The Ford Motor Company has announced plans to cut up to 30,000 jobs and close 14 auto plants in North America over the next six years. The news comes just months after General Motors announced similar cutbacks. The United Autoworkers said the announcement was “extremely disappointing and devastating news for the many thousands of hard-working men and women who have devoted their working lives to Ford.” The cutbacks were announced on the same day that Ford declared it had earned $2 billion overall last year, down from $3.6 billion in 2004. “We must be guided by our long-term goals of building brand, satisfying customers, developing strong products and accelerating innovation,” said Ford CEO Bill Ford. “Over time we believe this approach will lead to sustainable profitability, and you’ll be able to judge our results as we report our progress.” On Wall Street, investors welcomed the announcement as the company’s stock jumped over 5 percent on Monday.
In Canada, the ruling Liberal government has been voted out of office after 12 years in power. The Conservative Party’s Stephen Harper will be the country’s next Prime Minister. “I just telephoned Steven Harper and I offered him my congratulations. The people of Canada have chosen him to lead a minority government. I wish him the best. We differ on many things, but we all share a belief in the potential and the promise of Canada, and the desire in our country to succeed,” said Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. Several analysts called the Conservatives’ election less a signal of a rightward tilt in Canadian society than a reflection of general frustration against the ruling Liberal party. The Liberals have caught headlines for a series of government corruption scandals. Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper later spoke last night. “One of the oldest and most enduring Canadian values is democracy. The principle that we can change our government without risking our freedom and our lives,” Harper said. “Despite the divisions and discords of an election, the ability to peacefully change and renew our nation’s leadership remains one of our countries great strengths.” Harper has said he’ll reconsider Canada’s refusal to join the US’ ballistic missile shield program and its signatory status to the Kyoto accords. But Harper’s powers will be limited, however, by his party’s failure to secure a majority government. Among the high-profile government officials with the ruling Liberal government to lose their seats was Canada’s Foreign Minister, Pierre Pettigrew. Pettigrew lost his seat representing Montreal following an unprecedented campaign from members of the city’s Haitian community against his re-election. As Foreign Minister, Pettigrew led Canadian policy in Haiti. The Canadian government has come under increased scrutiny amid criticisms it backed the overthrow of Haitian President Jean Bertrand-Aristide and has supported human rights abuses committed by the Haitian National Police.
In Iraq, the U.S has admitted that insurgents carried out over 34,000 attacks during 2005. This marks an increase of nearly 30 percent over the previous year. Despite the spike, U.S. officials have attempted to put a positive spin on the news. A military spokesperson said the numbers “tells me the coalition and the Iraqi forces have been very aggressive in taking the fight to the enemy.”
On Monday, five U.S. troops were killed in separate incidents across Iraq. Earlier today two German engineers were kidnapped at an oil refinery in northern Iraq. Meanwhile there have been no new developments on the status of kidnapped freelance journalist Jill Carroll or the four kidnapped peace activists with the Christian Peacemakers Team. Carroll was kidnapped on January 7. The peace activists were kidnapped on November 26.
In other Iraq news — a military jury in Colorado ruled last night an Army interrogator who killed an Iraqi general would not have to serve any time in jail. The interrogator — Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr.–killed the Iraqi man after putting a sleeping bag over his head, wrapping him in electrical cord, sitting on his chest and covering his mouth. Over the weekend the military jury convicted Welshofer of negligent homicide which carries a maximum prison term of three years. But the jury chose instead to fine him $6,000 and ordered him to spend the next 60 days restricted to his home, office and church. The Los Angeles Times reports soldiers and officers inside the courtroom broke out in applause after the jury announced Welshofer would not be jailed for the killing.
In upstate New York, a peace activist has been sentenced to six months in jail for pouring blood inside a military recruiting station in March 2003 in order to protest the invasion of Iraq. The man, Daniel Burns, 45, was one of a group now known as the St. Patrick’s Four. The other three members will also be sentenced this week.
In Nepal, nationwide anti-government demonstrations calling on King Gyanendra to step down have entered their fourth day. In the capital city of Katmandu police today fired tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators. One student leader was reportedly seriously injured after police hit him in the head with a baton. Up to 500 anti-monarch activists were temporarily detained in recent days including key leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal as well as the country’s former foreign and finance ministers. After ending a four-month ceasefire the Maoist rebels have stepped up its attacks on government installations. In one recent ambush Maoists killed at least 12 Nepalese police officers. The Maoists and other anti-monarch groups have called for the King to call off the upcoming Feb. 8 municipal elections because they fear the election legitimizes the King’s move last year to seize complete control of the country and to dissolve Nepal’s parliament. A nationwide strike has been called for Thursday.
Back here in the United States, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote today on whether to recommend the confirmation of Samuel Alito as a Supreme Court justice. The vote is expected to be split largely along party lines. Meanwhile on Monday, President Bush told activists who are tying to make abortions illegal that they are pursuing a “a noble cause.” To mark the 33th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, Bush said “This is a cause that appeals to the conscience of our citizens and is rooted in America’s deepest principle. And history tells us that with such a cause we will prevail.” Several groups include the National Organization of Women have urged Democratic Senators to filibuster Samuel Alito’s confirmation because they fear he will overturn Roe v. Wade. In 1985 Alito wrote that the Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion.
Congressman Henry Waxman of California has called on the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform to subpoena the White House for all records, including photographs, between the White House and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Three weeks ago Abramoff admitted to defrauding at least four Native Americans tribes of tens of millions of dollars, bribing government officials and evading taxes. At the time the White House vowed to give a “thorough report” regarding Abramoff’s White House contacts. However the White House is now refusing to say how many times Abramoff met President Bush or White House staffers or the number of times he visited the White House. According to a count by the Associated Press, Abramoff and his associates had nearly 200 contacts with the White House during just the first 10 months of Bush’s presidency. Time Magazine is reporting it has seen five photos of the president and Abramoff together. Congressman Waxman noted that during the Clinton presidency, the House Committee on Government Reform issued a broad subpoena to the White House for all records–including photographs–relating to dozens of specific lobbyists and other individuals thought to have been in contact with the Clinton White House.
And in the Occupied Territories, the Bush administration is being accused of meddling in this week’s Palestinian parliamentary elections. On Sunday the Washington Post reported the U.S. has clandestinely funneled $2 million into public service projects ahead of the elections in an effort to increase the popularity of the Palestinian Authority and its governing Fatah party. Officials from Hamas have questioned whether the aid violates rules barring Palestinian political parties from receiving funds from foreign sources. Independent candidate Mustafa Barghouti warned the Bush administration’s efforts could backfire and end up helping Hamas in the elections. Barghouti said, “Every time the United States says it doesn’t want Hamas, they boost Hamas. Let us do our elections entirely on our own. These interventions run counter to our efforts, and they hurt the Palestinian people. This effort was completely counterproductive.”
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