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In Iraq, the US military has admitted to killing three innocent civilians and then issuing a false statement covering up the attack. On June 25th, two women and one man were killed when soldiers fired hundreds of rounds at their car as they drove to work at a bank at Baghdad airport. The US military later released a statement saying the victims had fired on US troops. The military now admits that claim was false but insists there was no crime because the soldiers fired warning shots.
On the campaign trail, Barack Obama has wrapped up his overseas trip to the Middle East and Europe. In Britain, Obama was asked about how the trip would effect his poll numbers.
Sen. Barack Obama: “I wouldn’t even be surprised if that in some polls that you saw a little bit of a dip as a consequence. We’ve been out of the country for a week. People are worried about gas prices. They’re worried about home foreclosures. So, the reason that I thought this trip was important was I am convinced that many of the issues that we face at home are not going to be solved as effectively unless we have strong partners abroad.”
On the Republican side, Senator John McCain has backtracked on comments appearing to support a sixteen-month timetable for a US withdrawal from Iraq. Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday, McCain said, “I think it’s a pretty good timetable.” McCain later said he didn’t mean to use the word timetable.
Meanwhile, McCain has lent support to an effort in his home state of Arizona that would bar state and local governments from practicing affirmative action. Appearing on ABC’s This Week, McCain said he would back an effort for a referendum on affirmative action on the state ballot. A decade ago, McCain opposed a similar effort, calling it “divisive.”
Meanwhile, a top McCain fundraiser is drawing scrutiny for lobbying the US government on behalf of the oil giant Chevron in a lawsuit accusing it of environmental and social destruction in the Amazon. Nearly 30,000 Amazon residents have filed suit against Chevron, seeking $12 billion in damages. The fundraiser, Wayne Berman, has been one of McCain’s biggest financial supporters. Berman and other Chevron lobbyists are calling on the Bush administration to end Ecuador’s special trade preferences unless the Ecuadorian government forces the Amazon residents to drop the case.
In Pennsylvania, three white teens have been charged in the beating death of a Mexican immigrant earlier this month. Witnesses said six white teenagers brutally attacked twenty-five-year-old Luis Ramirez while yelling racial slurs. Ramirez came to the United States six years ago. He was the father of two children and was engaged to marry. Two of the teens were charged as adults with homicide and ethnic intimidation. More charges are expected in the case.
Here in New York, a former CIA-backed Haitian death squad leader has been found guilty on all counts in a mortgage fraud case. Emmanuel “Toto” Constant was found to have orchestrated a scheme to flip properties at inflated prices by selling them to so-called straw buyers. Human rights groups say Constant ordered killings and torture in the Caribbean nation in the 1990s, before fleeing to the United States. He has evaded deportation after threatening to go public with the extent of his ties to the CIA. In a statement, Jennie Green of the Center for Constitutional Rights said, “The conviction gives…his victims hope that he will soon be brought to justice for his crimes in Haiti that included the murder and rape and other torture of thousands more.” Constant will be sentenced in September.
In Iowa, an estimated 1,000 people gathered in the farm town of Postville on Sunday to protest a May 12th raid on a meatpacking plant. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, arrested 389 workers at Agriprocessors, the largest kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant in the country. It was the largest immigration raid in US history. Nearly 300 workers were sentenced to five months in prison. Attorneys for the workers accused the government of violating due process rights by barring meetings with their clients and ignoring immigration laws.
In other news from Iowa, four people have been arrested for trying to make a citizen’s arrest of former White House Deputy Karl Rove. The four were stopped outside a Des Moines country club where Rove spoke at a Republican fundraiser. The four were retired Methodist minister and peace activist Chet Guinn, as well as three members of Des Moines Catholic Worker.
In Tennessee, two people were killed and another seven wounded Sunday when a man opened fire in a Knoxville church. Fifty-eight-year-old Jim Adkisson was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
In India, forty-five people have been killed and another 160 injured in a wave of bombings in the western city of Ahmedabad. The bombings occurred in a religiously tense province that was the site of deadly Hindu-Muslim clashes in 2002.
In Turkey, sixteen people were killed and more than 150 wounded Sunday when two bombs ripped through a packed square in central Istanbul. It was the deadliest attack against civilians in Turkey in almost five years.
In Israel, the Israeli government is refusing to abandon its latest plan for building a new settlement in the Occupied Territories. Twenty homes are slated to be built at the site, known as Maskiot, near the West Bank’s eastern border with Jordan. Yariv Oppenheimer of the Israeli group Peace Now criticized the move.
Yariv Oppenheimer: “We strongly condemn this decision by the Defense Ministry to allow new settlements in the West Bank in the Jordan Valley. This is not the interest of the Israeli people and the Israeli public to have new settlements while we are having negotiations with the Palestinians about having the two states.”
Israel had previously vowed to stop settlement activity but then claimed its pledge only applied to building new settlements, not expanding existing ones. The latest plan violates even that claim.
Former White House spokesperson Scott McClellan has revealed the Bush administration routinely fed talking points to several top hosts at the Rupert Murdoch-owned network Fox News. McClellan was interviewed by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
Scott McClellan: “Certainly, there were commentators and others, pundits at Fox News, that were helpful to the White House, and then, certainly — yeah, certainly, we got talking points to those people.”
Chris Matthews: “Did you use — did people say 'Call Sean. Call Bill. Call whoever'? Did you do that as a regular thing?”
McClellan: “Certainly, certainly. It wasn’t necessarily something I was doing, but it was something that we at the White House, yes, were doing, and getting them talking points and making sure they knew where we were coming from.”
Matthews: “So you were giving them talking points” —
McClellan: “But I would separate the journalists.”
Matthews: “No, no. This is important. You were using these commentators as your spokespeople.”
McClellan: “Well, certainly. I mean, certainly, I think that happens both ways, when people go on other networks, as well, that are favorable towards the Democrats and so forth.”
Matthews: “Nobody’s ever fed me any crap like that, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
McClellan: “Well, you’re an independent-minded guy.”
The White House has not denied McClellan’s statement.
And in Washington, a congressional panel has launched an investigation into whether New York City officials and the New York Yankees deliberately inflated the value of a new stadium to sell nearly $1 billion in tax-free bonds. By law, bonds must be sold at a price linked the site’s value. Congress member Dennis Kucinich is looking into whether the city could have over-valued the stadium site at seven times its actual price. The Yankees would have avoided millions in taxes, because bondholders are exempt from paying taxes on interest they earn. A congressional hearing is set for September.