Meanwhile, world leaders are continuing to meet in Egypt at a summit over the future of Iraq. On Thursday Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with the Syrian foreign minister. Rice urged Syria to help stop foreign fighters from entering Iraq. At the summit, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged foreign investment in Iraq.
Nouri Al-Maliki: “Not all of Iraq lives under the threat of terrorism, as you have seen. Many Iraqi districts are safe and good for investment, so that’s why we made requests to those countries who can invest, and they expressed their willingness to come to Iraq. And with this compact, the countries who signed it will take this fact into consideration so that companies and investors can come to different parts of Iraq.”
In Iraq, the U.S. military has announced it has killed a top al-Qaeda operative named Muharib Abdul Latif al-Jubouri. Officials accused him of being involved in the kidnapping of Christian Science Monitor journalist Jill Carroll as well as the murder of Tom Fox, a member of the Christian Peacemaker Team.
Meanwhile in Baghdad, U.S. forces have completed construction of a concrete wall around the Baghdad district of Adhamiya despite protests from the Iraqi prime minister and local residents.
In California, the FBI is planning to launch a civil rights investigation into the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of violent force to end an immigrant rights march on Tuesday. Police fired 240 rounds of rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters and journalists. At least 10 civilians, including seven journalists, were taken to a hospital. One of the injured journalists, Fox TV camerawoman Patti Ballaz, is planning to announce today that she is filing a claim against the city. Video shows police repeatedly hit her with batons and knocked her to the ground.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a major new report that concludes humans need to make sweeping cuts in greenhouse gas emissions over the next 50 years to keep global warming in check. The report was released in Bangkok after a week of negotiations.
IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri: “This report for the first time has dealt with lifestyles and consumption patterns as an important means by which we can bring about mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Of course you can look at technology, you can look at policies, but what is an extremely powerful message in this report is the need for human society as a whole to start looking at changes in lifestyles and consumption patterns.”
The report is the third to be released this year by the U.N. panel, which draws on the work of 2,500 scientists. Bangkok is expected to be particularly hart hit by global warming. Researchers say the city could be partially under water within 20 years.
Smith Dharmasaroja, the head of Thailand’s National Disaster Warning Center: “If nothing can be done, Bangkok will be at least 50 centimeters or one meter under water. The system has to be started right now; otherwise, it is too late to protect our capital city from sinking.”
President Bush is threatening to veto a new hate crimes bill if it comes before his desk. On Thursday, the House approved a bill that would expand federal hate crime law to include attacks motivated by the victims’ gender or sexual orientation. Under current law, federal officials are only able to investigate and prosecute attacks based on race, color, national origin and religion. This is Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, the first openly lesbian to serve in Congress.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin: “These characteristics are included in this hate crimes legislation, not because they deserve any special protection, as opponents of this legislation claim, but because of the history of particularly heinous and violent crimes committed against individuals based on such characteristics.”
Many right-wing groups opposed the bill. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson called it “insidious legislation.”
The 10 Republican presidential candidates gathered last night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for their first debate. Nine of the candidates said they hope the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, said, “This life issue is not insignificant, it’s not small. It separated us from the Islamic fascists who would strap a bomb to the belly of their child and blow them up. We don’t do that in this country.” Former New York Rudolph Giuliani said it would be OK if the Supreme Court upheld the 1973 landmark abortion rights ruling, but he also said it would be OK if the court repealed it. On the issue of Iraq, Senator John McCain criticized lawmakers who back the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Sen. John McCain: “When on the floor of the House on Representatives they cheer when they pass a withdrawal motion, that is a certain date for surrender. What were they cheering? Surrender? Defeat? We must win in Iraq. If we withdraw, there will be chaos, there will be genocide, and they will follow us home.”
In other campaign news, Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama has been put under the protection of the United States Secret Service. The Associated Press reported the decision was made in part because racist messages have been posted on white supremacist websites. It is the earliest time in an election cycle that the Secret Service has ever placed a presidential candidate under its protection. The New York Times reports that the Rev. Jesse Jackson also drew early Secret Service protection because of violent threats during his campaigns for president in 1984 and 1988.
In other election news, lawmakers in Florida have approved a measure to require all electronic voting machines to produce a paper trail. The state’s governor is expected to sign the bill today, which also moves the state’s presidential primary ahead to the last Tuesday in January.
Journalists around the globe marked World Press Freedom Day on Thursday. Several rallies were held to call for the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who was kidnapped in Gaza on March 12.
BBC’s world editor, Jon Williams: “Alan Johnston is a quiet, private man who has never sought the limelight. He is someone who has brought his humanity to reporting the story of Gaza. And 52 days after he was kidnapped, we’re here today to demand his release.”
In Mexico City dozens of journalists marched outside the attorney general’s office calling on the government to step up efforts to protect journalists. The protesters hung photographs of 37 journalists who have been murdered or disappeared since 2000. In April, Amado Ramirez, a veteran correspondent for Televisa Acapulco, was shot to death. And six months earlier, the American journalist Brad Will was killed by paramilitary forces in Oaxaca.
Mexican journalist Misael Habana de los Santos: “We are being threatened. That’s why we’re demonstrating and taking the opportunity to ask for justice for our dead — there are several — and specifically, the recent case of Amado Ramirez, and also for the threats that there are against some reporters.”
In Egypt, a court has sentenced an Al Jazeera reporter to six months in prison in absentia for producing a film highlighting police torture. Howayda Taha was charged with “harming Egypt’s national interest.”
The United States also came under some criticism on World Press Freedom Day for continuing to jail two Muslim journalists without charge. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held in a U.S. prison in Iraq for the past 13 months. Meanwhile, the U.S. has been detaining the Al Jazeera camerman Sami al-Hajj at Guantnanamo since June 2002.
Meanwhile, a new U.S. military handbook officially states that soldiers should view the media as a threat alongside al-Qaeda, computer hackers, drug cartels, warlords and militias. The handbook was published by the Army’s 1st Information Operations Command. The Army has also placed new restrictions on the use of blogs and private emails by soldiers. Soldiers sending emails or posting items on blogs must now first clear the content with a superior officer. Many believe the rules will likely result in the end of all military blogging.
In Israel, over 100,000 people took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Thursday demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over his handling of the Lebanon war. Meanwhile, the Labor Party is threatening to withdraw from Olmert’s government. Labor is the largest partner in Olmert’s coalition government, and its withdrawal could force new elections.
One of the most lethal Protestant paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Volunteer Force, has officially renounced violence. Over the past 40 years, the group killed more than 540 people, mostly civilians. One of the founders of the paramilitary force, Gusty Spence, made the announcement on Thursday.
Gusty Spence: “All recruitment has ceased, military training has ceased, targeting has ceased, and all intelligence rendered obsolete. All active service units have been deactivated. All ordnance has been put beyond reach.”
The Ulster Volunteer Force, however, stopped short of committing itself to weapons decommissioning as undertaken by the Irish Republican Army.
In Cuba, two fugitive army soldiers attempted to hijack a U.S.-bound airline on Thursday days after they escaped from a military base with automatic weapons. The soldiers were arrested after they killed one Cuban officer who had been taken hostage aboard the plane.
In environmental news, indigenous groups from the Peruvian Amazon are threatening to sue the oil company Occidental Petroleum unless it cleans up toxic waste left over the past 30 years in the tropical rainforests of Peru. A new report from Amazon Watch and Earth Rights International accuses Occidental of dumping nine million barrels of untreated toxic waste directly into rivers and streams used by the Achuar people. This has resulted in widespread lead and cadmium poisoning. Several indigenous leaders plan to attend the company’s annual shareholders meeting today in Los Angeles.
And Time magazine has published its annual Time 100 — a list of 100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world. This year’s list has an unexpected entry: Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen who was seized by U.S. officials in 2002 and sent to Syria to be tortured. Arar was the first victim of the Bush administration’s practice of extraordinary rendition to come forward and contest his treatment in a U.S. court. Senator Patrick Leahy wrote in Time magazine, “Maher Arar’s case stands as a sad symbol of how we have been too willing to sacrifice our core principles to overarching government power in the name of security, when doing so only undermines the principles we stand for and makes us less safe.”
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