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The Syrian government has condemned the United States for carrying out a daytime helicopter-borne raid that killed eight people. It marked the first time US ground forces had crossed the Syrian border since the US invasion of Iraq. The Syrian government has warned of retaliation if the US strikes again.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem: “Killing civilians in international law means terrorist aggression. The Americans do it under daylight. This means it is not mistake. It is by determination, by blunt determination. For that, we consider this criminal and terrorist aggression.”
The Bush administration has not said anything publicly about the cross-border raid. Unnamed US officials said the special operations forces targeted and killed an Iraqi militant known as Abu Ghadiya, who was responsible for running weapons, money and foreign fighters across the border into Iraq. Local eyewitnesses blamed the US commandos for killing eight civilians.
Syrian Woman: “I was in the farm when four planes came. Two of them landed, and the other two kept flying and started to shoot at us. My son came and tried to save his father. When I woke up, I saw I was in the hospital.”
Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa condemned the US attack as a violation of Syrian sovereignty. The New York Times reports the raid appears to reflect an intensifying effort by the Bush administration to find a way during its waning months to attack militants even beyond the borders of Iraq and Afghanistan. Seven weeks ago, US commandos carried out a similar raid in Pakistan. Bush administration officials have defended the actions, citing an expansive definition of self-defense that allows US forces to strike militant targets anywhere.
A federal jury has convicted Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska on all seven counts of violating federal ethics laws for failing to report tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and services he had received from an oil company executive. Stevens is the longest-serving Republican senator in US history and is the former chair of the Appropriations Committee. He was accused of receiving payments and gifts from the now-defunct oil services company VECO. Stevens, who is up for re-election next week, says he will fight the conviction. The seven felonies each carry a penalty of five years in prison. Alaskan governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin said, “This is a sad day for Alaska and a sad day for Senator Stevens and for his family.” Palin has ties to Stevens going back to at least 2003, when she became a director of the 527 group “Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service.”
Two white supremacist neo-Nazis were arrested in Tennessee Monday for plotting to assassinate Barack Obama. Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman were charged with making threats against a presidential candidate, illegal possession of a sawed-off shotgun and conspiracy to rob a gun dealer. Officials said the men planned to go on a killing spree at a predominantly black school, killing eighty-eight people and beheading fourteen African Americans. At the end of the killing spree, the men intended to try to kill Obama. Troy Klyce, Sheriff of Crockett County in Tennessee, said the men were first arrested on October 22.
Troy Klyce: “It took some good work, some great work between all these agencies for them to come together. But we needed a little luck. And it’s scary how it could have ended up.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there have been more than sixty major domestic terrorist plots that have emerged from the radical right since 1995.
The Bush administration is examining a range of options for providing emergency financial help to spur a merger between General Motors and Chrysler. Reuters reports that the Treasury is considering at least a $5 billion package that could come in the form of direct capital injections and government purchase of loans. Congress has already given the automakers $25 billion in low-interest loans.
In financial news, at least sixteen regional banks have announced they will become partially nationalized as part of the Treasury Department’s financial bailout plan. The infusion of government funds is expected to lead to a wave of bank mergers and the further consolidation of the banking industry. On Friday, PNC Financial Services bought its rival National City for $5.2 billion. PNC announced the deal after getting $7.7 billion in government funds. The Treasury Department had claimed the financial bailout was needed to help banks lend more money. But now it appears much of the money will be used for banks to buy their weaker rivals.
Bloomberg is reporting Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch have set aside $13 billion to give out as year-end bonuses, despite the financial meltdown. One analyst is predicting the average managing director at an investment bank will receive a bonus of $625,000 this year. Top bankers could receive as much as $1 million.
The Military Times reports an open-air “burn pit” at the largest US base in Iraq may have exposed tens of thousands of troops, contractors and Iraqis to cancer-causing dioxins, poisons such as arsenic and carbon monoxide, and hazardous medical waste. The paper reports the military is burning 147 tons of waste per day in the burn pit at the Joint Base Balad, the central logistics hub for US forces in Iraq. According to a military memo, the burn pit has consumed Styrofoam, unexploded ordnance, petroleum products, plastics, rubber, dining facility trash, paint and solvents, and medical waste, including amputated limbs.
An eight-year-old boy has died in Massachusetts after accidentally shooting himself to death at a gun show. The boy, Christopher Bizilj, was firing a 9mm Micro UZI automatic machine gun when he lost control and shot himself in the head. The boy’s father had given him permission to fire the UZI, which can fire hundreds of rounds in a minute. Advertisements for the gun show boasted: “No age limit or licenses required to shoot machine guns, handguns, rifles or shotguns!!!”
In news from New York, the Brooklyn district attorney has decided to have a special investigative grand jury examine allegations that police officers beat and sodomized a twenty-four-year-old man at a subway station last week. Michael Mineo says four police officers brutally assaulted him by throwing him to the ground. Mineo said an object, possibly the antenna of a police radio, penetrated his rectum. The police have rejected his account. Mineo was hospitalized for five days, and hospital discharge papers said his injuries are consistent with that type of assault. The alleged incident mirrors the case of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was attacked with a broomstick in a Brooklyn police station in 1997.
And flooding in Yemen has killed at least ninety people and displaced 20,000 others. Torrential rain has affected much of the country.
Awad Mubarak: “This is the first time that anything like this has ever happened. Torrents were coming in. We never expected it to that extent. The water entered from the third floor. Our house is four or five floors. The water didn’t enter from the bottom of the house. The house began to shake.”
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