The British government announced today it has thwarted a plot to blow up ten airplanes making flights to the United States.
At least twenty-one people have been arrested. London’s Heathrow airport has suspended all incoming flights. Hand luggage has been banned on all flights leaving Britain.
Israel’s cabinet has voted to expand the invasion of Lebanon. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow warned both sides against an escalation. But it appears the Bush administration has approved the offensive. According to the Washington Post, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not ask Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to hold back on a new assault when they spoke on Wednesday.
A dozen Lebanese civilians were reported killed in the latest Israeli airstrikes. Lebanon’s death toll is believed to be more than 1,000. Thousands have been wounded and an estimated one million people displaced.
Meanwhile, Israel suffered its worst-single day military toll Wednesday since it invaded Lebanon last month. Fifteen Israeli soldiers were killed in clashes with Hezbollah. At least two dozen soldiers were injured and several tanks left in ruins. Hezbollah continues to fire rockets into Northern Israel, more than 150 on Wednesday. No casualties were reported.
As Israel decided to expand its offensive, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah released a new statement Wednesday pledging a fierce resistance.
Nasrallah went on to call for all Arab-Israelis to leave the Israeli city of Haifa. Nasrallah said he was sadden Hezbollah rockets have killed Haifa’s Arab residents and said the attacks have been scaled down because of their presence. In a major development, Nasrallah also said he would support Lebanon’s proposal to deploy 15,000 Lebanese troops to the border as part of a ceasefire agreement.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in south Lebanon is growing. The UN is warning many villages have been cut off from aid deliveries and are completely without food and water. The British charity Oxfam says Israel’s hold over south Lebanon has created a "logistical nightmare" in reaching the victims. Hospitals are feeling the effects of Israel’s bombing of power stations and fuel supplies. The Lebanese government is warning a fuel shortage could shut down several hospitals within days.
Meanwhile in Britain, a Member of Parliament has resigned his position as defense advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s cabinet in protest of his government’s policy in the Middle East. Jim Sheridan says he’s stepping down amid concerns British airports have hosted US planes shipping arms to Israel and his government’s refusal to push for a ceasefire. Sheridan’s resignation comes as more than 130 British lawmakers have issued a demand to recall parliament to discuss the war on Lebanon.
In Iraq, at least 30 people are dead following a bombing near a Shiite shrine in the city of Najaf. Dozens more were wounded in the attack. Iraq is coming off one of its deadliest months this year. The Baghdad morgue says almost 2,000 bodies were delivered in July.
In the Occupied Territories, a new report from the Palestinian Authority says Israel has taken 600 Palestinians prisoner since the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The prisoners include at least sixty-two Palestinian children. Two of the children are only twelve years old. Israel has launched a relentless attack on Gaza in an avowed effort to secure Shalit’s release. According to the report, there are more than 10,000 Palestinian detainees are currently held in 30 Israeli prisons, detention facilities and interrogation centers. Nearly three dozen elected legislators and cabinet members are among those detained.
In Sri Lanka, Tamil Tiger rebels are claiming more than fifty civilians are dead and 200 wounded in shelling from government forces. The Tigers have been battling the Sri Lanka government for control over a water canal in Trincomalee for more than two weeks. Hundreds have been killed and more 30,000 displaced since clashes broke out.
Meanwhile, the French aid agency Action Against Hunger (Action Contre La Faim) has asked the United Nations to support an independent probe into last week’s killings of seventeen of its aid workers. ACF says the workers were intentionally murdered in what they call a war crime. The rebel Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government have each blamed the other for the killings.
In India, massive flooding this week has displaced an estimated 4.5 million people in the country’s south and western regions. More than three hundred people have died during year’s monsoon rain season.
In Mexico, election officials have begun a partial recount of votes from last month’s presidential elections. Presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is demanding a full recount of all forty-one million votes. On Wednesday, thousands of supporters blocked the offices of three major foreign-owned banks as part of growing protests in support of Lopez Obrador’s demand. Just one-tenth of the country’s polling stations will be subjected to the recount.
There are early results from last month’s elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With just four percent of around twenty million votes counted, President Joseph Kabila is in the lead with seventy-two percent. His main opponent Jean-Piere Bemba has ten percent. Final results are not expected until the end of the month.
Here in the United States, Democrats are lining up behind anti-war challenger Ned Lamont following his primary win over Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. On Wednesday, former President Bill Clinton, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and Senator John Kerry were among leading Democrats calling on party members to back Lamont. Lieberman has vowed to run as an independent. Democratic national chair Howard Dean called Lieberman’s decision: "disrespectful of Democrats and disrespectful of the Democratic Party."
Although support for Lieberman is dwindling, he may have at least one key political backer: the White House. According to ABC News, a source from Lieberman’s campaign said President Bush’s chief advisor Karl Rove had delivered a message of support from the Oval Office. Rove reportedly said: "The boss wants to help. Whatever we can do, we will do." Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney called Lieberman’s loss "an unfortunate development" and said it would possibly encourage "Al Qaeda types." Lieberman also announced Wednesday he has fired his campaign staff.
Meanwhile opposition to the Iraq war has reached its highest level yet. According to a new CNN/ Opinion Research poll, sixty percent of Americans oppose the US war in Iraq. A majority said they would support the withdrawal of at least some U.S. troops by the end of the year.
The world’s largest association of attorneys has delivered another rebuke to President Bush. The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates voted this week to call on the President to stop issuing signing statements, through which he claims a right to ignore or not enforce sections of bills that he signs into law. The ABA also voted to encourage Congress to pass legislation that would help put a stop to the practice. The vote comes on the heels of an ABA report last month warning that President Bush is undermining the Constitution by claiming he has the authority to ignore laws passed by Congress. President Bush has issued some 800 signing statements — more than all previous administrations combined.
The Justice Department has ruled FBI agents were justified in the fatal shooting of Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios. Rios was killed in September during a raid on his home. Agents waited at least nineteen hours before entering his home after they shot him. Autopsy reports show that Rios — known widely in Puerto Rico as "Filiberto" — bled to death from a gunshot wound to his shoulder. Investigators say the shooting was justified because Rios had opened fire on the agents. Pro-independence activists are alleging a cover-up. Independence leader Hector Pesquera called the report contradictory, saying: "This confirms our initial claims that they never had any intention of capturing Filiberto, that they came to kill him, not arrest him."
In labor news, Wal-Mart has backed down on a fight against unionization at its stores in China. The retail giant announced this week it would work with government officials to establish labor unions at all of its stores in China. The announcement comes less than two weeks after employees at one of Wal-Mart’s Chinese stores established the first ever successful union in the company’s history. Four other stores have followed since. Labor experts say Wal Mart agreed to allow unionization because Chinese unions are entirely government-controlled.
In other news, the coffee giant Starbucks has fired the co-founder of a union representing employees at six of its Manhattan stores. Daniel Gross, an organizer for the Starbucks Workers Union, is challenging his dismissal. Starbucks says he was fired for making a threatening remark to a co-worker. But Gross says he was only speaking up for a fellow employee who was set to be fired. Gross told the Associated Press: "By terminating me on Saturday, Starbucks has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s an antiworker, anti union company." Starbucks had no comment on Gross’ case but said it does not discourage union activity.
There has been a major development in the case of the Cuban Five. A federal appeals court has overturned an earlier ruling they deserve a new trial. The men were arrested in 1998 and convicting of spying for the Cuban government three years later. They maintain they were sent to the United States to monitor violent exile groups calling for the overthrow of Fidel Castro. They have remained in prison despite last year’s ruling overturning their convictions.
And finally in South Africa, thousands of people gathered in Pretoria Wednesday to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the march on the Union Buildings. The march is commemorated on South Africa’s Women’s Day in honor of the 20,000 women who marched against a law forcing black South Africans to carry passbooks at all times. The 1956 protest came despite a law banning all unauthorized public gatherings. Wednesday’s anniversary event was led by a group of women veterans of the original march.