The recently freed kidnapped members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams are enjoying their first full day of freedom and preparing to head home. On Thursday British, U.S. and Canadian troops raided a home in Baghdad and found the three peace activists. The men — Norman Kember of Britain, and Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden–were alone in a house and reportedly in good condition. It was only after their release that the men learned that their colleague Tom Fox had been killed two weeks earlier. The four men were kidnapped together in November. Following their release, the Christian Peacemaker Team organization vowed to stay in Iraq and continue their efforts in helping the families of jailed Iraqis. In a statement the group said "During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis... We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq." Officials estimate an average of 30 Iraqis are kidnapped every day.
In other news from Iraq, at least 80 people have died over the past two days in a series of drive-by shootings, roadside bombings and executions. In one of the deadliest attacks, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the major crimes unit of the Interior Ministry killing 25.
Meanwhile to the west of Baghdad, over 1,000 U.S. troops have surrounded a village near Abu Ghraib. After the town was cordoned off, U.S. soldiers conducted house-to-house searches and rounded up the entire adult male population of the town. Soldiers handcuffed and then interrogated every man in the village. After questioning, each man was marked with an X on the back of their necks. One U.S. colonel defended the operation saying "What we’re doing is building a Michelin guide to the area."
In Los Angeles protest organizers are predicting as many as 500,000 people will demonstrate on Saturday against a new anti-immigrant law being considered by Congress. The House of Representatives has approved legislation that would criminalize 11 million undocumented immigrants and make it a crime for priests, nuns, health care workers and other social workers to offer them help. The Senate is considering similar legislation. The National Immigration Forum has described the bill as the most restrictive immigration legislation in 70 years. The bill has generated mass opposition from immigrant communities around the country. On Thursday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as many as 30,000 people took part in a march titled "A Day Without Latinos." It was the city’s biggest protest in years. Dozens of Latino businesses shut down for the protest. In Chicago, as many as 300,000 people filled the streets two weeks ago.
In news on Sudan–for the first time a U.S. mutual fund firm is backing a campaign to divest from companies doing business in Sudan because of the government’s role in the genocide in the Darfur region. The mutual fund, Citizens Advisers, said it will ask every company within its portfolio to review and divest from investments in Sudan. According to the Sudan Divestment Campaign, U.S. public pension funds have about $91 billion invested in companies with business activities in Sudan. Meanwhile Harvard University announced on Thursday it was divesting from the Chinese oil company Sinopec because it does work in Sudan. Students at Harvard are now pressuring the school to divest from all companies working with the Sudanese government–a move taken last week by the University of California after a student campaign there.
In South Korea, a woman has been selected to become the country’s first female prime minister. Han Myung-Sook is a former political dissident who was jailed for two years for opposing South Korea’s military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s. She is known as the godmother of South Korean feminism.
In Belarus, police have arrested hundreds of anti-government demonstrators early this morning following nearly a week of protests over the disputed re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko. Riot police wearing black helmets and masks carried out the mass arrests at 3 a.m. after surrounding October Square where protesters have been camped out since Sunday. International observers have said the recent election was neither free nor fair. The U.S. has called for a new vote.
In South Dakota, the leader of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation has reportedly announced plans to allow Planned Parenthood to open a clinic on the reservation in defiance of the state’s new ban on abortion. Cecilia Fire Thunder, who is a former nurse, said the clinic will be allowed to open because the state has no jurisdiction over tribal lands.
Puerto Rico’s Justice Department has sued U.S. federal authorities for obstructing an investigation into the FBI’s killing of Puerto Rican independence activist Filiberto Ojeda Ríos. The lawsuit names both FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as well as federal officials in Puerto Rico.
In Ecuador, indigenous activists have temporarily suspended protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas. On Thursday police fired tear gas at hundreds of student and indigenous protesters during a march on the government palace in Quito. On Tuesday the government declared a state of emergency in four areas giving the police and military power to ban public gatherings and make arrests. Indigenous activists say the demonstrations are being temporarily halted after 11 days to allow the protesters to regroup and to give them a chance plan new actions with greater radicalism. " The indigenous communities have mobilized themselves in the places in which they live. In the different provinces of the country they have shut down the highways and have blocked the transportation of resources to the cities," said Alexandra Meida of the Ecuadorian group Ecological Action. "This is the form of protest that is occurring. The government has responded by militarizing these zones–the soldiers and the police are completely armed. They are strongly suppressing the indigenous population.
New Study Criticizes Power of Israeli Lobby in Washington
And a dean at Harvard University and a professor at the University of Chicago are coming under intense criticism for publishing an academic critique of the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington. The paper charges that the United States has willingly set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of Israel. In addition the study accuses the pro-Israeli lobby, particularly AIPAC–the American Israel Public Affairs Committee–of manipulating the U.S. media, policing academia and silencing critics of Israel by labeling them as anti-Semitic. The study also examines the role played by pro-Israeli neo-conservatives in the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of iraq. The authors of the study, Stephen Walt, a dean at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and John Mearsheimer of University of Chicago are now themselves being accused of anti-Semitism. In Washington, Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel of New York described the professors as "dishonest so-called intellectuals" and "anti-Semites." Harvard professor, Ruth Wisse called for the paper to be withdrawn. Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz described the study as trash that could have been written by Neo-Nazi David Duke. The New York Sun reported Harvard has received several calls from 'pro-Israel donors' expressing concern about the paper. Harvard has already taken steps to distance itself from the report. Earlier this week it removed the logo of the Kennedy School of Government from the paper and added a new disclaimer to the study. The 81-page report was originally published on Harvard’s website and an edited version appeared in the London Review of Books. The controversy comes less than a year after Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz attempted to block the publication of Norman Finkelstein’s book "Beyond Chutzpah: On The Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History."