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HeadlinesOctober 12, 2007

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“Jena 6” Teen Mychal Bell Sent Back to Prison

Oct 12, 2007

In Jena, Louisiana, the “Jena 6” teen Mychal Bell has been sent back to jail. The 17-year-old Bell has already served 10 months in prison for a schoolyard fight in which Bell and five others beat up a white student. The fight occurred after white students hung three nooses from a tree where the black students had sat. An all-white jury convicted Bell of aggravated second-degree battery. Bell was allowed free on bail just two weeks ago after an appeals court found he had been improperly tried as an adult. But on Thursday, the same judge who wrongly tried Bell, District Judge J.P. Mauffrey, sentenced him to 18 months in prison on charges pending from another case before the fight occurred. Bell was sentenced on two counts of simple battery and two counts of criminal destruction of property. Judge Mauffrey also ordered Bell’s parents to pay all court and witness costs. Defense attorneys had previously tried to force Mauffrey to recuse himself from Bell’s case.

Pentagon: 15 Iraqi Civilians Dead in U.S. Attack

Oct 12, 2007

In Iraq, the Pentagon says 15 women and children and 19 alleged insurgents have been killed in a U.S. attack north of Baghdad. It’s believed to be among the worst known civilian death tolls from a single U.S. attack since the invasion.

U.N. Delayed Grim Iraq Report at U.S. Request

Oct 12, 2007

A new U.N. report says Iraq is immersed in an “ever-deepening humanitarian crisis.” Thousands of Iraqis are fleeing their homes by the month, indiscriminate killings continue apace, and prison torture is routine. The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq found that at least 100 civilians were killed in U.S.-led bombings or raids over a three-month period ending in July. The toll is believed to be higher because the Iraqi government still refuses to release casualty figures. The report also warns of an increase in violence against women. In the northern Kurdish region, more than 250 women were killed in so-called “honor” killings in the first half of this year. Most of the victims were burnt alive. The grim report marks a sharp contrast to last month’s congressional testimony from top U.S. officials in Iraq. The Washington Post reports the U.N. completed the report in August but delayed its release at the request of U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Crocker was among those to testify.

Soldier Report Finds Blackwater Fired Unprovoked

Oct 12, 2007

Evidence continues to mount that last month’s killing of at least 17 Iraqi civilians by Blackwater guards was unprovoked. According to The Washington Post, a newly disclosed report compiled by the first U.S. soldiers on the scene found no evidence Iraqis had fired on the Blackwater convoy. The soldiers also concluded Blackwater guards continued to shoot at Iraqi civilians as they tried to flee the scene. Two civilian vehicles had their back windshields shot out but had no damage to their front windshields, indicating they were shot while driving away. In another new detail, a vehicle carrying a doctor and her son had not even entered the Nisoor Square traffic circle from where the Blackwater guards opened fire. The soldiers concluded there was “no enemy activity involved” in what they called a “criminal event.” The report came as a survivor of the shooting and relatives of three of the dead filed a suit against Blackwater in U.S. court.

Afghanistan Closes 2 Private Military Firms

Oct 12, 2007

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, The Washington Post is reporting the Afghan government has shut down two local private military firms. The government is reportedly preparing to close 10 others, including at least two unnamed Western firms. Blackwater and DynCorp International are among the dozens of private security companies operating in Afghanistan.

Security Council Censures Burma Junta

Oct 12, 2007

The U.N. Security Council has issued its first resolution criticizing the Burmese military junta’s crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising.

Acting Security Council President Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa: “The Security Council strongly deplores the use of violence against peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar and welcomes Human Rights Council resolution S-5/1 of 2nd October, 2007. The Security Council emphasizes the importance of the early release of all political prisoners and remaining detainees. It also calls on the government of Myanmar and all other parties concerned to work together towards a de-escalation of the situation and a peaceful solution.”

Turkey Recalls Ambassador Following Genocide Vote

Oct 12, 2007

Turkey has recalled its ambassador to the U.S. for talks following a congressional panel’s vote to recognize the Armenian genocide. The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the measure this week despite fierce opposition from the White House. On Thursday, administration officials vowed to work against the bill when it comes before a full vote in the House.

State Department spokesperson Tom Casey: “And the basic message, and the one I expect the secretary to convey in her calls to Turkish authorities, as well as the regret that the administration has over the passage of this resolution by the committee, our continued opposition to it and our commitment to work with Congress on this to see that the full House in fact votes to defeat this resolution.”

Turkey has vowed major consequences if the measure clears the House.

Son, Colleague of Slain Armenian-Turkish Editor Sentenced

Oct 12, 2007

Meanwhile in Turkey, the son and a colleague of the slain Armenian-Turkish editor Hrant Dink have been given suspended jail sentences for writing about the Armenian genocide. Arat Dink and Sarkis Seropyan were found guilty of insulting Turkishness.

Attorney Fethiye Cetin: “They have been charged just because they published a story in their newspaper. This verdict shows that in Turkey to make a news story about Hrant Dink, who says that there was an Armenian genocide in 1915, is a crime.”

Hrant Dink was slain outside his office in January in what many believe was a political killing for his efforts to challenge Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide.

Study: Cost of African Wars Exceed Aid Flow

Oct 12, 2007

A new study from the international aid group Oxfam International says internal fighting has cost Africa more than $285 billion since 1990. Oxfam says the findings highlight the need for better arms control as most of Africa’s weapons are imported.

Oxfam policy adviser Irungu Houghton: “We hope it will support those who are pushing for a stronger arms trade treaty. We hope that by quantifying the cost of this, the $300 billion that I mentioned, which is actually more than the aid flows into Africa during the same period, will really make people sit up and realize that there is a massive cost, not only in human lives, but in development and progress in Africa.”

CIA Orders Investigation of Top Watchdog

Oct 12, 2007

CIA Director Michael Hayden has ordered what is being called an unprecedented probe of the CIA’s own top watchdog. Inspector General John Helgerson has issued several critical reports of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. Critics fear the probe could be an attempt to slow him down. Many believe it will deter CIA officials from cooperating with Helgerson in the future out of fear of retribution. Former CIA inspector Frederick Hitz called the probe “a terrible idea.”

Iranian Groups Urge Congress to End Democracy Funding

Oct 12, 2007

More than two dozen Iranian-American and human rights groups are asking Congress to reduce or eliminate some $70 million earmarked for promoting democracy inside Iran. The coalition says the U.S. funding has backfired and undermined their efforts for reform. In a statement, the group says, “Iranian reformers believe democracy cannot be imported and must be based on indigenous institutions and values. Intended beneficiaries of the funding … uniformly denounce the program.” The letter was spearheaded by the National Iranian American Council, the American Conservative Defense Alliance and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Gore, U.N. Climate Change Panel Awarded Nobel Peace Price

Oct 12, 2007

Former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have been awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to raise awareness on global warning. More after headlines.

Carter: Admin Practicing Torture, Cheney a “Militant”

Oct 12, 2007

Former President Jimmy Carter has accused the Bush administration of committing torture in violation of international law. Carter made the comments in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Wolf Blitzer: “President Bush said as recently as this week the United States does not torture detainees.”

Jimmy Carter: “That’s not an accurate statement, if you use the international norms of torture, as has always been honored, certainly in the last 60 years, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated. But you can make your own definition of human rights and say we don’t violate them. And we can — you can make your own definition of torture and say we don’t violate it. But obviously” —

Wolf Blitzer: “But from your definition, you believe the United States, under this administration, has used torture.”

Jimmy Carter: “I don’t think it; I know it.”

Carter also weighed in on the 2008 presidential election. He called former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani “foolish” for backing a possible U.S. attack on Iran. Carter also criticized Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois for refusing to pledge to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by 2012. But Carter saved his harshest criticism for Vice President Dick Cheney. In an interview with BBC News the next day, Carter called Cheney a “militant” and a “disaster for our country.”

September Home Foreclosures Double Over ’06

Oct 12, 2007

In economic news, the U.S. mortgage crisis is showing no signs of slowing down. Home foreclosures last month topped 223,000 — double over a year ago.

University of St. Thomas Reverses Tutu Cancellation

Oct 12, 2007

And in Minnesota, the University of Saint Thomas has reversed its cancellation of a lecture by the former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. Tutu was scheduled to speak next spring, but earlier this year school officials revoked the invitation over Tutu’s criticism of Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories. Tutu has compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to South Africa under apartheid and Germany under the Nazis. In a public statement, Saint Thomas President Dennis Dease did not explain his reasons for re-inviting Tutu. The reversal follows vocal public outcry from students and faculty. No word from Tutu on whether he’ll accept.

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