Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their home as Hurricane Ike makes its way toward the Texas Gulf Coast. The National Weather Service is warning residents of one- or two-story homes they face “certain death” if they fail to evacuate. Ike could end up leaving large areas around Houston under water. The storm’s current path could see it hit just south of Galveston, Texas. It could be the worst storm to hit Texas since 1961.
Bolivia’s internal political crisis continues to escalate. On Thursday, anti-government protesters attacked supporters of Bolivian President Evo Morales, killing eight people and wounding twenty. Bolivian government minister Alfredo Rada says most of the dead were peasant farmers. Bolivia has fractured over attempts by oil-rich provinces to declare autonomy from the central government. Bolivian President Evo Morales has accused the US of supporting opposition governors and ordered the expulsion of US Ambassador Philip Goldberg earlier this week. In response, the Bush administration said it would expel Bolivia’s ambassador in Washington, D.C. On Thursday, the Venezuelan government entered the dispute, also expelling the US ambassador in Caracas. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called the move an act of solidarity with Bolivia.
In Afghanistan, two US troops have been killed, making 2008 the deadliest year for US forces there since the US invasion of 2001. The deaths brought this year’s toll to 113, surpassing last year’s record of 111.
Meanwhile, one of the Pentagon’s key “sources” for its denial of the death toll from the recent mass killing of civilians in the Afghan village of Azizabad has been revealed to be Fox News correspondent Oliver North. North was indicted and then later pardoned in the 1980s for lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra scandal.
The Azizabad bombing has inflamed public uproar over US air strikes in Afghanistan. On Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he opposed the long-term occupation of foreign troops.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai: “Obviously, the international community are not here for a long time, and it is not good for us if they stay here for a long time. We are a country with a history of several thousand years, and we are proud of our history and our brave nation. We should not rely on foreigner forces for our security for a long time.”
On the campaign trail, the two main presidential candidates scaled back campaigning Thursday to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Both Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain appeared together at New York’s Columbia University for a forum on public service. During his remarks, Obama said the US government should play a role in offering young people more opportunities to help their community.
Sen. Barack Obama: “The choices that we provide young people right now are too constrained. When I graduated from Columbia, I had a choice. I could pursue a lucrative career on Wall Street or go immediately to law school, or I could follow through on the inspiration that I had drawn from the civil rights movement and from the Kennedy era and try to work in the community. And I chose the latter, but it was tough. I made $12,000 a year, plus car expenses, in Chicago working with churches to set up job training programs for the unemployed after-school programs for youth, trying to make the community better. It was the best education I ever had. But ironically, it was harder for me to find that job than it was for me to find a job on Wall Street. And I think there are a lot of young people out there who are interested in making that same choice, and we should be encouraging them. The government’s going to have a role.”
During his remarks, Senator McCain encouraged young people to join the military and engage in public service. His appearance at the forum came just one week after his vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani ridiculed Obama’s record as a community organizer during their speeches at the Republican National Convention.
Palin, meanwhile, has appeared in her first interview since joining McCain’s ticket. Speaking to ABC News anchor Charles Gibson, Palin was pressed on foreign policy issues including the recent unilateral US attacks in Pakistan.
Charles Gibson: “Is that a yes, that you think we have the right to go across the border, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government, to go after terrorists who are in the Waziristan area?”
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin: “I believe that America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell bent on destroying America and our allies. We have got to have all options out there on the table.”
Palin was also asked about Russia’s recent conflict with Georgia over its two breakaway provinces.
Gibson: “What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?”
Palin: “They’re our next-door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.”
Gibson: “You favor putting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO?”
Palin: “Ukraine, definitely, yes. Yes, and Georgia. Putin thinks otherwise. Obviously, he thinks otherwise, but —”
Gibson: “Under the NATO treaty, wouldn’t we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?”
Palin: “Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is, if another country is attacked, you’re going to be expected to be called upon and help.”
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem says it’s collected new evidence of Israeli settlement expansion on Palestinian land. B’Tselem executive director Jessica Montel says twelve settlements east of the Israeli wall through the West Bank have been expanded.
B’Tselem executive director Jessica Montel: “It is not new houses necessarily, in terms of the expansion, but new lands have been taken around very many settlements, both in an official way that Israel is erecting new fences around settlements as a security measure.”
Israel had previously pledged to freeze settlement expansion but now maintains that promise only applies to settlements it doesn’t want to keep. Israeli government spokesperson Yigal Palmor rejected the allegations and said Palestinians have the right to challenge settlement expansion in Israeli courts.
Yigal Palmor: “The status of these issues, the settlements and the Palestinian territories, in general, is currently under negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians, and whatever security measures that are taken on the ground do not effect these negotiations. At any rate, if any person, whether a landowner or other, if any person feels that their rights are being breached by these constructions, they can appeal to the Supreme Court of Israel.”
Palestinian landowner Issa Slaiby said the Israeli court rulings are irrelevant to realities on the ground.
Issa Slaiby: “In 2005, we got a ruling from the Supreme Court that allows us to farm our lands, and this ruling stands and includes the landowners. Regardless of that, the Israeli Defense Forces, or what is called the
Israeli Defense Forces, prevent us from farming our land.”
In other news from Israel, calls are growing for a probe into whether Transportation Minister and leading prime ministerial candidate Shaul Mofaz ordered “war crimes” while serving as the Israeli military’s chief of staff. Earlier this year, reports emerged Mofaz instructed Israeli troops to kill seventy Palestinians a day during the Second Intifada. In May 2001, Mofaz reportedly gave a briefing to senior West Bank army commanders and said he wanted ten slain Palestinians a day in each of the seven territorial brigade areas. David Kretzmer, emeritus professor of international law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says the accounts of Mofaz’s order add to speculation he could have “committed serious offenses, some of which at least, fall into the category of war crimes.” The calls for investigating Mofaz come as Israeli police have recommended indicting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on corruption charges.
A member of a renowned African American dance ensemble says Israeli airport guards forced him to dance to prove his identity because of his Muslim-sounding name. Abdur-Rahim Jackson says he was singled out as the Alvin Ailey troupe arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport on Sunday.
A new intelligence forecast predicts US global dominance will decline in the coming decades. The “Global Trends 2025” report says US military power will take on less importance, because no one will attack the US “with massive conventional force.” The report also foresees US leadership declining “at an accelerating pace” in “political, economic and arguably, cultural arenas.” The reports sees global climate change as a major force that will drastically alter geopolitics.
Democratic Congress member Charles Rangel has admitted to owing around $5,000 in back-taxes on a vacation property in the Dominican Republic. Rangel says he’ll repay the money but is rejecting calls for his removal as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Today is the sixty-fourth birthday of the American Indian activist Leonard Peltier. He was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a shoot-out on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. Peltier has long maintained his innocence and is widely considered a political prisoner in the United States.
In Chile, thousands gathered to mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of the US-backed overthrow of President Salvador Allende. On September 11, 1973, Allende died in the presidential palace in the attack that brought Augusto Pinochet to power. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet marked the anniversary by restoring the office where Allende died.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet: “Salvador Allende’s legacy motivates us to seek a better life through liberty and democracy every day, a legacy that we feel is so alive inside us when we open this blessed space to honor his memory.”
Allende’s daughter, Isabel Allende, also attended the ceremony.
Isabel Allende: “His words and messages were full of hope, and I believe there are few examples of dignity as the one he left us, and that is why it has such a universal reach.”
And here in New York, relatives and friends of the victims who died in the World Trade Center attacks gathered to mark the seventh anniversary of 9/11.
John Napolitano: “If he’s not here, he’s looking at me, and I’m telling him — telling him that I love him. And every day I came down here, there were new messages written in the ash telling me to not give up hope. And I didn’t get my boy back, and I didn’t get a chance to find somebody else’s son.”
Maria Scrivano: “A little emotional. You know, every year, you figure, ’I’m strong enough. I’m strong enough.’ But when you get here, you start breaking down. You just never get over it.”
Elsie Goss Caldwell: “Sadness, a feeling of trying to figure out what was happening in his last — the last moments of his life, trying to be close to him. I had a really great conversation with him the night before for a really long time, and then, like I said, he called me that morning. But it still — because we never found Kenny, it makes it very, very difficult, you know, to do any kind of closure, if you can find closure at all.”