Iran’s Guardian Council has ruled out the possibility of annulling the disputed June 12 presidential election. A spokesperson for the Guardian Council said, “Fortunately, in the recent presidential election we found no witness of major fraud or breach in the election.” The decision came just one day after the Guardian Council acknowledged that the number of votes collected in fifty cities surpassed the number of people eligible to cast ballots in those areas. But the Council claimed the irregularities were not enough to overturn the landslide election margin that the government had announced for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iranian media reports Ahmadinejad will be sworn in within the next two months. On Monday, supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi held a small protest in Tehran, but it was quickly broken up by riot police who fired tear gas and live bullets in the air. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has threatened to crush further protests.
The Wall Street Journal reports the Iranian government ordered the family of a slain nineteen-year-old protester to pay $3,000 in order to get his body back. The $3,000 has been described as a “bullet fee” — a fee for the bullet used by security forces to kill their son. The fee was waived after the family agreed not to hold a funeral or burial in Tehran. All mosques in Tehran have been reportedly prohibited from holding memorials or publicly mourning the deaths of protesters.
President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill that gives the US government broad regulatory power over cigarettes and other tobacco products. Obama, who is an occasional smoker, said the law would curb the ability of tobacco companies to market their products to children.
President Obama: “Today, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, healthcare and consumer advocates, the decades-long effort to protect our children from the harmful effects of tobacco has emerged victorious. Today, change has come to Washington. This legislation will not ban all tobacco products, and it will allow adults to make their own choices. But it will also ban tobacco advertising within a thousand feet of schools and playgrounds. It will curb the ability of tobacco companies to market products to our children by using appealing flavors. It will force these companies to more clearly and publicly acknowledge the harmful and deadly effects of the products they sell.”
Some public health officials have criticized the legislation, which was crafted in part by the nation’s leading cigarette company, Philip Morris. Michael Siegel is a professor at Boston University School of Public Health.
Michael Siegel: “This is a huge victory for big tobacco. This basically is going to institutionalize cigarettes forever. This is going to give the federal government’s seal of approval to cigarettes. Basically, the FDA is being asked to look the other way. For every other product that the FDA regulates, if it finds that that product is killing people, it takes the product off the market immediately.”
A federal judge has ordered the release of another prisoner held at Guantanamo, thirty-year-old Syrian national Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak Al Janko. In the year 2000, Al Janko was tortured by al-Qaeda, who accused him of being a Western spy, and he was imprisoned by the Taliban for eighteen months. He was then captured by the United States in 2002 and spent the next seven years in Guantanamo. On Monday, District Court Judge Richard Leon rejected the government’s position that Al Janko had once been a part of al-Qaeda, saying it “defies common sense.” Janko’s lawyers say it is unlikely he will be sent back to his native Syria, and the judge ordered the Obama administration to find a country that would accept Al Janko. Al Janko’s attorney Stephen Sady said, “This is a tragedy. The guy was horribly tortured and then tries to report his human rights violation to the US forces…Instead, he gets mistaken for being a terrorist.”
In Pakistan, up to 45,000 people have fled their homes in South Waziristan ahead of an expected Pakistani military assault against Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud. Earlier today, a gunman shot a key rival of Mehsud, dealing a potential blow to a government plan to defeat the Taliban militant. Meanwhile, the US has carried out another drone attack in Pakistan, killing six people.
The Supreme Court handed down several closely watched decisions on Monday. The Court upheld a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, but the Court declined to rule on the constitutionality of part of the law which sought to protect minorities in states with a history of racial discrimination.
The Court ruled that the Clean Water Act permits a mining company to dump toxic waste from an Alaskan gold mine into a nearby lake, even though the material will likely kill all of the lake’s fish. The group Earth Justice warned that the court’s ruling has dire implications for other waterways across the country.
The Supreme Court also decided Monday not to take the case of former CIA agent Valerie Plame, who sought compensation from former members of the Bush administration after she was publicly revealed to be a secret operative. Plame is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Plame filed the lawsuit, alleging that the Bush administration outed her in retaliation for her husband’s accusations that President Bush lied about Iraq’s alleged efforts to purchase uranium from Niger. Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington criticized the Supreme Court for not agreeing to hear the case. Sloan said, “This is a setback for our democracy. This decision means that government officials can abuse their power for political purposes without fear of repercussion.”
In West Virginia, NASA scientist James Hansen, actress Daryl Hannah and former Congressman Ken Hechler are expected to join a coalition of anti-coal groups today in an act of civil disobedience at a mountaintop removal site owned by Massey Energy. Hansen is calling for a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants and a permanent prohibition on mountaintop removal.
In England, six activists with Greenpeace were arrested Monday after they boarded a moving bulk freighter carrying thousands of tons of coal bound for a coal-fired power station.
Sarah Shoraka, Greenpeace: “We’re here to stop coal being delivered to Kingsnorth power station, because coal is the single-most climate-wrecking fuel there is.”
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has reportedly decided to kill a controversial Bush administration program to use US spy satellites to collect domestic intelligence for counterterrorism, law enforcement and security. However, the Los Angeles Times reports spy satellites will remain in the sky and still be used to gather information to help authorities deal with natural disasters and to support security planning for designated “national special security events,” such as political conventions and the Super Bowl.
Israel has released the Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament after jailing him for three years. Aziz Dweik was arrested in August 2006, just seven months after he became Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament. He was one of several Hamas lawmakers jailed after being charged with belonging to an illegal organization.
Two Canadian firms have been accused of committing war crimes by assisting in the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The Palestinian village of Bil’in has filed a lawsuit against two companies based in Quebec: Green Mount International and Green Park International. The suit is said to mark the first time a private company has been sued for investing in Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.
A health organization that once focused on providing healthcare to isolated communities in the developing world is now focusing on providing free care for the millions of uninsured in the United States. The Tennessee-based Remote Area Medical group sets up makeshift exam rooms across the country. This weekend a team of volunteer doctors and nurses is heading to Pike County in Kentucky.
Stan Brock, founder of Remote Area Medical: “It’s not only the homeless and the unemployed, but it’s also the underinsured and the uninsured. In other words, people that have jobs and may have some insurance, but it simply doesn’t cover the tremendous cost of healthcare in this country.”
During a recent two-day clinic in Tennessee, doctors saw over 800 patients.
Stan Brock: “Oh, I’d love to see the time when Remote Area Medical can go back to places where we really belong, such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic and parts of Africa. I mean, I designed the program for those purposes, and here we are now for many years locked down here in the United States because the need here is so great.”
And in Washington, DC, the death toll in Monday’s commuter train crash has risen to nine. At least seventy others were injured. It was the deadliest accident in the Metro’s thirty-three-year history.