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HeadlinesMay 15, 2007

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52 Killed in Iraq; U.S. May Toll Rises to 47

May 15, 2007

At least 52 people were killed in violence around Iraq Monday. Five U.S. servicemembers died in separate attacks in Baghdad, bringing this month’s military death toll to 47. Speaking in Washington, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih likened the violence in Iraq to the Virginia Tech shootings.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih: “Think of it, Virginia Tech every day 10 times over for the past three years. People can talk about civil war in Iraq. People can complain about sectarian violence in Iraq, but there is another way of looking at it. Any other society that has been subjected to this barbaric onslaught day in day out would have been in an all-out civil war. If anything, it is remarkable Iraq is not in an all-out civil war.”

Salih is in Washington to urge Congress to approve more money for the Iraq War. The Senate is set to vote this week on whether to cut off funding by April of next year.

Peace Activists Launch Capitol Hill Campaign

May 15, 2007

Meanwhile, more than 200 peace activists rallied on Capitol Hill to kick off several weeks of antiwar protests. The peace mom Cindy Sheehan led demonstrators in what was billed as the “Mother of a March.” Activists will converge on Congress until the end of June calling for a withdrawal from Iraq.

Son of Conservative War Critic Killed in Iraq

May 15, 2007

The Pentagon has identified the son of a conservative war critic as among the U.S. servicemembers killed in Iraq on Sunday. Andrew Bacevich Jr. is the son of Boston University Professor Andrew Bacevich. The elder Bacevich is the author of books including “The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War.” Last July, he wrote in Iraq: “For all the talk of Iraq being a sovereign nation, foreign occupiers are the ones deciding what an Iraqi life is worth. … [O]ur actions in Iraq continue to convey the impression that civilian lives aren’t worth all that much.”

Pentagon Bars Soldiers from YouTube, MySpace

May 15, 2007

The Pentagon has announced new restrictions on a dozen popular websites used by U.S. troops to share photos, video and messages. Soldiers are now barred from accessing sites including YouTube and MySpace from military computers. The Pentagon says file sharing is taking up too much bandwidth. Thousands of soldiers rely on the social-networking websites to communicate with friends and family members.

IAEA: Iran Advances Uranium Enrichment

May 15, 2007

The International Atomic Energy Agency has concluded the Iranian government appears to have overcome most of its technological difficulties and is now enriching larger quantities of uranium than before. Inspectors say Iran’s main nuclear facility has 1,300 centrifuges producing uranium that could be used for nuclear reactors. Iran remains far from being able to produce weapons-grade fuel. The news comes as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has threatened severe retaliation in the event of a U.S. attack. But he also confirmed reports Iranian officials will meet with U.S. counterparts for talks on Iraq in Baghdad.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “The Americans, in order to solve the security issues in Iraq, have requested to talk to Iran. We, in order to support the Iraqi people, declared that we are ready and prepared. Even until now, the date of this dialogue has not been confirmed. Both parties confirmed that the talks will take place in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, with the presence of the Iraqi government.”

Deputy Attorney General Steps Down

May 15, 2007

Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty has announced he will step down later this year. McNulty is the second in command to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He becomes the highest-ranking Bush administration official to leave office over the firing of U.S. attorneys. In his resignation letter, McNulty did not mention the scandal and said he’s stepping down in part for financial reasons.

Padilla Trial Begins in Miami

May 15, 2007

Five years after his high-profile arrest, Jose Padilla appeared in court Monday for the start of his criminal trial. Padilla was initially accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack and labeled an enemy combatant. He was later indicted on lesser offenses and now stands accused of aiding al-Qaeda. The presiding judge has called the case “light on facts.” Padilla was held in extreme isolation without almost any human contact for 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.

Tenet to Testify on False Pre-War Intel

May 15, 2007

Former CIA Director George Tenet has agreed to testify before Congress on the Bush administration’s use of false intelligence to lead the country into war. The House Oversight Committee hearing will focus on the claim Iraq sought to purchase uranium from Niger.

Absentia Trial Resumes in Calipari Killing

May 15, 2007

In Italy, the absentia trial of a U.S. soldier for the killing of the Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari has resumed in Rome. Calipari was killed in Iraq two years ago shortly after he helped free the kidnapped journalist Giuliana Sgrena. The United States has insisted National Guardsman Mario Lozano followed the rules of engagement and shot at the car carrying the Italians because it was speeding toward a checkpoint. Italian ballistics experts concluded that the car was driving at a normal speed and that the U.S. unit gave no warnings before opening fire. A video of the scene of the shooting was released last week.

Giuliana Sgrena: “What clearly comes out of the video, and what was denied by the American military commission, is that the car had the lights on. The car had the lights on, and most of all, it had them on even after the shooting, meaning that the shooter pointed at the people inside more than at the exterior of the car.”

The trial has now been delayed until early July. Also Monday, Mario Lozano spoke from his home in New York.

Mario Lozano: “It is scary because now I can’t leave my country. I feel like a prisoner in my own country, a prisoner of war practically. I joined the military for a reason — to travel — and now I can’t go anywhere.”

24 People Killed in Pakistan Hotel Attack

May 15, 2007

In Pakistan, at least 24 people were killed in a bombing attack on a hotel in the city of Peshawar. Another 30 people were wounded.

Hamas Militants Kill 8 Fatah Members

May 15, 2007

In the Occupied Territories, the conflict between the two main Palestinian factions has intensified with the killing of eight Fatah forces by members of Hamas. The Fatah operatives were traveling in a jeep when they were struck by a missile ambush. Hamas members then fired on the men as they tried to flee. It was the deadliest attack since the recent outbreak of violence between the two sides.

Indigenous Group Sues Occidental Petroleum for Amazon Forest Dumping

May 15, 2007

An indigenous group from the Peruvian Amazon has filed a class-action lawsuit against the oil company Occidental Petroleum. The suit cites Occidental for a series of health and environmental problems from waste left over the past 30 years in the tropical rainforests of Peru. A recent report from Amazon Watch and Earth Rights International accuses Occidental of dumping nine million barrels of untreated toxic waste directly into rivers and streams used by the Achuar people, resulting in widespread lead and cadmium poisoning.

Andres Sandi, president of the Federation of Native Communities of Rio Corrientes: “The steps we are taking are to demand from the government that we don’t want anymore petroleum companies. We will continue to position ourselves very strongly, and we continue this fight against the state and against the petroleum companies.”

Cuban Youths Stage Posada Mock Trial

May 15, 2007

In Cuba, youth groups are holding a two-day mock trial against the former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. Posada was scheduled to go on trial in the U.S. last week, not on terror charges, but for immigration fraud. But a U.S. federal judge tossed out the indictment, making Posada a free man. This is Margarita Morales Fernandez, daughter of a victim who died in the plane attack.

Margarita Morales Fernandez: “I don’t like talking about death. I don’t like to talk about terrorism. But I do it precisely because I know that at some point we will get justice. The North American people can no longer be lied to.”

Brazilian Rancher Appears in Court for Killing of U.S. Nun

May 15, 2007

In Brazil, a Brazilian rancher appeared in court Monday to face charges for the killing of a U.S.-born Catholic nun in the Amazon rainforest. Vitalmiro de Moura is accused of paying gunmen to murder 73-year-old Sister Dorothy Stang in Feburary 2005. Sister Stang dedicated her life to the people of the Amazon rainforest. She lived and worked in Brazil for more than 30 years. She had been trying to stop illegal logging by de Moura. In the weeks before Dorothy Stang was murdered, ranchers had been trying to expel the farmers by burning down their huts. Dorothy Stang was shot dead as she read from her Bible. This is her brother, David Stang.

David Stang: “Why were the people so afraid to even come up and touch her? What is that fear, that terrorizing, the enslavement in that area that no one would even come? None of her friends, no one came to hug her or support her. Is that not a sign that thieves and the thugs control the Amazon?”

Iran Arrests Iranian-American Scholar

May 15, 2007

Iran has confirmed the arrest of a prominent Iranian-American scholar. Dr. Haleh Esfandiari is director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was jailed last week on unspecified charges.

World Bank: Wolfowitz Violated Rules, Concealed Actions

May 15, 2007

Paul Wolfowitz’s days at the helm of the World Bank could soon be coming to an end. The World Bank oversight committee has concluded Wolfowitz broke ethics rules when he oversaw a pay raise and promotion for his companion, Shaha Ali Riza. The committee also says Wolfowitz then tried to hide his actions from scrutiny. Wolfowitz is set to present his case in front of the bank’s board today.

Dallas Residents Challenge Anti-Immigrant Law

May 15, 2007

In Texas, residents of a Dallas suburb are organizing to challenge a sweeping new anti-immigration law passed last week. Farmers Branch has approved a measure barring renting homes to most undocumented immigrants. Landlords would be forced to check if renters are U.S. citizens or visa-approved immigrants before giving them a lease.

Community activist Elizabeth Villafranca: “This is going to be a black spot on the city of Farmers Branch. In my opinion, this is going to be right in the column with the sitting in the back of the bus and not using bathrooms that whites use, and not, you know, using the same water fountains that whites use, and this is going to be a black mark.”

Thomson Corp. Buys Reuters for $17B

May 15, 2007

In media news, the Canadian company Thomson Corporation has finalized a $17 billion purchase of the British news organization Reuters. The deal will create the world’s largest news and financial data company.

Privacy Oversight Member Resigns Following Admin Censorship

May 15, 2007

And a member of the civilian panel created to oversee government protection of personal privacy has resigned in protest of White House censorship of the board’s first report. The congressionally mandated Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board had unanimously voted to send the report to lawmakers. But the Bush administration made more than 200 revisions — including the deletion of a passage on anti-terrorism programs that intelligence officials had cited as a potential intrusion on civil liberties.

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