President Obama has unveiled a $50 billion infrastructure proposal he says will create thousands of jobs. In a Labor Day speech from Milwaukee, Obama said the project would build roads, railways and runways nationwide.
President Obama: "Over the next six years, we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads. That’s enough to circle the world six times. That’s a lot of road. We’re going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways — enough to stretch coast to coast. We’re going to restore 150 miles of runways, and we’re going to advance a next generation air-traffic control system to reduce travel time and delays for American travelers."
With midterm elections less than two months away, Obama is expected to unveil additional measures this week, including a $200 billion tax break that would allow businesses to write off new capital investments.
Pakistan continues to fight devastating flooding that has ravaged a fifth of the country. Officials in Sindh province say they’re racing against time to bolster the river defenses of the towns of Johi and Dadu in the face of potentially catastrophic floods. The UN meanwhile says it’s preparing to appeal for double the $460 million in emergency aid it requested last month. At least eight million Pakistanis are dependent on emergency aid to survive.
In other news from Pakistan, the Taliban has claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed seventeen people and wounded forty others in the North West Frontier Province. The attack came two days after seventy-three people were killed and over 200 wounded in a suicide bombing in southwestern Pakistan.
The United Nations has called an urgent meeting on a spike in global food prices that’s fueling unrest in several countries. At least seven people were killed in Mozambique last week in three days of protests sparked by an increase in the cost of bread. Protests have also been held in Egypt, Serbia and Pakistan. UN officials say they’re concerned of a repeat of the 2008 food crisis that led to riots worldwide.
International outrage is growing over an Islamophobic Florida church’s plan to burn the Quran on September 11th. The Dove World Outreach Center has vowed to burn the Islamic bible to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The Gainesville church made headlines last year after handing out T-shirts that said, "Islam is of the Devil." On Monday, hundreds of Afghans rallied in Kabul to denounce the church’s plans. The protest came two days after thousands of Indonesians held protests in Jakarta and five other cities. The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, has warned the burning could endanger US troops.
The US-led NATO occupation of Afghanistan is seeking an additional 2,000 troops to join the 140,000 already on the ground. According to the Associated Press, General Petraeus recently submitted the request to NATO command. It’s unclear how many new troops would be Americans. The Associated Press is also reporting the US now expects to spend around $6 billion a year on training and backing the Afghan military after US troops are supposed to begin withdrawing next year.
In Iraq, twelve people were killed and dozens wounded Sunday in a gunfight involving US troops. Iraqi forces called in US backup after Iraqi militants attacked a military compound in Baghdad. It was the first known firefight involving US troops in the Iraqi capital since the nominal end to the US combat mission last month.
In Bahrain, a government crackdown on opposition and human rights activists has escalated with a new round of arrests. Over the weekend, twenty-three people were detained on charges of plotting the violent overthrow of the Bahraini government. The suspects include prominent members of the Shia opposition as well as human rights activists. As many as 250 people have been arrested in the crackdown in less than a month. Speaking to Democracy Now!, Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said he is facing arrest after being publicly named a terrorist in the Bahraini media.
Nabeel Rajab: "It’s getting very dangerous working on documentation of human rights. On a daily basis, you see my picture in the newspaper as a terrorist or supporting terrorism and all that; attacking me on the radio by a program just made an hour, an hour and a half, two hours, accusing us, accusing me of contacting international organization, giving false information to international organization to overthrow the government. If they arrest me, I’m not better than the others. I mean, I know this is also the cost of the work, the human rights work, the documentation, the reporting for international organizations that’s getting the government angry. And this is the cost of our work, and we are willing to pay for it."
Nabeel Rajab went on to discuss the US role in backing the Bahraini government.
Nabeel Rajab: "[The] Bahrain government is a friend of the Western countries — and the European and the American. They are very influential in this part of the world. Unfortunately, for the past many years with all these violations against human rights, European Union and the United States government did not play a positive role. There, always economics and the flow of oil were a priority, and the rights of human — the last thing they would talk about [is] the rights of people here."
Israel’s Foreign Minister has dismissed the chances of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal while openly vowing to resume settlement construction this month. On Sunday, Avigdor Lieberman said a peace deal is unattainable and rejected an extension of Israel’s partial freeze on West Bank settlement building.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: "There will no longer be any one-sided concessions. We don’t agree to any extension of the freeze, not for three months, not for a year, half a year or one minute. It needs to be understood that signing a comprehensive peace agreement, which means an end to the conflict, settling of mutual claims and recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, this is an unattainable goal, not in the coming year and not in the next generation."
Lieberman’s comments come just days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to hold regular US-brokered talks following last week’s summit in Washington.
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro has delivered his first national address since stepping down in 2006. Speaking to thousands of students at the University of Havana, Castro reflected on the launch of the Cuban Revolution nearly sixty years ago.
Fidel Castro: "These steps, which I never thought I would come back to, hold unforgettable memories of the years when I began to be aware of our time and of our duty."
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has canceled a book signing in London this week over fears of a large turnout from antiwar protesters. Peace groups had vowed to protest Blair as he signed copies of his new memoir at a major London bookstore. Blair has continued to defend the 2003 US-British invasion of Iraq as justified. The cancellation comes just days after three people were arrested for throwing eggs and shoes at Blair as he arrived for a book event in Dublin. Richard Boyd-Barrett of the Irish Anti-War Movement said Blair should be held to account for the consequences of his policies.
Richard Boyd-Barrett: "We’re here to give voice to the victims of Blair’s policies and his wars — the countless tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis who’ve died as a result of the wars he launched and the lies that he told to the world, and indeed the Palestinian people, who continue to suffer at the hands of Israel, where Tony Blair, as the UN Middle East envoy, does nothing to restrain or sanction Israel, in fact gives cover to Israel for its actions."
Peace activists have attempted to disrupt Blair’s book sales with a guerrilla campaign to move copies of his memoir into the "Crime" section of stores where it’s sold. Former President George W. Bush’s memoirs come out in November.
The meat processing giant JBS Swift is facing allegations of rampantly mistreating and discriminating against Muslim employees. In lawsuits filed last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says over 160 Muslim workers were subjected to abuses and infractions, including having blood and bones thrown at them, racist and denigrating graffiti, and denial of the right to worship during Ramadan. The suit says many Muslim employees were fired after leaving their plant during a break in order to worship.
Newly disclosed records show at least three of the wells linked to the offshore rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico last week were exempted from environmental review before their approval. Thirteen workers were rescued after a fire broke out on a platform operated by Mariner Energy Thursday morning. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, regulators approved the wells with the same type of environmental waiver used to approve BP’s Deepwater Horizon project. The Obama administration has since banned the waivers for deepwater drilling, but not for the shallow-water wells served by Mariner Energy.
And the civil rights pioneer Jefferson Thomas has died at the age of sixty-seven. Thomas was one of the Little Rock Nine. The group of African American students attempted to desegregate the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, after Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus defied the Supreme Court’s ruling on Brown v. Board of Education and ordered the National Guard to prevent them from attending classes. President Dwight Eisenhower responded by sending Army troops from the 101st Airborne to escort the nine students into the school.