At least forty-five people were killed Wednesday in two US drone attacks in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region. It was the second consecutive day of US drone attacks inside Pakistan and the sixth attack in just over two weeks.
In Iraq, more than fifty people have been killed in separate bombing attacks. At least thirty-four people died and sixty were wounded in a double suicide attack in the northern town of Tal Afar. Another seven people were killed and around twenty injured when bombs struck the Sadr City district of Baghdad. Sixteen people were also killed in twin bombings in Mosul.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, at least twenty-five people have been killed in a bombing south of Kabul. Sixteen students and four police were among the dead.
The violence comes as the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said Wednesday he foresees a long-term US occupation of Afghanistan. Mullen spoke Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington.
Adm. Mike Mullen: “My expectation is that we will have a long-term relationship with Afghanistan. When I get asked about time, I think the best number I can give you is I believe that we have to start to turn the tide with respect to the Taliban in the next twelve to eighteen months. And I believe the forces that we have and the strategy that we have and the approach that we have will allow us to do that.”
Mullen’s comments come as the US is further entrenching its corporate presence in Afghanistan. The Pentagon has awarded war contractors DynCorp and Fluor Corporation five-year deals worth up to $7.5 billion. The companies will provide “support and logisitics” at US military bases across Afghanistan. Another major war contractor, KBR, says it may challenge its exclusion from the deal.
The world’s top industrial nations have failed to agree on a proposal to sharply cut the production of greenhouses gases. Instead, G8 leaders meeting in Italy pledged Wednesday to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the average levels of more than a century ago. The pledge was made with no enforcement mechanisms to ensure it’s met. It came after India and China, who aren’t G8 members, refused to endorse a proposal to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Developing nations have argued they shouldn’t have to make the same cuts as richer nations, because they require more energy to improve their economies and combat poverty. Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists criticized the outcome.
Alden Meyer: “Overall, this was a tremendous missed opportunity by the G8 to start to build trust and momentum towards a strong, ambitious deal in Copenhagen. But we’re calling on the leaders to keep working on this. Obviously, there will be additional meetings between now and Copenhagen, bilateral meetings, key meetings in September in the United States at the United Nations and the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. They still have time to pick up the ball and move it forward, but time is running out.”
Talks between the ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and the leaders of last week’s military coup begin today in Costa Rica. Zelaya says he won’t negotiate with the coup government and expects their resignation within twenty-four hours.
Meanwhile, the Honduran coup regime’s foreign minister has apologized for racially charged remarks about President Obama. In several radio interviews, Enrique Ortez Colindres referred to Obama as a “negrito,” or “little black man.” At one point Ortez Colindres described Obama as “this little black man who has no idea where Tegucigalpa is.” He apologized after the US ambassador to Honduras expressed outrage.
In China, thousands of troops continue their siege of the regional capital of Xinjiang province following bloody clashes between local Han Chinese and Uyghur residents. Four days after the violence that left at least 150 dead and over a thousand injured, reports indicate an unsteady calm has returned to the city of Urumqi. The clashes have been described as the bloodiest ethnic violence China has seen in years. On Wednesday, the exiled Uyghur political activist Rebiya Kadeer spoke out against the Chinese government from Washington. China has blamed exiled Uyghurs like Kadeer for the unrest.
Rebiya Kadeer: “The root cause of the problem is the heavy-handed policies imposed by the Chinese party secretary Wang Lequan and the Chairman Nur Bekri. And the heavy-handed Chinese repression in the region for decades, you know, has created a very tense situation there, with many Uyghur families, their husbands, their sons, and all arrested by the Chinese authorities. Of course they are not happy under Chinese rule.”
Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta has admitted the CIA has misled Congress on intelligence matters since at least 2001. On Wednesday, a group of seven Democratic lawmakers released a letter describing Panetta’s comments. House Intelligence Committee chair Silvestre Reyes said CIA officials “affirmatively lied” in a recent briefing on an unspecified matter.
The news comes as the Obama administration has issued a threat to veto a House intelligence bill if it calls for widening disclosures of CIA operations. The White House is currently required to brief congressional intelligence committee leaders on covert actions. A provision in the bill would allow the committee heads to determine if the briefings can be opened up to other panel members. The House is expected to vote on the intelligence authorization bill later today.
Massachusetts has become the first state to challenge the federal law defining marriage as a heterosexual union. On Wednesday, Massachusetts filed a lawsuit in federal court against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of gay marriage. Massachusetts says the law is “discriminatory and overreaching” in denying benefits to same-sex couples and preventing states from defining marriages as they see fit. Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage.
A government whistleblower who accused prosecutors of misconduct in the case against former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman has been fired in what she calls a political retaliation. Siegelman was convicted in a 2006 corruption case but is free on bail pending an appeal. Critics say Siegelman was the target of a political witch hunt, in part orchestrated by former Bush administration deputy Karl Rove. The whistlebower, Tamarah Grimes, was part of the prosecution team. She accused her bosses of several improprieties, including improper contact with jurors and the continued role of a US attorney who had dropped out of the case because she was married to the campaign manager of the Republican opponent Siegelman defeated. Grimes called her firing “the price for opposition.”
In Chicago, two prisoners jailed under the watch of the disgraced former Police Commander Jon Burge have been exonerated and set free after more than twenty years. Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves, both African Americans, were convicted for the 1988 murders of five people. But prosecutors now say there’s insufficient evidence linking them to the crimes. The initial case relied on a prisoner who wrongly claimed to have spoken to Kitchen and was also granted an early release for his testimony. Kitchen was also badly beaten while jailed in a prison known for the systematic torture of dozens of African American males by Chicago police officers. Burge is meanwhile awaiting trial for allegations he lied in a civil suit brought by victims of the torture committed under his command.
And in San Francisco, prosecutors have dropped charges against four of the eight former Black Panthers recently charged for the 1971 killing of a police officer. The group is known as the San Francisco Eight. They were arrested in 2007, except for two who were already in jail serving lengthy sentences. One of the eight, Harold Taylor, and two others were first charged with the murder in 1975, but a judge tossed out the charges. The three said they made false confessions after police in New Orleans tortured them. This week, prosecutors dropped charges against Taylor, as well as Ray Boudreaux, Henry Jones, and Richard Brown. The two San Francisco Eight members already in jail — Anthony Bottom and Herman Bell — have meanwhile pleaded guilty to reduced charges. The lone remaining defendant, Francisco Torres, is scheduled to appear in court next month.