Hundreds of thousands of Shiites are staging a massive anti-U.S. demonstration in the holy city of Najaf to call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Shiites from around Iraq have traveled to Najaf to take part in the protest to mark the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. The Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged Iraqis to stop cooperating with U.S. forces.
Ali Baqer, a supporter of Sadr: “We are here today in response to the call of the commander Muqtada al-Sadr, first to demand the pullout of the occupiers from our dearest country because we are living in hard circumstances, and secondly, we called on returning back sovereignty to Iraqis, especially to the true Iraqis, that means Iraqis who did not come from outside Iraq.”
In other news from Iraq, 10 more U.S. soldiers died over the weekend. Thirty-five U.S. troops were killed in the first eight days of April.
In news from Washington, a top Democrat vowed on Sunday that the Senate would not cut off funding for the war in Iraq. Carl Levin, the chair of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, made the comment on ABC’s This Week.
Sen. Levin: “And we’re not going to cut off funding for the troops. We shouldn’t cut off funding for the troops. But what we should do and we’re going to do is continue to press this president to put some pressure on the Iraqi leaders to reach a political settlement.”
Levin said he disagreed with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has backed Russ Feingold’s bill that would limit war spending after March 2008.
The Washington Post is reporting the United States and China managed to tone down the warnings about global warming in the new report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. U.S. negotiators eliminated language in one section that called for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The final report warned that human-generated warming is already making oceans more acidic and parched regions even drier. It estimated 20 to 30 percent of the world’s species may disappear if the world keeps warming. The authors of the report also warned that the risk of massive floods will increase significantly along the coasts because of rising seas and more intense storms.
Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC: “It’s the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit and who are the most vulnerable as far as the impact of climate change are concerned. And I think this certainly requires attention, because people who are poor are least equipped to be able to adapt to the impacts of climate change.”
The environmental group Greenpeace praised the new report. This is Greenpeace spokesperson Stephanie Tunmore.
Stephanie Tunmore: “Well, we would hope it affects the discussions at the G8. It’s a very strong report. It paints a really apocalyptic picture of the future if we don’t act very, very quickly, so we would certainly hope that it had an influence on the discussions and decisions at the G8.”
In Los Angeles, tens of thousands of immigrants and immigrant rights advocates marched on Saturday in one of the nation’s largest immigration protests since last May Day. Demonstrators widely criticized President Bush’s proposed temporary guest worker program and the recent raids on immigrant workers. President Bush is expected to reveal a new plan today. It would create a new visa category for undocumented workers, who could apply for renewable three-year work permits at a cost of $3,500. Then, in order to become legal residents, workers would have to return to their home countries, apply and pay a $10,000 fine. The proposal also prohibits temporary workers from bringing their families into the country.
Another top official at the Justice Department has resigned in the wake of the U.S. attorneys scandal. Monica Goodling abruptly quit on Friday afternoon as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ liaison to the White House. Goodling has refused to testify about her role in the firing of the eight federal prosecutors. Meanwhile, criticism of Gonzales continues to intensify. On Sunday, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he should consider resigning.
In news from Africa, The New York Times is reporting the Bush administration recently allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from North Korea in violation of international sanctions. The United States allowed the arms delivery to go through in January shortly after Ethiopia invaded Somalia.
In Afghanistan, six Canadian soldiers died on Sunday in a roadside bombing. It was the worst single-day loss of life for Canadian forces since the war began.
The Taliban has beheaded a freelance journalist and translator who was kidnapped in Afghanistan last month. Ajmal Naqshbandi was seized along with an Italian journalist from the newspaper La Repubblica. The Italian journalist — Daniele Mastrogiacomo — was released as part of a swap for five imprisoned Taliban members. But no deal was reached to free the Afghan journalist. Last month Ajmal pleaded for his life in a video message released by his captors.
Ajmal Naqshbandi: “I am a freelance journalist. We came in Helmand, and we entered Taliban territory illegally. We are now with the Taliban. Until now, we are alive, and now I request the media community and the government to try their best to release us as soon as possible. Today is Monday, 12th March, 2007.”
Ajmal’s driver was also beheaded by his captors. The Taliban is still holding two French aid workers and three Afghan colleagues seized last week.
More than a dozen detainees at Guantanamo are engaged in a long-term hunger strike and are now being force-fed. The prisoners are being strapped into restraint chairs while they are fed by plastic tubes inserted through their nostrils. One of the hunger strikers is Sami al-Hajj, the Al Jazeera cameraman who has been held at Guantanamo for nearly five years. Lawyers say as many as 40 detainees are refusing to eat to protest the harsh conditions at the new maximum security section of Guantanamo known as Camp 6. One hunger striker told his attorney, “My wish is to die. We are living in a dying situation.”
In East Timor, voters went to the polls today for the country’s first presidential election since the country won its independence from Indonesia in 2002. Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta is one of eight candidates running to replace Xanana Gusmao as president.
The 15 British sailors and marines freed last week said they were mistreated by their Iranian captors. They said they were blindfolded, interrogated and held in isolation. The 15 were released on Wednesday, one day after a kidnapped Iranian diplomat was freed in Iraq. The diplomat, Jalal Sharafi, said he was tortured and questioned by U.S. intelligence officers during his time in captivity. He said U.S. intelligence officers interrogated him about Iran’s presence in Iraq. The U.S. continues to hold five Iranian officials in Iraq. Over the weekend, Iran warned that it would stop cooperating with the government of Iraq if the officials are not released.
In Mexico, a correspondent from the country’s top television news network was shot to death in Acapulco on Friday. Amado Ramirez was attacked by two gunmen after he left his radio show. Ramirez had covered Acapulco for the Mexican network Televisa for more than a dozen years. The Miami-based Inter-American Press Association recently said Mexico has become the most dangerous place to be a journalist in the Western Hemisphere.
Teachers in Argentina are going on strike today to protest the fatal shooting of a teacher by police during a protest last week. Carlos Fuentealba, who taught chemistry, died after being hit by a tear gas canister fired at close range by police. He was taking part in a teacher-led march in the city of Neuquen calling for better wages. Protests have been intensifying in Argentina for days. Protesters have now blocked the main roads to Neuquen, cutting off the provincial capital from the rest of the country.
Here in this country, members of the group North Carolina Stop Torture Now are heading to the offices of Aero Contractors today to make a citizen’s arrest of three executives. Aero Contractors has been closely connected to the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program and was involved in the kidnapping and torture of German citizen Khalid El-Masri. In January, German prosecutors issued arrest warrants for at least three employees of Aero Contractors involved in the El-Masri case.
On Sunday, Pope Benedict the 16th decried the violence in Iraq and elsewhere during his Easter Sunday address. He spoke before thousands of worshipers in St. Peter’s Square.
Pope Benedict: “Afghanistan is marked by growing unrest and instability. In the Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees. In Lebanon, the paralysis of the country’s political institutions threatens the role that the country is called to play in the Middle East and puts its future seriously in jeopardy.”
And the CEO of Ford Motor Company is being credited with literally saving President Bush’s life. Alan Mulally said the president almost plugged an electrical cord into the hydrogen tank of a special Ford hybrid vehicle at the White House last week. Mulally said he violated protocol and grabbed the president’s arm to prevent Bush from setting himself on fire.
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