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HeadlinesJuly 29, 2009

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At Least 18 Killed in Iraq Violence

Jul 29, 2009

At least eighteen Iraqis were killed and twenty-seven wounded Tuesday in nationwide violence around Iraq. The toll includes eight security guards slain in a bank robbery in Baghdad.

Iraqi Forces Raid US-Backed Iranian Exile Group

Jul 29, 2009

Meanwhile, witnesses say at least four people were killed and scores wounded in an Iraqi military raid on the camp of an Iraq-based Iranian opposition group. The People’s Mujahideen Organization, or MEK, is a US ally and sworn enemy of the Iranian government.

General: US Control of Iraqi Airspace Likely Beyond 2011

Jul 29, 2009

The top US military commander in Iraq has suggested the US Air Force will continue to control Iraqi airspace beyond the 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of all US troops. On Tuesday, General Ray Odierno said Iraq won’t be able to provide its own air defenses by the time US forces are supposed to leave Iraq. Odierno’s comments follow last week’s statement by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that US forces could remain in Iraq beyond 2011 to provide what he called “training and support.” Odierno’s comments came as Defense Secretary Robert Gates continued an unannounced visit to Iraq. Gates discussed US arms sales to Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “And so, we are in the process, here in 2009, in working out the kinds of equipment we might be able to transfer to the Iraqi security forces, equipment that’s already here, as well as talking about purchases of new equipment by the Iraqis. And we basically will be guided by the requirements that they provide and that we develop in a dialogue with them.”

Hundreds Protest Gates in Baghdad

Jul 29, 2009

As Gates visited Baghdad, hundreds of Iraqis marched in Sadr City against the US occupation. Protesters waved Iraqi flags and shouted anti-occupation slogans.

British Forces Exiting Iraq

Jul 29, 2009

Meanwhile, the so-called “coalition of the willing” in Iraq is losing its junior member. British forces have until Friday to withdraw from Iraq, ending their more than six years as an occupying force. Iraqi lawmakers blocked a vote on an agreement that would have allowed 100 British troops to remain in Iraq beyond the Friday deadline.

Colombian Troops to Join US in Afghanistan

Jul 29, 2009

As British troops wind down their role in the occupation of Iraq, Colombian troops are on their way to Afghanistan. CBS News is reporting a group of elite Colombian Special Operations forces are set to join the US occupation of Afghanistan as early as next month. Colombia is the top recipient of US aid in the Americas despite having one of its worst human rights records and the world’s second-largest internally displaced population after Sudan. A “top US official” told CBS News, “The more Afghanistan can look like Colombia, the better.”

8 Killed in Afghan Bombing

Jul 29, 2009

In other news from Afghanistan, eight people were killed Tuesday in a bombing of a NATO convoy in Helmand province. The victims were all Afghan contract workers hired to escort the convoy.

Poll: Most Brits Favor Afghan Withdrawal

Jul 29, 2009

In Britain, a new poll shows a majority of respondents think the Afghan occupation is unwinnable and want British troops to withdraw immediately. July has been the deadliest month for foreign forces in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion. Thirty-two US troops and twenty-two British troops have lost their lives.

US Revokes Visas for Honduran Coup Officials

Jul 29, 2009

The US has revoked the visas of four officials serving in the Honduran coup government. Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya had asked the Obama administration to revoke the visas in order to increase international pressure on the coup regime. Zelaya remains in a Nicaragua border town just outside Honduras. On Tuesday, he welcomed the latest US move.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya: “After thirty days, the people continue to be on their feet resisting, and they will continue to do so for longer. They will continue strengthening national dignity. The coup leaders wanted to change public, national and international opinion, but they haven’t been able to do so. The people who are with them are with them out of necessity and to be able to eat and live. But those in the armed forces and the government know that what they have done is wrong and it is destroying the country.”

Following Global Protests, Iran Frees 140 Prisoners, Closes Jail

Jul 29, 2009

The Iranian government has freed around 140 prisoners swept up in the recent crackdown on opposition members and protesters following last month’s disputed national elections. Iran says another 150 prisoners remain at the jail, but the number could be higher. Prisoners have come forward with allegations of widespread torture at the jail. Iran, meanwhile, says it’s shut down the Kahrizak jail that’s been notorious for the abuse of prisoners. The moves follow days of worldwide protests held to call for the prisoners’ freedom.

Toll in Nigeria Clashes Hits 150

Jul 29, 2009

In Nigeria, the death toll from clashes between Muslim fighters and government forces over the last three days has reached 150 people. On Tuesday, government forces shelled the headquarters of a radical Muslim sect in the northern Borno state. A Muslim worshipper in the Nigerian city of Lagos urged an end to the fighting.

Yekin Akobi: “There is a way to settle issues between both parties, so I don’t see a reason why people should be killing themselves for nothing.”

Afghanistan Offers to Repatriate Gitmo Teen

Jul 29, 2009

At Guantanamo Bay, a teenage Afghan prisoner has been transferred to a section reserved for those cleared for release. The prisoner, Mohamed Jawad, was as young as twelve at the time of his capture seven years ago in Afghanistan. Last week, the Obama administration admitted it could no longer hold Jawad as an enemy combatant after a federal judge ruled his confession was obtained through torture, but it had asked to continue imprisoning Jawad until deciding whether to bring him to the US for a criminal trial. On Tuesday, the Afghan government said it’s prepared to send a plane to bring Jawad home.

Rights Group Sues UK for Torture, Rendition of Ex-Gitmo Prisoner

Jul 29, 2009

In Britain, the human rights group Reprieve has filed suit against the British government over the rendition and torture of a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner. Reprieve says Britain allowed the rendition of Mohammed Madni through the US airbase on the British-controlled island of Diego Garcia. Madni spent three months in Egypt, where he was tortured and then sent to Guantanamo Bay, where he was jailed for six years until his 2008 release. Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith called on the British government to issue an apology.

Clive Stafford Smith: “I think the first thing that the British government needs to say to Mr. Madni are three simple words: 'We are sorry.' You know, that’s the most important thing for a victim under these circumstances, and for Mr Madni, he wants to make sure that rules are set in place to make sure no one else is put in this situation in the future. He has suffered already, but he doesn’t want other people to suffer the sort of torture and abuse he’s been through.”

Smith says the case could bring the first official confirmation of British involvement in the rendition of US prisoners across multiple borders.

Senate Panel Backs Sotomayor Nomination

Jul 29, 2009

Back in the United States, the Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to back Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. The 13-to-6 vote split along party lines with the exception of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who voted with the Democratic majority.

Sen. Lindsey Graham: “I feel good about the country. I feel really good about the American people. And quite frankly, I feel good about Judge Sotomayor. This is first Latino woman in the history of the United States to be selected for the Supreme Court. Now that is a big deal. I would not have chosen her, but I understand why President Obama did.”

Democratic Senator Arlen Specter, a former Republican, meanwhile said he supported the “wise Latina” comment that was scrutinized by Sotomayor’s critics.

Sen. Arlen Specter: “And when she refers to being a Latino, that’s a little ethnic pride. I think that’s a pretty healthy thing, to have a little ethnic pride. So, I not only found — I didn’t find fault with the 'wise Latina' woman; I thought it was commendable.”

The full Senate is expected to confirm Sotomayor in a vote next week.

Regulators: Speculation Inflated Oil Prices, Limits Considered

Jul 29, 2009

US regulators are moving toward imposing limits on speculation in oil and other commodities. On Tuesday, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said it would release a report next month blaming the rise in oil prices on financial speculators. That would reverse the CFTC’s stance under the Bush administration, which rejected financial speculation as a cause and instead linked a record-setting price hike to supply and demand. CFCT commissioner Bart Chilton now says that position relied on “deeply flawed data.”

Schwarzenegger Cuts More Social Spending from California Budget Bill

Jul 29, 2009

In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has sparked a new row with Democratic legislators after adding hundreds of millions of dollars in last-minute spending cuts to a budget bill shortly before signing it into law. The $449 million in new cuts target programs Schwarzenegger had agreed to keep, following weeks of negotiations with Democrats on closing California’s estimated $26 billion budget gap. The programs provided services for children, the poor, and abused women. The new cuts come on top of the initial budget plan that reduces welfare payments, slashes education funding, and will likely strip tens of thousands of seniors and children of access to healthcare. Schwarzenegger says he added the new cuts to overcome a shortfall created by the rejection of generating revenue through drilling off Santa Barbara and swapping local gas taxes. But Democrats say they plan to challenge the cuts’ legality.

Protesters Demand Network Coverage of Single Payer

Jul 29, 2009

Here in New York, demonstrators gathered at ABC News’ Manhattan headquarters Tuesday to present a petition against the exclusion of a single-payer option from coverage on healthcare reform. Earlier this month, ABC News disinvited President Obama’s former physician, Dr. David Scheiner, from a televised forum. Scheiner had planned to question Obama about his rejection of single payer. The petition was organized by the group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. FAIR Communications Director Isabel Macdonald said the exclusion of single payer extends across the major corporate networks.

Isabel MacDonald: “Fifty-nine percent of Americans and 59 percent of physicians support a Medicare for All-type program, or single payer. ABC has not had a single advocate of that system on air this year. So we’re delivering a petition to both ABC and we’re also sending a message to the other TV networks, demanding that they cover single-payer healthcare and stop silencing single-payer advocates.”

The petition’s 11,000 signatories include filmmaker Michael Moore, former MSNBC host Phil Donahue, Doctor Quentin Young and actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.

Suspect in Tiller Murder Pleads Not Guilty

Jul 29, 2009

In Kansas, the suspect in the killing of abortion doctor George Tiller has pleaded not guilty on all charges. Tiller was killed on May 31st during Sunday services at his Wichita church. The suspect, Scott Roeder, is set to go on trial in September. On Tuesday, two eyewitnesses appeared at Roeder’s pre-trial hearing and identified him as the killer.

IG: Tennessee Valley Authority Ignored 20 Years of Warnings Before Coal Ash Disaster

Jul 29, 2009

In Tennessee, an internal inquiry says the Tennessee Valley Authority failed for more than two decades to heed warnings that could have prevented a massive coal ash spill last December. The TVA Inspector General also says the authority’s lawyers then quashed a $3 million study into the spill’s cause in order to limit its legal liability. The Kingston Fossil Plant spill released more than one billion gallons of toxic coal ash, burying homes and roads. It’s believed to be the largest coal ash disaster in US history.

7 Charged with Backing Islamist Militants Overseas

Jul 29, 2009

In North Carolina, seven people have been charged with plotting to support militant Islamist groups overseas. The Justice Department says there’s no indication the suspects planned on carrying out attacks in the United States. The suspects are accused of backing Jihadist groups in Israel, Jordan, Kosovo and Pakistan.

15 Haitian Migrants Drown, 65 Missing After Boat Sinkage

Jul 29, 2009

And at least fifteen Haitian migrants have drowned after their boat capsized and sank off the Turks and Caicos Islands. At least sixty-five people remain missing.

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