At least thirty-three people have been killed and dozens more wounded in a spate of violence across Iraq. The deadliest attack came in a suicide bombing of a police station in northern Baghdad, killing fifteen people and wounding fifty-eight others. The violence comes one day after the Pentagon said the number of US troops in Iraq has fallen below 50,000 for the first time since the 2003 invasion.
In Afghanistan, local officials in Baghlan province say eight civilians have been killed and twelve wounded in a raid by US special forces. The district governor said two women and a child were among the victims of the attack, which he called “a cruel act” against civilians. The New York Times reports investigators from the US-led NATO occupation force have visited the scene to gather evidence.
The top US Marine is questioning the Obama administration’s non-binding timetable for beginning a US withdrawal from Afghanistan next year. On Tuesday, General James Conway said the July 2011 target date is boosting the morale of Taliban fighters.
Gen. James Conway: “In terms of the July '11 issue, you know, I think if you — if you follow it closely, and of course we all do, we know the President was talking to several audiences at the same time when he made his comments on July 2011. In some ways, we think, right now, it's probably giving our enemy sustenance. We think that he may be saying to himself — in fact we’ve intercepted communications that say, 'Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.'”
Conway went on to say he thinks the withdrawal will be pushed back at least “a few years” because Afghan troops won’t be ready to assume full control.
The online whistleblower site WikiLeaks says it’s preparing to unveil a new US government document today. In a Twitter message, the group said it plans to release a ”CIA paper.” It’s unclear if the release is linked to the 15,000 US government documents WikiLeaks says it withheld after releasing some 76,000 documents on the Afghan war last month.
A new scientific study claims oil-eating microbes have drastically reduced the amount of oil from the BP well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers at California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory say the microbes appear to have multiplied in number and increased their metabolic capacity to eat up much of the oil that spilled into the Gulf. The findings contradict several recent studies showing much of the oil remains in the Gulf and continues to threaten its ecosystem. But they would bolster the Obama administration’s controversial assertions that much of the oil has in fact disappeared. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has extensive ties to both BP and the US government. In 2007, the lab received the bulk of a controversial $500 million science grant from BP. The Lawrence Berkeley Lab’s director at the time, Steven Chu, now heads the Department of Energy, which also partially funds the lab.
State primaries were held Tuesday in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma and Vermont. In Arizona, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona easily defeated the tea party-backed candidate J.D. Hayworth to seek a fifth term.
Senator John McCain: “I promise you — I take nothing for granted — I’ll fight with every ounce of strength and conviction I possess to make the case for my continued service in the Senate and the policies and principles I will advocate and defend if I’m fortunate enough to be re-elected.”
In another Arizona vote, Ben Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, won the Republican nomination to seek a House seat in a Phoenix district. Quayle had made headlines during the campaign for running an ad calling President Obama the worst president in US history. In Alaska, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is trailing tea party-backed opponent Joe Miller with over half of precincts reporting.
Meanwhile, in Florida, Congress member Kendrick Meek defeated billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene for the Democratic Senate nomination.
Rep. Kendrick Meek: “Through $26 million-plus being spent against us, we made history in this state, because the state of Florida was not for sale, will not be for sale, and we will stand up and continue to deliver.”
Meek would be the first-ever African American senator from Florida if he prevails in the November race. In the Florida Republican gubernatorial primary, former healthcare executive Rick Scott defeated State Attorney General Bill McCollum in a bitterly fought race. Scott has spent almost $39 million of his own money on the campaign.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration says it’s uncovered troubling safety violations in surprise inspections at four underground mines. MSHA says it found “numerous” violations including failure to follow ventilation plans, inadequate roofing, and accumulation of explosive materials. The mines are located in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. The probes come as MSHA continues to investigate the April 5th deaths of twenty-nine miners at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.
The Obama administration says it will appeal a federal judge’s blocking of President Obama’s executive order restoring funding for embryonic stem cell research. On Monday, US District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled the funding violates a 1996 law prohibiting federal money for any research that destroys or threatens human embryos. Obama’s order had overturned a move by his predecessor George W. Bush to further restrict stem cell funding. The National Institutes of Health says dozens of experiments in diseases will likely be canceled as long as the ruling is in place.
The investigative news website ProPublica is reporting New Orleans police officers received orders to shoot looters in the days after Hurricane Katrina. ProPublica says details of the alleged orders are “fragmentary” and cited the accounts of “present and former members” of the New Orleans Police Department. ProPublica says a police captain named James Scott was videotaped telling patrol officers, “We have authority by martial law to shoot looters.” Scott now heads the New Orleans Police Department’s special operations division. Another police captain has told prosecutors he was ordered by then-second-in-command, Warren Riley, to “take the city back and shoot looters.” Riley has denied making the statement. This Sunday marks Katrina’s fifth anniversary.
Former President Jimmy Carter has landed in North Korea to secure the release of a US national sentenced to eight years of hard labor for illegal entry. Aijalon Mahli Gomes was imprisoned in January after North Korea claimed he unlawfully crossed over from China. Gomes was the fourth American to be jailed in North Korea over the course of one year. On Tuesday, White House spokesperson Bill Burton declined to comment on Carter’s mission.
Bill Burton: “I’m not going to comment on anything that could have a negative impact on any private humanitarian mission that might be happening. We obviously think that Mr. Gomes should be released. There will probably be more information on this in the future.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says he expects West Bank settlement construction to resume when Israel’s ten-month nominal freeze expires next month. Palestinians have warned they’ll pull out of upcoming US-brokered talks if Israel resumes the settlement building. But speaking today, Lieberman said he sees no reason why the settlement expansion shouldn’t resume. The exiled head of the Palestinian group Hamas meanwhile is warning the talks with Israel could further entrench Israeli control of the Occupied Territories and the displacement of Palestinian refugees. Speaking from Syria, Khaled Meshaal called for a national Palestinian strategy of resistance.
Khaled Meshaal: “I call for adopting an alternative national Palestinian strategy based on the reinforcement of the choice of resistance, owning the points of strength, varying the choices, committing to the national rights, rebuilding the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and uniting our people and nation.”
Hamas has said it would support negotiations with Israel if Israel agreed to a full withdrawal to its 1967 borders, removing all West Bank settlements.
And in Texas, a private Christian school has denied admission to a four-year-old student because her parents are lesbians. St. Vincent’s Cathedral School says it won’t allow Olivia Harrison because of its “clear teaching of the Christian faith.” In an interview with CNN, Olivia’s mother Jill Harrison said she wouldn’t have tried to enroll her daughter at the school had she known its stance.
Linda Harrison: “I absolutely would not want her to partake in a school where they did not believe or condone the relationship that we have together. I would have never tried to apply for that school, had I known that this was their standpoint and this was their view.”