Mexico’s electoral court is expected to declare today that Felipe Calderon won July’s presidential election. Initial election results show Calderon narrowly beat Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico’s closest election ever. For the past two months, supporters of Lopez Obrador have engaged in mass protests calling for a vote-by-vote recount. Lopez Obrador has said he will never recognize Calderon’s victory and has vowed to form a parallel government. He is planning to hold a massive rally in Mexico City on September 16, Mexico’s independence day, to set up his shadow government.
On Friday the protests extended into the national assembly where outgoing president Vicente Fox was scheduled to deliver his final state of the union address. But before Fox arrived, lawmakers from Lopez Obrador’s PRD political party stormed the podium and seized control of the proceedings. They began chanting “Vote by vote.” When Vincente Fox arrived he announced he could not give the address.
Fox later delivered the speech on television.
The Sudanese government has dramatically intensified its attacks in the Darfur region. This comes just days after the United Nations agreed to send in peacekeeping troops. The latest attacks threaten to return the region to a full-blown war. According to the Washington Post, government troops are bombing villages and waging increasing aggressive ground attacks. Humanitarian groups have been forced to curtail efforts to distribute food and health care to the region. Aid workers say that in recent weeks, civilian casualties, rapes and looting have all grown more widespread in Darfur. Meanwhile Sudan has threatened to expel 7,000 African Union troops from the region. Sudan has already rejected the UN peacekeeping force.
In news from the Middle East, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said he would appoint a secret envoy to work for the release of the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah two months ago.
Members of the Lebanese parliament are continuing to stage a sit-in inside the capitol to protest the ongoing Israeli air and sea blockade. The Lebanese government has urged other countries to defy the blockade.
International experts are predicting it could take Lebanon 10 years to clear the country of unexploded cluster bombs used by Israel. The UN estimates 100,000 cluster bomblets that failed to explode still lie in Lebanon. Most of the cluster bombs were fired in the final 72 hours of the war. On Monday, Amnesty International called for the United Nations to open an investigation into Israel’s use of cluster bombs.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry is concerned that senior Israeli military and governmental officials could be prosecuted overseas for committing war crimes in Lebanon. Israeli legal experts say some officers or government officials who traveled to Europe stood the risk of being arrested. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that the Foreign Ministry has urged top officials against making inflammatory statements that might be used against them in legal proceedings.
A new Pentagon report warns that Iraq could soon face a civil war. In one of its most dire reports yet, the Pentagon revealed that the number of Iraqi casualties soared by more than 50 percent in recent months. And civilians are increasingly becoming the targets of the attacks. The Los Angeles Times reports that at least 334 people died last week in Baghdad. Another 400 people were killed elsewhere in Iraq. On Monday 33 bodies were found in Baghdad. The men were mutilated, handcuffed and blindfolded. On Friday, a well-known Iraqi soccer player was kidnapped from his home in Baghdad. The athlete, Ghanim Khudayer, was about to sign a contract with a Syrian soccer team in an attempt to escape the violence in Iraq. Despite the Pentagon report on the potential for a civil war, President Bush is attempting to paint a rosier picture of the situation. He spoke about Iraq during his weekly radio address.
An Army investigator has recommended the death penalty for four U.S. soldiers accused of murdering three Iraqi men during a raid in May in the province of Salahuddin. The soldiers are accused of detaining three Iraqi men and then allowing them to be released before shooting them. The soldiers have claimed they were ordered to kill all military-age males during a raid.
In Afghanistan, U.S. warplanes mistakenly opened fired on NATO forces killing a Canadian soldier and seriously injuring five others.
Meanwhile a British soldier died in a suicide car bombing in Kabul. 17 British service members died over the weekend in Afghanistan and Iraq making it the deadliest period for Britain since the start of the Iraq invasion. 14 of the British soldiers died on Saturday when their spyplane crashed in Afghanistan. Britain has rejected claims that the Taliban shot down the plane. Meanwhile NATO has launched a major offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. NATO claims 200 Taliban fighters have died but the Taliban claims less than 10 of its fighters have been killed.
In other news from Afghanistan, the country’s opium production has reached an all-time high. The United Nations says production is up 59 percent from last year. Most of the opium is being cultivated in areas where the Taliban has regained power. Afghanistan now accounts for 92 percent of the global supply of opium.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has returned from his trip to Iran where he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Annan’s trip came just days after Iran defied a UN deadline to suspend its uranium enrichment program. In an interview published today, Annan urged the international community not to isolate Iran over its nuclear program. On Wednesday Iran’s top nuclear negotiator is expected to meet with Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief. The United States has been pushing for sanctions against Iran but the idea has been rejected by both China and Russia.
In Gaza, thousands of demonstrators broke into a government compound earlier today. The protest came on the fourth day of a strike called by president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah faction over non-payment of civil service salaries. Tens of thousands of Palestinian civil servants have been on strike since Saturday.
New census data shows the number of American children without health insurance has increased for the first time since 1998. Over 8 million children lacked health insurance coverage last year. Experts attributed the change to budget crunches that led some states to curtail enrollment of children in government-subsidized plans and steady declines in the number of people who receive health insurance through their jobs.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are returning today for a short session before they take another break to campaign for the mid-term elections. Both the House and Senate are scheduled to mark up bills this week that would retroactively legitimize President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is also scheduled to vote on Thursday on the confirmation of John Bolton to become the US ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton was given a recess appointment to the post last year. And the New York Times reports that Republican lawmakers are planning to abandon plans to push forward an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. During the last Congressional session, the House passed what was described as the most repressive immigration bill in 70 years. House bill 4437 would have made, among other things, every undocumented immigrant a felon and made it a crime for priests, nuns, health care workers and other social workers to offer help to undocumented immigrants.
Meanwhile a new round of immigration rights protests have begun across the country. On Monday, activists in Illinois concluded a four-day, 50-mile walk to a suburban Chicago office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert. On Wednesday, a major protest is scheduled in Washington. Organizers are hoping one million people will take part in the march to the White House. A protest in Los Angeles is scheduled for Friday.
In Arizona, a federal judge has dismissed indictments against a pair of activists who were arrested for helping three undocumented immigrants get urgently needed medical care. Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss were both part of the group No More Deaths that provides humanitarian aid to immigrants crossing the border through the Arizona desert. They faced up to 15 years in jail. More than 3000 people have died trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border since 1994.
In Cuba, Fidel Castro has revealed that he has lost more than 41 pounds over the past month since he had intestinal surgery. But in a statement published in the Cuban newspaper Granma, Castro said his recover has been satisfactory. Castro met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday. Chavez spoke after the meeting.
In media news, the Village Voice has fired eight senior staffers including the paper’s best known music critic, Robert Christgau. The layoffs come less than a year after the Phoenix-based media company New Times bought the Village Voice. Several other prominent writers have been fired or quit over the past year.
Puerto Rican independence leader Jorge Farinacci-Garcia died on Saturday after a yearlong struggle with cancer. He was 56 years old. Farinacci was a leader of the militant group Los Macheteros and later became a prominent labor attorney. He served three years in U.S. prisons after his conviction on conspiracy charges in connection with the 1983 robbery of seven million dollars from a Wells Fargo depot in Connecticut. He was a close associate of Filberto Ojeda Rios, the Puerto Rican independence leader who was shot dead a year ago by FBI agents. Farinacci condemned the killing during an interview on Democracy Now.
And the jazz saxophonist Dewey Redman has died at the age of 75. He was a longtime collaborator with Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett. He was the father of the saxophonist Joshua Redman. Dewey Redman was also a founding member of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra.
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