In India, two top political figures have resigned days after a deadly attack on the city of Mumbai left at least 172 dead and hundreds injured. On Wednesday, attackers armed with automatic weapons and a vest of grenades targeted multiple locations in Mumbai, including two luxury hotels, a restaurant, a hospital, the city’s largest train station, a movie theater, and a Jewish center. The dead included eighteen foreigners. Hostages were held for up to sixty hours as Indian forces battled the gunmen inside multiple locations, including the historic Taj Mahal Hotel. Indian officials believe the coordinated raids were carried out by as few as ten gunmen who arrived in the city by boat.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: “We have had terrorist attacks before ours, but this attack was different. It was an attack by highly trained and well-armed terrorists targeting our largest city."
The Guardian newspaper reports the Indian government has raised the country’s security to a "war level," saying it had certain proof of a Pakistani link to the Mumbai attacks. India’s official news agency is reporting that the government was considering suspending the four-year-old peace process with Pakistan. Pakistan’s government condemned the Mumbai assault as a "barbaric act of terrorism" and denied involvement. Some Indian officials are blaming the attacks on the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has longstanding relationships with Pakistan’s security establishment. Indian author and new age guru Deepak Chopra appeared on CNN and said US foreign policy in the region had radicalized many in the region.
Deepak Chopra: “What we have seen in Mumbai has been brewing for a long time, and the war on terrorism and the attack on Iraq only compounded the situation. What we call 'collateral damage' and going after the wrong people actually turns moderates into extremists, and that inflammation then gets organized, and it appears as this disaster in Bombay. Now the worst thing that could happen is there’s a backlash on the Muslims from the fundamental Hindus in India, which then will perpetuate the problem. Inflammation will create more inflammation.”
Iraq’s parliament has approved a landmark security pact with the United States that paves the way for US forces to withdraw by the end of 2011. The deal could mark the beginning of the end of a US military presence in Iraq that began with the 2003 invasion. The security pact has been opposed by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and some Sunni groups, in part because it allows US forces to remain for another three years. In a compromise, lawmakers agreed to hold a national referendum on the security pact in July. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki described the pact as one of the best achievements that will help recover Iraq’s sovereignty.
Nouri al-Maliki: "We have achieved one of our greatest achievements by signing the agreement of withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq, to get back our sovereignty that we lost two decades ago, and I congratulate the Iraqi people."
President-elect Barack Obama plans to officially introduce Senator Hillary Clinton as his nominee to be Secretary of State today. He is also expected to name retired General James Jones to be National Security Adviser and to announce that Robert Gates will remain as Secretary of Defense. Jones is the former commander of NATO. Since retiring, he has served on the boards of Chevron and Boeing. Obama will also announce Eric Holder for Attorney General, Janet Napolitano for secretary of Homeland Security, and Susan Rice to become ambassador to the United Nations.
On Wednesday, Obama defended his decision to surround himself with many former Clinton administration officials and other Washington insiders despite campaigning on a message of change.
President-elect Barack Obama: “What we are going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking. But understand where the vision for change comes from first and foremost. It comes from me. That’s my job, is to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure then that my team is implementing it.”
The Washington Post reports the US military expects to station 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 to help state and local officials respond to assist in homeland security. The Pentagon’s plan calls for three rapid-reaction forces to be ready for emergency response by September 2011. The first 4,700-person unit, built around an active-duty combat brigade based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, is already available to be deployed domestically.
In Nigeria, over 400 people have died in the city of Jos after clashes between Christians and Muslims following a disputed local election. The Red Cross estimates 7,000 people have fled their homes. Churches and mosques were reportedly burned to the ground during the fighting.
The New York Times reports the Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job. The proposal would, in many cases, add a step to the lengthy process of developing standards to protect workers’ health. Public health officials and labor unions said the rule would delay needed protections for workers, resulting in additional deaths and illnesses. The rule change has been strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama. The Labor Department proposal is one of about twenty highly contentious rules the Bush administration is planning to issue in its final weeks.
A US war resister who fought in Iraq has applied for asylum in Germany, saying the Iraq war was illegal and that he could not support the "heinous acts" taking place. Andre Shepherd has been living in Germany since going AWOL last year. On Thursday, Shepherd said, "When I read and heard about people being ripped to shreds from machine guns or being blown to bits by the Hellfire missiles, I began to feel ashamed about what I was doing. I could not in good conscience continue to serve." Andre Shepherd is believed to be the second US soldier to seek asylum in Germany since the start of the Iraq war.
In Long Island, New York, a worker at Wal-Mart died after being trampled to death by a stampede of shoppers on Friday, the traditional first day of the holiday shopping season. The thirty-four-year-old worker, Jdimytai Damour, was killed after a crowd of 2,000 broke down store doors and ran over him shortly before the store’s scheduled 5:00 a.m. opening. Four shoppers were injured in the stampede, including a pregnant woman. Nassau County police were trying to determine what happened during the stampede, but said it was unclear if there would be any criminal charges. Shoppers at Wal-Mart described a chaotic scene at the store.
Lisa Williford: "It was mayhem. It was mayhem. It was a real mob. It was a real mob. And I was on the line at ten minutes to 4:00, so it was at least 4,000-5,000 people already here before this — before I got here. So I think the thing that people were anxious — ’I’m going to get in. I’m going to get in. I’m going to get in’ — and I don’t think the people, the security that they had, was enough to calm the crowd or make the crowd feel like you’re going to get your turn."
In Massachusetts, members of the United American Indians of New England held a protest on Thursday to mark the National Day of Mourning. The day is observed by many Native Americans and their supporters in protest of the traditional Thanksgiving holiday. Speakers included Juan Gonzalez, representing the consulate of Mayan Elders.
And in political news, rumors have it that MSNBC host Chris Matthews is considering a run for the US Senate in Pennsylvania against Republican Arlen Specter. Matthews is a Philadelphia native and once served as an aide to House Speaker Tip O’Neill.