In Bangladesh, at least 3,100 people have been killed and millions made homeless following a devastating cyclone. The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said the death toll could hit 10,000 as rescuers are still struggling to reach remote areas. Tens of thousands of homes have been swept away.
Niru Begum, storm survivor: “We were all taking cover inside our homes, and suddenly our house collapsed and we were all stuck inside. Though we managed to survive, our mother did not. She was left behind inside, and we could not save her.”
Thursday’s storm was the most destructive cyclone to hit Bangladesh in over a decade. Scientists say Bangladesh stands to suffer even more in coming years as a result of global warming because warmer weather patterns will produce more extreme tropical cyclones.
Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued a new report warning global warming is destroying species, raising sea levels, and threatening millions of poor people. The United Nations’ top scientific panel says firm action is needed to avoid more catastrophic events. The report is the first published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since it won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore.
IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri: “We are assessing science in a totally objective and neutral manner. We are not making any policy prescriptions. It’s not the work of the IPCC to do so. But what we have brought out, I believe, is an extremely policy-relevant document. If this does not provide the basis for those who are responsible for forming policies all over the world on a strong scientific basis, then I’m afraid I can’t think of anything more appropriate or apt than what we have produced.”
In two weeks, the world’s energy ministers will meet in Bali, Indonesia, to begin talks on creating a global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
Here in this country, a group of environmental organizations hosted the first-ever presidential forum on global warming on Saturday, but in attendance were only three candidates: Senator Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Every Democratic and Republican candidate had been invited. The forum was held two days after the Democratic debate on CNN in Las Vegas, which was sponsored by the coal industry.
The New York Times has revealed the U.S. is proposing to start arming Pakistani tribes in an effort to fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. If adopted, the proposal would likely expand the presence of U.S. military troops in Pakistan and directly finance a tribal paramilitary force. The proposal is modeled in part on a similar effort by American forces in Anbar province in Iraq. An estimated $350 million would be needed to train and arm the paramilitary force known as the Frontier Corps. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s military leader General Pervez Musharraf is still refusing to lift martial law. On Saturday Musharraf met for two hours with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte. Negroponte urged emergency rule be lifted, but he also praised Musharraf for taking some steps toward democracy.
John Negroponte: “We welcome President Musharraf’s announcement that elections will take place in January, a commitment he repeated to me yesterday, in categorical terms. He also repeated his commitment to retire from his army post before commencing his second presidential term, and we urge him to do so as soon as possible.”
While John Negroponte was in Pakistan, Musharraf ordered two Dubai-based Pakistani news channels, Geo TV and ARY One World to be shut down. We’ll have more on Pakistan after headlines.
Israel is accusing International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei of being pro-Iranian after the IAEA issued a report that said Iran has in general been cooperating with the UN nuclear watchdog agency. The IAEA said Iran has not suspended its uranium enrichment program but that there is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, said, “This report is unacceptable. This is further proof of ElBaradei’s one-sided and pro-Iranian position.”
In news from Iraq, the McClatchy Newspapers report a U.S. military convoy opened fire on a column of cars Sunday morning, killing at least two Iraqi civilians in southern Iraq and igniting a new round of anger over the apparent loss of innocent life. Iraqi police charged that the shootings were unprovoked and said six people, including two Iraqi policemen, died in a barrage of bullets. The incident occurred on a day when U.S. officials announced that attacks in Iraq were at their lowest levels in nearly two years.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic bill to fund the Iraq war that would have ordered troop withdrawals to begin within 30 days and set a goal of ending combat by the end of 2008.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “This bill requires the President start bringing these troops home so that they can get the heroes’ welcome that they so bravely have earned. Our bill sets a reasonable goal for the end of combat operations. And it finally ensures the President will be accountable to the Congress and to the people.”
The final vote on the funding bill was 53 to 45. The Democrats came up seven votes short of the 60 needed to advance the bill.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: “This is ridiculous! It’s undercutting America’s vital national security interests, and it’s telling our soldiers ’You’re losers’ when they’re winners. So, we’re going to defeat it now and forever.”
The number of U.S. Army soldiers going AWOL has jumped 80 percent since the United States invaded Iraq. Overall, about 4,700 soldiers deserted this year — a 42 percent jump since just 2006.
The brother of State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard has resigned from the advisory board of the private military company Blackwater. Alvin Krongard resigned from Blackwater on Friday, just days after his bother, the State Department’s top oversight official, was forced to admit his brother had ties to the company.
In news from Afghanistan, an internal U.N. report has concluded bodyguards protecting Afghan lawmakers fired “deliberately and indiscriminately” into a crowd two weeks ago after a suicide bombing. The report, which was obtained by the Associated Press, said that as many as two-thirds of the 77 killed and more than 100 wounded were hit by gunfire. Most of the dead were schoolchildren.
Over 20,000 demonstrators surrounded the Justice Department headquarters in Washington on Friday to protest the federal government’s handling of the Jena Six case and to call for increased enforcement of hate crimes legislation. The march was organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton. On Saturday, the Hip Hop Caucus organized a second demonstration against hate crimes and police violence. Earlier this month, USA Today reported that the number of hate crimes being prosecuted by the Justice Department has dropped by 71 percent over the past decade.
In New Jersey, four men protesting police brutality in Plainfield were arrested Saturday and charged with unlawful assembly. The arrests came during a protest organized by the People’s Organization for Progress.
A joint investigation by the Washington Post and 60 Minutes has found that hundreds of defendants sitting in prisons nationwide have been convicted with the help of an FBI forensic tool that was discarded more than two years ago. But the FBI lab has yet to take steps to alert the affected defendants or courts, even as the window for appealing convictions is closing. The technique known as comparative bullet-lead analysis has been used since 1963. In 2004, however, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that variations in the manufacturing process rendered the FBI’s testimony about the science “unreliable and potentially misleading.” The organization said that decades of FBI statements to jurors linking a particular bullet to those found in a suspect’s gun or cartridge box were so overstated that such testimony should be considered “misleading under federal rules of evidence.”
In labor news, the Hollywood and TV writers strike has entered its 15th day. Writers went on strike Nov. 5 after failing to reach an agreement on pay for content used in digital media. On Friday, Democratic presidential contender John Edwards joined striking writers picketing outside NBC.
John Edwards: “Very proud to be out here today with the writers. This is a march and a fight for justice and fairness. They just want to make certain that they’re able to take advantage of all the hard work and the creative work that they have provided. I mean, their products are the ones that are generating many millions of dollars for very large companies in this country. And they’re like a lot of workers and a lot of union members in America that are just looking for fairness and justice.”
Negotiators for the Writers Guild of America have announced formal talks will resume next week.
In Georgia, as many 20,000 people gathered outside the gates of Fort Benning this weekend to demand the closing of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas. Eleven people were arrested and charged with criminal trespass. The U.S. military uses the school to train Latin American soldiers in combat, counterinsurgency and counter-narcotics. Frequently dubbed the “School of the Assassins,” critics say the school’s graduates are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. Protesters at the 18th annual Vigil to Close the SOA included Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich.
And the civil rights attorney Victor Rabinowitz has died at the age of 96. In 1937 he helped found the National Lawyers Guild. He was a longtime law partner with Leonard Boudin.