In Afghanistan, at least twelve people have been killed and more than eighty wounded in a suicide attack in Kabul. The Taliban have claimed responsibility, saying they were targeting the Indian embassy.
The violence comes as the Pentagon has confirmed President Obama has received General Stanley McChrystal’s assessment seeking up to 40,000 additional US troops. Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell said the assessment is being reviewed by military leaders.
Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell: “The Secretary late last week provided to the President, at his request, an informal copy of General McChrystal’s resource request. He then, also at the President’s request, on Monday provided the principals with copies, informal copies, of the request. The request is now formally working its way through the chain of command, the US chain of command and the NATO command, and so that’s the latest on where the resource request stands.”
Wednesday marked the eighth anniversary of the Afghan war. Week-long protests continued with rallies on a number of college campuses organized by the group Students for a Democratic Society.
In Pakistan, military and political leaders are voicing opposition to a $7.5 billion US aid package approved by Congress last week. Pakistani military officials say conditions attached to the aid would violate their national sovereignty. The spending measure calls for extensive US monitoring of Pakistan’s internal operations. In Washington, visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi dismissed the Pakistani military opposition. But he renewed calls for the US to transfer drone technology to the Pakistani government as an alternative to US attacks.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi: “People in Pakistan today recognize the effectiveness of this new technology, the drones, right? And we have also seen some high-value targets taken out through this technology. We feel that in Pakistan there is a big debate going on on the issue of sovereignty. People feel that our sovereignty is violated with this usage of the drones.”
In Honduras, talks resumed Wednesday between international mediators, the coup regime and representatives of the ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya. The meeting marked the first round of negotiations since coup leaders rejected a Costa Rica-brokered plan in July. Shortly before the talks began, police fired tear gas at hundreds of Zelaya supporters as they marched near the US embassy. At least two people were hospitalized with injuries.
Congressional leaders have reached an agreement that would allow Guantanamo Bay prisoners to face trial inside the United States. It’s unclear if the deal would allow for the prisoners’ indefinite imprisonment inside the U.S. if the Obama administration fulfills its pledge to close Guantanamo next year. The agreement is attached to a proposed Homeland Security spending bill that now faces a full Congressional vote.
The Obama administration is voicing opposition to using the Kyoto Protocol as a basis for a new climate deal. On Wednesday, US climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing said Kyoto should be scrapped because it’s outdated and doesn’t require developing countries to cut emissions. The US is the only major industrial nation not to ratify Kyoto since its inception in 1990. At an energy summit in Mexico, the head of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Kandeh Yumkella, said those nations least responsible for global warming are suffering its worst effects.
Kandeh Yumkella: “Climate change continues to punish the poorest of the poor, the so-called bottom billion. It continues to ravage those who contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions. This year alone, millions of people are at risk from floods in India, China, Burkina Faso, to typhoons in Philippines.”
Climate negotiations continue ahead of the global summit in Copenhagen later this year. In a bid to influence the talks, the government of Maldives has announced it will hold an underwater cabinet meeting to call attention to rising sea levels caused by global warming.
In Turkey, hundreds of protesters clashed with police Wednesday outside a meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. At least twenty people were arrested.
Back in the United States, consumer advocates are criticizing a proposed Senate measure that would loosen a ban on awarding federal contracts to companies that rely on offshore tax havens. The measure has been added to a Senate spending bill after heavy lobbying by business groups. It would scale back a seven-year-old ban on so-called “inverted” companies that base most of their operations outside the US to avoid paying taxes.
In other news from Washington, the Senate has approved an amendment that would freeze military contracts to firms that block employees from pursuing workplace sexual assault and discrimination cases in court. Democratic Senator Al Franken proposed the measure in response to the case of former Halliburton-KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones. Jones sued KBR and its former parent company Halliburton over claims she was drugged and gang-raped by co-workers in Baghdad. Last month, a panel ruled Jones could pursue the case in open court, overruling KBR’s efforts to have it tried in private arbitration.
And a new study shows members of a key House appropriations panel continue to steer millions of dollars in contracts to firms staffed by former colleagues, who in turn make large donations to the Congress members’ election campaigns. The Center for Public Integrity says ten of the sixteen members of the House subcommittee on defense appropriations won earmarks worth $103 million for companies that have employed former staffers.