Iranian security forces have arrested several prominent critics of the government one day after Iranian forces killed as many as twelve people taking part in anti-government protests. The dead included the nephew of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. The protests took place on Ashura, one of the holiest days in the Shi’ite Muslim calendar. Amateur videos uploaded on the internet show bloody scenes of police and Basij militias brutally attacking crowds of protesters. Earlier today police detained former foreign minister Ebrahim Yazdi and human rights campaigner Emadeddin Baghi.
President Obama has ordered a review of the nation’s aviation security system after a twenty-three-year-old Nigerian man allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-based airliner on Christmas Day. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is accused of setting off a device aboard which resulted in a fire. Questions have been raised over whether Abdulmutallab should have been allowed to fly into the United States from Amsterdam. Last month, his father, a prominent Nigerian banker, warned the US embassy in Nigeria about his son’s increasingly radical views. After the warning, Abdulmutallab was added to a terrorist database, but his name was not put on the no-fly list, and his visa to enter the United States was not revoked.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, independent Senator Joseph Lieberman suggested the United States should preemptively attack Yemen in light of the failed airline bombing.
Sen. Lieberman: “I was in Yemen in August. And we have a growing presence there, and we have to, of Special Operations, Green Berets, intelligence. We’re working well with the government of President Saleh there. I leave you with this thought that somebody in our government said to me in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Iraq was yesterday’s war. Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war.”
In related news on Yemen, the New York Times reports the CIA sent several of its top field operatives with counterterrorism experience to Yemen a year ago. At the same time, some of the most secretive Special Operations commandos have begun training Yemeni security forces in counterterrorism tactics.
Israel has announced plans to build nearly 700 homes in occupied East Jerusalem, despite Palestinian and international demands that it freeze building there. Last month, Israel announced a ten-month suspension of new settlements in the occupied West Bank, but Israel maintained the right to continue building in occupied East Jerusalem. A Palestinian Authority spokesperson said, "The Israeli government proves every day that it is not ready for peace. "
On Saturday, Israeli forces killed six Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, making it one of the deadliest days in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the Gaza war a year ago. The human rights group B’Tselem said a preliminary investigation indicates at least two of the men were executed. Israel claimed the men were suspects in the recent death of a West Bank settler.
On Sunday, dozens of Israeli peace activists held a demonstration in southern Israel near the border with Gaza to mark the first anniversary of the Israeli assault on Gaza.
Israeli peace activist Hadar Geyevski: "We came here one year after the war in Gaza, the war in which 1,400 citizens of Gaza died, were killed by the Israeli military forces. We came here to protest the ongoing siege on Gaza, has been going on for years and years now. Israel controls the entrances to Gaza. It controls. It decides when and where, how much food will go to Gaza. "
In other news from the region, Egyptian security forces have detained dozens of international activists who were planning to take part in the Gaza Freedom March. According to march organizers, Egyptian security forces detained a group of thirty activists in their hotel in Cairo as they prepared to leave for Gaza, placing them under house arrest. Another group of eight people were detained at the bus station of Al Arish on Sunday. Egypt has so far refused to grant permission for any of the marchers to cross the Egyptian border into Gaza in order to end Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Egypt is also refusing to allow some 150 aid trucks to enter Egypt. The group Viva Palestina said the trucks are filled with humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.
A Chinese court has sentenced a leading Chinese dissident to eleven years in prison. Liu Xiaobo was convicted of "inciting subversion of state power." The human rights activist and academic was arrested after he co-authored a petition called Charter 08 that called for freedom of assembly, expression and religion in China. Human Rights Watch condemned Liu’s conviction, calling it a "travesty of justice." Liu previously spent twenty-one months in prison for taking part in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Meanwhile, a top Chinese police official has ordered preemptive strikes against perceived threats to social order. In a speech published earlier today, Vice Minister of Public Security Yang Huanning said Chinese officials must step up efforts to curb the enemy by "predicting, preempting and discovering them." He also urged Chinese police forces to "strike at hostile forces at home and abroad."
The website Politico is reporting conservative Senate Democrats are urging the White House to give up efforts to pass a bill next year to curb global warming by capping greenhouse gas emissions and setting up a system to trade carbon. Conservative Democrats are pushing to table climate legislation in favor of a jobs bill that would be an easier sell during the 2010 elections. Indiana Democratic Senator Evan Bayh said, “We need to deal with the phenomena of global warming, but I think it’s very difficult in the kind of economic circumstances we have right now.” North Dakota Democratic Senator Kent Conrad added, “Climate change in an election year has very poor prospects.”
For the second time in a week, a prominent anti-mining activist has been assassinated in El Salvador. On Saturday, thirty-two-year-old Dora “Alicia” Recinos Sorto was shot dead near her home. One of her children was also injured in the shooting. Sorto was an active member of the Cabañas Environment Committee which has campaigned against the reopening of a gold mine owned by the Vancouver-based Pacific Rim Mining Company. Last week, Ramiro Rivera Gomez, the vice president of the Cabañas Environment Committee, was also shot dead. Another anti-mining activist, Marcelo Rivera, was murdered earlier this year in El Salvador.
In Mexico, the human rights activist Esther Chávez has died at the age of seventy-three. She helped thousands of female victims of violence in the border city of Ciudad Juárez. The playwright Eve Ensler said of Chavez, "She literally changed the world for women in Juárez, bringing the struggle of the raped, the disappeared, the discarded women and girls to global attention."
Here in New York, Percy Sutton has died at the age of eighty-nine. In the 1960s Sutton served as Malcolm X’s attorney. He later became one of the nation’s most prominent African American political and business leaders.
And in South Africa, the poet, anti-apartheid activist and former political prisoner Dennis Brutus has died at the age of eighty-five.
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