Turkish Warplanes Continue Raids on Northern Iraq

Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish areas in northern Iraq earlier today in the fourth cross-border Turkish raid in five days. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey’s fight against Kurdish rebels will go on despite protests from the Iraqi government.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "Our determination will continue as planned. It is impossible for us to make concessions from it, because fighting against terrorism is our priority now. Therefore, it is a necessity for us to keep fighting against terrorism as the parliamentary permit entails."

The Turkish military claims it destroyed more than 200 Kurdish rebel targets and killed hundreds of Kurdish fighters in a series of air strikes ten days ago.

Australia and Poland to Withdraw Troops from Iraq

The governments of Poland and Australia have announced plans to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within a year. During a surprise visit to Iraq, newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Australia’s 550 combat troops will head home by June. Meanwhile, Poland plans to withdraw its 900 troops by October.

Gates: US Needs 7,500 More Troops in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said 7,500 more US troops are needed in Afghanistan to counter increasing violence by the Taliban. The United States already has 26,000 troops in Afghanistan. Gates said al-Qaeda has regrouped on the Pakistan border area.

Robert Gates: "There is no question that some of the areas in the frontier area have become areas where al-Qaeda has reestablished itself. But so far, we haven’t seen any significant consequence of that in Afghanistan itself."

California to Sue EPA over Auto Emissions Standards

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced plans to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for denying the requests by seventeen states to impose their own standards for limiting greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. Schwarzenegger said the EPA had blocked the "will of millions of people in California and 16 other states who want us to take tough action against global warming." Meanwhile, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has launched an investigation into the EPA’s decision. Committee chair Henry Waxman accused EPA administrator Stephen Johnson and the Bush administration of ignoring scientific evidence in favor of allies in the automobile industry. The EPA announced its decision less than two months after Vice President Dick Cheney and White House staff members held a series of meetings with executives from the auto industry, including the CEOs of Ford and Chrysler. During the meetings auto executives made clear that they were concerned about California’s proposal for stricter emissions standards.

Lakota Indians Declare Sovereignty from US

The Lakota Sioux Indians have withdrawn from all treaties with the United States and declared their independence. A delegation from the tribe delivered the news to the State Department last week. Longtime Indian rights activist Russell Means said, "We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us." Lakota country comprises portions of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. The Lakota said the decision was necessary in the face of what they described as colonial apartheid conditions. The life expectancy for Lakota men is less than forty-four years; 97 percent of the Lakota people live below the poverty line. The Lakota also said the United States never honored many treaties signed dating back to the mid-nineteenth century.

FBI Builds Database of People’s Physical Characteristics

The Washington Post reports the FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world’s largest computer database of peoples’ physical characteristics, including digital images of faces, fingerprints, palm patterns, iris patterns and other biometric information. The project will give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of workers who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law. The plan is drawing criticism from those who worry that people’s bodies will become de facto national identification cards. Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union said, "It’s going to be an essential component of tracking. It’s enabling the Always On Surveillance Society."

Palestinians Urge Israel to Stop Settlement Expansion

Palestinian leaders are urging Israel to halt plans to build 740 new homes next year on occupied land near Jerusalem. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Israel’s plans to expand the settlements is "sabotaging negotiation efforts."

Salam Fayyad: "Pursuing peace, on the one hand, and pursuit of a policy based on continued settlement expansion are two parallel paths that will never meet. They cannot meet, by definition. There’s a basic fundamental contradiction here — settlement expansion has to stop if a peace process is to have any credibility. This is what has been agreed, what was agreed at Annapolis. We expect for there to be a complete cessation of these activities."

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Palestinian demonstrators scuffled with Israeli soldiers on Friday during a demonstration against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank. Protest organizer Sami Talhami was one of several activists dressed like Santa.

Sami Talhami: "From Bethlehem, from where Jesus was born, from where the apartheid wall is being built around our villages and cities, we say, yes, there is hope. There is hope for peace, and there is a chance for peace. It needs the world to move. It needs the world to realize that there is injustice happening here and for the world to say we will work for peace in the holy land."

Israel Rules It Was OK to Use Cluster Bombs in Lebanon

In other news from the region, an Israeli military prosecutor has concluded that Israel’s use of cluster bombs during the 2006 Lebanon war was justified and did not violate any standards of international law. Lebanese officials accused the Israeli army of covering up war crimes. The United Nations and human rights groups say Israel dropped about four million cluster bomblets during the thirty-four-day war. More than thirty people have been killed by cluster bomb and land mine explosions in Lebanon since the 2006 summer war.

Hindu Politician Tied to 2002 Massacre Reelected in Gujarat

In news from India, the nationalist Hindu politician Narendra Modi has been reelected head of the western state of Gujarat. Modi has been accused of sanctioning the massacre of 2,500 Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. A recent exposé in the Indian magazine Tehelka revealed that Modi gave Hindu right-wing activists three days to attack Muslims with impunity.

Nepal to Abolish the Monarchy

In other news from Asia, the government in Nepal has agreed to abolish the monarchy as part of a deal with Maoist rebels. Maoist chief Prachanda said, "For the first time in Nepal’s history a republic will be written in the constitution. This is not an ordinary achievement." The decision to abolish the monarchy will become effective after next year’s elections for a constituent assembly.

FBI’s Hoover Drafted Plan to Imprison 12,000 Americans

And a newly declassified document from 1950 shows that former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover drafted a plan to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans he suspected of disloyalty. Hoover sent his plan to the White House in July, 1950, twelve days after the Korean War began. Hoover wanted the FBI to be able to permanently detain all individuals potentially dangerous to national security and jail them at military bases and in federal prisons. According to the New York Times, no known evidence suggests President Truman or any other president approved any part of Hoover’s proposal.

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