Committee of the Red Cross is warning the suffering of Iraqi civilians is getting worse. In a new report, the Red Cross says hospitals are overstretched, malnutrition is rising, and power outages are intensifying. Red Cross director of operations Pierre Kraehenbuehl said: “The suffering that Iraqi men, women and children are enduring today is unbearable and unacceptable.”
Meanwhile in Washington, President Bush invited Democratic lawmakers to the White House to discuss the impasse over funding for the Iraq War. But he maintained his refusal to negotiate over demands for a timetable for withdrawing troops.
President Bush: “The Democrat leaders in — Democratic leaders in Congress are bent on using a bill that funds our troops to make a political statement about the war. They need to do it quickly and get it to my desk so I can veto it, and then Congress can get down to the business of funding our troops without strings and without further delay.”
Democratic leaders say they will not meet the president unless the preconditions are dropped.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “The Reid caucus is here to report to you. The president has put our troops in the middle of a civil war. This was never supposed to be the mission, the mission of Iraq. Now, because they are mixed in this intractable civil war, we’re not doing all we can to fight an effective war on terror. We have to change coarse and change our direction back to the war on al-Qaeda and their allies. We must fight a more effective war on terror. That’s what Congress is demanding, and the president should be leading us in that direction, not threatening vetoes.”
The Washington Post is reporting the Bush administration has been unable to attract interested candidates for a high-level position to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At least three retired four-star generals have turned down White House requests to be considered for the job as war czar. One of the three, retired Marine General John Sheehan, said: “The very fundamental issue is, they don’t know where the hell they’re going. So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks.'”
The U.N. refugee agency is accusing Sudanese Janjaweed militias of killing hundreds of people in a cross-border attack into Chad. The attack took place March 31 in two villages near Chad’s border with Sudan. The U.N. high commissioner for refugees says the militias opened fire on the villages and then robbed and killed fleeing civilians. The death toll has been reported as high as 400.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Palestinian leaders have submitted a list of prisoners they want freed in return for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The list includes the Palestinian intifada leader Marwan Barghouti.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh: “I hope that happiness will soon enter every Palestinian house when an honorable deal is achieved, in which hero prisoners who spent their youth in jails would be freed. We are serious in concluding this deal, and I hope the negotiations will be concluded in a way that ends the detention of our people in Israeli jails. The ball is in the Israeli court now, and the issue is dependent on the extent to which the Israeli occupation (authorities) respond to the just national demand of freeing our prisoners from the jails of occupation.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced he will hold talks next week with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The meeting would be the first since Arab leaders renewed their five-year-old offer of full peace with Israel in return for its withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. Abbas urged Israel to accept the deal.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “If Israel withdraws from the occupied Palestinian Arab land, it will live in a sea of peace, stability and normalization. That means from Mauritania to Indonesia, all the countries then have to lift the Israeli flag, if that happens.”
The U.S. soldier accused in the deadly shooting of Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari in Iraq is causing an uproar in Italy for defending the shooting and refusing to express remorse. In his first interview since the shooting two years ago, Mario Lozano told the New York Post he was forced to open fire on Calipari’s vehicle to defend himself. Calipari was escorting the Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena out of Iraq following her release from a month-long abduction. Lozano has been indicted in Italy and will be tried in absentia next week. Calipari’s widow, Rosa, said she was hurt by Lozano’s comments and urged him to speak to Italian prosecutors instead of U.S. newspapers.
Cuban President Fidel Castro is condemning a U.S. court ruling allowing the jailed Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles to post bail. Posada is connected to the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. He’s being held not on terrorism charges, but for naturalization fraud and making false statements. The Bush administration has refused to extradite Posada to Venezuela or Cuba to stand trial for the airline bombing. In a statement, Castro said the Bush administration is allowing “the liberation of [a] monster.”
A federal judge has rejected a new motion to dismiss charges against Jose Padilla over allegations he was tortured in U.S. military custody. Padilla is accused of aiding al-Qaeda. He was jailed without charge after initially being accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack and labeled an enemy combatant. Padilla was held in extreme isolation without almost any human contact for about 1,300 days and denied an attorney for nearly two years. His attorneys say he was tortured to the point where is now incapable of assisting in his own defense. The trial is scheduled to start next week.
On Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary Committee has delivered its first subpoena to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as part of the probe into the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys. Lawmakers want Gonzales to turn over the full text of documents that had been partially or fully redacted when they were released last month. House Judiciary Chair John Conyers called the subpoenas a measure of last resort following weeks of delays from the Justice Department. Gonzales is scheduled to testify before Congress next week.
The New York Times is reporting the nation’s top election research panel has downplayed research showing declining cases of voter fraud around the country. Republicans have cited voter fraud in arguments for tougher voter identification laws. Critics say the voter ID laws have unfairly targeted the poor, elderly and people of color. In a final report, the Election Assistance Commission said the pervasiveness of fraud was open to debate. But that conclusion contradicted findings that accusations regarding widespread fraud are unjustified. The panel made the conclusion while at the same time downplaying evidence showing growing cases of voter intimidation.
MSNBC and CBS Radio are coming under increasing pressure to fire Don Imus over his recent remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Imus has been suspended for two weeks beginning on Monday, but he remains on the air this week. Several large corporations including Staples and Procter & Gamble have pulled their ads from his show on MSNBC. On Tuesday, members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team spoke out for the first time. They condemned Imus’ remarks but announced plans to hold a private meeting with him. Meanwhile, the two-week suspension is also coming under criticism for its timing. The suspension will end on April 30, in time for the spring sweeps period when networks use ratings to set advertising fees. Karl Frisch, a spokesperson for Media Matters for America, said: “It is unfortunate that MSNBC and CBS Radio have failed to accept any responsibility for airing Don Imus’ bigoted remarks over the years. … It would be inappropriate for MSNBC to benefit financially from the publicity likely to surround Imus’ return.”
And former Vice President Al Gore has announced the lineup for his day of concerts to raise awareness on global warming. The July 7th Live Earth concerts will be held in Johannesburg, London, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo. The U.S. concert will be held at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.
Al Gore: “It will be the largest musical event that the planet Earth has ever had. And it is designed not just to be a one-day, 24-hour event, which will in itself raise awareness, but it really is the kickoff of a three-year mass persuasion campaign that will give individuals all over the world the information necessary to be a part of the solution to the climate crisis.”