Iran has charged three detained US citizens with illegally entering Iran and accused them of espionage. Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal have been jailed in Iran since July, when they crossed the border from northern Iraq. Their families said they were hiking and had strayed across the border accidentally. The twenty-seven-year-old Shane Bauer is an independent journalist who has reported for Democracy Now!, Mother Jones and The Nation. On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the case was for the Iranian judiciary to decide.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “In all countries, illegally crossing borders has great consequences. Unfortunately, they have entered our borders illegally. We are not happy with this, but no matter what, there are laws. We hope they will convince our legal system and judge that they had no bad intentions.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Iran’s decision, saying there is no evidence to support any charge. Shon Meckfessel appeared on Democracy Now! last week and called for the release of his friends. Shon was traveling with the detained Americans in July but didn’t go hiking with them because he was feeling sick.
Shon Meckfessel: “So I understand clearly why the Iranian authorities would be curious about their presence initially and had some questions for them, but they know who they are at this point. They know what their characters are. Everything is publicly available. Anyone with questions about their character can look at their writings on the internet or, you know, clearly see our past, as it’s evident. And it’s obvious the kind of people they are. It’s obvious they’re not a threat to Iran, so I just don’t understand why they’re being held.”
More reports are emerging that President Obama has decided to send as many as 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. CBS News reported last night that Obama plans to send four combat brigades plus thousands of additional troops beginning in early 2010. Over the weekend, the McClatchy Newspapers reported Obama would send 34,000 more troops. The White House is denying these reports, claiming that the President has not yet made a final decision.
More than forty Democratic lawmakers have vowed to vote against a final healthcare bill if it contains language the House agreed to on Saturday that adds sweeping new restrictions on abortions. Anti-abortion Democrats, led by Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan, helped push through an amendment to prohibit any woman who receives government health insurance subsidies from enrolling in an insurance plan that covers abortion. In addition, abortions won’t be covered under the proposed government-run insurance plan. NARAL Pro-Choice America called the House provision an “outrageous blow to women’s freedom and privacy.” On Monday, President Obama appeared on ABC News and discussed changing the final language in the House healthcare bill.
President Obama: “You know, I laid out a very simple principle, which is, this is a healthcare bill, not an abortion bill. And we’re not looking to change what is a core principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions. And I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test, that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but on the other hand, that we’re not restricting women’s insurance choices. There needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we’re not changing the status quo.”
President Obama is heading to Texas today for a memorial service for the thirteen soldiers and civilians killed last week at Fort Hood. Government officials said the suspected shooter, Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan, will be charged by the US military rather than in a civilian court. Hasan is hospitalized in San Antonio. FBI Director Robert Mueller has ordered an inquiry into the FBI’s handling of the case, including its response to information gathered about Hasan beginning nearly a year ago. Prior to the shooting, US intelligence agencies reportedly intercepted as many as twenty emails from Hasan to a radical cleric in Yemen, but it is unclear what the emails were about. Meanwhile, the Washington Post has revealed Hasan warned a roomful of senior Army physicians a year and a half ago that to avoid “adverse events,” the military should allow Muslim soldiers to be released as conscientious objectors instead of fighting in wars against other Muslims. Hasan made the comment during a presentation when he was a senior-year psychiatric resident at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
To mark the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the BBC released the results of an international poll yesterday that revealed widespread dissatisfaction with free market capitalism around the globe. Only 11 percent of people surveyed across twenty-seven countries thought free market capitalism is working well. Meanwhile, 23 percent of respondents across all nations said capitalism is fatally flawed and a new economic system is needed. About half of respondents said the problems with capitalism can be solved with more regulation and reform.
In the West Bank, Palestinian activists marked the Berlin Wall anniversary by knocking down part of the Israeli separation wall for the second time in a week.
Abdullah Abu Rahma, coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall: “Today is the twentieth anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall. That’s why we in the Popular Committees campaigned all around Palestine for the destruction of this [West Bank] wall. The campaign is called 'We Are Going to Jerusalem,' to arrive at Jerusalem, the holy city, which is important to the Palestinian people, who are prevented from entering it. This is the beginning of our activities, which we are doing to express our hold on our land and our refusal of this wall of torture and humiliation.”
The Environmental Protection Agency is being accused of trying to silence two EPA attorneys who have publicly criticized a key component of the climate change legislation being considered by Congress. The EPA attorneys, Laurie Williams and Allan Zabel, have warned that a cap and trade plan will not accomplish its goals and will not effectively curb global warming. The couple posted a video on YouTube outlining their concerns and published an op-ed in the Washington Post. The EPA has since ordered them to remove or edit the video and to get approval for any future “outside writing projects.” In the video, Laurie Williams describes cap and trade as a big mistake.
Laurie Williams: “Cap and trade will not create confidence that clean energy will become profitable, and so it will not ignite the huge shift in investment needed to begin the clean energy revolution. Cap and trade for climate change has been tried in Europe. It produced harmful volatility in energy prices and few greenhouse gas reductions. It raised energy prices for consumers and made billions in windfall profits for utilities.”
In other climate news, Mohamed Nasheed, the president of the island nation of Maldives, has called on fellow developing countries to embrace a carbon neutral future.
Mohamed Nasheed: “We want to ask you to consider carbon neutrality yourselves. In my mind, a bloc of carbon neutral developing nations could change the outcome of Copenhagen. At the moment, every country arrives at the negotiations seeking to keep their own emissions as high as possible and never to make commitments unless someone else does first. This is the logic of a madhouse, a recipe for collective suicide.”
Mohamed Nasheed spoke at a forum in Maldives organized to amplify the voices of vulnerable poor nations, who often go unheard in international negotiations.
An anonymous whistleblower at the International Energy Agency has told The Guardian newspaper that the world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit. The whistleblower, described as a senior official at the agency, accused the United States of playing an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves. The whistleblower told The Guardian, “Many inside the organization believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90 million to 95 million barrels a day would be impossible, but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further.”
And in news from China, nine people have been executed for taking part in protests and riots in the Xinjiang region in July. It is believed that most, if not all, of the executed were Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group that live in western China. In July, nearly 200 people were killed during unrest between ethnic Uyghurs and members of China’s Han majority in the regional capital, Urumqi. Human Rights Watch recently reported that at least forty-three Uyghur men had disappeared after being seized by the security forces since July. Exiled Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer said, “The fact that Chinese authorities had the audacity to carry out these executions on the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to China displays their utter disregard for international human rights standards.”