New figures from the United Nations show HIV infection is on the rise: 39.5 million people are infected with HIV around the world, up more than 2.5 million from two years ago.
UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot: “Most of these new infections, nearly two-thirds were in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, but the biggest increase in new infections are in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, I mean, relatively speaking, where we see an increase by 50 percent in infection rates since 2004—in other words, two years ago.”
Eleven thousand people, or one person every eight seconds, contract HIV on a daily basis.
Lebanon’s internal political crisis took a new turn Tuesday with the assassination of a leading anti-Syrian politician. Pierre Gemayel, Lebanon’s industry minister and a member of an influential Christian Lebanese family, was killed in broad daylight as he left church. Suspicions immediately turned to Syria, which has been accused of backing the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri nearly two years ago. At the U.N., Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari denied Syria’s involvement.
Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari: “Syria have nothing to do with this. Syria is affected directly or indirectly from such crimes, horrible crimes committed and perpetrated on the Lebanese scene. We have been working very seriously with all those who have good faith toward encouraging the Lebanese to sit together to find out a solution to all their problems around the table, the round table of the national reconciliation. We have no interest to [interfere in] the national reconciliation process in Lebanon.”
The killing comes as tensions between the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Hezbollah are at a breaking point. Hezbollah has threatened to bring down Siniora’s government unless it agrees to share more power.
In Iraq, at least 77 people were killed in violence across Iraq Tuesday. In Baghdad, a car bomb detonated inside the U.S.-controlled Green Zone in a failed assassination attempt on the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament. The attack marked one of the most serious security breaches to date within the Green Zone.
Meanwhile, the U.N. released figures Tuesday showing last month marked the deadliest month for Iraqi civilians on record. At least 3,700 civilians were killed during October.
Meanwhile, at the U.N. Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he regretted the war in Iraq, but that the Bush administration’s goals may have made it inevitable.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “On the question of regret, I still have to say is the war in Iraq and that the debate and the discussions that took place in the council could not have helped us stop the war. I firmly believe that the war could have been avoided and that the inspectors should have had a bit more time.”
Annan also called on the Bush administration to include Iran and Syria in talks over Iraq’s future.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “An Iraq at peace is in the interest of all the countries, including Syria and Iran, and so I would urge them to use their influence and to do whatever they can to help pacify Iraq.”
Meanwhile, a new poll from WorldOpinion.org has found seven out 10 Iraqis want a U.S. withdrawal within one year. Just 10 percent favor the Bush administration’s stated policy to withdraw troops only as the security situation improves.
In other Iraq news, a U.S. marine was sentenced to 21 months confined to base Tuesday after pleading guilty to involvement in the murder of an unarmed Iraqi in Hamdania. The marine, Lance Corporal Jerry Shumate, is the fourth American servicemember to plead guilty in the case. Three other marines still face charges.
Former President George Bush Sr. got into a verbal confrontation with a student audience in Abu Dhabi Tuesday after several people criticized his son’s policies. One audience member told the elder Bush she did not respect the president and what he’s doing in the world. The Associated Press reports Bush appeared stunned when most of the audience applauded in approval. Another questioner said U.S. wars were waged to open markets for American corporations. Bush Sr. replied, “I think that’s weird and it’s nuts. To suggest that everything we do is because we’re hungry for money, I think that’s crazy.”
In Afghanistan, the Pentagon has admitted the NATO force is in need of more troops. It is not clear whether a new deployment will include more U.S. soldiers.
In Nepal, the government and Maoist rebels signed a peace agreement Tuesday to end a civil conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people. The accord comes seven months after a massive protest forced King Gyanendra to return power to Nepal’s Parliament. Just this week, a government commission recommended punishing King Gyanendra for his crackdown on protesters during the uprising against his rule. At least 19 people were killed and dozens injured during the unrest.
In Colombia, a correspondent for the Latin American television network Telesur has been arrested on allegations of involvement in rebel attacks. The reporter, Fredy Munoz, denies the charges. Telesur is accusing the Colombian government of trying to intimidate reporters covering its conflict with rebel groups.
Here in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union has released new documents from a Pentagon database used to spy on groups opposed to military recruitment and the war in Iraq. In one case, Defense Department officials notified two California recruiting stations after learning activists were planning anti-recruitment protests. A database report also included information on antiwar meetings and nonviolence training sessions planned for churches around New York City. Another report warned the group Veterans for Peace “should be viewed as a possible threat to Army and DoD personnel.” In a statement, Veterans for Peace Executive Director Michael McPhearson said: “It is appalling that the Pentagon would label peace activists — including those of us who put our lives at risk defending this country — as potential threats. The federal government should not be wasting valuable resources gathering files on peaceful protesters who disagree with the Bush administration’s policies.”
Former Attorney General Janet Reno is leading a new court challenge against the Bush administration’s trial of detainees outside U.S. courts. On Monday, Reno and seven other former Justice Department officials filed papers challenging the government’s right to bring Qatari citizen Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri before a military commission. In their filing, Reno’s group writes: “The existing criminal justice system is more than up to the task of prosecuting and bringing to justice those who plan or attempt terrorist acts within the United States—without sacrificing any of the rights and protections that have been the hallmarks of the American legal system for more than 200 years.” The former officials say indefinite detentions will become more widespread unless the courts intervene. The filing marks the first time Reno has spoken out on the administration’s handling of prisoners in the so-called war on terror.
A federal court has struck down a Las Vegas law that outlaws feeding the homeless in public parks. City officials said they enacted the law because soup kitchens have kept people away from visiting public spaces. The American Civil Liberties Union led a challenge to the law after it was approved in July. Las Vegas officials are vowing to rewrite the law to keep the ban in place.
In Los Angeles, in new developments in the case of last week’s Taser incident at UCLA, authorities have revealed the campus police officer who repeatedly shocked an Iranian-American student with a Taser stun gun has a history of physical confrontation with civilians. The officer, Terrence Duren, shot a homeless man on campus three years ago and was once recommended for dismissal over an alleged assault. One week ago, Duren shocked UCLA senior Mostafa Tabatabainejad five times after the student failed to produce a student ID while studying in the library.
The Department of Homeland Security is defending the removal of six Muslim imams from a US Airways flight. The clerics were led away in handcuffs Monday after passengers complained they were praying in the terminal and aboard the plane. A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson says the removal was justified because some passengers thought the imams were making anti-U.S. statements. US Airways says the imams raised suspicions by not sitting in their assigned seats and sitting in groups of two. On Tuesday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it’s receiving increasing complaints of racial profiling on U.S. planes, and called for an independent investigation.
And “60 Minutes” correspondent Ed Bradley was remembered Tuesday at a memorial service here in New York. A crowd of more than 2,000 packed the Riverside Church to hear tributes from guests including former President Bill Clinton and the actor Bill Cosby. Jazz musicians also performed in the New Orleans style that was Bradley’s favorite.