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More than 100 Iraqi civilians were killed and another 130 injured in attacks Wednesday around Iraq. Twenty people died in a suicide attack in the northeast town of Mandali. Meanwhile, the U.S. military announced the death of nine U.S. troops. Military officials confirmed a body found in the Euphrates River was that of a U.S. soldier captured by Iraqi insurgents last month. With eight days left in the month, May caps the deadliest six-month period for U.S. troops since the start of the war, with 540 killed.
The Bush administration has declassified intelligence it says proves links between Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq. The 2005 report says bin Laden ordered former al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to attack U.S. targets outside Iraq. President Bush discussed the charges at a speech for Coast Guard graduates in Connecticut.
President Bush: “Al-Qaeda knows that a democratic Iraq is a threat to their ambitions to impose their hateful ideology across the Middle East. Al-Qaeda knows that our presence in Iraq is a direct threat to their existence in Iraq. Our security depends on helping the Iraqis succeed and defeating Iraq, al-Qaeda in Iraq.”
White House aides later denied accusations of releasing selective intelligence and repeating its false linkage of bin Laden to Iraq before the U.S. invasion.
The United Nations agency for children, UNICEF, has launched a new appeal amidst what it calls a worsening crisis for Iraq’s youth. UNICEF says most Iraqi children have suffered trauma since the U.S. invasion. Only 30 percent have access to safe drinking water.
UNICEF Special Representative to Iraq Roger Wright: “It’s obviously going to be a troubled generation. As the children are growing up, if they’ve not been directly exposed to the violence, they’ve seen it and have witnessed it, and are suffering psychosocially from the experience.”
In the Occupied Territories, Israeli troops have arrested more than 30 officials in the Hamas-led Palestinian government. Those detained include the Palestinian education minister, three lawmakers and three mayors. Israel says it made the arrests because the officials had supported the firing of rockets into Israeli territory. The raids followed a series of Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip that wounded several people, including a pregnant woman and a teenage boy.
On Capitol Hill, a former senior aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has testified in the ongoing investigation into the firing of at least eight U.S. attorneys. Monica Goodling served as the Justice Department’s liaison to the White House up until last month. On Wednesday, Goodling said Gonzales had asked her to compare notes on the chronology of the firings just as scrutiny intensified. Gonzales has denied discussing the firings with other officials during the investigation. Goodling also accused former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty of giving inaccurate testimony to Congress on the firings. Goodling denied having a major role in the scandal but indicated she had broken the law.
Rep. Bobby Scott: “Were there any laws that you could have broken by taking political considerations into account, quote, 'on some occasions?'”
Monica Goodling: “The best I can say is that I know I took political considerations into account on some occasions.”
Scott: “Was that legal?”
Goodling: “Sir, I’m not able to answer that question. I know I crossed the line.”
The Senate has voted to limit the number of guest-workers that would be allowed in the United States under the proposed immigration bill. On Wednesday, senators approved an amendment that would cap the program at 200,000 workers. The original bill proposed as many as 600,000 workers, but only until the expiration of their permit. Critics say the provision will depress wages and create a new underclass of workers. The overall bill has come under intense criticism from immigrant rights advocates.
Maywood, California, resident Maribel Nunez: “This is nothing new, because Mexicans are the only ones doing any work. Nobody does any work but the Mexicans, and now they do not want them? If it was a war, they would call them to fight, but not to work? I don’t know. I don’t know what to say. It makes me mad.”
Amnesty International is accusing the United States of turning the world into a global battlefield in the so-called war on terror. On Wednesday, Amnesty issued its annual report on the state of human rights. The criticism of the United States was multifold: Amnesty called for Guantanamo to be shut down, for senior government officials to be held accountable for authorizing torture, and for an end to the practice known as extraordinary rendition. Amnesty’s report also highlighted human rights abuses in many other areas including Iraq, Russia and Zimbabwe and Sudan.
Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan: “Darfur is a bleeding wound on the world’s conscience. The U.S. government has been outspoken on the need to protect civilians in Darfur, and we welcome that very much. But nothing proves more clearly the loss of U.S. moral authority than its failure to persuade the Sudanese government to accept U.N. peacekeepers.”
For Israel and the Occupied Territories, Amnesty says Israel killed more than 650 Palestinians last year, three times the number of Palestinians killed in 2005. Half of the Palestinians killed last year were unarmed civilians. The Palestinian death toll included 120 children. During the same period, Palestinian militants killed 27 Israelis, including 20 civilians and one child.
In Turkey, activists with the environmentalist group Greenpeace have built a model of Noah’s Ark to raise awareness on global warming ahead of next month’s G-8 summit.
Greenpeace campaign leader Wolfgang Sadik: “The answer in this myth was a flood, a climate catastrophe, and that is what is going to happen now. And the sins of the human beings are sins against the environment and nature, and if we don’t stop that immediately and do everything against that, it could happen that we get another flood or a new climate catastrophe.”
Pope Benedict XVI is refusing to apologize after claiming the Catholic Church purified indigenous peoples during the colonization of the Americas. On Wednesday, the pope said he would only acknowledge that injustices were committed.
Pope Benedict XVI: “The memories of a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the process of evangelization of the Latin American continent. It is not possible, in fact, to forget the suffering and injustices that were inflicted on the indigenous peoples, when often their fundamental human rights were trampled upon.”
Pope Benedict has come under intense criticism from Latin American leaders, including Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who accused him of ignoring a holocaust.
In Colombia, nearly 300,000 teachers walked off the job Wednesday in a strike against planned cuts to education. Protest organizers have linked the cuts to a pending U.S. trade deal.
Protester Martin Rios: “The reason for the strike is to protest against the national development plan that cuts down the resources for public education and for the universities because of the cuts in education and healthcare that are going to cause more children to die of hunger.”
In Oregon, an environmental activist involved in a series of arsons has been sentenced to 13 years in prison after a judge ruled the man should be considered a terrorist. Stanislaus Meyerhoff was arrested in 2005 and admitted to being a member of the Earth Liberation Front. Meyerhoff faced up to 30 years in prison, but his sentence was decreased because he had become a government informant. Nine other environmental and animal rights activists will be sentenced on similar charges in coming weeks. Federal prosecutors have requested all of them be considered terrorists even though their actions caused no injuries. The Oregon-based Civil Rights Outreach Committee said the activists should not be considered terrorists. The group said the court’s decision sets a dangerous precedent that could be exploited by the federal government to seek greater prison time for political activists engaged in acts of civil disobedience.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has determined a top government official violated federal law by instructing employees to help Republicans win the 2008 elections. During a meeting in January, General Services Administration chief Lurita Alexis Doan is said to have asked employees how they could “help our candidates.” Investigators say Doan has violated the Hatch Act, which restricts top officials from using their positions for political motives.
In media news, the Ethiopian government has released three journalists with The New York Times after a five-day detention. The New York Times says the journalists were interrogated at gunpoint and stripped of all of their equipment, including cameras, phones and notebooks.
And in Israel, the sociologist Baruch Kimmerling has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 67 years old. Kimmerling was an outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. He was identified as one of the “new Israeli historians” who helped challenge the dominant views of Israel’s history and its treatment of Palestinians.