Political tensions in Ukraine are increasing as the country’s Supreme Court considers claims of fraud in the recent presidential elections. Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko wants the victory of his rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, in the November 21 run-off to be annulled and a new vote held on December 12. The Ukrainian parliament has declared the election results invalid and called for an immediate overhaul of the central election commission. International observers have backed the claims of fraud and the European Union has already called for the election to be held again. Yushchenko’s team has submitted thousands of allegations of ballot-rigging in eastern Ukraine. The court has begun hearing his appeal, but any ruling is expected to take at least several days.
While the US and international media have focused heavily on voting irregularities in Ukraine for the past week, few media outlets are covering the fallout from the US elections four weeks ago. On Sunday the Rev. Jesse Jackson appeared at a rally of over 500 in Columbus, Ohio to publicly endorse a presidential recount in the state. Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition has now joined with the Green and Libertarian Parties in demanding the recount. If John Kerry were to win the recount in Ohio, he would take the presidency. In a conference call with the media, Jackson suggested Kerry backed the recount as well. Jackson said "Kerry was inclined to believe what he was told, and he was told the election was over. But now we’re unearthing information that did not surface at first. I suppose the more information Kerry gets, the more you will hear from him." Jackson also called for Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to recuse himself from any role in the recount because Blackwell served on the Bush-Cheney campaign team.
The investigative agency of Congress, the General Accounting Office, has announced it has begun looking into problems in this year’s presidential election including the handling of provisional ballots and malfunctioning voting machines. Some 57,000 election day complaints were made to the House Judiciary Committee and will be handed over to the GAO.
Two groups, the Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections and the Alliance for Democracy are expected to file a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court this week contesting the election.
In news from Iraq, at least 12 people died earlier today when a car bomb exploded outside a police station in Ramadi. Most of the dead were Iraqi police officers.
The InterPressService news agency is reporting that survivors from the attack on Fallujah have reported the US military used poison gas and other non-conventional weapons against civilians during the week-long battle. One witness told the news agency "Poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah. They used everything — tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground." Another witness said, "They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud." The refugee said pieces of these bombs exploded into large fires that burnt the skin even when water was thrown on the burns. Phosphorus weapons as well as napalm are known to cause such effects.
Meanwhile the Iraqi Electoral Commission is insisting the Jan. 30 elections will proceed as scheduled even though 17 Sunni and Kurdish political parties have called for the elections to be postponed for six months. Among those calling for a delay is former governing council member Adnan Pachachi, a former presidential candidate who has been allied closely with Washington.
In Mosul, US forces found the bodies of 17 Iraqis on Saturday. Over the past 10 days, nearly 60 bodies have been recovered in the northern city. At least 20 of the executed men have been identified as members of the Iraqi National Guard. The U.S. military in Mosul believe many of the Iraqi resistance fighters who fled Fallujah landed in Mosul. One official said, "Mosul is as tense as I’ve seen it, and I’ve been here 10 months." At least 7 U.S. troops have died over the past three days. Nearly 1,000 U.S. troops have now died since President Bush declared major combat operations to be over.
Meanwhile a 72-year-old great-grandmother is preparing to head for Iraq to work for the military. Lena Haddix of Oklahoma is expected to be one of the oldest military staff members in Iraq. She volunteered for the mission despite the opposition of her five children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
In Haiti, at least 6,000 people marched in Port Au Prince in support of the ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide who was overthrown in February by a US-backed coup. Organizers called for a new government that included members of Aristide’s Lavalas party as well as Aristide’s return to Haiti.
In Sudan, the World Food Program announced on Thursday that it was suspending much of its relief operation in the Dafur region because of resumed fighting. This leaves an estimated 300,000 refugees without aid.
The Sudanese government has expelled the head of the aid group Save the Children for issuing a statement last week that accused the government of dropping a bomb near one of its feeding centers. The British group is one of the largest food distributors in Darfur. The head of Oxfam has also been expelled.
An international conference on eradicating land mines has opened in Kenya. Ethiopia has become the 144th nation to accept the Ottawa Convention banning antipersonnel mines. Some 40 countries including the US, China and Russia have refused to sign the treaty which came into force five years ago. The Bush administration has decided not to send any representatives to the conference. At the opening of the gathering Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki called landmines "one of the most pressing humanitarian and developmental issues of our time." An estimated 20,000 people die because of landmine explosions every year.
The Guardian of London is reporting that Congress is expanding its threats to cut off aid to countries which refuse to guarantee immunity to Americans from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. For the first time Congress is considering cutting off both civil and military aid to countries. Countries would be denied money meant to fight AIDS and reduce poverty.
In news on the CIA, the New York Times is reporting that two more top officials at the CIA’s clandestine unit have announced they are leaving the agency. Neither could be identified because they worked undercover. The clandestine unit’s chief, Stephen Kappes, and his deputy, Michael Sulick, resigned two weeks ago. The agency has seen a flood of resignations since Bush’s hand-picked director Porter Goss took over.
In Chile, the government has announced it will pay out compensation to some 28,000 Chileans who were abused by Augusto Pinochet’s military regime between 1973 and 1990. About 12 percent of the victims are women — nearly all of whom said they suffered sexual abuse. The country’s president, Ricardo Lagos, has offered all of the victims a life-long pension of $190 a month. "How can we explain such horror?" Lagos asked. "I do not have an answer." Pinochet opposed the government conducting a report on past human rights abuses. A spokesman for the former dictator claimed such a report would "reopen wounds in our society." Meanwhile a Chilean judge is expected to decide within the next two weeks whether Pinochet is mentally fit to stand trial on charges of human rights abuses.
In Spain, Former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has defended his government’s handling of the Madrid train bombings during an appearnce today before the government commission investigating the March 11 bombings. Aznar denied he was lying when he initially blamed the Basque separatist group ETA for the attack even though initial evidence suggested Al Qaeda was behind the subway blasts that killed 191 people.