In Iraq, at least 80 people have died in a pair of suicide bombings in the northern city of Kirkuk. Another 136 people were wounded in the massive blasts. One of the bombs targeted an office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Witnesses said the bombings destroyed more than 20 cars and caused two buildings to completely collapse. The death toll is expected to rise.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that nearly half of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops in Iraq have come from Saudi Arabia — one of Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East. Of the 19,000 prisoners being held by the U.S. in Iraq, only 135 are foreign-born fighters, and half of them are Saudi. U.S. officials have so far refused to publicly criticize Saudi Arabia’s role in Iraq. Meanwhile, in Washington the Democratic-led Senate has unanimously passed a resolution sponsored by Independent Senator Joe Lieberman to censure not Saudi Arabia but Iran for complicity in the killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Lieberman said the Senate has a “choice between turning a blind eye to the murder of our troops and confronting those who are murdering them.”
Two more media workers have been killed in Iraq. An Iraqi reporter working for The New York Times named Khaled Hassan was shot dead on Friday. He was 23 years old. Gunman also killed an Iraqi translator working for the Reuters news agency. A total of three Reuters staffers have been killed in Iraq in the past week. Last Thursday Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh were killed in what witnesses said was a U.S. helicopter attack.
Meanwhile, a top adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has accused U.S. forces of human rights violations in part for carrying out bombing raids that have killed innocent civilians. Hassan al-Suneid also criticized the U.S. for arming former Sunni insurgent groups in an attempt to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq.
This comes as the U.S. continues to intensify its air war in Iraq. The Associated Press reports the Air Force and Navy aircraft dropped five times as many bombs in the first six months of this year as it did in the same period in 2006. The Air Force has also been expanding its air bases in Iraq and adding entire squadrons of attack planes to its fleet in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Air Force is preparing to start using a new robotic fighter jet in Iraq known as the Reaper. The AP describes the Reaper as a hunter killer drone that can be operated by remote control from thousands of miles away.
In news from North Korea, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have confirmed Pyongyang has shut down its nuclear reactor.
Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA: “Yes, the reactor has been shut down. We verified the shutdown of the reactor. We are going through verifying the shutdown of the other facilities, and by tomorrow or after tomorrow we will be able to report hopefully that all the five facilities have been shut down.”
North Korea closed the reactor as part of an oil-for-disarmament deal.
In Pakistan, more than 70 people died over the weekend as pro-Taliban militants carried out a series of suicide attacks in the North-West Frontier. The killings marked an end to a 10-month truce between tribal leaders and General Musharraf’s government.
Russia has suspended a key Cold War arms control treaty in part to protest U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty limits the number of heavy weapons deployed between the Atlantic Ocean and the Urals Mountains.
Poland’s deputy foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski: “The CFE is one of the foundations of the situation which was created after the end of the Cold War. And we of course would like to keep it, this treaty, of course with some amendments, with some modification which were discussed and was implemented some years ago. But of course we wouldn’t like to pull out from the treaty. We wouldn’t like Russia to pull out from this treaty.”
Russia’s decision comes five years after the Bush administration withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
In Egypt, an international human rights delegation, including former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, has been blocked from attending a trial of 40 members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is the most powerful opposition group in Egypt, but it is still considered an illegal organization.
Ramsey Clark: “It is pitiful to see a great people like the Egyptian people with a government so afraid, so afraid of its own position in power that it continuously persecutes the Muslim Brotherhood. It is highly political, obviously.”
Here in this country, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay at least $660 million to 500 victims of sexual abuse dating back as far as the 1940s. The settlement is the largest in any Roman Catholic diocese. Attorney Ray Boucher said the final payout could be even larger.
Ray Boucher: “At this time we’re still working on trying to get the cases resolved. If we are able to get them resolved, it will be. … The $600 million figure that has been talked about is not an accurate number; it should be significantly above that number if we’re able to complete a settlement.”
Overall, the Catholic Church in the United States has so far paid more than $2 billion in settlements and legal judgments to victims of sexual abuse and their families. Cardinal Mahony of the Los Angeles Archdiocese issued an apology on Sunday.
Cardinal Mahony: “The one thing I wish I could give the victims, I cannot, which is a restoration to where they were originally.”
In news from Washington, President Bush is threatening to veto a bill that would extend health insurance to an additional 3.3 million low-income children. Last week, senators reached a bipartisan agreement to add $35 billion to the Children’s Health Insurance Program over the next five years by increasing federal taxes on cigarettes. Senators said the extra funding would help cover some of the nation’s eight million uninsured children. But on Saturday the White House said President Bush would veto the bill.
In economic news, the NAACP has filed a class action lawsuit against 14 subprime mortgage lenders alleging they engaged in institutionalized, systematic racism. Lenders named in the suit include Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Washington Mutual. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition recently found that African Americans were twice as likely as white applicants to receive loans with expensive, above-market rates.
Independent magazine publishers, including The Nation and National Review, are protesting a new hike in postal rates that they say could bankrupt many small publications. The rates went into effect on Sunday. They were based on a proposal by the nation’s largest publisher, Time Warner. According to the media advocacy group Free Press, the new rules burden smaller publishers with higher postage rates while unfairly locking in the best rates for the largest media companies. For some small publications the cost of postage will jump 30 percent. The independent magazine world had already been facing hard times. Over the past year, several publications closed down, including Clamor, Punk Planet, Satya and Lip.
In Malaysia, a prominent political blogger has been detained for possibly violating the nation’s Official Secrets Act. The 27-year-old Nathaniel Tan has been held since Friday. Bloggers in Malaysia helped organize a vigil on Sunday and are circulating an online petition calling for his release.
And the Western Shoshone Nation spiritual leader Corbin Harney is being buried today. He died last week at the age of 87. He campaigned against nuclear weapons, opposed nuclear testing on indigenous lands and fought the federal government’s attempt to place nuclear waste inside Yucca Mountain. He was the author of the book “The Way It Is: One Water, One Air, One Earth.”