Tens of thousands of people demonstrated Saturday in 30 cities across the globe to call on world governments to do more to halt global warming. The largest protests took place in Montreal which is hosting the UN Climate Change Conference — the largest international conference ever on global warming. In London environmentalists held banners declaring President Bush to be wanted “for crimes against the planet.” In Washington, drivers of hybrid cars circled the White House. And in New Orleans, residents held a “Save New Orleans, Stop Global Warming” party in the French Quarter. On Saturday environmental groups presented a petition signed by 600,000 Americans urging President Bush to do more to stop global warming. The Bush administration has rejected the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gases. The United States emits 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases even though it has just five percent of the world’s population.
In news from Iraq, it has now been 10 days since four peace activists with the Christian Peacemaker Team were kidnapped in Baghdad. Over the weekend relatives of each of the men urged their captives to release them. In addition more than 13,000 people including Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy signed an online petition urging their release. The petition read in part “They are people who have dedicated their lives to fighting against war and have clearly and publicly opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq.” The petition is online at the website freethecpt.org. On Friday, Al Jazeera broadcast a video showing the four hostages, in which the kidnappers threatened to kill them by Thursday unless all prisoners in U.S. and Iraqi detention centers are released.
Earlier this morning a French engineer was kidnapped in Baghdad. The man — Brent Blanche–was working on rebuilding the country’s water system.
In other news from Iraq–10 Marines died on Thursday in Fallujah in the deadliest attack on Marines since August. On Sunday Al Jazeera aired a video purportedly showing the attack. It was filmed by a group called the Islamic Army in Iraq.
The Iraqi government has banned all non-Iraqi Arab nationals from entering the country from now until the parliamentary election on December 15. The Interior Ministry defended the move as a necessary security precaution.
Earlier today the war crimes trial of Saddam Hussein resumed. The former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark briefly addressed the court on behalf of Hussein’s defense team. He said “Reconciliation is essential. This trial can divide or heal. Unless it is seen as absolutely fair, and fair in fact, it will divide rather than reconcile Iraq.” Saddam Hussein’s entire defense team walked out of the court after the chief trial judge refused to allow Clark to challenge the tribunal’s legitimacy. At one point during the session Hussein and his half brother Barazan Ibrahim chanted “Long live Iraq, long live the Arab state.” Then Ibrahim stood up and shouted: “Why don’t you just execute us and get rid of all of this!”
Meanwhile on Sunday the Iraqi government announced it had thwarted a planned rocket attack on the courtroom where the trial is being held.
And Iraq’s former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was attacked on Sunday as he visited an important Shiite shrine in the holy city of Najaf. A group of people threw stones and shoes at Allawi who claimed it was an attempt on his life.
In Pakistan, NBC News is reporting the CIA has assassinated a high ranking commander of Al Qaeda. The man–Hamza Rabia–reportedly died after a CIA predator drone fired a round of missiles into a house where he was staying in northern Pakistan. Four other people are believed to have died in the attack. Neither the U.S. nor Pakistan has not confirmed how Rabia was killed in part because Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf would likely face a backlash at home if it was widely known he was allowing the CIA to operate Predator drones inside Pakistan. Rabia is an Egyptian who has been described as the number three man in Al Qaeda–the same position once held by Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
In Israel, a suicide bomber has killed at least five people outside a shopping mall in the coastal town of Netanya. Dozens were injured in the blast. The Palestinian group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. It was the first suicide attack inside Israel in six weeks.
The Bush administration is claiming that it is the world’s leader in defending human rights. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan made the claim as he was being questioned over reports that the CIA is operating secret prisons overseas.
This news on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito: a newly released 1984 memo shows that Alito saw no constitutional problem with a police officer shooting and killing an unarmed teenager who was fleeing after a $10 home burglary. At the time, Alito was working as assistant to the U.S. solicitor general in the Reagan Justice Department. He wrote “I think the shooting can be justified as reasonable. I do not think the Constitution provides an answer to the officer’s dilemma.” According to the Los Angeles Times, the Supreme Court used the same case, a year later, to set a firm national rule against the routine use of “deadly force” against fleeing suspects who pose no danger. Writing for the majority of the court, Justice Byron White wrote “A police officer may not seize an unarmed, nondangerous suspect by shooting him dead.”
Meanwhile on Friday, Alito told the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee–Arlen Specter — that his '’personal views on a woman's right to choose’’ would not affect his judicial decisions. Recently released memos indicate Alito strongly opposes abortion. Specter requested the meeting after the release of a 1985 memo in which Alito described a Supreme Court review of two abortion-related cases as “an opportunity to advance the goals of bringing about the eventual overruling of Roe v. Wade and in the meantime, of mitigating its effects.”
The U.S. military acknowledged on Friday for the first time that it has paid Iraqi newspapers to carry positive news about U.S. efforts in Iraq. The admission came after a series of news reports indicated the U.S. paid a private company called the Lincolon Group to plant stories in the Iraqi press and to pay off sympathetic Iraqi journalists. The Knight Ridder news agency reported U.S. psychological-warfare officers have been involved in writing news releases and drafting media strategies for top commanders. In addition the news agency reported that on at least one occasion, psychological warfare specialists took a group of international journalists on a tour of Iraq’s border with Syria.
In Nepal, tens of thousands of opponents of the country’s monarchy defied a protest ban to demonstrate in the capital of Kathmandu on Friday. The protest was the country’s largest since the Maoist Communist Party of Nepal joined with seven mainstream parties to form a pro-democracy alliance opposing King Gyanendra who seized complete control in February. On Friday the Maoists also extended its three-month ceasefire by another month. Last week UN human rights chief Louise Arbour called on the Nepalese monarchy to join the Maoist in declaring a ceasefire. Arbour said “I am seriously concerned about the very real possibility that full-scale armed conflict could resume.”
The state legislature in Connecticut has passed one of the most sweeping campaign finance laws in the country. The bill would create a voluntary publicly funded election system and would place a ban on political contributions from lobbyists and state contractors. Nick Nyhart, head of the organization Public Campaign, called the Connecticut bill “the strongest campaign finance law in the nation.” Nyhart said “It gives ordinary people, without connections to big money, a greater role in the electoral process while ratcheting down the clout of lobbyists and powerful state contractors.” The bill, however, is coming under criticism from the Green Party and others because it places stiff restrictions on non-major political parties from receiving public funding for races.
And in a follow-up to a story we covered last week–Hampton University has reprimanded seven students for taking part in an unsanctioned protest against President Bush last month. The school originally threatened to expel seven students for participating in the protest. Five of the students have been ordered to complete 20 hours of community service. The school accused them of cajoling and proselytizing students, distributing unauthorized handbills and holding an unauthorized demonstration.