Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is facing a possible perjury investigation over his sworn testimony on the Bush administration’s domestic spy program. On Wednesday, Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy said he may request the probe over Gonzales’ insistence that a March 2004 meeting with congressional leaders was not called to address the warrantless spying. Several lawmakers in attendance have denied Gonzales’ account. And newly released documents show then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte later described the meeting as a “briefing on the Terrorist Surveillance Program” — the same name administration officials use to describe the warrantless spying. Leahy says he will give Gonzales until next week to revise his testimony, or he will ask for a perjury inquiry.
The House Judiciary Committee has voted to hold former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify on the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. The two White House aides ignored a subpoena after President Bush claimed executive privilege protects them from testifying. The contempt measure will now come before the full House.
In Iraq, mass celebration of a national soccer victory turned to tragedy Wednesday after car bombers targeted celebrating crowds in Baghdad. Fifty people were killed in separate attacks on thousands of people cheering the Iraqi soccer team’s semi-final victory in the Asian Cup. More than 100 people were wounded.
In other Iraq news, the House has overwhelmingly approved a measure that would ban permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq and prevent federal spending on controlling Iraq’s oil. The measure passed by a vote of 399 to 24.
U.S. investigators have found the engineering giant Bechtel National failed on more than half of projects assigned under its $1.8 billion contract in Iraq. The failed efforts include a sewage treatment facility, an electrical plant and a massive landfill. Bechtel was one of the first U.S. companies to benefit from the post-invasion contracting boom in Iraq. The special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction says State Department officials assigned just two staffers to oversee Bechtel’s work.
In Afghanistan, Taliban kidnappers have killed one of the 22 South Korean church workers held since last week. The Taliban says more will be slain unless the Afghan government releases captured rebel fighters. In Seoul, dozens of people held a candlelight vigil for the hostages.
Vigil attendee Jeon Hyun-jung: “The hostages must spend every day in pain. Whenever we think about them, all we have to do is pray for the complete withdrawal of the troops. What else can we do?”
In Colombia, an estimated 2,000 indigenous Colombians continue their march to Bogota calling for talks with the rebel group FARC. The marchers also want rebel groups to release all hostages held in Colombia.
Indigenous Colombian leader Eliseo Ipia: “Day after day, more people, from all social levels, are coming together and unifying with this cause through this march from Cauca to Bogota, because we are saying yes to life and no to death.”
The march comes as Human Rights Watch is accusing FARC of making Colombia the country with the most landmine victims in the world. Human Rights Watch says more than 1,000 people were killed by anti-personnel mines in Colombia last year, up from 300 the year before.
In Cuba, eight Americans have become the first class of U.S. graduates from Havana’s Latin American School of Medicine. The students are among 2,100 people from 25 countries in the tuition-free, six-year program. All eight say they plan to practice medicine with underprivileged communities in the United States.
Graduating student Carmen Landau: “We should take advantage of our position coming from this medical background to try to promote more the possibility of creating a universal healthcare system, a single care system in the U.S. I know that California is potentially looking towards that. It’s a wonderful idea.”
More than 100 Americans will be enrolled in Cuba’s medical school this fall. The students are allowed to study there under an exception to the U.S. embargo.
A presidential commission is calling for a major overhaul in medical care for wounded U.S. soldiers. Chaired by Donna Shalala and former Senator Bob Dole, the group calls for improvements in treating brain injuries, dealing with post-traumatic stress and revamping the veterans’ disability system. The commission was appointed following a Washington Post expose on poor conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The Bush administration initially said it won’t take immediate action on the recommendations but reversed course following public criticism.
Another senior Republican lawmaker has come under criminal investigation in a widening congressional corruption probe. The Wall Street Journal reports federal investigators are looking into whether Alaska Congressmember Don Young accepted bribes from the oil-field firm VECO Corp. Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, the former chair of the Appropriations Committee, is also under investigation.
A new congressional report has found thousands of federal workers and responders are still lacking adequate healthcare programs to deal with the medical problems they developed at Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks. The Government Accountability Office also says federal agencies may have greatly underestimated the cost of providing workers medical care.
And two Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange who traveled to the U.S. last month have died. Nguyen Van Quy and Nguyen Thi Hong were members of a delegation that came for a lawsuit against over three dozen chemical companies that manufactured the toxin. American warplanes dumped about 18 million gallons of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese government says more than three million people have been disabled. But the U.S. maintains there is no scientifically proven link between the wartime spraying and the disabilities. Speaking outside a New York courtroom in June, Nguen Van Quy said he suffered from cancer and two of his children had birth defects.
Nguyen Van Quy: “I am here as a living evidence to tell the people in the court that dioxin really has a negative impact on human beings as well as the environment.”
Van Quy died earlier this month just nine days after returning to Vietnam. He was 52 years old. The other victim, Nguyen Thi Hong, visited our firehouse studio and also described how Agent Orange affected her life. She was exposed to Agent Orange in 1964. She gave birth prematurely to three underweight children, one of whom had a congenital heart defect. She had several bone and skin diseases, had her spleen removed and was treated with chemotherapy.
Nguyen Thi Hong: “In 2000, we got the results of the test. They confirmed and concluded that I am affected with dioxin. In 2002, I had breast cancer, and I had a surgery, and the breast was removed. Well, as a result of the findings, the doctor mentioned to me that I was suffering from cancer and it is the terminal period, and I’m suffering from the aftermath of the cancer, and it’s now going to my bones.”
Nguyen Thi Hong died last week at the age of 60. In a statement, Merle Ratner of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign said: “Nguyen Thi Hong dedicated the last weeks of her life to achieving justice for all Agent Orange victims. Despite knowing how serious her illnesses were, she had great optimism and hope.… [She] will dwell forever in our hearts.”