In France, voters have elected the right-wing, pro-American Nicolas Sarkozy to be the country’s new president. By a 53-to-47 percent margin, Sarkozy beat the Socialist candidate, Segolene Royal. In his victory speech, Sarkozy assured Americans of France’s “friendship.” Within hours of the election results being announced, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to protest. In central Paris, police fired tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators. Over 100 cars were set on fire in the suburbs of Paris. Protests were also held in Bordeaux, Marseille, Lille, Nantes, Toulouse and Lyon.
In Iraq, at least 150 people have died over the past three days in a series of attacks. Earlier today, a pair of suicide car bombers killed 20 people in Ramadi. On Sunday, 30 died when a car bomb ripped through a wholesale food market in western Baghdad.
U.S. helicopters bombed parts of the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City on Saturday. Local residents said the airstrikes killed at least one civilian and injured eight others. One of the U.S. rockets hit the home of an eight-year-old named Ruqaya Jabbar. She described what happened.
Ruqaya Jabbar: “We were asleep when they [U.S. forces] hit us. We were frightened, and we ran there, and they started to fire at us, wounding one here. They hit us with rockets. Why? What did we do? They destroyed the house. Why? We did nothing. We are poor people, and we were asleep.”
Six U.S. troops and a European journalist were killed on Sunday in a massive bombing in the city of Diyala.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration has announced plans to sell Iraq about a half-billion dollars of new arms. The sale will include about 400 million rounds of small-arms ammunition, 170,000 grenades, demolition explosives and other military gear.
A new Army survey has found that more than one-third of U.S. soldiers in Iraq said they believe torture should be allowed in some cases. In addition, about two-thirds of marines and half the Army troops surveyed said they would not report a team member for mistreating a civilian or for destroying civilian property unnecessarily. The Army survey found that less than half of the soldiers polled believed that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect. And 10 percent of the troops said they had personally mistreated civilians in Iraq. Nearly 1,800 troops took part in the survey. Acting Army Surgeon Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock characterized the report as positive news. He told reporters: “What it speaks to is the leadership that the military is providing, because they’re not acting on those thoughts. They’re not torturing the people.”
Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri has issued a new videotape criticizing Democratic efforts in Washington to withdraw troops from Iraq because he said it would prevent al-Qaeda from being able to kill more Americans.
Ayman al-Zawahiri: “This bill reflects American failure and frustration. However, this bill will deprive us of the opportunity to destroy the American forces, which we have caught in a historic trap. We ask Allah that they only get out if it’s after losing 200,000 to 300,000 killed, in order that we give the spillers of blood in Washington and Europe an unforgettable lesson which will motivate them to review their entire doctrinal and moral system which produced their historic criminal crusader/Zionist entity.”
The U.S. government has blocked a United Nations expert from visiting a jail in Texas where the U.S. is holding up to 400 immigrants, including children and asylum seekers. The U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamante, is in the middle of a three-week fact-finding mission to examine how immigrants are being treated in the United States. Bustamante had planned on visiting the Hutto immigration facility in Taylor, Texas, today, but his visit has been blocked by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 12 children detained at the Hutto facility, charging that the children are subject to inhumane treatment.
In Arizona, a Flagstaff man was arrested for threatening to violently disrupt a Cinco de Mayo festival. The man, James Wesley Cheek, attempted to post an Internet message saying that the Virginia Tech killings would pale in comparison to his plans to disrupt the festivities. Federal authorities said Cheek had helped distribute fliers for the Ku Klux Klan, had a dislike for Mexicans and owned about a half dozen guns. Meanwhile, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, a center for day laborers was set on fire on Friday less than a month after it opened. Investigators said the fire was deliberately set.
The National Rifle Association is publicly backing the rights of suspects on terrorism watch lists to be able to buy firearms. The NRA has asked the Bush administration to withdraw its support from a bill that would prohibit arm sales to suspected terrorists. NRA Director Chris Cox criticized the bill, saying it “would allow arbitrary denial of Second Amendment rights based on mere 'suspicions' of a terrorist threat.”
A new study by a pair of leading Israeli human rights organizations has found Israeli interrogators are routinely beating and sometimes torturing Palestinian detainees.
Sarit Michaeli of B’Tselem: “Some of these methods include sensory deprivation, the holding of interrogees in appalling conditions and painful shacklings for long periods of time. In some cases the ISA (Israeli army) uses methods that constitute torture under international law. Those methods involve the use of direct physical violence on Palestinian detainees in the opposition of course both to international law and also to the Israeli high court decision of 1999.”
B’Tselem and the Center for the Defense of the Individual based its report on testimony from 73 Palestinian detainees.
Shareholders of the investment fund Berkshire Hathaway, led by Warren Buffett, have rejected a proposal to divest from companies profiting in Sudan. Berkshire is the largest independent shareholder in PetroChina, whose parent company, China National Petroleum, drills and exports much of Sudan’s oil, providing funds for the Sudanese government and its military. Activist shareholders urged Berkshire to divest because of the Sudanese government’s role in the genocide in Darfur, where hundreds of thousands of people have died. Meanwhile, Darfur activists are criticizing the Bush administration for describing the Sudanese government as a “strong partner in the War in Terror.” The description appears in the State Department’s 2006 terrorism report.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is squaring off with international pharmaceutical companies over the price of AIDS drugs. On Friday, Lula signed a decree authorizing the Brazilian government to begin manufacturing or importing generic versions of the drug Efavirenz made by Merck. Lula said it is unethical to charge high prices for drugs of such importance.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva: “We want prices that are fair not only for us, but for all infected human beings on Earth. We have to make this decision. After all, between our trade and our health, we’ll take care of our health.”
Merck criticized Brazil’s move, saying it was an expropriation of intellectual property. Thailand recently issued a similar decree over a drug made by the U.S. company Abbott Laboratories. Abbott responded by refusing to sell seven new drugs in the Thai market — a move that was condemned by AIDS activists and within the medical community.
In Colombia, the remains of 105 bodies have been discovered buried in mass graves. The bodies are believed to be victims of right-wing paramilitary death squads. This marks the biggest such discovery in Colombia in over 40 years. The news was announced on Saturday — one day after Colombian President Alvaro Uribe concluded a three-day trip to Washington where his administration was repeatedly criticized for having ties to right-wing paramilitaries. Uribe is trying to win support for a new trade agreement and continued congressional backing of Plan Colombia.
In Mexico, three leaders of a populist uprising in the city of Atenco have been sentenced to 67 years in jail. The men are members of the People’s Front in Defense of the Land. They were arrested a year ago during a police raid on the city of Atenco and were charged with kidnapping. The chair of Mexico’s Human Rights Commission denounced the sentences. Hours after the sentence was announced, Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas held a protest outside the prison where the men are being held. The sentences came almost exactly a year after Mexican police raided the city of Atenco and arrested over 200 farm workers and activists. Human rights groups condemned the actions of the police in Atenco. At least 23 women reported being raped or sexually assaulted in police custody. Twenty-eight of the activists remain behind bars at a high-security prison. No police officer has been held accountable.
And in Africa, 114 people are believed to have died after a Kenya Airways 737 crashed in Cameroon on Saturday during a heavy rainstorm. Among the dead was Anthony Mitchell, a journalist for the Associated Press. A month ago, Mitchell appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss his expose on how CIA and FBI agents have been interrogating hundreds of detainees at secret prisons in Ethiopia. Many of the prisoners were recently transferred there secretly and illegally from Kenya and Somalia. They are being held without charge or access to lawyers or their families.
Anthony Mitchell: “This is a story that dates back to the beginning of January in the collapse of the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia. There had been a conflict between the Ethiopian and Somali transitional governments against the Islamic Courts. The Islamic Courts movement collapsed, and at that time hundreds of people, thousands, fled Somalia, many of them to Kenya, and a large number were detained crossing the border. After they were detained a number of weeks, they had been transferred on flights back to Somalia and onto Ethiopia, where they are now in detention.”
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