In the Philippines, about 1,400 people are feared to be buried dead following last week’s landslide that put an entire village under 100 feet of mud. Rescuers have been digging toward a school building believed to contain some 200 students and 40 teachers but they don’t expect to find any survivors. Environmental groups have blamed the disaster in part on rampant commercial logging that has stripped the country of most of its trees and left the topsoil on mountains vulnerable to landslides. The Philippines has among the world’s highest levels of deforestation.
Meanwhile in Mexico more than 200 rescue workers are continuing their efforts to rescue 65 miners who have been trapped inside a coal mine since Sunday.
Former President Jimmy Carter is warning the U.S. and Israel not to punish the Palestinian people for electing a Hamas-led government. Carter writes in today’s Washington Post “Any tacit or formal collusion between the two powers to disrupt the process by punishing the Palestinian people could be counterproductive and have devastating consequences.” On Sunday Israel moved to withhold $50 million owed to the Palestinian Authority from customs and tax revenue. The Israeli sanctions immediately put the Palestinian Authority into a financial crisis. Israel’s move came one day after Hamas assumed control of the Palestinian Authority. Meanwhile Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is heading to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates where is expected to persuade the countries not to financially assist Hamas.
In Iraq, a series of bombings killed at least 26 people on Monday making it the bloodiest day in Iraq in two months according to the New York Times. The bombings occurred as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad warned Iraq that the Bush administration might cut off aid to Iraq if the new government doesn’t replace the heads of the defense and interior ministries. Khalizaid said “We are not going to invest the resources of the American people into forces run by people who are sectarian.” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is expected to soon deliver a similar message. He arrived in Baghdad last night.
The Iraqi oil ministry has announced Iraq lost about $6 billion last year in revenue due to attacks on the country’s oil infrastructure. Iraq’s oil production is now just 60 percent of its prewar levels.
A coalition of American churches have sharply denounced the U.S. war in Iraq and accused Washington of “raining down terror”. The 34 U.S. members of the World Council of Churches agreed to a statement reading “We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights.” The statement was issued from Porto Alegre, Brazil which is hosting the largest gathering of Christian churches in nearly a decade. The Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church and the United Methodist Church were among the U.S. churches backing the statement.
The Sunday Times of London is reporting the U.S. military has been operating secretive flights across Europe using a call sign assigned to a civilian airline that they have no legal right to use. This has allowed the U.S. to carry out covert missions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa The Sunday Times reported one flight apparently transported 45 tons of surplus weapons and ammunition to Rwanda in defiance of a UN embargo. In another case, a plane identified with the CIA practice of “extraordinary rendition” left a US air base just after the arrival of an aircraft using the bogus call sign.
New Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has hired a former top aide of Attorney General John Ashcroft to serve as his law clerk. The New York Times reports the selection of the 37-year-old Adam Ciongoli has startled many in Washington both because of his seniority and his political background — he has been credited with being an architect of the Bush administration’s legal strategy after the 9/11 attacks.
Questions are being raised in Washington if science fiction writer Michael Crichton may be advising President Bush on global warming. A new book reveals Bush met with Chricton in 2004 to discuss his best-selling novel “State of Fear” which suggests that global warming is an unproven theory and an overstated threat. The meeting is recalled in a new book by Weekly Standard editor and Fox News commentator Fred Barnes. According to Barnes, Bush is a '’a dissenter on the theory of global warming” and that he was in near total agreement with Chricton. Barnes added that Chricton's visit, “was not made public for fear of outraging environmentalists.” While Crichton’s novel is a work of science fiction, he was recently awarded a journalism award — by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.
In technology news, Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia has introduced new legislation aimed to extend affordable broadband Internet access to all Americans. Under Allen’s plan unused spectrum within the broadcast frequency would be freed up for use by providers of wireless broadband and for other services. Consumers Union and Free Press have praised Allen’s Wireless Innovation Act saying it could help bridge the growing digital divide, bring 21st century telecommunications to rural areas and provided Internet affordable access to all Americans.
The New York Times is reporting the country’s intelligence agencies have been secretly reclassifying thousands of historical documents that had been declassified and available to the public. The program began in 1999 and intensified after President Bush took office. Documents that have been re-classified include a 1948 memo on a CIA scheme to float balloons over Soviet-backed countries and drop propaganda leaflets. It appears another document was reclassified in order to hide a mistake made by the CIA 55 years ago. On October 12 1950 the CIA concluded China would not intervene in the Korean War that year. Two weeks later 300,000 Chinese troops crossed into Korea. Some historians fear they could now be tried under the Espionage Act because they have copies of files that are no longer declassified.
And the pioneering Latin percussionist Ray Barretto has died at the age of 76. Born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, Barretto helped launch the Nuyorican sound and was a pioneering figure in the Latin Jazz, soul and salsa scenes. In 1962 his hit “El Watusi” became the first Latin song to ever enter the Billboard top 20 charts. Ray Barretto is considered to be one of the most important percussionists in the history of Latin music.