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The International Committee of the Red Cross has concluded that the US has been intentionally using psychological and sometimes physical coercion "tantamount to torture" on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. This according to a report in the New York Times. The conclusion comes in a confidential report written by the Red Cross based on information the group obtained during a visit to Guantanamo in June. The Red Cross also found that experienced medical personnel at the base committed "a flagrant violation of medical ethics" by participating in the planning for the interrogations of prisoners. Doctors reportedly shared detailed information about the mental health of detainees to interrogators. The U.S. has rejected the charges of the Red Cross.
NBC News is reporting that the Pentagon now plans to increase the number of US troops in Iraq by up to 11,000 in the lead-up to the January elections. This will bring the total number of US troops in Iraq to 150,000.
Meanwhile at least 134 US troops have died so far this month in Iraq making it nearly the deadliest month so far for the military. In April 135 troops died.
The British medical charity Medact has concluded that the Iraqi health system is in far worse condition now than before the US invaded the country over 18 months ago. The charity said hospitals are plagued by poor sanitation, shortages of drugs and a shrinking number of qualified staff members. To make matters worse, 12 percent of Iraq’s hospitals have been damaged so far in the war. And the country’s two main public health laboratories have been destroyed. The charity group Medact also challenged the British government to set up a commission to establish the level of civilian casualties in Iraq.
President Bush is making his first official state visit to Canada today in an attempt to patch up relations with Ottawa which opposed the US invasion. Bush will be making stops in Ottawa and Halifax but the BBC reports he won’t be addressing the Canadian Parliament because of the risk of being heckled by Canadian lawmakers.
In Halifax, a mock war crimes trial will take place later today to try Bush for crimes committed in Iraq. The legal group Lawyers Against War has said that Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin should issue a warrant for President Bush’s arrest for breaking the country’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. The legal group called on Ottawa to deny Bush’s entry into Canada because Canadian immigration law bars entry to "those who have engaged in gross violations of human rights."
Meanwhile in Germany, the Center for Constitutional Rights is filing a criminal complaint today on behalf of four Iraqi citizens who allege that a group of U.S. officials committed war crimes in Iraq. The Iraqis claim they were victims of electric shock, severe beatings, sleep and food deprivation and sexual abuse. Among the officials named in the complaint are Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Former CIA Director George Tenet. Germany’s laws on torture and war crimes permits the prosecution of suspected war criminals wherever they may be found.
Ukraine’s parliament is meeting in an emergency session today to debate a motion of no-confidence in Viktor Yanukovich, the country’s pro-Russian prime minister who has been the declared winner of last week’s presidential election. The country’s Supreme Court has entered a second day of closed-door deliberations to determine if the election was rigged. And pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko said that if the electoral commission decided to hand him the presidency he would offer the post of prime minister to his opponent. However Yushchenko said that if the Supreme Court ruled that a new election should take place he would propose that neither he nor his opponent, Yanukovich, should run. .
In a video aired on Al Jazeera, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahri, vowed that Al Qaeda would continue to fight the U.S. until Washington changed its policies. Al-Zawahri said "We are a nation of patience, and we will continue fighting you until the last hour." NBC reports that Al Qaida has carried out major attacks following broadcast statements by al-Zawahri on seven previous occasions.
Meanwhile the Pentagon has quietly released a study that sharply criticizes the Bush administration’s war on terror and its effect on the Muslim world. The Pentagon’s report concluded "Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies." The report goes on to state "The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states." The report was released late on Wednesday afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving.
The Supreme Court decided Monday not to take up a challenge to the country’s only law that sanctions same sex marriage. Conservative groups were hoping the Supreme Court would take the case and rule that the Massachusetts Supreme Court had unconstitutionally allowed same sex couples to marry. An attorney for the conservative groups said in a Supreme Court filing that the Constitution should "protect the citizens of Massachusetts from their own state supreme court’s usurpation of power." The court Monday did hear arguments in a medical marijuana case. The federal government is prosecuting two California women who grow and use marijuana for health reasons.
In other court news, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that private universities can bar military recruiters from campus without the risk of losing federal funding as a result. The court ruled " In a free society, the government cannot co-opt private institutions to issue the government’s message."
President Bush has nominated the head of Kellogg to become the new Secretary of Commerce. Carlos Gutierrez is a Cuban-born businessman who has worked for Kellogg for decades initially as a salesman in Mexico City. The Washington Post reports that President Bush sees his background in sales as a crucial credential since "Bush has used his economic team primarily to promote the White House agenda rather than to make policy."
And the Baltimore Sun is reporting that NAACP president Kweisi Mfume is planning to step down from his post. He has headed the organization since 1996.
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