A longtime chief of staff to former Republican Congressmember Mark Foley has revealed he warned House Speaker Dennis Hastert about Foley’s questionable contact with Congressional pages nearly three years ago. Kirk Fordham says he told Hastert chief of staff Scott Palmer about Foley’s: “inappropriate behaviour” in a face-to-face meeting. Palmer denies the encounter took place. Fordham says that meeting occurred well before Hastert learned of e-mails that Republicans say account for the only early reports of Foley’s behavior. Hastert maintains he did not investigate because the e-mails were deemed to be “over-friendly” but not suggestive of illicit activity.
In California, prosecutors have brought charges against the former chair of the technology giant Hewlett Packard in the company’s spy scandal. Patricia Dunn stepped down last month amid growing speculation over her role in the company’s surveillance of journalists and board members in an attempt to discover the source of information leaked to the media. Four other Hewlett-Packard officials were also indicted Wednesday, including the company’s chief ethics attorney.
President Bush has signed a law to build hundreds of miles of new fencing along the US-Mexico border. The President held a signing ceremony Wednesday in Arizona.
The Mexican government strongly opposes the fence, saying it will lead to more deaths and injuries for those who come into the United States through dangerous terrain.
In Ohio, a federal judge has struck down a voting law that required naturalized citizens to provide proof of citizenship if challenged by an election worker. The law was challenged by a group of naturalized citizens and the local chapter of the ACLU who said it would foster ethnic profiling at the polls.
In Iraq, at least sixty people were killed in violence around the country Wednesday. Nineteen were killed when a suicide bomber struck an Iraqi military base in Ramadi.
In other Iraq news, the Guardian of London is reporting the Iraqi education system is on the verge of collapse. Large numbers of students and teachers have fled the schools in the face of ongoing violence. Some schools have seen their student and staff numbers drop by more than half. Female students are routinely intimidated for failing to wear the hijab.
Meanwhile, the US military is suffering one of its worst weeks since the invasion. Fourteen US troops have been killed since Monday. The military says that’s the highest three-day total so far. A military spokesperson attributed the deaths to a record number of bomb attacks on US troops. Meanwhile a new poll by the veteran advocacy group VoteVets.org has found nearly two thirds of troops who’ve fought in Iraq and Afghanistan believe the military is overextended.
The New York Times reports House Republicans have earmarked twenty million dollars for a “commemoration of success” of the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. The funding was attached to this year’s defense spending bill. The measure empowers President Bush to designate: “a day of celebration” and to “issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” The funding is allowed to roll over into 2007 if the President decides a celebration is not yet appropriate.
In the Occupied Territories, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has announced talks for a national unity government with Hamas have broken down. Abbas says he may try to dissolve the government if he can’t reach an agreement. Clashes between the two leading Palestinian factions have left twelve people dead in the last week. In Gaza, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said the US-led aid freeze on his government is hurting Palestinians and hindering chances at national unity.
In Pakistan, the international aid agency Oxfam is warning nearly two million displaced people are at risk nearly one year after the massive earthquake that destroyed their homes.
Oxfam says a recent survey of more than a dozen earthquake-hit villages found nearly all lacked adequate protection against the region’s upcoming winter.
In Indonesia, the Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a pilot found guilty of murdering the leading human rights activist Munir Thalib. The pilot, Pollycarpus Priyanto, was aboard Thalib’s flight to Singapore in September of 2004. Priyanto was convicted last year after evidence showed he gave Thalib a poisoned glass of orange juice. But this week, the Supreme Court ruled there was not enough evidence for a conviction. Thalib was a prominent critic of the Indonesian government and military. Indonesia’s state intelligence agency has also been implicated in his murder but to date no official has been brought to trial.
Paraguay has announced it won’t be a renewing a military cooperation agreement with the US because it refuses to grant immunity to American troops. The Bush administration had been lobbying Paraguay to immunize US forces from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. Paraguay becomes the latest South American country to refuse the demand, following Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela.
And finally, in an update on a story we’ve covered on Democracy Now, Amnesty International is accusing a Mexican police force of covering up the rape and abuse of demonstrators at a land rights protest earlier this year. The alleged abuse took place after more than two hundred people were arrested in a massive crackdown on the town of San Salvador Atenco outside Mexico City in May. At least twenty three female prisoners have lodged complaints of rape and sexual abuse. Amnesty International says police destroyed witness statements while prison doctors refused to look into the prisoners’ allegations.