Georgia is accusing Russia of violating a ceasefire just hours after a truce was reached. Georgian officials say Russia has sent dozens of tanks into the key city of Gori, just fifteen miles from where clashes erupted last week. On Tuesday, the US-backed Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Russia has carried out “ethnic cleansing” in the town of Abkhazia.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili: “Well, apparently, within the framework of well-prepared plan, several hundred pieces of Russian equipment, Russian airborne troops, commanded by head of airborne troops of Russia, certain — with the rank of general, landed there and expelled and certainly killed part of the population. The whole population from that place is gone. This is classical case of ethnic cleansing.”
Both sides have accused the other of killing scores of civilians. Russia says over 2,000 people have died since Georgia launched its offensive in the pro-Russian breakaway region of South Ossetia. Georgia says Russian troops have killed close to 200 people and wounded hundreds more. The United Nations estimates that the conflict has displaced 100,000 people.
The Bush administration has reportedly turned down an Israeli request for military assistance with a strike on nuclear sites in Iran. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Israeli officials asked President Bush for specific military equipment and other backup during Bush’s visit to Israel in May. White House officials are said to have refused the request and insisted Israel give prior notice before planning any attack on Iran. Israel reportedly rejected the request and said it reserves the right to attack Iran if nuclear talks fail.
Meanwhile, in the Occupied Territories, thousands of Palestinians are gathering in Ramallah today for the state funeral of the poet Mahmoud Darwish. Darwish was considered one of the most important Arab poets. He died on Saturday at the age of sixty-seven years old at the Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston from complications following heart surgery. Darwish is the first Palestinian to receive a state funeral since Yasser Arafat in 2004.
In Lebanon, at least twelve people have been killed and forty injured in a bombing in the northern city of Tripoli. Most of the casualties were said to be Lebanese soldiers.
In Afghanistan, three international aid workers have been killed in a militant ambush south of Kabul. The victims worked for the US-based International Rescue Committee. All three were women, including one American. At least nineteen international aid workers have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, already topping last year’s toll of fifteen.
In Bolivia, a vocal opponent of President Evo Morales has announced he’s stepping down after initially vowing to defy a referendum ousting him from office. Cochabamba Governor Manfred Reyes was among three governors to lose the recall vote. He initially said he’d stay in office. But on Tuesday, Reyes reversed course and said he’ll resign.
Manfred Reyes: “What I least want is for somebody to take advantage of the image of Manfred to bring about a confrontation between members of Cochabamba residents. That’s why today I am letting the secretary general of the prefecture to continue this work while I conduct the pertinent legal affairs and while I show that the decree of the electoral court was harmful to justice in Bolivia.”
Another Morales opponent, La Paz governor Jose Luis Paredes also says he will resign after losing his recall vote. More than 63 percent voted to back Morales’s government, nearly ten points more than the 54 percent that elected him in December 2005.
Lawyers for a Guantanamo Bay prisoner say their client has accused military guards of threatening his life. The prisoner, Ahmed Zuhair, has been jailed since 2002 without charge. He is entering the fourth year of a hunger strike that began in August 2005, the longest to date of any Guantanamo prisoner. Zuhair has been force-fed to keep him alive. In a letter released by his attorneys, Zuhair says a US military guard “told me that he will kill me and chop my body into pieces.” Zuhair is said to have told his lawyers not to contact him anymore, because he is afraid of the threats. In a filing to US federal court, Zuhair’s attorney, Ramzi Kassem, said, “It is a sad day when judges need to remind jailers not to threaten their detainees with death and mutilation.”
Another foreign national has died in a US immigration jail. Thirty-four-year-old Hiu Lui Ng of China died one week ago today after nearly a year in custody. He had been stricken with cancer that had gone undiagnosed and untreated. Ng was married to a US citizen and the father of two American-born sons. He was jailed last summer at his final interview for a green card. Attorneys for his family are demanding a criminal investigation into his detention and death. They say guards routinely ignored his complaints of back pain and even physically abused him to get him to accept deportation.
In Louisiana, the family of a police taser victim has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against city officials in the town of Winnfield. Baron Pikes died on January 17 from electrocution after a police officer shot him nine times with a taser. Pikes had been in handcuffs at the time. His death has been ruled a homicide. Pikes was the first cousin of Mychal Bell, the lead defendant in the Jena Six case. The lawsuit comes as a grand jury has begun convening on whether to charge the police officer involved.
A new government study shows most corporations pay no income taxes in the United States. According to the Government Accountability Office, 72 percent of foreign-owned companies went at least one year without paying taxes over an eight-year period. 55 percent of US-based companies also went at least a year without paying.
And in Minneapolis, a local activist group has filed a suit against protest restrictions near the Republican National Convention. Impeach for Peace says the designated protest areas are too far from the convention and inadequately small. The American Civil Liberties Union is backing the case.
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