The French government has officially declared a state of emergency as rioting continues for a thirteenth day. Under emergency laws, the government can implement curfews, carry out house searches and ban public meetings. Clashes continued around the country Tuesday. In the Bordeaux suburbs, a bus exploded after being hit with a Molotov cocktail. In Lyon, the city’s public transit as closed down after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a train station. Police say the situation has calmed down in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where rioting began.
The rioting is widely attributed to disaffected youths in the country’s North African communities, where unemployment and poverty are rampant. The Wall Street Journal reports a recent study at the French academy the Sorbonne found a job applicant with a French-sounding name was over five times more likely to receive a job interview than an applicant with the same qualifications but with a North African-sounding name. The French Prime Minister said the country faces a “moment of truth” over its ability to integrate minority groups, saying : “The effectiveness of our integration model is in question.”
The death toll from last month’s South Asian earthquake is now to estimated to be over 87,000. This according to a Pakistani government official. Meanwhile the UN said it has received only $85 million of the $550 million dollars it has requested for so far. The coordinator of the UN’s relief efforts said survivors in Kashmir would “freeze to death if they don’t get assistance in weeks.”
A week after the Washington Post reported the existence of a secret, CIA-run prison in Eastern Europe, Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert have called on the Senate and House intelligence committees to convene a “a joint investigation” into who leaked the information. The CIA has notified the Justice Department classified information was leaked in the disclosure of the prisons. This could set the stage for a possible criminal inquiry similar to the one launched following the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports Republican Senator Trent Lott said senators from his own party might be responsible for the leak. Lott said the secret prison facilities were discussed at a Republican luncheon on Capitol Hill — one day before the Post published its report November 2nd. Vice President Cheney was among those in attendance. Lott said : “Information that was said in there, given out in there, did get into the newspaper. I don’t know where else it came from…. It looked to me that at least one of those reports came right out of that room.”
The CIA’s inspector general has warned the agency its interrogation procedures could violate the international Convention Against Torture. This according to the New York Times. In a report, the inspector general said “cruel, inhuman or degrading” techniques used in secret locations around the world could expose agents to legal liability. These techniques include waterboarding, in which the detainee undergoes the experience of drowning. The White House is currently pushing a Congressional amendment that would exempt CIA agents from a Senate ban on torture for interrogations conducted overseas.
In other intelligence news, a CIA official appears to have disclosed the agency’s budget — long a national secret. At an intelligence conference in San Antonio last week, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Collection Mary Margaret Graham, said the annual intelligence budget was $44 billion.
For the second time in three weeks, a defense lawyer in the trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and other former regime officials has been assassinated. Adel Muhammad al-Zubaidi was killed instantly when gunmen shot his car in the Baghdad suburb of Adel. Another lawyer suffered serious injuries and was taken to a U.S. military hospital. Members of Hussein’s defense team renewed calls to move the trial out of Iraq. The Iraqi Bar Association said it would maintain a boycott of the trial it announced after Hussein lawyer Sadoun al-Janabi was killed October 20th, just 36 hours after he had appeared at opening proceedings.
In other Iraq news, the UN Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the mandate of U.S.-led military forces by one year. There are nearly 180,000 foreign troops currently in Iraq.
The Boston Globe is reporting the Bush administration has cut off nearly all contact with the Syrian government in an attempt to weaken and isolate President Bashar Assad’s government. The U.S. has halted high-level diplomatic meetings, limited military coordination on the Iraq border and ended discussion to reform Syrian banking laws to block terrorist financing. The Globe reports the United States also declined a Syrian proposal to revive intelligence cooperation. The Bush administration has repeatedly accused Syria of lending support to foreign insurgents allegedly entering Iraq from Syrian territory and supporting Palestinian militant groups in the Occupied Territories and Lebanon. U.S. officials told the Globe the Bush administration continues to debate whether to pursue “regime change” in the country.
Elections were held across the country Tuesday. In New York, billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg was re-elected over Democratic challenger Fernando Ferrer by a margin of 59% to 39%. The New York race marked the most expensive non-Presidential campaign in American history. Bloomberg spent up to $100 million on his re-election–ten times the amount spent by his opponent. Democrats took both gubernatorial races. In New Jersey, Democratic Senator Jon Corzine beat Republican businessman Doug Forrester with 53% of the vote. In Virginia, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine beat Republican Jerry Kilgore despite last-minute campaigning by President Bush for his opponent.
In Texas, voters passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. In California, voters dealt a major to blow to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in rejecting all four of the ballot measures he proposed. The measures include lengthening the amount of required experience before a teacher can receive tenure, and requiring unions to hold votes before their dues can be used for political purposes.
And for the fourteenth consecutive year, the U.N. General Assembly has cast a near unanimous vote calling on the United States to end its four-decade old embargo against Cuba. The vote passed with a record 184 countries in favor. Only the United States, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands voted against. United States envoy to the U.N. Ronald Godard said: “If the people of Cuba are jobless, hungry, or lack medical care, as Castro admits, it’s because of his economic mismanagement.”