By THOMAS HARGROVE
Scripps Howard News Service
July 14, 2006
Hezbollah militants crossed the Lebanese border with Israel on Wednesday to seize two Israeli soldiers, prompting a series of bloody exchanges that left at least 85 dead on both sides, although most of the fatalities are Lebanese civilians. Israel imposed a naval blockade against Lebanon and repeatedly bombed Beirut International Airport and several Lebanese military bases. Hezbollah and its sympathizers fired hundreds of rockets into Israel. The European Union criticized Israel for using "disproportionate" force. President Bush strongly defended Israel's attacks, but also worried over the fate of the new popularly elected government in Beirut. "Israel has a right to defend herself," Bush said.
Bush agrees to Geneva Convention protections for detainees
The Bush administration reversed itself on Tuesday and declared all detainees at Guantanamo Bay and all other U.S. military facilities will be entitled to the protections outlined in the Geneva Conventions. The decision was in reaction to the Supreme Court's 5-3 vote that Bush's creation of military tribunals to judge the detainees violated both U.S. and international law. "We want to get it right," said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. Congress began hearings this week into how to proceed with statutory authority for handling detainees.
Woman fatally crushed in Big Dig tunnel collapse
Twelve tons of concrete ceiling panels fell from a Big Dig tunnel under downtown Boston Monday night, fatally crushing Milena Del Valle, 38, and forcing her husband to crawl through their car's window to escape. The tragedy prompted a massive criminal and engineering investigation into what, and perhaps who, was at fault in the failure of the $14.6 billion Big Dig system, the most expensive highway project in U.S. history. The tunnels were ordered closed and engineers found at least 242 cases of loose bolts and other structural failures. Federal and state officials have begun criminal investigations. Gov. Mitt Romney took control Friday of inspections to restore public trust, he said.
Eight bombs kill 200 train commuters in Bombay
A carefully orchestrated series of eight bomb blasts killed at least 200 people and wounded 700 more as they rode Bombay's commuter trains Tuesday evening. Indian government officials said Thursday the prime suspect is Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, a Pakistan-based Islamic militant group operating in Kashmir, and distributed names of photos of three young men wanted in the case. The group was blamed for similar well-timed bombings, including attacks in New Delhi last year and on India's Parliament in 2001. India and Pakistan are in dispute over Kashmire. Pakistani officials quickly denied involvement in the latest bombings.
Valerie Plame sues Cheney and Rove over CIA outing
Former CIA officer Valerie Plame filed a civil suit in federal court Thursday against Vice President Dick Cheney and White House political advisor Karl Rover for a "whispering campaign" that made public her secret career as an intelligence agent. She charges the Bush administration wanted to punish her for criticisms made by her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, that President Bush had wrongly claimed Saddam Hussein was trying to build nuclear weapons. "I'd much rather be continuing my career as a public servant than as a plaintiff in a lawsuit," Plame said Friday.
Bush agrees to court review for telephone surveillance
The Bush administration Thursday gave conditional agreement to a proposal by Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., allowing oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court the National Security Agency's wiretapping program of international telephone calls as part of the war on terror. Until this week, President Bush claimed he did not need court permission to conduct such surveillance. "The president does not have a blank check," Specter said. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Congress and Bush "are coming together" over the issue.
Army ends no-bid deal with Halliburton
The Army announced this week it will re-bid the multibillion-dollar contract for food, water, shelter and other necessities for U.S. troops in Iraq. The Bush administration awarded the 2001 contract without competitive bidding to KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., which Dick Cheney led as chief executive officer before becoming vice president. Critics said the no-bid deal wasted hundreds of millions of dollars. "Taxpayers can breathe easier knowing that the days of $45 cases of soda and $100 bags of laundry are coming to a close," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
Correction 07/17/06: An article about plans by the U.S. Army to end a multibillion-dollar contract with a subsidiary of Halliburton Co. incorrectly stated the circumstances of the contract. It was awarded after open and competitive bidding; it is not a no-bid contract.
Federal deficit reduced from earlier White House estimates
The White House lowered the estimated federal deficit Tuesday from an originally estimated $423 billion down to $296 billion thanks to a strong economy and better than expected corporate earnings. President Bush said the improvements were the result of $1.1 trillion in tax cuts. "Economic growth fueled by tax relief has sent our tax revenues soaring," Bush said. But the new projects represent little improvement when compared to last year's $318 billion deficit. Congressional Democrats complained the U.S. had been in a budget surplus before Bush took office.
Iraqi group claims killing two soldiers reprisal for rape
The Mujahedeen Shura Council, an Iraqi group linked to al-Qaida, Tuesday posted a video on the Internet of mutilated bodies it said belonged to two U.S. soldiers kidnapped June 16 in the town of Youssifiyah. The group said the killings were in "revenge for our sister who was dishonored by a soldier of the same brigade," a reference to the March 12 rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman and the murders of her parents and a younger sister. Five Americans have been arrested in connection to the killings.
Oil prices hit new highs; economic fears batter Wall Street
The price of oil surpassed $78 a barrel Friday as fears of regional war in the Middle East caused petroleum to jump at least 5 percent for the week. The Commerce Department reported reductions in retail sales as consumers, concerned about the economy and the price of gasoline, curtailed their retail purchases. Consumer spending fell 0.2 percent last month. The economic woes prompted a rough week on Wall Street as the Dow lost nearly 6 percent of its value since Tuesday.
Young man arrested for killing five teenagers in New Orleans
In a case that prompted activation of the National Guard to provide neighborhood security, New Orleans police arrested Michael Anderson, 19, on charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of five teenagers last month. Anderson has a lengthy criminal record. The five teens were shot before dawn in a June 17 attack police said was either drug-related or in retaliation for earlier violence. Although only half of New Orleans' population has returned since Hurricane Katrina, the Big Easy has suffered 35 homicides since April.
Woman charged with misusing 911 to date a cop
Lorna Jeanne Dudash, 45, of
Aloha, Ore., was arrested after dialing 911 and asking emergency
operators to give her the name of "the cutest cop I've seen
in a long time" and to request they send "that cutie
pie" back to her doorstep. The deputy, who was first dispatched
to investigate a noise complaint, did return and arrested Dudash
for misusing the 911 emergency system, a charge punishable by
up to one year in jail.
Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com
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