In Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf has vowed to lift a state of emergency on December 16th. Musharraf made the pledge as he was sworn in to a new five-year presidential term, one day after stepping down as military chief. Under the emergency rule, Musharraf has purged the Supreme Court, arrested thousands of opponents and censored critical media. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif welcomed the announced date but said opposition would continue.
Nawaz Sharif: “Our struggle is for the restoration of democracy. Our struggle is for the restoration of the judiciary. Our struggle is for the release of all the prisoners. Our struggle is for a level playing field for everybody.”
Sharif and another former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, are registered to run against Musharraf in January but say they may boycott the vote. Meanwhile, at the White House Press Secretary Dana Perino praised Musharraf for announcing a date to lift the emergency rule.
White House Press Secretary Dana Perino: “We are not going to judge the date of lifting the emergency order. The President has said that it should be lifted as quickly as possible, as soon as possible. President Musharraf has indicated that December 16th would be the date, and we hope that he follows through on that.”
President Bush is warning the Pentagon may soon begin issuing layoff notices unless Democrats drop a withdrawal deadline from a war-funding bill. The White House has refused to accept a Democratic measure providing $50 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but setting a nonbinding goal for withdrawing combat troops from Iraq by next year. On Thursday, Bush said he would reject any war-funding conditioned on withdrawing troops.
President Bush: “Let us tell Afghans and Iraqis that we will stand with them as they take the fight to our common enemies. Let us tell our men and women in uniform that we will give them what they need to succeed in their missions, without strings and without delay. I ask Congress to provide this essential funding to our troops before the members leave on their Christmas vacation.”
The House passed its version of the bill earlier this month. Republicans have blocked a similar measure in the Senate. The legislation also requires the CIA to follow the Army manual ban on waterboarding during interrogations.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, dozens of lawmakers walked out of parliament this week over their treatment at the hands of US soldiers. The lawmakers say they routinely endure aggressive and humiliating searches in Baghdad’s Green Zone. As many as 100 lawmakers took part in the protests.
In the Philippines, nearly 100 military officers and their supporters have been arrested in a failed mutiny against President Gloria Arroyo. At least one-quarter of the soldiers had fled their trial for an initial coup attempt in 2003. Arroyo’s popularity has waned amidst allegations of corruption and human rights abuses. Dissident General Danilo Lim defended the mutiny.
General Danilo Lim: “Dissent without action is consent. What we did was in consonance with our solemn constitutional mandate to be the protector of the people and the state.”
Earlier today, thousands of people took to the streets of Manila supporting the mutineers’ demands for Arroyo’s resignation. The march comes on the Philippine national holiday honoring the anti-colonial resistance figure Andres Bonifacio.
In Venezuela, tens of thousands of protesters marched through Caracas Thursday to oppose a series of constitutional changes proposed by President Hugo Chavez. Venezuelans will vote on sixty-nine measures, including eliminating presidential term limits, creating forms of communal property, and cutting the work day from eight hours to six. Thursday’s demonstration was the biggest show of opposition to the constitutional overhaul so far.
Demonstrator: “This Sunday, we are going to give President Chavez a definitive 'no' so he doesn’t continue violating all of our rights and remaining in power, which is his only interest.”
Most surveys say the outcome of the Sunday vote is too close to call. Chavez plans to lead rallies in favor of the reforms later today. More on Venezuela later in the broadcast.
Back in the United States, the Bush administration has been ordered to release all information on lobbying attempts from the nation’s major telecom companies to protect from prosecution over their involvement in domestic spying. The District Court ruling came in a case brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation against AT&T. It’s one of several firms accused of illegally handing over customer communications without court warrants.
In California, state lawmakers are considering legislation to regulate the predatory practices of the subprime mortgage market. Home foreclosures have skyrocketed under the growth of high-interest loans to low-income Americans. The proposed measures include creating a standard process for restructuring mortgages and banning higher-interest loans when recipients are eligible for lower ones. Some 200,000 homes are expected to go into foreclosure in California next year.
And in Milwaukee, three former police officers have been sentenced to prison terms for the October 2004 beating of a biracial man. The victim, Frank Jude, was nearly killed when a group of off-duty police officers — all of them white — beat him at a party. Jude was repeatedly punched and kicked in the head and body. His fingers were pulled back, a knife was put to his neck and anus, his pants were cut off, and objects were jammed into both ears. An emergency room doctor who treated Jude testified he had the worst ear injuries she had seen in fifteen years of practice. On Thursday, three officers were given sentences of at least fifteen years. An all-white jury initially acquitted the three officers and another officer of most state charges in April 2006.