Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya has arrived at a Nicaraguan town just south of the border from Honduras as he plans a second attempt to return home. The Honduran coup regime has threatened to arrest Zelaya if he sets foot in the country. Zelaya has urged soldiers to ignore orders and says he will try to enter as early as Saturday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has suggested the US occupation of Iraq may continue beyond the 2011 deadline for withdrawing troops. Speaking in Washington, Maliki said US forces could stay on to provide “training and support.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: “Pursuant to the agreement, in 2011, the presence, the military presence of the Americans, will take end in Iraq. Nevertheless, if the Iraqi forces require further training and further support, we shall examine this then, at that time, based on the needs of Iraq. And I am sure that the prospects and the desire of such cooperation is found among both parties. Nevertheless, the nature of that relationship, the functions and the amount of forces will be then discussed and reexamined again.”
In other Iraq news, details have been revealed on previously undisclosed talks between US officials and militant Iraqi groups earlier this year. Participants say State Department officials met with at least three insurgent representatives in Turkey in March and April. The militant leaders reportedly submitted four demands: a US apology for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the release of all prisoners in US custody, a pledge for Iraq’s reconstruction, and support for the militants’ entry into Iraq’s political mainstream. A third round of talks was planned for June but didn’t occur.
The United Nations General Assembly has begun debate on a proposal to adopt the so-called Responsibility to Protect, which would allow nations to use force to prevent genocide and other crimes against vulnerable populations. In remarks before the assembly, former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans said the doctrine’s acceptance would help prevent genocide.
Gareth Evans: “The core theme is not intervention but protection. Look at each issue as it arises from the perspective of the victims, the men being killed or about to be killed, the women being or about to be raped, the children dying or about to die of starvation. Look at the responsibility in question as being, above all, a responsibility to prevent.”
Critics of Responsibility to Protect have argued against expanding the grounds for using force beyond those authorized by the UN Charter, which backs military action only in cases of self-defense or under Security Council approval. UN General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua said he fears the doctrine could be selectively used to justify Western military action against weaker states.
UN General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann: “Recent and painful memories related to the legacy of colonialism give developing countries strong reasons to fear that laudable motives can end up being misused, once more, to justify arbitrary and selective interventions against the weakest states.”
Also speaking critically of the proposal, the linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky gave the example of US-backed mass killings in Iraq and Gaza to illustrate the political uses of humanitarian intervention.
Noam Chomsky: “There was, of course, no thought of applying the principle to the Iraq sanctions administered by the Security Council, condemned as genocidal by the two directors of the Oil-for-Food program, the respected international diplomats Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, both of whom resigned because of their genocidal character. There’s no thought today of protection of the people of Gaza; that’s another UN responsibility.”
In Kyrgyzstan, international monitors are accusing President Kurmanbek Bakiyev of massive fraud in national elections. Partial results show Bakiyev ahead with 85 percent of the vote. But monitors with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe say the vote has been marred by several irregularities. As voting began, two main opposition candidates dropped out of the race in protest. One of the candidates, Jenishbek Nazaraliev, said the vote was a “fake.”
Jenishbek Nazaraliev: “If you ask any Kyrgyz citizen or people from nearby countries, those who are able to think, they can clearly understand that these elections are being held for the sake of holding elections. They are fake and being conducted just for Bakiyev.”
The Obama administration has been largely silent on alleged fraud and other abuses in Kyrgyzstan since the Kyrgyz government reversed the closure of a US military base last month. The base has been vital to the US occupation of Afghanistan.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Israeli government has announced the removal of the Palestinian term “nakba” from textbooks in Israeli schools. Palestinians refer to Israel’s 1948 war of independence as the “nakba,” or “catastrophe,” since it caused the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and left them without a state. References to the “nakba” in Israeli textbooks were first allowed only two years ago.
Back in the United States, a new study says 91 percent of more than 200 terrorism cases tried in the US have resulted in convictions. The group Human Rights First says the figures bolster the argument for trying Guantanamo Bay prisoners on US soil, since convictions have been so easily won.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats say they won’t hold a vote on healthcare reform until after the summer recess. The widely expected move follows weeks of negotiations that have failed to unite Democrats around a cohesive plan.
In New Jersey, three mayors and two state legislators were among over forty people arrested Thursday in a sweeping corruption case. The suspects allegedly took part in a global money laundering scheme that trafficked in items including human organs and contraband goods. Several Jewish rabbis were also jailed for allegedly laundering tens of millions of dollars through charities linked to Israel. FBI agent Weysan Dun said the betrayal of public office is widespread.
FBI agent Weysan Dun: “The people that we have arrested today include mayors, deputy mayors, New Jersey state assemblymen, city councilmen, city council candidates, and a variety of other public officials ranging from commissioners to regulatory inspectors and, of course, a number of rabbis from the Jewish community. The list of people we arrested sounds like it should be the roster for a meeting of community leaders, but sadly, they weren’t meeting in a boardroom this morning, they were in the FBI booking room.”
In Massachusetts, the Cambridge police officer who arrested the leading African American scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., last week is refusing to apologize. Gates was detained in his home after he forced his way in to overcome a jammed front door. A neighbor had called police, thinking Gates was a robber. Gates reportedly presented his proof of residence and said, “This is what happens to black men in America.” He was then handcuffed and taken into custody. Cambridge police have dropped a disorderly conduct charge, but the officer, Sergeant James Crowley, has rejected Gates’s call for an apology. On Thursday, Crowley said that Gates had provoked him and that an apology would “never come.” Gates, meanwhile, appeared on CNN, where he said the experience had sensitized him to the vulnerability of people of color to racial profiling.
Henry Louis Gates: “But what it made me realize was how vulnerable all black men are, how vulnerable all people of color are, and all poor people, to capricious forces like a rogue policeman. And this man clearly was a rogue policeman.”
The Cambridge Police Department has backed Crowley’s refusal to apologize and criticized President Obama for saying they had “acted stupidly.” Obama responded Thursday in an interview with ABC News.
President Obama: “I have to say I am surprised by the controversy surrounding my statement, because I think it was a pretty straightforward commentary, that you probably don’t need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who’s in his own home.”
A new report says abortion providers have been “routinely targeted” in six states and require further government protection. The Center for Reproductive Rights says clinics and doctors in Mississippi, North Dakota, Missouri, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Texas face worrying levels of harassment. Nationwide, the group says the number of physicians and clinics providing abortions has dropped 25 percent over the last decade. The study was completed before the May killing of the Kansas-based abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, whose clinic subsequently closed.
Meanwhile, in Ohio a Republican legislator has submitted a measure that would prevent abortions without the written consent of the biological father. If the father isn’t known, the measure would force the woman to provide a list of people who could be the father in order to determine paternity. The group Feminists for Choice calls the proposal “another mechanism for demonizing and isolating women who have sex.”
Consumer advocates are criticizing two recent choices for top food and agricultural positions. The Organic Consumers Association is calling for the resignation of Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto lobbyist who’s been appointed senior food safety adviser to the Food and Drug Administration commissioner. The group says Taylor has pushed to weaken testing and labeling for genetically modified foods. It’s also opposing President Obama’s apparent choice for Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety, Dennis Wolff, who’s also been accused of trying to reduce the labeling of GMOs.
In media news, Michigan’s Ann Arbor News has published its final edition. The newspaper has been replaced by the website AnnArbor.com and a newspaper that will come out only two days a week. The Ann Arbor News had been a daily newspaper for the past 174 years.
The investment bank Goldman Sachs has completed its repayment of federal bailout money. Goldman has paid back $1.1 billion to redeem warrants it granted the Treasury in return for taxpayer aid. The move follows Goldman’s repayment of $10 billion last month, freeing itself from government restrictions on employee compensation.
And a rise in the minimum wage takes effect today, increasing to $7.25 an hour from $6.55 an hour. The Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign says today’s rate is still lower than the 1956 minimum wage of $7.93 in real terms. The group is calling for a $10 minimum wage to surpass the highest level of purchasing power of $9.92 cents, adjusted for inflation, seen in 1968.