In West Virginia, 12 of the 13 coal miners initially thought to have survived a mine explosion are dead. The announcement was made earlier this morning, just hours after authorities falsely reported all but one of the miners had been found alive. Randal McCloy, the lone person to survive the explosion has been hospitalized in critical condition. The miners had been trapped at least 260 feet beneath the surface since early Monday. The mine, owned by the Kentucky-based International Coal Group, was cited for over 200 health and safety violations last year, including 21 citations for the dangerous build-up of combustible materials.
In Washington Tuesday, the prominent Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to three felony counts. He admitted to defrauding at least four Native Americans tribes of tens of millions of dollars, bribing government officials and evading taxes. _ Abramoff has reportedly agreed to testify against several members of Congress who received favors or donations from him or his clients. _ The Wall Street Journal reports his testimony could implicate as many as 60 lawmakers.
The Bush Administration is launching a new push for the renewal of the Patriot Act before it expires early next month. Congress granted the Act a temporary extension two weeks ago amid bi-partisan concerns its renewal lacks adequate safeguards for civil liberties.
In other news, the Justice Department has filed a request to dismiss more than 180 cases brought by Guantánamo Bay detainees to challenge their detentions. The detainees lost their right to habeas corpus in a Senate amendment attached to anti-torture legislation passed last month. Detainees are now only able to plead their case before an appeals court once they have gone through a military court process.
Newly declassified documents suggest the National Security Agency stepped up domestic surveillance efforts in the weeks after 9/11, even before it received a formal directive from President Bush. On Tuesday, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi released an exchange of letters showing both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were briefed in October 2001 about the agency’s attempts to loosen restrictions on domestic eavesdropping. However, domestic wire-taps do not appear to have occurred until President Bush ordered the secret domestic spy program in 2002.
In Latin America, Bolivia’s president-elect Evo Morales was in Caracas to meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Tuesday.
Morales will take office on January 22nd with the most popular support of any Bolivian president in decades. He stopped in Venezuela as part of an inaugural seven-country tour. The tour does not include the United States, where Morales says he has yet to be invited.
In Argentina, the government announced Tuesday it has paid pay off the entirety of a nearly $10 billion dollar debt to the International Monetary Fund. Argentina borrowed over $13 billion dollars following a devastating economic collapse in December 2001 — a collapse many Argentines blamed on economic policies encouraged by the IMF.
In Mexico, the Zapatista rebel army has launched a six-month tour of poor and indigenous communities across the country. The Zapatistas have dubbed the tour “The Other Campaign”, a reference to the run-up to the country’s presidential elections in July.
The group says it will not take part in the elections, but is using the tour to help promote a shift away from armed conflict and towards the formation of a nationwide leftist political movement. Zapatista leader Marcos also announced he was dropping “Subcomandante” from his name in favor of “Delegate Zero”, saying he no longer wanted to take on a military title.
In Peru, the government has asked Chile for the extradition of former President Alberto Fujimori. Fujimori faces several corruption and human rights charges stemming from his decade as President in the 1990s. He was detained when he arrived in Chile in November. The charges include the killing of political opponents, illegal phone tapping, and bribery.
In other news, the prominent American organization Human Rights Watch has called on the Bush administration to cut back foreign aid to Israel. In a letter to President Bush, Human Rights asked President Bush to deduct from Israel’s foreign aid assistance the amount it spends on expansion of settlements and the separation wall in the West Bank. Israel is the largest annual recipient of US foreign aid, with direct assistance and loans exceeding $5 billion dollars in 2005. Human Rights Watch officials said their request marks the first time a major human-rights group has asked for an actual cut in direct aid to Israel.
In Indonesia, hundreds of people are feared to be dead following a landslide that has buried dozens of homes in a village in the country’s Central Java. Authorities say the bodies of 16 people have already been recovered in the village of Sijeruk. The landslide slammed into the village Tuesday following days of monsoon rains that have already killed at least 60 people and left thousands homeless. Environmental groups say the disasters have been worsened by rampant deforestation caused by un-regulated logging and farming.
And in breaking news, a suicide bomber has killed at least 30 people at a Shiite funeral procession in Iraq. The bombing occurred in Mukdadiyah, a town northeast of Baghdad.