US forces attacked a farm in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border on Sunday, reportedly killing eight civilians. Syria’s official news agency said four US helicopters crossed into Syria carrying the US troops. The Syrian Foreign Ministry condemned what it described as as act of aggression. The attack is believed to mark the first time that US troops have launched an attack inside Syria since the start of the Iraq war. The Bush administration has accused Syria of not doing enough to stop anti-American forces from crossing the border into Iraq.
A suspected US missile strike inside Pakistan has killed up to twenty people. The target of the US drone attack was a compound used by members of the Taliban. Since August, US predator drones have carried out at least eighteen strikes inside Pakistan. The New York Times reports the CIA recently expanded its list of Pakistani targets and has gained approval from the government in Islamabad to bolster eavesdropping operations in the border region. The new head of Pakistan’s spy service, the ISI, Ahmed Shuja Pasha, is in Washington this week to meet with CIA director Michael Hayden.
The Los Angeles Times reports senior Pentagon officials are considering sending additional teams of highly trained special operations forces to Afghanistan to target wanted militants. Many military leaders are increasingly arguing that an Iraq-style troop "surge" and counterinsurgency plan would not work because of the country’s rugged geography and a history of resistance to rule from Kabul.
In economic news, Japan’s Nikkei stock index has fallen to a twenty-six-year low as fear grows about a global recession. The Nikkei lost more than six percent today. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index tumbled nearly 13 percent.
Death row prisoner Troy Davis was granted a stay of execution on Friday, three days before his scheduled execution. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Georgia gave Davis’s lawyers fifteen days to file documents with the court, supporting defense claims that Davis is being wrongfully held in prison. The court will then decide if the case should go back before a lower court, which could order a new trial.
In election news, a series of voting disputes in key swing states remain unresolved with just eight days to go before the presidential election. In Colorado, more than 11,000 voters in Denver have not received absentee ballots because of a mistake made by the company Sequoia Voting Systems. Sequoia was supposed to have delivered 21,000 ballots to a Denver mail processing facility on October 16, but the company only delivered about half of the requested ballots.
In other election news from Colorado, the Advancement Project has sued Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman for his alleged illegal purge of voters across the state. The suit alleges that between 16,000 and 30,000 voters were purged in violation of the National Voting Rights Act.
The White House is intervening in an election dispute in the state of Ohio. The White House has asked the Department of Justice to look into whether 200,000 new Ohio voters must reconfirm their registration information before the Nov. 4 election because their records don’t precisely match other government databases. Last week, the US Supreme Court dismissed a case brought by the Ohio Republican Party over the issue.
On the campaign trail, over 100,000 people attended a Barack Obama rally in Denver, Colorado. Another 45,000 showed up for a second rally in Fort Collins. On Saturday, Obama campaigned in Reno, Nevada.
Barack Obama: "Somewhere in this crowd, there are parents or grandparents who said 'I might not have the right to vote, but my child, he might be able to run for the United States Senate. He might be able to run for the presidency of the United States of America. Nevada, that's the American Dream. That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s what this election is about.”
At a rally in Denver, Colorado, Senator John McCain continued his critique of Barack Obama’s economic policies.
John McCain: "We’re going to double the child deduction for every family. We’ll cut the capital gains tax. We’ll cut business taxes to help create jobs and keep American businesses in America. You know, as Joe the Plumber and small business owners across the country have now reminded us all, America didn’t become the greatest nation on earth by giving our money to the government to spread the wealth around."
Barack Obama has picked up a series of prominent newspaper endorsements including the Financial Times and the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska’s largest newspaper. The Financial Times applauded Obama’s handling of the financial crisis, saying he displayed a "calm and methodical disposition," while McCain had offered "hasty half-baked interventions." The Anchorage Daily News said it was endorsing Obama in part because of McCain’s selection of Alaskan governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate. The paper said, “Few who have worked closely with the governor would argue she is truly ready to assume command of the most important, powerful nation on earth.”
On Friday, NBC broadcast a joint interview with McCain and Palin. When questioned by NBC’s Brian Williams, Palin refused to say whether people who blew up abortion clinics are terrorists.
Brian Williams: "Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist, under this definition, Governor?"
Sarah Palin: "There’s no question that Bill Ayers, via his own admittance, was one who sought to destroy our US Capitol and our Pentagon. That is a domestic terrorist. There’s no question there. Now, others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or facilities that it would be unacceptable, I don’t know if you’re going to use the word 'terrorist' there."
The website Huffington Post has revealed John McCain traveled to Chile in 1985 to have a private meeting with Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet. According to a declassified US embassy cable, McCain described the meeting with Pinochet as "friendly and at times warm.” At the time of the meeting, the US Justice Department was seeking the extradition of two close Pinochet associates for an act of terrorism in Washington, D.C., the 1976 assassination of former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his colleague Ronni Moffitt. During his trip to Chile, McCain made no public or private statements critical of the dictatorship, nor did he meet with members of the democratic opposition in Chile.
The Republican Party in Pennsylvania sent out an email last week to 75,000 Jewish voters warning that an Obama victory could lead to a second Holocaust. The email read in part, “Many of our ancestors ignored the warning signs in the 1930s and 1940s and made a tragic mistake. Let’s not make a similar one this year!" The email also claimed that Obama had “taught members of Acorn to commit voter registration fraud.” The Republican Party is now disavowing the email, claiming that a Republican consultant had sent it without authorization.
A Republican campaign worker has admitted she made up a story about being attacked by an African American man in Pittsburgh because of a John McCain sticker. Ashley Todd had told police that a man had punched her in the back of the head, knocked her to the ground, while threatening to teach her a lesson for being a McCain supporter. She claimed the man scratched a backward letter B on the right side of her face. Todd has been charged with filing a false police report.
In news from Iraq, the McClatchy Newspapers report the US military has warned Iraq that it will shut down military operations and other vital services throughout the country on Jan. 1 if the Iraqi government doesn’t agree to a new agreement on the status of US forces. Many Iraqi politicians said they view the move as akin to political blackmail. In addition to halting all military actions, US forces would cease activities that support Iraq’s economy, educational sector and other areas.
A new United Nations report has revealed major US cities, including New York, Washington, Atlanta and New Orleans, have levels of economic inequality that rival cities in Africa. The report found that the United States had the highest inequality and poverty after Mexico and Turkey, and the gap has increased rapidly since 2000. The life expectancy of African Americans in the United States is about the same as that of people living in China and some states of India.
In news from Africa, US-backed Ethiopian troops are scheduled to begin a phased withdrawal from Somalia on Nov. 21 under a ceasefire agreement between Somalia’s transitional government and one faction of Islamist rebels. A ceasefire is set to begin on November 5. Thousands of civilians have been killed in Somalia since the Ethiopian invasion in December 2006.
And in San Francisco, a landmark trial against Chevron begins today. Nineteen Nigerian plaintiffs have accused Chevron of recruiting and supplying Nigerian military forces involved in shooting and killing protesters in the oil-rich Niger Delta.