Pakistan’s military leader General Pervez Musharraf has announced parliamentary elections will be held on January 9, but he has refused to say when he will lift martial law. General Musharraf declared emergency law nine days ago. Since then, thousands of his critics have been arrested, public rallies have been outlawed and independent TV networks, including the BBC and CNN, have been taken off the air. On Sunday, Pakistan’s attorney general announced that military courts could now try civilians on charges ranging from treason to inciting public unrest. General Musharraf continues to defend his decision to impose martial law.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf: “The emergency reinforces the war on terror. … So, therefore, all that I can say is I do understand that emergency has to be lifted, but I cannot give a date for it. We are in a difficult situation, and therefore I cannot give a date.”
Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto announced earlier today that she has ended negotiations with Musharraf on a power-sharing agreement. On Tuesday, Bhutto plans to lead a 185-mile protest caravan from Lahore to Islamabad. On Friday, she spoke to reporters while she was under temporary house arrest.
Benazir Bhutto: “This is not a battle for Benazir Bhutto. This is not a battle for the Pakistan People’s Party. This is a battle to save Pakistan, to save Pakistan from the forces of extremism.”
Meanwhile, Newsweek reports that Pakistan has released several senior Taliban commanders, including Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, the highest-ranking Taliban official ever captured by the Pakistanis. Taliban sources told the magazine that Akhund was released one day after Musharaf declared martial law. Akhund once served as defense minister for the Taliban and was one of the closest confidants to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. The Taliban leaders were released as part of a prisoner exchange.
Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik has been indicted on federal corruption charges including bribery and tax fraud. If convicted on all 16 counts, he could face 142 years in prison and be charged with almost $5 million in fines. Kerik’s indictment could present a complication in Rudolph Giuliani’s run for the White House. As mayor of New York, Giuliani elevated Kerik to correction commissioner and then police commissioner. Later Giuliani made Kerik a partner in his security business and urged President Bush to nominate Kerik to head the Department of Homeland Security.
The Observer newspaper of London reports the Pentagon is putting huge pressure on U.S. interrogators in Iraq to find incriminating evidence about Iran. Micah Brose, a privately contracted interrogator working for American forces in Iraq, told The Observer that information on Iran is “gold.” Brose said, “They push a lot for us to establish a link with Iran. They have pre-categories for us to go through, and … of all the recent requests I’ve had, I’d say 60 to 70 percent are about Iran.” Brose went on to say, “If nothing changes in the current course, I’d say military action is inevitable.” Last week, the Inter Press Service reported that a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran has been held up for more than a year. It is reportedly part of an effort by Vice President Dick Cheney to pressure intelligence analysts to remove any dissenting judgments about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.
Another U.S. private military company is being accused of killing an innocent Iraqi civilian. On Saturday, a guard from DynCorp International reportedly shot and killed an Iraqi taxi driver in Baghdad. Three witnesses told The New York Times that the taxi had posed no threat. A spokesperson for the Iraqi Interior Ministry said, “They just killed a man and drove away.”
2007 has become the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. On Friday, six U.S. troops died in an ambush in eastern Afghanistan. The deaths brought the total number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year to at least 101. 2007 has also been the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Iraq.
In Somalia, at least 80 people have died in the capital of Mogadishu in heavy fighting between U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops and Somali fighters. Most of the dead are believed to be civilians. The BBC reported Ethiopian tanks and artillery battered parts of Mogadishu after an Ethiopian soldier was dragged through the streets. Residents of Mogadishu accused Ethiopian troops of attacking civilians.
Asha Guled: “We are witnesses to the problems the Ethiopian troops brought for us. They killed every person they saw in the area. And we have now decided to flee the capital Mogadishu.”
The U.N. estimates 100,000 people have left Mogadishu in the last two weeks to escape the fighting. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said 1.5 million Somalis are now in need of humanitarian assistance. Human Rights Watch says the failure of the international community to end the violence in Somalia reflects a contempt for the value of African life.
In Cambodia, police have arrested two leading figures from the Khmer Rouge on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, were arrested in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. They are due to appear before judges at a U.N.-backed genocide tribunal.
Authorities from Russia and Ukraine have launched a rescue and cleanup operation in the Black Sea after heavy storms sank five ships, including an oil tanker. At least three sailors have died, and 20 remain missing. The oil tanker spilled more than a thousand tons of fuel oil after it split in half. Three cargo ships, each carrying more than 2,000 tons of sulfur, also sank. Officials said it could be the worst environmental disaster in the region in years and could take years to clean up.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Antarctica on Friday and called for urgent political action to tackle global warming. He spoke during a tour of three scientific bases on the Antarctic continent, where temperatures are their highest in about 1,800 years.
Ban Ki-moon: “Again, I was told by the scientist that entire western Antarctica is now floating. This is one-fifth of a total continent, size of this total continent. If it broke up, the sea level rise — sea level may rise as much as six meters, 18 feet. This is very alarming.”
It was the first visit by a U.N. chief to Antarctica.
Meanwhile in Australia, more than 150,000 people took part in the second annual Walk Against Warming. Climate change protests were held in 60 towns and cities across Australia.
On Capitol Hill, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has announced she favors granting legal immunity for telecommunications companies that allegedly shared millions of customers’ telephone and email messages and records with the government. The San Francisco Chronicle reports Feinstein could cast a pivotal vote when the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up the issue this week. In a statement, Feinstein said lawsuits filed against Verizon, AT&T and other telecoms are unfair because the companies are unable to defend themselves in court since the governments insist their activities be kept secret.
A new study by Physicians for Social Responsibility estimates that healthcare for Iraq veterans could top $650 billion. The group titled its report “Shock and Awe Hits Home.” The study marks the first attempt to isolate the financial costs of the wide-ranging traumatic mental and social effects of the Iraq war. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, at least 60,000 U.S. servicemembers have been wounded or become mentally ill. Due to advances in body armor and battlefield medicine, the ratio of wounded to killed is eight to one, compared with three to one during the Vietnam War and two to one for World War II. The percentage of amputees is the highest since the Civil War.
The Los Angeles Police Department has launched an extensive mapping program to identify Muslim enclaves across the city. LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing told the Los Angeles Times: “We want to know where the Pakistanis, Iranians and Chechens are so we can reach out to those communities.” But the mapping program has sparked outrage from some Islamic groups and civil libertarians. The American Civil Liberties Union said the program is nothing short of racial profiling.
In Washington state, more than 1,000 people packed into Seattle’s Town Hall on Friday to voice opposition to the Federal Communications Commission’s plans to rewrite the nation’s media ownership laws to allow for greater media consolidation. The FCC gave just five business days’ notice for the public hearing. Washington Governor Christine Gregoire said she is opposed to further concentration of media ownership through consolidation of the media.
Christine Gregoire: “It narrows perspectives available to each of us, each of us as citizens, and it is clearly unhealthy in a society that rests on principles of equality and diversity. I find it ironic that in an age with so many new ways for people to communicate and so many ways to exercise the literal beauty of democracy, we face the very real threat that those new ways will be controlled by but a few.”
In Olympia, Washington, 15 antiwar demonstrators were arrested over the weekend while attempting to block a military convoy carrying Stryker vehicles. The protests were organized by the Olympia Port Militarization Resistance, which aims to stop the U.S. military from using the Port of Olympia to ship equipment to Iraq. Protest organizers also accused police of brutalizing dozens of peaceful demonstrators and journalists. On Saturday, police dressed in riot gear repeatedly used pepper spray and batons to break up the protest.
The two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and journalist Norman Mailer has died at the age of 84. He was the author of many books, including “The Executioner’s Song” and “The Naked and the Dead.” In 1955, he helped found the Village Voice. We will have more on Norman Mailer later in the show.
An eight-year-old from Bethesda, Maryland, is making headlines this week after winning a $5,000 prize from the toy company Lego. Kelsie Kimberlin was one of 10 children to win Lego’s first annual Creativity Awards. In order to win the award, she wrote an essay saying that her creativity came through singing songs like “Happy Springtime,” a reworking of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas.” A video of Kelsie singing the song was also posted on YouTube. In the song, her father changed the lyrics to the song from “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” to “Happy Springtime (Bush is Over).” Officials from Lego claim they didn’t see the video before awarding Kelsie Kimberlin the prize money. When asked to describe her winning entry, she told The Washington Post: “I don’t want kids to lose any parents in the war.”