In Afghanistan, at least forty people have died after a suicide car bomber rammed two diplomatic vehicles outside the Indian embassy in Kabul. It was the deadliest car bombing in Afghanistan this year. Over 140 people were injured.
The gates of the Indian embassy were blown off, and the walls and buildings inside the compound were also damaged by the force of the blast.
The US military is being accused of killing as many forty-nine Afghan civilians in a pair of separate air strikes over the weekend. On Sunday, local officials in eastern Afghanistan said a US air strike killed twenty-seven civilians at a wedding party. The dead included the new bride, as well as many women and children. Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered an investigation into a separate US helicopter strike that reportedly killed up to twenty-two civilians on Friday. The United States military has disputed the accounts of both air strikes.
The Associated Press reports the Justice Department is considering letting the FBI investigate Americans without any evidence of wrongdoing, relying instead on racial or ethnic profiling. Currently, FBI agents need specific reasons, such as evidence or allegations that a law probably has been violated, to investigate US citizens and legal residents. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has decried the plan as “unconstitutional and un-American.” Other critics have compared the proposed guidelines to the FBI’s now-defunct COINTELPRO operation under J. Edgar Hoover in the 1950s and 1960s.
Senator Barack Obama has suggested he is willing to refine his campaign promise to remove all combat troops within sixteen months of becoming president. On Thursday morning, Senator Obama discussed his views on Iraq in Fargo, North Dakota.
Sen. Barack Obama: “When I go to Iraq and I have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I’m sure I’ll have more information and will continue to refine my policies.”
Hours later, Obama held an impromptu press conference to insist that his statement did not reflect a change in policy.
Sen. Barack Obama: “That position has not changed. I have not equivocated on that position. I am not searching for maneuvering room with respect to that position.”
Meanwhile, Obama has told a Christian magazine he supports a ban on late-term abortions as long as there is an exception for the physical health of the mother. But Obama said mental distress should not qualify as a justification for late-term abortions. Obama said, “I don’t think that 'mental distress' qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term.”
A Canadian court has sided for the first time with a US war resister who fled to Canada seeking refugee status. Federal Court Justice Richard Barnes ordered the Immigration and Refugee Board to reconsider the failed refugee claim of Joshua Key, who fled to Canada in 2005. Barnes said Key had witnessed enough human rights abuses during a stint in Iraq that he could qualify for asylum. The judge also concluded that military action against civilians in Iraq violates the 1949 Geneva Convention.
The Guardian newspaper has obtained an unpublished World Bank report that found biofuels have caused world food prices to increase by 75 percent. The World Bank report was finished in April but reportedly not published in order to avoid embarrassing the US government, which has claimed plant-derived fuels have pushed up prices by only three percent. The report found that biofuels has distorted food markets by diverting grain away from food for fuel, encouraging farmers to set aside land for its production, and sparked financial speculation on grains.
A federal judge has ordered Google to turn over information about every user who has ever watched a video on YouTube. The ruling came as part of a lawsuit brought by Viacom over the posting of copyrighted material on YouTube. Google is resisting the request, saying it would allow Viacom to “likely be able to determine the viewing and video uploading habits of YouTube’s users.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation called the judgment “a set-back to privacy rights.”
Leaders from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Canada and the United States are gathering today in Hokkaido, Japan for the start of the G8 Summit. Protests have been occurring for days in the lead-up to the Summit. Leaders of indigenous communities have urged wealthy nations to include indigenous people in discussions as they deal with climate change.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: “We have contributed the least to climate change, but we are carrying the heavy burden of solving the climate change problem, and so we would like them to ensure that we are included in the negotiations of the climate change convention so that we can contribute more substantially in shaping solutions.”
On Sunday, the South African-based Global Call to Action Against Poverty held a demonstration in Sapporo. Kumi Naidoo urged the G8 nations to help the world’s poorest people.
Kumi Naidoo: “The reality is, in Africa, every single day 6,000 people die from HIV/AIDS alone, another 7,000 people die from malaria, another 2,000-3,000 die from tuberculosis. If those numbers of deaths were happening in Europe or North America, we are convinced the G8 would long time ago have found the money to address these issues. So we want to see the same kind of urgency.”
Meanwhile, Japan is being accused of detaining international activists ahead of the G8 summit. On Friday, twenty Korean farmers were detained on the northern island of Hokkaido. Several prominent international critics of the G8 were also blocked from entering Japan, including political scientist Susan George and Lydinyda Nacpil, the Asia-Pacific coordinator for Jubilee South. On Saturday, at least four people, including a Reuters journalist, were arrested during a heavily policed demonstration in Sapporo. Police were seen shattering the window of a sound truck and dragging out the driver.
New questions are being raised over the Colombian military’s rescue of kidnapped Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and fourteen other hostages held by the rebel group FARC. Swiss radio is reporting leaders of the FARC rebel movement were paid $20 million to free the hostages. According to the report, the hostages were actually ransomed for a high price, and the whole rescue operation was a set-up. Colombian officials have denied the report.
The Israeli army has announced plans to demolish the home of the family of the Palestinian who killed three Israelis in Jerusalem last week. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said such a move would be collective punishment and illegal under international law. About twenty people live in the East Jerusalem home.
In Somalia, the head of the country’s UN Development Program was shot dead on Sunday. It was the latest fatality in a string of attacks on aid workers. Osman Ali Ahmed was shot at close range as he left a mosque in southern Mogadishu. His son was also injured in the shooting.
Former North Carolina Republican Senator Jesse Helms has died at the age of eighty-six. During the 1960s, he was a vocal critic of the civil rights movement. He once wrote, “Crime rates and irresponsibility among Negroes are a fact of life which must be faced.” In 1983, he opposed the Martin Luther King Day bill. Helms was also a longtime opponent of AIDS research and treatment. In 1988, Helms said, “There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy.” On foreign affairs, Helms was a supporter of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and was linked to backing right-wing death squads in El Salvador. In 1996, he co-sponsored the Helms-Burton Act, which strengthened the US embargo against Cuba. Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, praised Jesse Helms. He said, “Along with Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, [Helms] helped establish the conservative movement and became a powerful voice for free markets and free people.”
And a group of protesters from Code Pink interrupted President Bush’s Independence Day ceremony on Friday. Bush was speaking at Monticello, the former home of Thomas Jefferson.
And finally, the Democratic Party is expected to soon announce that the site of Sen. Barack Obama’s nomination acceptance speech will be moved to Invesco Field in Denver, which holds more than 75,000 people. The speech is scheduled for August 28th, the forty-fifth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.