Iowa remains in a state of emergency as massive flooding continues to devastate much of the state. At least 36,000 people are homeless. Three million acres of Iowa’s farmland is waterlogged. Eighty-three of the state’s ninety-nine counties have been declared disaster areas. Iowa City, the home of the University of Iowa, has been hit by the worst flooding in the city’s history. Sixteen buildings at the university are flooded with as much as eight feet of water. Seven more are at risk of flooding. In Cedar Rapids, 24,000 people were forced to flee their homes. In Des Moines, Iowa’s capital, the Des Moines River broke through a levee on Saturday. More than 200 homes, a high school and three dozen businesses were inundated.
Meanwhile, across the globe in China, more than 1.3 million people have been forced to evacuate following flooding across southern China. At least seventy people have died.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has warned Iraq may not sign a status of forces agreement with the United States and will possibly ask US troops to leave when their UN mandate expires at the end of the year. The Bush administration is seeking to keep permanently more than fifty military bases in Iraq. It’s also insisting on continuing military campaigns without consultation with the Iraqi government and immunity for American soldiers and contractors. During a visit to Jordan, Maliki said the Bush administration is asking Iraq to give up too much sovereignty.
Nouri al-Maliki: “When we started the talks on August 26, we wanted an agreement between two completely sovereign countries, and when we went to the pact, we found that the US demands hugely infringe on the sovereignty of Iraq, and this we can never accept. We can’t extend the US forces permission to arrest Iraqis or to undertake the responsibility of fighting terrorism in an independent way or to keep Iraqi skies and waters open for themselves whenever they want.”
In other Iraq news, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has announced the formation of a new militia that will operate in total secrecy and attack only US troops. Sadr said a ceasefire for his Mahdi Army remains in effect.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is threatening to send Afghan troops into Pakistan to fight members of the Taliban. Over the past two years, the US has spent more than $3 billion training and equipping the Afghan army.
Hamid Karzai: “The answer to this is that this means that Afghanistan has the right of self-defense. When they cross the territory from Pakistan to come and kill Afghans and to kill coalition troops, it exactly gives us the right to go back and do the same.”
Hamid Karzai’s comment came two days after more than 1,100 Afghan prisoners escaped when Taliban fighters attacked a prison in the southern city of Kandahar. Nearly 400 of the escaped prisoners were members of the Taliban. The Taliban reportedly used suicide bombs and a bomb-laden water tanker to blast open the prison.
Earlier today, President Bush was questioned about Karzai’s threat:
President Bush: “It is in no one’s interest that extremists have a safe haven from which to operate. And obviously, it’s a testy situation there. And if I’m the president of a country and people are coming from one country to another, allegedly coming from one country to another to kill innocent civilians on my side, I’d be concerned about it.”
Meanwhile, the number of US and international troops killed in Afghanistan has passed the monthly toll in Iraq for the first time. Nineteen US and coalition troops died in Afghanistan in May, seventeen in Iraq. The US and allied forces now have a record 52,000 troops fighting in Afghanistan.
President Bush is wrapping up his European visit today with stops in London and Belfast. On Sunday, Bush met with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Ahead of their meeting, Bush warned Brown not to announce a timetable for a British pull-out from Iraq. Protesters met Bush over the weekend in both London and Paris.
Protester: “We’re here today to arrest George Bush. We know he’s in Paris, and so we found him, and then all the Americans here have come here to arrest George Bush, because he’s a criminal on many different terms.”
Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain said the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Guantanamo is “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.” Last week, the Court ruled that prisoners held indefinitely at Guantanamo have a right to challenge their detention in US courts. McCain said, “Our first obligation is the safety and security of this nation and the men and women who defend it. This decision will harm our ability to do that.” McCain also criticized his main rival Barack Obama for supporting the court’s decision.
In other campaign news, McCain has postponed a fundraiser scheduled for today at the home of Texas oilman Clayton Williams. In 1990 Williams made headlines when he compared rape to bad weather. Williams said, “As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.” Williams has reportedly raised $300,000 for McCain’s campaign. The Democratic National Committee is calling on McCain to return the money raised by Williams. McCain’s staff said the fundraiser will take place later this summer at a new location.
International investigators are concerned detailed information on how to build an advanced compact nuclear weapon may be circulating on the black market. The digital blueprints have been tied to Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan. Khan’s illicit nuclear network was broken up in 2004, but news of the digital blueprints only came to light in recent weeks. Investigators remain unsure who received the sensitive information or how many copies of the electronic blueprints are circulating. Khan remains under house arrest in Pakistan, but Pakistani officials have refused to allow international nuclear inspectors to interview him.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in London today to unveil a memorial to journalists killed while doing their work. The memorial will be located at the BBC’s Broadcasting House in London. Two BBC journalists died earlier this month in Afghanistan and Somalia.
Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency is calling on the Israeli army to release immediately its findings over the death of Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana. The twenty-four-year-old Palestinian died in April when an Israeli tank shelled his vehicle that was clearly marked “press.” Reuters deputy bureau chief Julian Rake criticized Israel’s failure to address Shana’s death.
Julian Rake: “Two months have passed since our friend and colleague Fadel Shana was killed by an Israeli tank shell in the Gaza Strip. In those two months, we’ve had no answers from the Israeli army as to why their tank crew fired on him. Now, this is effectively had — as well as causing great anguish to Fadel’s family, it’s effectively restricted the way the journalists in Gaza, not just Reuters, but all journalists, go about their business.”
In media news, Federal Communications Commission Chair Kevin Martin has announced his support for the merger of the nation’s sole satellite radio operators, XM and Sirius. If the FCC approves the merger, it would mark a major reversal of the FCC’s own rules. In 1997, the agency distributed licenses to XM and Sirius on the condition the two satellite companies never merge.
The Los Angeles School District has dismissed a high school teacher who was deemed to be too Afro-centric. Karen Salazar was a second-year English teacher at Jordan High School in Watts. Her course material included the writings of Malcolm X, Langston Hughes and the hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur. Last week, Salazar spoke at a rally organized by dozens of her former students.
Karen Salazar: “My students are out here, not because of me, you know, and I think that that point was made really clear, that it’s not about me. It’s about them recognizing that this school system for too long has been not only denying them human rights, basic human rights, but doing it on purpose, in order to keep them subservient, in order to subjugate them in society.”
Drug reform activist Randy Credico was arrested and spent a night in jail after confronting New York police officers who were arresting two teenagers for smoking marijuana. He challenged them to solve murders instead. Credico is the director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, which fights to free prisoners who have been jailed under the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws.
The progressive philanthropist Stewart Mott has died at the age of seventy. Mott’s philanthropy included birth control, abortion reform, arms control, feminism, civil liberties, governmental reform, gay rights and research on extrasensory perception. He also helped bankroll the campaigns of Sen. Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and Sen. George McGovern in 1972.
And one of the nation’s best-known television broadcasters, Tim Russert, has died at the age of fifty-eight. Russert died on Friday after having a heart attack at work. Russert was the host of Meet the Press and NBC News’ Washington Bureau Chief.