In Nepal, the royal government is carrying out a massive crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Earlier today, police arrested about 300 activists opposed to the rule of King Gyanendra, who seized power in coup last year. A curfew has been imposed in the capital of Kathamandu to thwart a massive strike. On Wednesday, government forces arrested close to 75 people — including 23 journalists — who defied a ban on demonstrations. Meanwhile, anti-government opposition turned violent in other areas of Nepal. 11 police officers were killed in rebel attacks on two police bases.
This news from Guantanamo Bay — Omar Khadr, the 19-year old Canadian teenager who has been detained for four years — announced he is boycotting his military trial at its opening session Wednesday. Human rights lawyers say Khadr is the first person in modern world history to face a military commission for alleged crimes committed as a child. He is accused of killing a US soldier with a grenade in Afghanistan. Khadr told the judge: “I say with my respect to you and everybody else here that I am boycotting these procedures until I [am] treated humanely and fair.”
In the Occupied Territories, the Hamas-led Palestinian government has announced it is out of money. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said his government will have difficulty paying the monthly salaries of its 140,000 employees — the lifeline for an estimated one-third of Palestinians. The announcement came one week after the swearing in of the new Hamas cabinet. Israel has already frozen Palestinian tax revenues it collects as part of its control over the Occupied Territories.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces have arrested a member of the Palestinian cabinet. Khaled Abu Arafeh, a Hamas member who is serving as the Palestinians’ new minister for Jerusalem affairs, was arrested in East Jerusalem Wednesday.
In Britain, two grandmothers above the age of 60 years old are facing up to a year in prison for protesting outside a military base. The women, Helen John and Sylvia Boyes, will be prosecuted under anti-terrorism legislation that outlaws all protests at military bases and nuclear research facilities.
In Iraq, an Iraqi cameraman working for CBS News was acquitted of charges Wednesday that have kept him in prison for one year. But despite the acquittal, the judge ordered him returned to his cell at Abu Ghraib. The cameraman, Abdul Ameer, was filming clashes in Mosul when US troops shot him and arrested him a year ago Wednesday. He was accused of incitement and of recruiting for the anti-U.S. insurgency. Ameer’s lawyer, Scott Horton, commented after the hearing: “I would like to observe first that this is has been a great day for justice in Iraq I think no one who witness the proceedings this morning would think that justice was served there, but let us think about something else–in a court room almost anywhere else in the world when an accused is acquitted, is to determined to be completely innocent of charges brought against him, he walks free from that court room. That didn’t happen today. Abdul Ameer is still in detention by the American authorities. We should all focus on the fact even though he was completely acquitted he remains in prison and we should all direct our question to the Americans forces about his release.”
Here in the United States, the Washington Post is reporting government scientists who specialize in climate research are complaining the Bush administration has imposed difficulties on allowing them to speak publicly on global warming. Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said administration officials have berated them for speaking on policy questions; removed references to global warming from their works; investigated news leaks; and sometimes urged them to stop speaking to the media altogether. In one case of White House censorship, several key words were removed from a press release, including “global warming,” “warming climate” and “climate change.” Earlier this year, the top climate scientist at NASA accused the Bush administration of trying to stop him from speaking out about the links between greenhouse gases and global warming.
In other news, the Los Angeles Times is reporting US insurance companies posted records profits last year — despite the huge damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. In total, the insurance industry pulled in a record $44.8 billion profit — an 18% percent increase over the year before. The Los Angeles Times says the profits reflect a broader trend of “a shift of financial risks from business and often government to individual households.” Fred Cripe, the Vice President of insurance giant AllState said: “If last year’s hurricane season had occurred 10 years ago, it would have been devastating for the company. Last year, it was merely disappointing.”
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the US government is conducting a criminal probe of British oil giant BP. Environmental regulators are investigating the company’s management of oil pipelines in northern Alaska and possible violations of the Clean Water Act.
This news from Capital Hill — the Associated Press is reporting federal prosecutors have agreed to take on the case involving Congressmember Cynthia McKinney’s run-in with a capitol police officer. The case will go to a grand jury, setting the stage for McKinney’s possible indictment. A police officer says McKinney struck him when he stopped her as she entered the capitol building last week. She says he inappropriately touched her and that she was the victim of racial profiling.
Meanwhile, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has weighed in on the case. In an interview with Fox News, Delay said McKinney “is a racist.” Delay went on to say: “Everything is racism with her. This is incredible arrogance that sometimes hits these members of Congress, but especially Cynthia McKinney.” Delay announced his resignation this week after a months of political turmoil that included his criminal indictment, corruption probes and guilty pleas by two key members of his staff.
In other news, Duke university has announced it will form several committees to investigate issues arising from rape allegations made against three members of its lacrosse team. Meanwhile, the coach of Duke’s lacrosse team has resigned and the team’s season has been cancelled.
Meanwhile, Durham authorities unsealed documents Wednesday showing that that hours after the alleged rape, a Duke lacrosse team member sent an e-mail saying he wanted to invite more strippers to his dorm room, kill them and skin them. A lawyer for some of the players said the e-mail proved his clients’ innocence because it “demonstrates that its writer is completely unaware that any act or event remotely similar to what has been alleged ever occurred.”
And the drug giant Merck has been ordered to pay at least $4.5 million to a man who says the painkiller Vioxx gave him a heart attack. Vioxx was withdrawn two years ago after a study speculated it doubled the risk of heart attacks after 18 months of use. Merck has alloted over $900 million to fight at least 10,000 lawsuits filed over Vioxx use. The company has vowed it will not settle a single case.