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The Iraqi cabinet is calling for revisions to a draft agreement that would allow US forces to stay in Iraq for at least three more years. Iraqi and US negotiators are hoping to finalize the deal before a UN mandate expires in December. US soldiers would retain immunity from prosecution for all actions except those committed “off-duty” and not in combat. Critics have dismissed the provision, because US troops seldom leave their bases in Iraq unless on authorized missions. The deal also calls for a full US withdrawal by 2012, but leaves open the possibility of a later date. On Tuesday, the Iraqi cabinet said it will seek changes so that the deal can be accepted nationally. The Bush administration has warned of any revisions. Top military chief Admiral Michael Mullen said Iraq faces “significant consequence” unless it approves the deal. And Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned of “pretty dramatic” consequences if the deal falls through.
On the campaign trail, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have entered the last two weeks of their White House race. Although Obama is leading nationally, polls show a tight race in several key battleground states. On Tuesday, Obama campaigned in Florida.
Sen. Barack Obama: “You know, it’s funny. Yesterday I heard Senator McCain say I’m more concerned with who gets your piece of the pie than with growing the pie. But make no mistake about it. After eight years of Bush-McCain economics, the pie is shrinking, it’s not growing. That means lower wages and declining incomes, plummeting home values, rising unemployment. So we’ve seen what happens with their policies. We’ve had an eight-year experiment. We see where it leads. This economic crisis is the final verdict on that failed leadership. It is time to try something new.”
McCain, meanwhile, was in Pennsylvania, where he likened Obama’s comments on the baseball World Series to his stances on tax policy.
Sen. John McCain: “I heard, and maybe you did, too, that Senator Obama was showing some love to the Devil Rays down in Tampa Bay yesterday. Now, I’m not dumb enough to get mixed up in a world series between swing states. But I think I may have detected a little pattern with Senator Obama. It’s pretty simple, really. When he’s campaigning in Philadelphia, he roots for the Phillies. Then, when he’s campaigning in Tampa Bay, he shows love to the Rays. It’s kind of like the way he campaigns on tax cuts, but then votes for tax increases after he’s elected.”
In other campaign news, police in North Carolina say they’ve found the body of a dead black bear cub, shot in the head along with an Obama-Biden campaign sign. The cub was discovered Monday on the campus of Western Carolina University.
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has apologized for suggesting some parts of the United States are more “pro-America” than others. At a rally in North Carolina last week, Palin praised Republican towns as “the real America” and the “pro-America areas of this great nation.” Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the campaign of Democratic congressional nominee Elwyn Tinklenberg says he’s now raised more than one million dollars over the past four days in the aftermath of controversial comments from his opponent, incumbent Republican Congress member Michele Bachmann. Last week, Bachmann said the media should launch an investigation to determine who in Congress is pro-American or anti-American.
A former top police official at the center of the Chicago prison torture scandal has been arrested on charges of lying under oath. Retired Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge was detained at his home in Tampa, Florida. For nearly twenty years, a part of Chicago’s jails known as Area 2 was the epicenter for what has been described as the systematic torture of dozens of African American males by Chicago police officers. More than 135 people say they were subjected to abuse, including having guns forced into their mouths, bags places over their heads, and electric shocks inflicted to their genitals. Four men have been released from death row after government investigators concluded torture led to their wrongful convictions. Burge has been charged with two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury. It’s the first time he’s been charged in the case. Burge was fired in 1993 but still receives a yearly police pension. Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says his office continues to probe allegations of torture and abuse at the Chicago prisons.
The Pentagon has dropped charges against five Guantanamo Bay prisoners, but says it will re-charge them instead of setting them free. The news came just weeks after the resignation of Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, the prosecutor in all five cases. Vandeveld had accused the military of deliberately withholding evidence that could have helped clear the prisoners. More on this story later in the broadcast.
In Colombia, more than 10,000 indigenous Colombians have begun a protest march against President Alvaro Uribe. The march comes one week after three people were killed and dozens were injured at the outset of a national mobilization for indigenous rights. Uribe has responded by calling for the investigation of indigenous leaders, including Daniel Piñacue.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe: “The Colombian government asks for the prosecution of those who are violent. The Colombian government asks the judges to investigate the behavior of people like Daniel Piñacue, which is a behavior that incites violence and deserves to be studied by Colombian prosecutors and judges.”
The Colombian government has accused indigenous groups of being infiltrated by FARC rebels. Daniel Piñacue denied the allegations.
Daniel Piñacue: “I am very surprised, and I consider it very unfortunate. I do not cover my face to take action in this walk. My actions are clear, and I face the Colombian people. And this is why President Uribe has to face us, the indigenous, farmers and the people here at this protest walk.”
In Bolivia, lawmakers have set a date for a referendum on a new constitution. Bolivian President Evo Morales is seeking national backing to redistribute land and energy resources from rich landowners to indigenous peasants, who make up over 60 percent of the population. The referendum will take place on January 25th. On Tuesday, Morales addressed a crowd of tens of thousands in Bolivia’s Plaza Murillo.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: “Mission accomplished, brothers and sisters. I want to thank you for fighting to advance. I said that we would make the Autonomous Statutes compatible with the Political Constitution of the State. I want to tell you that we have accomplished that, and the international community is witness to how we have improved many worrying aspects.”
In Afghanistan, an appeals court has overturned the death sentence of a journalism student accused of mocking Islam, but instead sentenced him to twenty years in prison.
Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh was detained last year for distributing articles downloaded from the internet which said the Prophet Muhammad had ignored the rights of women. He was accused of mocking Islam and the Koran, convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death during a secret trial where he had no legal counsel.
In the Occupied Territories, a leading Palestinian human rights group says it’s documented killings of sixty-eight Palestinian children by the Israeli military over a twelve-month period. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights says in each case Israeli soldiers used “disproportionate and excessive lethal force.” Around 900 Palestinian children have been killed since the start of the second Palestinian intifada eight years ago.
Back in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union has asked the government for information on reports an active Army unit has been stationed inside the US to control “civil unrest.” The Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Team is training for domestic operations under the control of US Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The unit will serve as an on-call federal response for large-scale emergencies and disasters. It’s being called the Consequence Management Response Force, CCMRF, or “sea-smurf” for short. ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz said, “Given the magnitude of the issues at stake, it is imperative that the American people know the truth about this new and unprecedented intrusion of the military in domestic affairs.”
Former White House deputy Karl Rove came under protest Tuesday while speaking at the Mortgage Bankers Association Convention in San Francisco. Rove was sharing the stage with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell when a protester attempted a citizen’s arrest.
Janine Boneparth: “Why is there no woman up here? We need a California woman up here. I am one. I’m Janine Boneparth. I have to do a citizen’s arrest — a citizen’s arrest for treason.”
Protests have also continued outside the convention hall during the week-long gathering, with demonstrators calling for a moratorium on home foreclosures.
Here in New York, a group of activists have launched a four-day hunger strike to commemorate the killing of the American journalist Brad Will and protest US support for the militarization of Mexico. Will was shot to death while covering the popular uprising in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. On Tuesday, members of Friends of Brad Will gathered in front of the New York office of Senator Hillary Clinton.
Harry Bubbins: “Plan Mexico, known as the Merida Initiative, sends over $1.5 billion to the Mexican police forces. These are the same forces responsible for killing Brad and numerous other people in Oaxaca, Chiapas and Atenco. We want Senator Clinton to stop voting to send money to Mexico until this and other outstanding crimes are resolved, and the people in jail now that were wrongfully arrested for the murder of Brad be released, and the actual murderers here, known throughout the world, be arrested.”
Monday marks the two-year anniversary of Will’s death. Will’s family and friends have criticized the Mexican government for recently accusing two Oaxacan activists of his murder instead of state police forces.
And the United Nations has appointed the Canadian activist Maude Barlow as its first-ever senior adviser on water. Barlow is one of the leading figures in the global water justice movement. She is the head of the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest public advocacy group, and founder of the Blue Planet Project.