Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation today in order to avoid charges of impeachment that were to be leveled against him later this week. General Musharraf has ruled Pakistan since he seized power in a 1999 coup. He has been a close ally to the United States for the past decade. Al Jazeera reports Musharraf’s resignation was brokered by Saudi Arabia, the United States and Britain. In a televised address, Musharraf insisted on his innocence but said he did not want to subject Pakistan to a draining political battle. According to the Pakistani constitution, a new president must be chosen within thirty days. We’ll have more on Pakistan after headlines.
The Justice Department has proposed a new domestic spying measure that would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans, share the sensitive data with federal agencies and retain it for at least ten years — this according to a report in the Washington Post. The proposed changes would apply to any of the nation’s 18,000 state and local police agencies that receive federal grants. Mike German of the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the plan. The former FBI agent said, "If police officers no longer see themselves as engaged in protecting their communities from criminals and instead as domestic intelligence agents working on behalf of the CIA, they will be encouraged to collect more information. It turns police officers into spies on behalf of the federal government."
Russian troops with armored cars remained stationed in the Georgian city of Gori today despite Moscow’s pledge to withdraw from parts of the country. The Kremlin had announced that Russia would start pulling back today, but no specific time was given. While Russia has pledged to withdraw from Georgia, the Russian military has reportedly been moving short-range ballistic missile launchers into the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. Meanwhile, the president of South Ossetia fired his government earlier today and declared a month-long emergency. On Friday, Senator John McCain suggested the situation in Georgia was a more serious crisis than the US invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan.
Sen. John McCain: “My friends, we have reached a crisis, the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War. This is an act of aggression.”
President Bush accused Russia of bullying Georgia.
President Bush: "With its actions in recent days, Russia has damaged its credibility and its relations with the nations of the free world. Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the twenty-first century.”
Meanwhile, tensions are increasing between Poland and Russia after Poland agreed to house a US missile base. On Friday, a top Russian general said Poland’s decision will expose Poland to attack, possibly by nuclear weapons.
The Washington Post is reporting federal prosecutors have sent target letters to six Blackwater guards involved in a shooting last September that left seventeen Iraqi civilians dead in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. This indicates a high likelihood the Justice Department will seek to indict at least some of the men.
In campaign news, The Hill newspaper reports the top executives from the country’s largest companies have donated ten times more money to John McCain’s campaign than to Barack Obama’s. The chief executive officers of the 100 biggest Fortune 500 corporations have given McCain just over $218,000. Obama has received about $20,000 from the same CEOs. McCain has pledged to drastically cut the the corporate tax rate, a move that would save the country’s 200 largest corporations almost $45 billion a year. According to the Center for American Progress, eight companies would save over a billion dollars a year under McCain’s plan: Wal-Mart, AT&T, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Bank of America, Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase.
In Latin America, a former priest known as the “Bishop of the Poor” has been sworn in as Paraguay’s new president. Fernando Lugo was inaugurated on Friday, ending over sixty years of power by the conservative Colorado Party. Lugo pledged to give land to the landless and fight corruption.
Fernando Lugo: "Today we start a new chapter of Paraguayan history, whose authorities will be relentless against the thieves in their communities."
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other Latin American leaders have expressed support for Paraguay’s new president.
Hugo Chavez: "All the oil Paraguay needs in this century, Venezuela has, and Venezuela guarantees to supply Paraguay right to the last drop...for the development of Paraguay’s people, industry and agriculture."
The leader of the decade-long Maoist rebellion in Nepal has been sworn in as the country’s new prime minister. Prachanda was overwhelmingly voted in as Nepal’s new premier by lawmakers in the country’s constitutional assembly. Nepal’s monarchy was abolished earlier this year.
In news from Africa, a court in Chad has sentenced the country’s former dictator, Hissene Habre, to death for crimes against the state. A state commission concluded Habre orchestrated the killing of tens of thousands of political opponents during his eight years in power. Habre is currently living in Senegal, where he is to be eventually tried on charges for murder and torture.
Police arrested twenty-two pro-independence activists in Hawaii on Friday after they briefly took control of the grounds of the Iolani Palace, the former home of Hawaii’s last monarchs. The protesters were members of the Kingdom of Hawaii, a group that supports returning a monarchy to Hawaii. Another pro-independence group called the Hawaiian Kingdom Government occupied the Palace grounds in April.
The US military has issued $4 million in grants to university researchers to study ways to read people’s thoughts. According to the Associated Press, the military says the research could someday lead to a gadget capable of translating the thoughts of soldiers who suffered brain injuries in combat or even stroke patients in hospitals. But critics say such mind-reading technology could be used during interrogations. The project is a collaboration among researchers at the University of California, Irvine; Carnegie Mellon University; and the University of Maryland.
And in Louisiana, a teenager who hung nooses off the back of his truck has been sentenced to four months in prison. Nineteen-year-old Jeremiah Munsen displayed the nooses on Sept. 20, the day of the large civil rights protest in Jena, Louisiana to support the Jena Six.