The Democratic-led Senate has voted to authorize spending another $150 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate passed the spending measure by a 92-to-3 vote. Democrats Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma voted against the war spending. While the Senate bill authorizes the money to be spent, it does not guarantee it. President Bush will have to wait until Congress passes a separate appropriations bill before war funds are transferred to military coffers.
Protests are continuing across the globe to condemn the military junta in Burma for crushing a pro-democracy uprising led by Buddhist monks. In New York, hundreds gathered on Monday outside the Burmese consulate. Amnesty International’s T. Kumar said thousands of protesters might have died in Burma.
T. Kumar: "So we are extremely pleased that the international community and the folks here are angered by the crackdown there. We don’t know the exact number of people who have been killed. It could be hundreds. It could be thousands. That’s why we want the U.N. Security Council to be there. In '88 several thousands were killed, massacred by the Burmese junta. Today we don't want that to be happened again."
New School Associate Professor Mala Htun criticized China’s support of the military junta in Burma.
Mala Htun: "We think that the United States, the EU and ASEAN nations are starting to pay attention. We think that China is digging their heels in, and we think that we should boycott the Beijing Olympics until China withdraws its support immediately for this military government."
Meanwhile, Burma’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win spoke at the United Nations on Monday and blamed "political opportunists" for staging the protests.
Nyan Win: "Myanmar has had to go through such a challenge recently. That situation would not have deteriorated had the initial protest of the small group of activists against the rise in fuel price had not been exploited by political opportunists. They sought to turn the situation into a political showdown aided and abetted by some powerful countries."
Amnesty International is urging the United Nations to impose an arms embargo on Burma. Amnesty said China, India, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine have all helped arm the Burmese military. According to the defense publication Jane’s Intelligence Review, Israel has also sold fighter jets and artillery to Burma. Meanwhile, Earth Rights International is calling on the oil company Chevron to use its influence in Burma to prevent mass bloodshed. Chevron is one of the largest foreign investors in Burma.
The FBI is sending a team of agents to Baghdad to investigate Blackwater’s actions on Sept. 16 when employees of the private military company shot dead at least 11 Iraqi civilians. Meanwhile, Blackwater’s founder Erik Prince heads to Capitol Hill today to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. According to Time Magazine, Prince will forcefully defend the Blackwater personnel involved in the Sept. 16 Baghdad shooting. According to his prepared testimony, Prince will claim the Blackwater team acted appropriately while operating in a very complex war zone. On Monday, a congressional memo revealed that Blackwater security contractors have been involved in at least 195 shootings since early 2005. In those incidents, Blackwater forces fired first 80 percent of the time.
Attorneys general from eight states have filed lawsuits against the Bush administration over proposed federal rules that would limit the number of children eligible for health insurance. The Bush administration recently proposed new rules to restrict eligibility for the federally subsidized State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Meanwhile, President Bush has renewed his threat to veto legislation passed last week by Congress to appropriate $35 billion for the children’s health insurance program. Backers of the bill say the money is needed to extend health insurance to four million uninsured children.
A historic summit has begun between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. The talks between the two leaders in the North Korean capital mark only the second such meeting in more than 50 years since the Korean War.
In Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf has named the former head of Pakistan’s intelligence services to be his successor as army chief. Musharraf said he would step down as head of Pakistan’s army if he wins the presidential election on Saturday. Lieutenant General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani headed Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency from 2004 until last month. Meanwhile, more than 80 opposition MPs have resigned from Pakistan’s national parliament in protest of Saturday’s election.
A new congressional report reveals the United States remains the leading supplier of weapons to the developing world. Last year the United States agreed to sell over $10 billion in weapons to the developing world. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were major recipients of American arms sales.
The McClatchy newspapers reports Afghanistan is currently suffering its most violent year since the U.S. invasion almost six years ago. The number of attacks and bombings has jumped by 25 percent over last year. There are currently about 40,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa’s ruling coalition has won a solid majority in a newly elected assembly that will rewrite the country’s constitution. Since taking office earlier this year, Correa has called for Ecuador to adopt a new socialism of the 21st century that ends what he has called "the perverse system that has destroyed our democracy, our economy and our society."
Rafael Correa: "We will sit down and speak with everyone but will not waiver even a millimeter on our principles and the mandate that the Ecuadorean people have ratified once again in yesterday’s (vote)."
Latin American analyst Roger Burbach says the vote helps cement Ecuador’s place in an anti-neoliberal axis in Latin America along with Venezuela and Bolivia.
Here in this country, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff defended the construction of a wall along the Mexican border by claiming that it will improve the environment in the Southwest. Chertoff said, "Illegal migrants really degrade the environment. I’ve seen pictures of human waste, garbage, discarded bottles and other human artifact in pristine areas."
Israel released 57 Palestinian prisoners to the West Bank Monday in an effort to bolster support for Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas. Another 29 Palestinian prisoners are scheduled to be released to the Gaza Strip today. Over 10,000 Palestinians remain in Israeli prisons.
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum: "We are in Hamas supporting the freedom for all Palestinian detainees, and we all appreciate their return back to their homes and to their lands, because they are arrested according to the crimes of this occupation which was committed against them and against the Palestinians at all. But we are refused that the policy of the Israeli occupation toward freedom of 10th of the Palestinian detainees, and they are arrested hundreds of them."
The National Iranian American Council is calling on the Bush administration to dismiss a Pentagon official who told a visiting foreign delegation, "I hate all Iranians." Debra Cagan, the deputy assistant secretary for coalition affairs, made the comment last month during an official meeting with British MPs.
The media advocacy group Free Press is urging Congress to hold hearings on phone company censorship policies. Verizon recently barred the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice from using its network to send text messages to supporters. Verizon initially defended the ban, calling NARAL’s program "controversial or unsavory," but the company later reversed its decision. Meanwhile, AT&T has introduced new terms of service that allow the company to terminate the accounts of any customer that damages the name or reputation of AT&T. Questions have been raised if this new policy could be used to silence criticism of AT&T’s corporate practices or the company’s role in the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program.
In other media news, the Federal Communications Commission has announced four more fines against Comcast for airing video news releases on its cable channel CN8. Comcast aired segments produced by General Mills and Allstate without notifying viewers that the pieces were corporate public relations videos.
And student walkouts took place across the country on Monday to show support for the Jena Six. In New York, hundreds marched from Washington Square Park to City Hall.
Protester: "Jena was a really good example of what happens on a daily basis everywhere across the country, and I’d venture to say across the diaspora, as well. And so, that’s why the campaign is called 'We All Live in Jena,' because Jena is happening right here in New York. I think you heard some of the incidents of local examples of discrimination and racial terrorism that African people are facing. And, for us, it’s important because this is a legal lynching, but it’s also an example of what happens when you place people in an education system that is racially terrorizing them, and that creates an environment where we have to then ask to sit under your tree of knowledge, as opposed to either (a) having our own tree of knowledge, or (b) being in an environment where knowledge is shared equally and distributed without regard to race."