Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered an investigation into allegations of election fraud in Friday’s presidential vote. Khamenei made the announcement following three days of street protests by supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has accused President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of stealing the election. Khamenei’s decision to call for a probe has shocked many in Iran. On Saturday, Khamenei had urged the nation to unite behind Ahmadinejad and called the result a “divine assessment.” According to the official election results, Ahmadinejad was re-elected with 62 percent of the vote, but Mousavi claims the vote was rigged. Mousavi was planning to hold a major rally in Tehran today, but Iranian officials ordered a ban on protests. Opposition websites report that over a hundred prominent opposition members were detained and then released over the weekend. At a rally on Sunday, Ahmadinejad spoke before tens of thousands of his supporters.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “In our beloved Iran, democracy is a fundamental principle. First of all, it’s the nation which determines everything. It’s the people who decide. It’s the nation’s will that governs. It’s the nation which selects the rulers in every decision-making level of the political system”
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula continue to mount. On Friday, the United Nations Security Council agreed to a new round of sanctions against North Korea. North Korea responded by vowing to step up its nuclear bomb-making program by producing more plutonium and uranium. North Korea also threatened war on any country that dared to stop its ships on the high seas under the new sanctions. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is headed to Washington for summit talks Tuesday with President Barack Obama.
Palestinian officials have condemned a major policy speech by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, saying it closed the door to permanent status negotiations. During the speech on Sunday, Netanyahu said for the first time he could accept a two-state solution, but only if the new Palestinian state had no army, no control of its airspace and borders, and would recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Binyamin Netanyahu: “If we receive a guarantee for demilitarization and the security arrangements required by Israel, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation of the Jewish people, we will be prepared for a true peace agreement (and) to reach a solution of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state.”
During the speech Netanyahu also said Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel and that israel would not concede to US demands for a complete halt to all settlement expansion in the West Bank.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat: “He is not with a two-state solution. He is not going to stop settlements, including natural growth. So we have attempts to move a peace process, which was moving like a turtle in the region. Now Netanyahu tonight flipped it on its back. So it’s really up to President Obama tonight. He has the choice. He can treat Israel like a country above the laws of man, apply double standards, and this will be a costly road. Or, he can have the Israeli government oblige with its commitments emanating from the road map: the two-state solution with ’67 borders and stopping settlement activities, including natural growth. Tonight, what Netanyahu told us, there will not be permanent status negotiations.”
In Iraq, a top Sunni lawmaker was assassinated on Friday shortly after giving a sermon calling on authorities to investigate the widespread reports of torture in Iraqi prisons. Harith al-Obaidi is the third Iraqi lawmaker to be assassinated since parliament was elected in 2005.
The Washington Post has revealed almost thirty key lawmakers helping draft landmark healthcare legislation have financial holdings in the industry, totaling nearly $11 million worth of personal investments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has at least $50,000 invested in a healthcare index. Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, a senior member of the health committee, has up to $560,000 worth of stock holdings in major healthcare companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck. The family of Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman held at least $3.2 million in more than twenty healthcare companies at the end of last year. On Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee plans to hold a key hearing to discuss healthcare reform. On that twenty-two-member panel, at least eight senators have financial interests in the healthcare industry. The hearings will be led by Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, whose wife serves on the boards of four healthcare companies. She received more than $200,000 in salary and stock from her service last year.
The Obama administration is asking a federal appeals court to reconsider its decision to allow a Boeing subsidiary to be sued over its roles in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration is urging the court to throw out the case citing the State Secrets Act. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit against Jeppesen International Trip Planning on behalf of five former prisoners. Jeppesen is accused of arranging at least seventy flights since 2001 as part of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. Ben Wizner of the ACLU said, “This is a watershed moment. There’s no mistake any longer…the Obama administration has now fully embraced the Bush administration’s shameful effort to immunize torturers and their enablers from any legal consequences for their actions.”
A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled Jose Padilla can sue former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo for coming up with the legal theories that justified his detention and torture. Padilla says he was repeatedly tortured while being held as an enemy combatant. Padilla, who is a US citizen, was held for forty-three months without charge in a Navy brig in South Carolina. US District Judge Jeffrey White said, quote, “Like any other government official, government lawyers are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their conduct.”
CIA Director Leon Panetta has revealed the agency has fired Mitchell Jessen & Associates and other contractors connected to interrogations. Mitchell Jessen & Associates was run by two former military psychologists who helped design the CIA’s torture program. Panetta made the disclosure in an interview with The New Yorker magazine.
In the same interview, CIA Director Leon Panetta harshly criticized former Vice President Dick Cheney for questioning the Obama administration’s national security policies. Panetta said of Cheney, “it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”
Peruvian President Alan Garcia is warning that police may have to use a “heavier hand” on indigenous protesters in the Amazon following the recent clashes that left over sixty people dead. Indigenous tribes fear losing control of natural resources after recent presidential decrees opened up investment on extending mining and oil drilling in the jungle. Indigenous activists in Peru are calling for investigations into the violence and the resignations of government officials, including Garcia. On Friday, the actress Q’orianka Kilcher spoke in Lima on behalf of the indigenous protesters.
Q’orianka Kilcher: “And I hear that Garcia has publicly declared my brothers and sisters of the Amazon to be 'not first-class citizens.' I have to say, shame on you, Alan Garcia, because we are all first-class citizens. We are all Peruvian. And I hear that you are criminalizing indigenous protesters by calling them terrorists and savages. Who gave orders to commit ethnic genocide? Who did?”
In education news, the Obama administration has announced plans to spend up to $350 million to help develop national standards for reading and math. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the government’s spending will go for the development of tests that would assess those new standards.
Two top officials of the anti-immigrant group Minutemen American Defense have been arrested on murder charges in Arizona. Shawna Forde, the group’s executive director, and Jason Bush, the group’s operations director, were both charged with two counts of first-degree murder. A third person was also charged. Police say the three broke into a home and killed a man and his eight-year-old daughter. The Minutemen American Defense organization has sent teams of armed vigilantes to the US-Mexico and US-Canada border in an attempt to stop undocumented workers. It is a separate organization from Jim Gilchrist’s Minuteman Project.
And here in New York, over 200 domestic workers and their supporters rallied outside City Hall Sunday to urge state lawmakers to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Speakers included Nisha Varia of Human Rights Watch.
Nisha Varia: “It’s an issue of having equal legal protections. It’s about having domestic work recognized as work. And the same sort of issues about just not being paid for your work, not having time off, and not being respected, we really need to see the government and employers respond to that.”