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In Bolivia, the country’s first ever indigenous president — Evo Morales–was sworn in on Sunday. Morales called his election "the end of the colonial and neo-liberal era." On Sunday Morales spoke before the Bolivian Congress. He told the Congress, "The 500 years of Indian resistance have not been in vain. From 500 years of resistance we pass to another 500 years in power."
The ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee has asked 20 telephone and Internet companies whether they have allowed the federal government to eavesdrop on their customer’s communications. Congressman John Conyers of Michigan sent the letters to Microsoft, AT&T, BellSouth, Verizon, EarthLink, Google and a dozen other companies. Telecom experts say the National Security Agency may have gotten permission from phone companies to gain access to so-called switches, high-powered computers into which phone traffic flows and is redirected. Last month President Bush admitted he ordered the NSA to conduct domestic spy operations without getting legally required court warrants. Meanwhile President Bush is heading to Kansas today to launch a week-long series of speeches defending the domestic spying. He plans to visit the NSA headquarters in Maryland on Wednesday.
Another mining tragedy has hit the state of West Virginia. The bodies of two miners were found Saturday night following a fire inside a mine in the town of Alma. The men died after the mine’s conveyer belt caught fire. Their deaths come just weeks after 12 miners died in Sago West Virginia. More miners have already died in the state in 2006 than in any year over the past decade. The Alma mine, which is owned by a subsidiary of Massey Energy, had been cited at least 12 times for violations involving fire equipment since June. According to the Charleston Gazette, the mining deaths may have occurred because of a controversial new rule put in place by the Bush administration that allowed mines to use the conveyer belt area as a main source of oxygen for underground workers. The mining industry had long sought the rule change, but mining experts feared it would lead to an increase in fires.
The editorial page of the New York Times came out today in opposition to Samuel Alito’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. The paper’s editors warns "He has a radically broad view of the president’s power, and a radically narrow view of Congress’s power. He has long argued that the Constitution does not protect abortion rights. He wants to reduce the rights and liberties of ordinary Americans, and has a history of tilting the scales of justice against the little guy."
In news on Hurricane Katrina, 3,200 people are officially still unaccounted for according to the Find Family National Call Center. Louisiana’s medical examiner has announced plans to ask state and parish officials to recheck about 400 homes in badly flooded neighborhoods to look for bodies. The official death toll from the storm stands at just over 1,300.
Meanwhile on the same day that Fortier was released Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller announced the indictments of 11 individuals accused of carrying out a series of arsons in the name of the Earth and Animal Liberation Fronts. The indictment listed 65 charges, including arson, sabotage and conspiracy in attacks against government facilities, research centers and private businesses. Although none of the arsons caused any deaths, at least one of the indicted activists–Daniel McGowan–is facing life in prison.
Last year federal investigators told a Senate committee that environmental and animal groups like ELF and ALF represented the nation’s leading domestic terror threat. The Southern Poverty Law Center however recently criticized the federal government for underestimating the threat posed by violent right-wing organizations. According to the Center, the radical right has plotted to carry out at least 60 terrorist plots inside the United States since the Oklahoma City Bombing. This includes plans to bomb or burn government buildings, mosques, synagogues and abortion clinics, plans to assassinate government officials and civil rights leaders and efforts to amass chemical and biological weapons arsenals.
In news from the United Nations — the Pakistani human rights advocate Mukhtar Mai was denied a chance to speak at the UN on Friday after protests from the Pakistani government. According to the New York Times, she been scheduled to make an appearance at an event called "An Interview With Mukhtar Mai: The Bravest Woman on Earth." In 2002 a Pakistani village council ordered Mai to be gang-raped for the supposed misconduct of her brother. After surviving the rape, Mai successfully sued her rapists in court. She has since become a leading advocate for women’s rights in Pakistan.
In Haiti, murder charges have been dropped against jailed Catholic priest Gerard Jean-Juste but he remains in jail of two new lesser charges–illegal weapons possession and criminal conspiracy. Supporters of Jean-Juste have argued the priest is a political prisoner being detained because of his close ties to the ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Jean-Juste wanted to run in next month’s presidential election but was barred from doing so because he was behind bars. Amnesty International has declared him to be a prisoner of conscience.
A military jury has convicted an Army interrogator of negligent homicide for his role in the death of an Iraqi general. The interrogator — Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr.–killed the Iraqi man by putting a sleeping bag over the general’s head, wrapping him in electrical cord, sitting on his chest and covering his mouth. He faces up to three years in prison. Had Welshofer been convicted of murder, he would been sentenced to life in prison. Attorneys for Welshofer said he had been given permission to use harsh techniques during interrogations. In one email, Captain William Ponce wrote "The gloves are coming off, gentlemen.... We want these individuals broken. Casualties are mounting." The interrogator’s attorneys also questioned why no one else was charged in the general’s death. The general was severely beaten two days before his death by a group of Iraqis reportedly being paid by the CIA.
In news on Iraq–former workers at Halliburton have accused the company of exposing troops and civilians at a U.S. military base in Iraq to contaminated water. One Halliburton official admitted in an internal memo from July that the level of contamination was twice the normal contamination of untreated water from the Euphrates River.
Former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin has been sentenced to 12 years in jail for passing secret information on Iran to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and to an Israeli diplomat.
In New York City, the country’s largest transit union rejected a new contract Friday by a margin of only seven votes. Over 22,000 workers cast ballots. The vote came just weeks after the transit workers staged a three-day strike shutting down the city’s subway and bus system. Younger workers widely opposed part of the contract that required workers to pay 1.5 percent more in health care payments.
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