In Afghanistan, at least fourteen civilians were killed Thursday in nationwide violence. Eleven members of the same family died in the day’s deadliest attack. Meanwhile, a US soldier and three British soldiers were killed in bombings in southern Afghanistan. The violence comes as Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he has no idea when the US occupation of Afghanistan will come to an end. Speaking at the Pentagon Thursday, Gates said defeating the Taliban and al-Qaeda will take “a few years.” Gates also hinted at a troop increase following the review of the new US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “That assessment will not include specific recommendations or requests for more forces. However, we have made clear to General McChrystal that he is free to ask for what he needs to complete the important mission that he has been given.”
In Iraq, at least thirty Iraqis were killed in nationwide violence Thursday. Another fifty-six people were wounded.
The Honduran coup regime appears to have ruled out a delayed visit by a delegation from the Organization of American States. On Thursday, the coup government’s interim president, Roberto Micheletti, said OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza would only be welcome in Honduras as a tourist, not as part of an official visit. Micheletti said, “He is not welcome in this country unless he comes as a tourist, to spend dollars…for the good of our businessmen.” The ousted President Manuel Zelaya, meanwhile, was in Chile for talks with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. Standing near a statue of the ousted Chilean President Salvador Allende, Zelaya quoted Allende and thanked Chileans for their support.
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya: “Today, I would like to express, here, in front of the figure of Salvador Allende, my admiration and respect. Thank you to Chilean society for this letter. One day the big avenues will open for the free man to walk through America.”
Meanwhile, an estimated 5,000 supporters of the ousted President Manuel Zelaya marched in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa on Thursday to protest the arrest of at least sixty protesters earlier this week. Many still remain behind bars.
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales is accusing right-wing militants of trying to derail upcoming elections after a series attacks in the capital La Paz. The wife of a Bolivian union leader lost three fingers and suffered serious burns this week when she tried to open what turned out to be a letter bomb. Morales said the culprits had foreign support.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: “This is an assault on the National Coalition for Change process and its authorities. Unfortunately, there are certain experts trained inside and outside Bolivia. There are some former army commanders who take part in such acts.”
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the group Human Rights Watch says it’s uncovered evidence of Israeli troops shooting dead at least eleven Palestinian civilians waving white flags during the US-backed attack on the Gaza Strip last January. Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch said most of the victims were women and children.
Joe Stork: “These are incidents in which eleven Palestinian civilians, nine of them children and women, were killed, despite the fact that they were holding or waving white flags to signify that they were civilians, they were unarmed, they had no hostile intent. But still, Israeli soldiers, in many cases after calling them out of their homes, shot them.”
In a homemade video, Gaza resident Khalid Abed Rabbo described the shooting death of his two young daughters.
Khalid Abed Rabbo: “When the soldiers arrived outside our house, they yelled for us to come outside. My wife, mother, three daughters and I went outside. We were holding cloths, because we are a peaceful family. I thought that the soldiers would realize that they were looking at women and children.”
Abed Rabbo’s three-year-old daughter and the children’s grandmother were also wounded in the shooting. The girls’ mother also witnessed the attack.
Umm Soad Abed Rabbo: “Right in front of me, they shot my eldest daughter. Then they shot the little one, Amal, and then Samar, who was in front of her. When we ran inside, they shot their elderly grandmother who can hardly walk.”
In Yemen, dozens of people have been killed and thousands displaced in fighting between Yemeni government forces and Houthi rebels. The Houthi belong to an offshoot Shia sect named the Zaidi. Clashes between the two sides have left hundreds dead since 2004, including an estimated 150 people last month.
Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia is in Burma for talks with the military junta. Webb is expected to meet with Senior General Than Shwe in what would be the junta leader’s highest-level contact with the US to date. Webb’s visit comes days after the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to an additional eighteen months of house arrest.
US immigration officers have detained a Pakistani journalist who fled Pakistan after militants destroyed his home and made threats on his life. Rahman Bunairee works for the US government-backed Voice of America news agency, as well as Pakistan’s Khyber TV. He was taken into custody Sunday after arriving at Dulles airport in Virginia.
The Huffington Post has published a leaked memo it says confirms details of the secret deal between the White House and the pharmaceutical industry to reduce costs under healthcare reform. The Obama administration admitted last week it promised to oppose proposals to let the government negotiate drug prices and extract additional savings from drug companies. In return, drug companies reportedly pledged to reduce costs by $80 billion. The White House later distanced itself from the deal after congressional outcry. The leaked memo shows the drug companies agreed to reduce costs “up to” $80 billion but not exceeding that amount.
Advocates for universal healthcare are calling for a boycott of the grocery chain Whole Foods over the views of its CEO, John Mackey. This week Mackey wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal criticizing President Obama’s plan to create a government-funded public healthcare option and dismissing the single-payer healthcare system of countries such as Canada and Britain. Mackey said he doesn’t believe in “an intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter,” which he said are best provided through “market exchanges.” On Thursday, the group Single Payer Action released a letter calling for a boycott of Whole Foods.
In Michigan, a government delegation visited a rural maximum security prison Thursday to begin determining its viability to hold prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. The prison in Standish has been considered as a possible site for Guantanamo prisoners along with the military jail at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
And the music world has lost two influential figures. The free-jazz drummer Rashied Ali has died at the age of seventy-six. Ali played with John Coltrane on the pioneering albums released in Coltrane’s final years. And the guitar pioneer Les Paul has died at the age of ninety-four. Paul invented a solid-body electric guitar that has been used by rock and jazz musicians for over five decades. He also innovated several recording techniques that contributed to the rise of popular recorded music.