CNN is reporting the US has begun selecting sites in Yemen to attack if President Obama orders a retaliatory strike in the aftermath of the botched Christmas Day airline bombing. US Special Operations Forces and spies are said to be already inside Yemen and working with their Yemeni counterparts to target members of al-Qaeda. CNN also revealed the existence of a new classified agreement between the two countries that allows the US to fly cruise missiles, fighter jets and armed drones against targets in Yemen with the consent of the Yemeni government. Under the agreement, the US will remain publicly silent on its military and intelligence actions in Yemen. Investigators are still probing the connections between the failed attack and members of al-Qaeda in Yemen. The alleged airline bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was in Yemen up until earlier this month. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports the Nigerian-born bomber was likely radicalized during his time in Britain, not Yemen. From 2005 until earlier this year, he studied at the University College London.
On Tuesday, President Obama acknowledged there had been a systemic failure of the nation’s security system. Obama also revealed the US had gathered some intelligence about a possible attack and that critical information was not shared between government agencies.
President Obama: “When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been so that this extremist boards a plane with dangerous explosives that could have cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred. And I consider that totally unacceptable. The reviews I’ve ordered will surely tell us more, but what already is apparent is that there was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security.”
Opposition websites in Iran now report over 1,500 people have been arrested following Sunday’s mass street protests. The arrested include several prominent opposition leaders. Opposition websites are also reporting that thirty-seven people were killed on Sunday during the police crackdown. The Iranian government has put the death toll at eight. Meanwhile, a representative of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on state television Tuesday that opposition leaders were “enemies of God” who should be executed. Iran’s public prosecutor told a closed session of parliament that opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi "are on the wanted list." Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called the anti-government protests “a theater play by the Zionists and the Americans.”
Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that Israel can no longer bar Palestinians from driving on a major highway that cuts through the West Bank. Route 443 was dubbed "the apartheid road" by many Palestinians and their supporters. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel praised the court ruling. A group spokesperson said, "We hope this will be the end of the segregated roads.” Non-Israeli cars have been prohibited on the highway since 2002. It is unclear if the ruling will apply to other Israel-only roads in the West Bank.
In Iraq at least twenty-three people have died in two suicide bombs in the central city of Ramadi. The attack apparently targeted, Qassim Mohammed, the governor of Anbar province. The governor was initially reported to have been killed in the bombings, but officials now say he survived and has been flown to Baghdad for medical treatment.
In other news from Israel, nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu spoke to reporters Monday after he was put under house arrest for violating his parole orders.
Mordechai Vanunu: "This Jewish state have 200 atomic weapons, have hydrogen bomb, atomic weapons, neutron bomb. And they are not able to say they have the bomb. They are not able to destroy anyone. They are not able to use the bomb. Instead, they arrest Vanunu Mordechai. Any time they want, they cannot say they have the bomb, they arrest Vanunu Mordechai."
Vanunu was released from prison in 2004 after serving an eighteen-year sentence for revealing details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program. Israeli police said Vanunu was arrested on Tuesday because he had met with foreigners. Vanunu’s lawyer Avigdor Feldman disputed the charges.
Avigdor Feldman: "Mr. Vanunu was arrested because he had a relationship, a relationship between a man and a woman, with a Norwegian citizen. He is not being accused of giving any secrets. She is not interested not in nuclear business. She’s interested in Mordechai Vanunu. Mordechai Vanunu is probably interested in her. I’m sure the Norwegian embassy will have something to say about it."
In the Pennsylvania town of Shenandoah, four police officers, including the town’s police chief, have resigned. Earlier this month, the police chief and two of the officers were indicted on charges that they orchestrated a cover-up of the fatal beating of Luis Ramirez, a Mexican immigrant. Ramirez died after a fight with a group of teenagers in Shenandoah. Earlier this month, the Justice Department indicted two of the teenagers on federal hate crimes charges. The police officers and the police chief are accused of several acts, including writing false reports after hearing information implicating the teenage attackers. One of the accused officers was dating the mother of one of the teen suspects, while another officer’s son was a high school football teammate of all those involved.
A federal appeals court has ruled that a California police officer can be held liable for injuries suffered by an unarmed man he tasered during a traffic stop. The Los Angeles Times reports the decision, if allowed to stand, would set a rigorous legal precedent for when police are permitted to use tasers. The ruling will also force law enforcement agencies throughout the state, and presumably the nation, to tighten their policies governing taser use. Monday’s court ruling stems from a 2005 encounter in which a police officer in Coronado, California tasered a man after a routine traffic stop.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, said Tuesday that the international community must do more to fight against maternal mortality.
Dr. Margaret Chan: “One thing that touches me very deeply is the lack of progress in MMR, maternal mortality, in many countries, in Africa, many countries in Africa, in India and other countries in Asia, as well. Now, another important area, also fall under the overall scope of health for women and girls, is violence against women, abuse against women. These are issues we really need to double our effort, or triple our effort."
During her year-end news conference, Margaret Chan also noted some developments in world health over the past year.
Dr. Margaret Chan: “For the first time, we are seeing more than four million HIV patients receiving treatment. This is unimaginable ten years ago. Another example, the under-five child mortality, for the first time in sixty years we saw this figure drop below ten million.”
In news from Africa, a gay couple in the nation of Malawi have been jailed just days after they were married in the nation’s first same-sex wedding ceremony. Police have charged the couple with gross indecency. Under Malawi law, homosexuality is punishable by up to fourteen years in jail. Meanwhile, Uganda is coming under international criticism over a proposed law that would allow the government to sentence gay men and lesbians to life in prison and to jail anyone who promotes homosexuality. The bill originally called for the death penalty for so-called serial offenders of anyone who committed what was described as "aggravated homosexuality."
In Chile, workers at one of the world’s biggest copper mines have voted to go on an indefinite strike beginning next week. The strike at the state-owned copper mine comes just weeks ahead of Chile’s January 17 presidential election run-off. More mining strikes are expected if the center-right candidate Sebastian Pinera wins. He has called for the partial privatization of the state-owned miner, Codelco, the largest copper-producing company in the world.
In West Virginia, state police arrested four members of the group Climate Ground Zero on Tuesday on trespass charges stemming from an action in October. The four activists were all arrested at their homes. On October 10, the activists took part in a protest at the headquarters of Walker CAT, a firm that makes heavy equipment used in mountaintop coal mining.