In Pakistan, opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been freed from a three-day house arrest. She had been confined to her Lahore home in President General Pervez Musharraf’s crackdown on protests to his emergency rule. Bhutto has ruled out any power-sharing deal with Musharraf and is calling for a “people’s revolution” to oust his government. Her release came hours before Musharraf swore in a new Cabinet after his term officially expired. Musharraf will remain in office pending the outcome of a Supreme Court challenge to his election win last month. He’s expected to win the case, having dismissed judges who have shown independence.
In Iraq, the U.S. occupation force has hit a record high. The Washington Post reports the U.S. troop contingent is now at 175,000, the largest since the U.S. invasion four-and-a-half years ago. The number is expected to decline over several months.
Iraq’s oil minister is predicting Iraq is months away from approving a long-awaited oil law. The measure has stalled in Parliament over disagreements on regional distribution and the involvement of foreign firms. Speaking at the OPEC summit in Saudi Arabia, Hussain al-Shahristani said the law would cancel any current oil deals signed by the regional Kurdish government in northern Iraq.
Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani: “Those contracts have no standing with the government of Iraq, and we have informed and warned the companies that they bear the full consequences of signing such contracts, and Iraq will not allow its oil to be exported under any such provenance.”
Al-Shahristani also said oil cooperation with Iran is advancing, with plans to supply Iran with 100,000 barrels a day through a southern pipeline.
A California federal appeals court has rejected the Bush administration’s fuel-economy standards for trucks and SUVs. On Thursday, a three-judge panel struck down the year-old regulations after ruling they don’t go far enough to limit the vehicles’ damaging contribution to global warming. The court has ordered the Transportation Department to produce new rules. The regulations were challenged by a coalition of environmental groups and 13 states and cities.
A newly disclosed secret manual from the Guantánamo Bay prison shows the Pentagon has made it official policy to deny prisoners access to monitors from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Written in 2003, the manual instructs guards to deny access to the Koran and bar Red Cross visits in order to “exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee.” The document also authorizes guards to prevent Red Cross visits even to long-term detainees. Legal experts say the policy could amount to a serious breach of international humanitarian law. The document was first posted on the website WikiLeaks. The Pentagon does not dispute its authenticity but says prisoners are now allowed Red Cross visits.
On Capitol Hill, both the full House and the Senate Judiciary Committee have passed bills rejecting blanket immunity for telecommunication companies that cooperated with the Bush administration’s warrantless spy program. The measures amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and pave the way for courts to decide whether telecom companies might have broken the law. The Bush administration has threatened a veto. We’ll have more on this story later in the broadcast.
The Canadian government has ordered a review of stun gun use following the release of video footage showing a fatal police tasering of an unarmed man last month. Forty-year-old Robert Dziekanski had flown in from Poland to live with his mother. He became agitated after spending hours waiting for her in a secure area at Vancouver International Airport. She had told him to wait for him by the baggage claim, when in fact he would have had to first pass through customs to see her. After 10 hours, Dziekanski picked up a small wooden table and began to act unruly. Police tasered him, killing him within minutes. Paul Pritchard is the traveler who caught the incident on tape.
Paul Pritchard: “He basically shrugged his shoulders. He put up his hands and kind of admitted defeat, if you will. And, you know, he’d been banging things. It looked like he admitted — he pointed at the computer by his side — you know, he broke something. You know, OK, do what you need to do, obviously; arrest him or whatever. He just wanted to see his mother. I mean, it’s been in there for 10 hours. And, you know, they tasered him. They used their taser at that point.”
In addition to the taser review, Canadian police say they’re conducting a separate investigation.
The world’s top panel of environmental experts is set to release a new report on human-caused climate change this weekend. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is expected to summarize its three previous reports this year that have lobbied for drastic change to avoid environmental catastrophe. Panel member Kirsty Hamilton says evidence that human activity is causing global warming is now beyond dispute.
Kirsty Hamilton: “The IPCC report is very important. It’s their fourth assessment report, and it’s 17 years after the first one, so it’s an entire generation worth of scientific knowledge. It’s becoming ever more confident about the observations they were making way back in 1990. So, clearly, that’s just a solid reinforcement for governments and everybody on the planet about the urgency of the matter.”
The release of the report comes amid censorship allegations. This week the World Wildlife Fund accused leading polluter nations of diluting the climate report to discourage taking action.
Meanwhile, accusations of climate change censorship are now reaching the halls of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington. The Washington Post reports museum directors took steps to downplay global warming at an Arctic exhibit to avoid a political fallout. Museum director Cristián Samper imposed last-minute changes to the exhibit’s script that raised “scientific uncertainty” about climate change. The move came after Samper held up the project for six months, ordered reviews from other government agencies, and moved a climate change discussion in the exhibit to less prominence.
In other environmental news, new satellite imaging of the Gulf Coast shows Hurricanes Katrina and Rita produced the nation’s worst forestry disaster on record. Researchers from Tulane University say the hurricanes killed or damaged some 320 million trees in Mississippi and Louisiana. Scientists predict the destruction will have major environmental effects. The decaying trees will put as much carbon into the air as the rest of the nation’s forests will remove through one year of photosynthesis. The loss of so many trees at once has exposed large tracts to aggressive and populous species that will replace native and environmentally beneficial ones. The Washington Post reports attempts to contain the damage has been hampered by an ineffective federal program that has spent only $70 million so far. James Cummins of the conservation group Wildlife Mississippi said: “This is the worst environmental disaster in the United States since the Exxon Valdez accident … and the greatest forest destruction in modern times.”
The Mexican government is raising major environmental concerns over the Bush administration’s plans for a massive wall along the southern border. In a new report, Mexico says the proposed border wall would cause severe environmental damage, threatening the survival of hundreds of plant species and animals. The report calls the U.S. plans “medieval.” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says he’s been granted congressional authority to waive environmental laws to continue the wall’s construction.
An American power company named in a new report on the world’s worst polluters is also a major donor to President Bush. According to the Center for Global Development, Southern Company is in the top two of the worst utility polluters in the U.S. and ranks sixth-worst in the world. One Southern plant in Juliette, Georgia, emits more carbon dioxide every year than Brazil’s entire power sector. Finance records show Southern Company employees have donated more than $6 million to Republican campaigns since 1990, including more than $200,000 to elect President Bush.
The Los Angeles Police Department has announced it’s canceling an extensive mapping program to identify Muslim enclaves across the city. The plan had sparked outrage from some Islamic groups and civil libertarians.
A soldier who served two combat tours in Iraq has been arrested for leaving the Army without permission to seek help for post-traumatic stress disorder. Sgt. Brad Gaskins says he left his base in August 2006 because he wasn’t receiving effective treatment from the military. Gaskins had been diagnosed with PTSD and severe depression. Gaskins said, “They just don’t have the resources to handle it, but that’s not my fault.” A CBS News study this week found that more than 6,000 U.S. veterans took their own lives in 2005 — an average of 17 a day.
Meanwhile, two servicemembers who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Iraq have been denied a bid for refugee status there. On Thursday, Canada’s Supreme Court denied to hear an appeal from Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. Both face up to five years in prison if deported back to the United States.
New figures reveal the United States has become a haven for accused war criminals from around the world. According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 1,000 people accused of crimes including rape, killings, torture and genocide abroad are living in the U.S. Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois says torture is currently the only serious human rights violation committed abroad that can lead to prosecution of a non-American national on U.S. soil. Durbin is leading a congressional effort to add more offenses under the law.
A group of domestic workers employed by foreign diplomats living in the U.S. have filed a petition with an international commission claiming exploitation and abuse. The workers say they were forced into slave-like conditions in the homes of diplomats from countries including Bolivia, Bangladesh and Kuwait. Their allegations include extreme wage and hour violations, virtual imprisonment in the homes of their employers, and physical and emotional abuse. The American Civil Liberties Union says it brought the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights because the diplomats are granted immunity under U.S. law. The petition accuses the U.S. of violating international treaties by failing to ensure immunized diplomats are barred from abusing human rights.
Here in New York, a group of hunger-striking students at Columbia University have won a victory in their effort to expand ethnic studies at their school. On Thursday, Columbia administrators agreed to spend $50 million on expanding the Office of Multicultural Affairs and changing how the cultures requirement is taught. The students have been camped out in the center of campus during their week-long protest.
And in Australia, a coroner has ruled that five Australian journalists were deliberately killed by Indonesian troops in East Timor 32 years ago. Australian television correspondent Greg Shackleton and his crew had come to East Timor to report on the Indonesian invasion. It’s long been known they were killed on the orders of Indonesian generals to stop them from exposing the Indonesian military’s mass killings of Timorese, but no charges have been filed against the soldiers or generals involved. Australian prosecutors say three Indonesian military officials could face war crimes charges.