In Iran, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi says he’s resisting government pressure to withdraw his challenge to this month’s disputed election. On Thursday, Mousavi said he would continue to call for protests despite an ongoing government crackdown. Mousavi’s website, meanwhile, is claiming seventy university professors have been recently arrested for holding meetings with him.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has issued a public rebuke of President Obama, accusing him of interfering in Iran. Ahmadinejad chided Obama for recent comments criticizing the Iranian government crackdown on protesters.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "To take such a rude tone with a great nation, this is inexcusable. We understand that you’re still gaining experience and you’re still trying to work out what’s hot and what’s cold. And I want to give you a bit of friendly advice: we don’t want to see a repetition of the mess that was created during the Bush era, and we don’t want to see the same thing happening to a new administration in the United States."
The streets of Tehran were relatively quiet Thursday following days of clashes that have left at least seventeen people dead. Witnesses said hundreds of people defied a government ban and held a grave site tribute to the slain Iranian protester Neda Agha-Soltan. Soltan was killed last week by pro-government forces while attending a protest. Her death was caught on videotape and has emerged as a symbol of the Iranian protests.
In Iraq, at least thirteen people were killed and another forty-five wounded in a bombing of a Baghdad market earlier today. More than seven bombings struck areas around Iraq on Thursday. The violence comes ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline for a withdrawal of US troops from major Iraqi cities and towns to operate from military bases.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Finance Committee negotiators say they’ve reduced the cost of a healthcare reform bill to $1 trillion. A large segment of the cuts would come from reducing federal subsidies for the uninsured. The current Finance Committee plan also proposes what the Washington Post calls "substantial reductions in future spending on Medicare and Medicaid" — the main federal programs for elderly and low-income Americans. As negotiations continued, thousands of healthcare activists came to Washington Thursday for a day of action organized by Health Care for America Now. Among those to address the rally were New York Senator Charles Schumer and the actor Edie Falco, best known for starring on the HBO series The Sopranos. Also speaking was New York healthcare worker Togba Porte.
Togba Porte: "Any country as good as the United States of America should be able to have affordable healthcare for all of its citizens. When 41 million people do not have the right to healthcare, it’s a travesty, it’s an injustice, it’s unfair."
Health Care for America Now organized the event in part to support President Obama’s call for the establishment of a government-run public health option. Earlier this week, Obama signaled he’d be willing to drop the proposal if it fails to gain enough bipartisan support.
In other news from Washington, the House could vote as early as today on a climate bill that would limit greenhouse gas emissions. The measure would cut emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. It would also impose a controversial cap-and-trade system that would ostensibly cancel out emissions. The bill’s proposed emission cuts were initially higher but were weakened to appease lawmakers backed by the energy industry. On Thursday, President Obama urged Congress to pass the bill.
President Obama: "Now I urge every member of Congress, Democrat and Republican, to come together to support this legislation. I can’t stress enough the importance of this vote. I know this is going to be a close vote, in part because of the misinformation that’s out there that suggests there is somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and our economic growth."
Several major environmental groups have supported the climate bill, but at least one is urging its members to demand stronger legislation. In a public appeal, Friends of the Earth president Brent Blackwelder said, "Corporate polluters including Shell and Duke Energy helped write this bill, and the result is that we’re left with legislation that fails to come anywhere close to solving the climate crisis."
The Palestinian group Hamas has renewed its acceptance of a Palestinian state within the Occupied Territories but rejected Israel’s insistence to be recognized as a "Jewish state." On Thursday, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal dismissed Israel’s demand as "racist" and compared it to Nazi ideology. Meshaal also welcomed what he called President Obama’s "new language" toward Hamas. But he called on Obama to take meaningful steps to end the Israeli occupation.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal: "What is demanded from the biggest states and the most important ones are actions and crucial positions and serious initiatives that return the rights to their owners and end the illegal occupation, not only speeches that show intentions and promises."
Pakistan’s prime minister has renewed calls for an end to US drone attacks on Pakistani soil. On Thursday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani released a statement calling for a halt to the attacks shortly after meeting US National Security Adviser James Jones.
The Nigerian government says it’s offered amnesty to militants fighting in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua made the announcement on Thursday.
Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua: "I hereby grant amnesty and unconditional pardon to all persons who have directly or indirectly participated in the commission of offenses associated with militant activities in the Niger Delta."
Nigeria says the militants will have until October 4th to accept the amnesty offer. The Niger Delta’s main militant group, MEND, has criticized the amnesty effort because it says it’s been excluded from the talks.
In North Korea, more than 100,000 people attended a government rally Thursday denouncing the United States. Government speakers promised "a fire shower of nuclear retaliation" in the event of US or South Korean military action. Tensions have recently increased on the Korean Peninsula with recent North Korean missile and nuclear tests and new US-backed sanctions.
Honduras is facing an internal political crisis over a planned referendum by President Manuel Zelaya. Zelaya wants to hold a referendum on Sunday that would let voters decide on rewriting the constitution. But Honduran Supreme Court justices and other government officials say the referendum is illegal. On Thursday, hundreds of soldiers deployed around the Honduran Congress after Zeyala fired the head of the Honduran military. Critics say Zeyala has overstepped his authority, while Zelaya says he’s being undermined by elite groups who oppose the referendum.
The UN General Assembly is in the last day of a summit on reforming financial regulation in the wake of the global economic crisis. A draft proposal set for approval today calls for increasing aid to poorer nations, tightening regulation of complex financial instruments, and reforming the IMF and other multilateral institutions. On Thursday, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said member states should consider abolishing the IMF. He also criticized the profit-driven financial system.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa: "We who want to be citizens of the world cannot understand schemes that always end up trampling and enslaving the poorest. How can we understand so-called globalization that does not seek to create world citizens, but only consumers. It does not seek to create a global society, just a global market."
In financial news, Wall Street’s largest trade group has launched a campaign aimed at curbing negative public perceptions of the banking industry. According to Bloomberg News, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association began the effort this month to counter what an internal memo calls "populist overreaction." Two aides to former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson are involved in the campaign.
The Senate has confirmed attorney Julius Genachowski to head the Federal Communications Commission. Genachowski served as President Obama’s top tech adviser during the presidential campaign. He reportedly authored Obama’s detailed campaign plan supporting open internet or "net neutrality" protections, media ownership rules that encourage more diversity, and expansion of affordable broadband access across the country.
The Supreme Court has ruled a strip search of an Arizona teenager was illegal. Savana Redding was thirteen years old when officials at her school strip-searched her for prescription drugs. In an eight-to-one ruling, the Supreme Court said her school violated her constitutional rights.
The entertainment industry lost two influential figures on Thursday. The actress Farah Fawcett died at the age of sixty-two.
And the pop music artist Michael Jackson died at the age of fifty. Jackson was one of the most influential musical artists of the twentieth century and a pivotal figure in opening the door for African American artists in popular music. He co-wrote the 1985 song "We Are the World," which raised millions for famine relief in Africa. His later years became best known for an eccentric personal life that included multiple allegations of child molestation and a series of plastic surgeries that seemed intended to make him appear more white.