In Iraq, nearly 80 people were killed and more than 170 injured in a car bombing Sunday in the holy city of Karbala. Meanwhile, April has become the deadliest month for U.S. troops so far this year. Nine servicemembers were killed this weekend, bringing the toll to 103.
In other news, a new audit has found more bad signs for U.S. reconstruction projects in Iraq. The New York Times reports American inspectors looked at eight initiatives the Bush administration had hailed as signs of progress there. Seven were found to be no longer operational and were described as “crumbling.”
New figures show the Bush administration has failed to live up to promises to allow even a limited number of Iraqi refugees into the United States. Just 68 Iraqis have been admitted in the last six months. Meanwhile, more than 1,300 Cubans and 2,400 Iranians have been taken in over the same period. Around two million Iraqis have fled Iraq since the U.S. invasion.
The State Department is expected to report today another rise in the number of annual terrorist attacks. Figures from the National Counterterrorism Center show more than 14,000 attacks last year, up 30 percent from 2005. Forty-five percent of those attacks were in Iraq. The McClatchy news service reports the State Department considered postponing or downplaying the report’s release.
Protests were held around the world Sunday on an international day of action to mark the fourth anniversary of the start of the conflict in Darfur. Marches were held in capitals including Washington, Rome, Tel Aviv and London. Sudanese member of Parliament Salih Osman spoke out at an event in Cairo, Egypt.
Sudanese member of Parliament Salih Osman: “The message is that the situation is still there. People are dying on a daily basis. Survivors and victims in Darfur need protection. We ask the world to provide protection to the people and to help them go back to their homes.”
The U.N. estimates at least 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million displaced in what it calls one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
In Afghanistan, thousands of people rallied against the U.S. military Sunday following a raid that killed at least three civilians. Demonstrators carried bodies of the victims and refused to leave a main road until surviving prisoners were released.
Unidentified protester: “They are committing so many operations against us. We do not want them. We do not want this kind of life in the future. America is our enemy! America is our enemy! Karzai is our enemy! Karzai is our enemy!”
In Germany, prosecutors have dropped a war crimes suit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed the complaint on behalf of a dozen victims of torture in U.S. custody. Germany’s laws on torture and war crimes permit the prosecution of suspected war criminals wherever they may be found. But German prosecutors say they’ve dropped the case because it has no ties to crimes committed on German soil. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights called the decision political, not legal, and said the case could be refiled in Spain.
In Ecuador, the oil giant Chevron is being accused of causing massive environmental damage to the Amazon rainforest. Nearly 30,000 Amazon residents have filed suit against Chevron seeking $6 billion in damages. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa traveled to the forest area to back the residents’ case.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa: “This is the damage caused, I insist, the damage caused in the Ecuadorean Amazon by mining by Chevron’s Texaco. It’s 30 times greater than the damage that the Exxon Valdez caused, but it looks like if it occurs in the Third World, it doesn’t matter.”
In Argentina, today marks the 30th anniversary of the first action that launched the group the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. On April 30, 1977, a group of mothers who lost children under Argentina’s military dictatorship met to trade stories and provide support. That meeting later spawned the first of scores of demonstrations and actions against Argentina’s military leaders. This is Plaza de Mayo member Enriqueta Maroni.
Plaza de Mayo member Enriqueta Maroni: “It was during the time when desperation and pain forced us to look for our children. It was the only thing we wanted: to find our children. It was a painful time for us and, over time, we transformed it into struggle and then resistance, but an active resistance.”
In Venezuela, leaders from several Latin American and Caribbean nations gathered this weekened for the fifth meeting of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA. ALBA’s four core members — Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua — formed the pact two years ago as an alternative to U.S.-backed trade deals.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: ”ALBA continues to grow. The FTAA is dead. Viva ALBA.”
In news from Washington, Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias has resigned after it was revealed he frequented an escort service tied to prostitution. Tobias served as director of U.S. foreign Assistance and as the Bush administration’s de facto AIDS czar. Tobias says he only used the escort service for massages. Tobias has previously come under criticism for promoting abstinence over condom use in the administration’s AIDS policies. As the top official on AIDS funding, he was also responsible for a program that requires beneficiaries to renounce sex trafficking and prostitution.
In Boston, a 25-year law school reunion for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales turned into a protest at Harvard Law School Saturday. Student protesters heckled Gonzales as he posed with former classmates. One student wore a black hood and orange jumpsuit like that worn by prisoners at Guantanamo.
In New Orleans, hundreds of people rallied Saturday to call attention to the slow recovery of the Lower Ninth Ward. The area was one of the hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. The Reverend Jesse Jackson helped lead the march.
Rev. Jesse Jackson: “Katrina will not be buried. The people will return to this zone because we will fight back. We will not surrender.”
The protest came amid a new report showing the Bush administration has squandered hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to Katrina victims. According to The Washington Post, the government has spent just $40 million of more than $850 million offered from U.S. allies.
In Texas, a potentially major attack was avoided this weekend at an abortion clinic in Austin. Police say they arrested a man who placed an unexploded bomb containing nearly 2,000 nails, a propane tank and a device similar to a rocket outside the clinic’s doors.
The former sidekick and producer fired along with the radio host Don Imus has followed his dismissal with more controversial remarks. In his first interview since he was dismissed for calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team “hardcore hos,” Bernard McGuirk defended his comments to Fox anchors Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes.
Bernard McGuirk: “I mean, nobody uses the N-word. You just don’t do that. But B’s and hos, I mean, we’re just try — what am I going to say, dames?”
McGuirk was joking with Fox host Alan Colmes. Later on in the interview, Colmes asked McGuirk about his hopes for the future.
Bernard McGuirk: “Well, I hope that Al Sharpton’s blow dryer falls in the — no.”
Sharpton helped lead the protests for Imus’ dismissal. Later in the broadcast, McGuirk went on to call Sharpton “terrorist.”
And hundreds of people gathered at the Kendall Miami-Dade College campus in Miami on Saturday to protest an appearance by President Bush. The protest was held in conjunction with National Impeachment Day.