The chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, is calling for the ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Cabinet. Levin said, “I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government.” Levin also accused the government of Iraq of being nonfunctional. His comments came after a three-day trip to Iraq and Jordan. The Washington Post reports Levin’s statement marks the most forceful call for leadership change in Iraq from a U.S. elected official. Meanwhile, the White House has announced that Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will testify before Congress during the second week of September. It appears likely their testimony will occur on Sept. 11, the sixth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Thousands of protesters have gathered near Ottawa to protest a meeting of President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon. On Monday riot police used tear gas and pepper spray to block protesters from approaching the site of the summit. The North American leaders are meeting to discuss expanding NAFTA by agreeing to the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership. The SPP is a White House-led initiative consisting of a secretive series of agreements between the three countries on issues including trade, border security and patent protections.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon is cutting short his trip to Canada to return home because of Hurricane Dean, the Category 5 storm that made landfall on Mexico’s Yucatan coast this morning. Winds were recorded as high as 165 miles per hour. Forecasters predict the hurricane could inflict catastrophic damage along Mexico’s coast. Over 100,000 people have been evacuated from the region. The hurricane has killed at least 12 people in the Caribbean so far.
In news from the Middle East, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are enduring a fifth day of power blackouts. The power outages began after the European Union suspended its funding of Gaza’s main electricity plant. Gaza has been under a siege since June when Hamas seized full control of the area. The United States, Israel and other countries have attempted to completely isolate Gaza in an effort to turn the population against the democratically elected Hamas leadership. Aid agencies are warning that if Gaza doesn’t receive more fuel by Thursday, the strip’s main sewage and water treatment plant would be forced to shut down.
The White House is continuing to refuse to turn over subpoenaed information about the Bush administration’s warrantless domestic surveillance program. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Patrick Leahy has threatened to hold top members of the Bush administration in contempt if they continue to refuse to turn over the information. After the White House missed Monday’s deadline, Leahy said: “We should not have to legislate in the dark when the administration hides behind a fictitious veil of secrecy.”
The Army has dismissed two of the most serious charges against the only military officer facing trial for abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib. The announcement came just before the start of court-martial proceedings against Army Lt. Col. Steven Jordan. Eight out of the 12 original charges against the Army officer have been dismissed since he was first charged. The latest move reduces Jordan’s potential sentence almost by half, to a maximum of 8.5 years.
Attorneys for the Cuban Five argued on Monday before a federal appeals court that the jailed men deserve another trial. The men were arrested in 1998 and convicted of spying for the Cuban government three years later. They maintain they were sent to the United States to monitor violent exile groups calling for the overthrow of Fidel Castro. In August 2005, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta tossed the verdicts, saying the five didn’t receive a fair trial because of anti-Castro bias in Miami. But the convictions were reinstated exactly a year later by the full 11th Circuit.
Andres Gomez, Alianza Martiana: “Five Cubans were falsely accused by the United States government of being in the United States to spy on the government of the United States. The government of the United States knows that these five men were in the United States, specifically Miami, to infiltrate extreme right-wing Cuban terrorist organizations operating out of Miami, which for 40 years have perpetrated acts of terrorism on the Cuban people and against others here in the United States who have been against their objectives and their methods.”
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark spoke on behalf of the Cuban Five.
Ramsey Clark: “I think the thing that needs to be recognized is that if you want to stop terrorism, you don’t persecute people who are engaged in trying to prevent terrorism.”
In other news on Cuba, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama has proposed easing restrictions for Cuban Americans who want to visit the island or send money home. In an opinion column published in the Miami Herald, Obama wrote: “I will grant Cuban Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island.” One of Obama’s opponents, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, is co-sponsoring an even broader bill that would allow any American citizen to visit Cuba.
The former news chief of CNN is defending his decision to seek the Pentagon’s approval of prospective CNN news analysts during the lead-up to the Iraq War. Eason Jordan’s comments have come under renewed scrutiny after being featured in Norman Solomon’s film War Made Easy.
Eason Jordan: “I think it’s important to have experts explain the war and to describe the military hardware, describe the tactics, talk about the strategy behind the conflict. I went to the Pentagon myself several times before the war started and met with important people there and said, for instance, at CNN, 'Here are the generals we're thinking of retaining to advise us on the air and off about the war,’ and we got a big thumbs-up on all of them. That was important.”
Eason Jordan, who now runs the IraqSlogger website, defended his actions last week. He said, “Employers routinely vet prospective employees with their previous employers. In these cases, we vetted retired generals to ensure they were experts in specific military and geographic areas. The generals were not vetted for political views.”
The star football quarterback Michael Vick has reportedly agreed to plead guilty to federal dog fighting charges and could face over a year in jail. Last month Vick and three co-defendants were charged with operating an illegal dog fighting and betting ring based in southeastern Virginia. Two of his co-defendants said Vick participated in the killing of at least eight dogs, some by hanging and drowning. In April authorities raided Vick’s property and found at least 60 pit bulls and paraphernalia commonly associated with dog fighting. Some of the animals reportedly had deep wounds and cuts consistent with fighting. Authorities later reportedly found up to 30 dog corpses buried on the property. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has begun offering a $5,000 reward for tips leading to the conviction of those involved in dog fighting. Meanwhile. former world heavyweight boxing champion Lamon Brewster has joined PETA’s campaign against dog fighting.
Lamon Brewster: “I’m heavyweight boxing champion 'Relentless' Lamon Brewster for PETA. I usually let my fists do the talking for me, but I always speak up for the animals. Dog fighting is a cruel and deadly activity in which dogs are forced to tear each other apart. I choose to fight every time I step into the ring, but animals aren’t given that choice. For more information, please visit helpinganimals.com.”
In Utah, officials have indefinitely suspended efforts to rescue six coal miners trapped inside the Crandall Canyon. The decision was announced after a group of mining experts concluded that the area where the men were trapped was structurally unstable and would probably collapse again. Last week three men died during the rescue effort. But family members of the relatives accused authorities of giving up. This is Sonny Olsen, a spokesperson for the family members of the six trapped coal miners.
Sonny Olsen: “Our families have concluded that Bob Murray, Richard Stickler and Rob Moore have given up on the miners. We feel that Bob Murray has abandoned us. Mr. Murray has not been present since the tragic accident on Thursday night. We beg the communities in Carbon and Emory County, the state and our nation for your support in demanding that this above-ground method of rescue can be attempted. The rescue capsule is our families’ last and only hope.”
In Minnesota, divers have recovered the remains of the 13th and last known victim from the highway bridge collapse three weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Star Tribune reports that state officials considered condemning the bridge last year because of the possibility it could collapse. Plans to reinforce the bridge were well underway when the project came to a halt in January amid concerns about safety and cost.
The New York Times reports the Bush administration has adopted new standards that would make it much more difficult for New York, California and other states to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program to children in middle-income families. Some state officials said yesterday that it could cripple their efforts to cover more children and would impose standards that could not be met.