Obama Could Expand Afghan War Based on McChrystal Report

According to the New York Times, Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s new report calling for an overhaul of the US war strategy in Afghanistan could form the basis on which President Obama decides to send more troops to fight. The classified assessment submitted by McChrystal on Monday did not request additional US troops, but officials and analysts said it effectively laid the groundwork for such a request in coming weeks.

Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution: "We’re going to have to find some additional resources in other ways, and that may mean more Afghan troops, it may mean more NATO troops from other countries, or it may mean more Americans."

The US currently has about 65,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, more than half of whom have been deployed since President Obama took office in January. August was the deadliest month of the war for US troops since the invasion of Afghanistan almost eight years ago. In the first eight months of this year, 182 US personnel have died there, compared with 155 during all of 2008.

CIA Report Details Role Medical Professionals Played in Torture Program

A new report by Physicians for Human Rights has found that physicians and psychologists played a greater role than previously understood in designing, implementing and legitimizing the Bush administration’s torture program. The recently declassified CIA Inspector General’s Report detailed how medical professionals collected data on the reaction of prisoners to interrogation methods in order to help the CIA assess and refine the use of waterboarding and other techniques. Dr. Scott Allen of Physicians for Human Rights said, "Medical doctors and psychologists colluded with the CIA to keep observational records about waterboarding, which approaches unethical and unlawful human experimentation.” Physicians for Human Rights is calling for health professionals who have violated ethical standards or the law to be held accountable through criminal prosecution, loss of license and loss of professional society membership, where appropriate.

Inter-American Commission to Probe Case of Innocent Rendition Victim

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has announced plans to investigate the case of Khaled El-Masri, the innocent German man who was kidnapped and imprisoned by the CIA as part of the government’s extraordinary rendition program. The commission took up the case in response to a petition filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU tried to obtain justice for El-Masri in the US court system, but the lawsuits were summarily rejected.

Report: Iranian Protester Beaten to Death in Jail

An Iranian news agency is reporting that a young man died from abuse by Iranian prison authorities in the wake of the post-election unrest. The Iranian government had originally claimed twenty-five-year-old Mohsen Ruholamini had died from meningitis. Last month, a state forensic doctor ruled out meningitis as the cause of Ruhalamini’s death. The doctor is quoted as saying the man died of "physical stress, the effects of being held in bad conditions, multiple blows and severe injuries to the body.”

Turkey and Armenia to Establish Diplomatic Relations

In other international news, Turkey and Armenia have agreed to establish diplomatic relations after a century of hostility. The two nations said they would begin talks aimed at producing a formal agreement. It is unclear how the two sides will address the killing of more than a million Armenians by the Ottoman Turk government between 1915 to 1918. For decades, the Turkish government has denied the killings were genocide.

Holder: Justice Dept. to Recharge Enforcement of Civil Rights

Here in this country, Attorney General Eric Holder told the New York Times that efforts are being made to reshape the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division by restoring the division’s focus on voting rights, housing, employment, bank lending practices and redistricting after the 2010 census. As part of this shift, the Obama administration is planning a major revival of high-impact civil rights enforcement of policies, in areas ranging from housing to hiring.

Special Election in Mass. Set for Jan. 19

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has set January 19 for the state’s first-ever special election to fill Senator Edward Kennedy’s term that ends in 2012. Patrick also backed a proposal to appoint an interim successor to the seat, a move that could help Democrats retain a critical margin in the Senate.

Governor Deval Patrick: "Let me be clear. I wholly support the special election and the democratic process to fill the remaining two years of Senator Kennedy’s term. But I will continue to work with the legislature on legislation authorizing an interim appointment to the United States Senate for the five months until that special election happens."

California Fires Burn 105,000 Acres

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency in four counties as wildfires continue to spread in southern California. The fire has destroyed more than fifty buildings and burned through more than 105,000 acres of mountainous brush. Mike Dietrich of the US Forest Service said the coming days remain "treacherous.” He told the Los Angeles Times, "This is a very angry fire. Until we get a change in the weather conditions, I am not overly optimistic. The fire is headed just about anywhere it wants."

12 Climate Activists Glue Hands to Bank HQ

In London, twelve activists glued their hands to the floor of the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters today to protest the bank’s investment in fossil fuel projects. The activists are taking part in the week-long Climate Camp that has been holding a series of demonstrations across London this week.

Anti-Mining Activists End Week-Long Tree-Sit in WV

In West Virginia, two anti-mining activists were arrested Monday after they ended a week-long tree-sit. The action forced Massey Energy to temporarily halt work at a mountaintop removal site. Nick Stocks and Laura Steepleton have both been charged with trespass, obstruction and littering. Their bail has been set at $25,000 each. In related news, a pair of environmental groups have asked the US Supreme Court to review a controversial federal court ruling that will allow for more mountaintop removal coal mining. The petition was filed by Earthjustice and the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment.

EPA: Natural Gas Drilling Linked to Drinking Water Contamination

In other environmental news, new evidence has emerged linking natural gas drilling to drinking water contamination. ProPublica reports federal officials in Wyoming have found that at least three water wells contain chemicals used in the natural gas drilling process of hydraulic fracturing. The Wyoming study marks the first time the EPA has undertaken its own water analysis in response to complaints of contamination in drilling areas. Residents in Pavillion Wyoming have complained for years that their water wells turned sour and reeked of fuel vapors shortly after drilling took place nearby. ProPublica reports precise details about the nature and cause of the contamination have been difficult for scientists to collect, in part because the identity of the chemicals used by the gas industry for drilling and fracturing are protected as trade secrets.

EU to Phase Out Incandescent Light Bulbs

The European Union has begun a three-year process to phase out the use of traditional incandescent light bulbs. Starting today, old standard frosted light bulbs and clear bulbs of 100 watts and more will no longer be manufactured or imported into the EU. The EU estimates the switch from incandescent bulbs to more efficient ones will bring energy savings of 25 percent to 75 percent compared to the traditional bulbs.

Same-Sex Marriages Begin in Vermont

And in Vermont, the state’s new law allowing same-sex marriage has gone into effect. Several couples married shortly after midnight. Vermont is one of five states that now allow same-sex couples to marry. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Iowa are the others. To mark the occasion, Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is renaming their "Chubby Hubby" flavor "Hubby Hubby" for the month.

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