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The Honduran coup regime has been forced to reverse a harsh crackdown on civil liberties amidst growing protests for the restoration of the ousted President Manuel Zelaya. On Monday, coup leaders said they would lift a decree banning unauthorized public meetings, allowing the government to shut down broadcasters and granting police the authority to make arrests without warrants. The reversal came after coup supporters in the Honduran congress voiced opposition. Hours before the reversal was announced, police blocked a march of several hundred Zelaya supporters in the capital Tegucigalpa. The military also shut down two media outlets that have criticized the coup regime. Carlos Lopez of Radio Globo described the military raid.
Carlos Lopez: "When I got here, it was already totally controlled by the military. My colleagues got here and said they had a radio program here during the afternoon, as well. [The soldiers] confiscated everything — cameras, they took the keys to their vehicles. One of their workmates ran out because he was scared, and they went after him."
Zelaya has remained in the Brazilian embassy since defiantly returning to Honduras last week. Zelaya was able to address the UN General Assembly Monday when his foreign minister, Patricia Rodas, held up her cell phone with Zelaya on the line.
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya: "My greetings to the United Nations. Anybody who had any doubt that a dictatorship is taking hold of my country, now with what has happened in the last ninety-three days of repression, I think that any of those doubts that might have subsisted are dispelled. But besides being subject to a coup d’état, Honduras is being subjected to a fascist rule, which is suppressing the rights of its citizens and which is oppressing the Honduran people."
The Obama administration is downplaying its stated pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay prison by next January. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs admitted the prison might remain open past the January 22nd deadline.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: "Well, we’re not focused on whether or not the deadline will or won’t be met on a particular day; we’re focused on ensuring that the facility is closed and doing all that has to be done between now and the 22nd of January to make the most progress that we can that’s possible."
An estimated 223 prisoners are currently at Guantanamo. On Monday, the White House said it has cleared seventy-five for release.
In Guinea, nearly ninety people were killed Monday when government forces opened fire on an opposition protest. Tens of thousands had gathered in a soccer stadium in the capital Conakry to protest the military junta leader’s plans to run in elections next year. The junta leader, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, seized power last year after the death of longtime dictator Lansana Conte.
In Afghanistan, at least thirty civilians have been killed in a roadside bombing. The victims were traveling aboard a bus in Kandahar province. Another forty people were wounded.
In Iraq, at least fifteen people were killed Monday in nationwide violence. At least forty others were wounded.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Hamas has voiced support for an Egyptian plan on Palestinian national reconciliation. Egypt says it will invite Hamas and rival Palestinian faction Fatah to Cairo for unity talks next month. The two groups have feuded since Hamas routed Fatah forces in Gaza two years ago to prevent a US-backed coup against Hamas’s democratic election. On Monday, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal urged the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority to end security cooperation with the US and Israel.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal: "I call for the immediate end to security coordination with the Israelis and an end to working and coordination under the Dayton Accords, which are altering the culture and Palestinian conscience and lead to a Palestinian people with no identity and no ideology. And we call for them to go back to the beginning, to the original option, which was resistance."
The media rights group Reporters Without Borders is urging the US and Mexico to increase protections for journalists covering the Mexican drug war.
Mexican investigative journalist Jorge Luis Sierra: "Reporters Without Borders and other organizations are asking the Mexican government to take these crimes, the outrages against journalists, as a federal issue, so the federal police can take over the investigation. Drug traffickers are taking control of the editorial operations in the Mexican newspapers. They decide what, when and how some incident is going to be covered."
At least fifty-five journalists have been killed in Mexico in the past decade.
Back in the United States, new figures show a widening income disparity between rich and poor. In 2008, the wealthiest tenth of Americans earned 11.4 times more than those living below the poverty line, a slight increase over the year before. Although household income fell across all income brackets, middle-income and poor families suffered the worst declines.
The president of the World Bank is warning the US is facing the prospect of losing its dominance of global finance. On Monday, Robert Zoellick said the US dollar will be challenged as the world’s main currency. Zoellick also criticized US plans to grant the Federal Reserve oversight authority instead of the Treasury Department.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick: "In the United States, it will be difficult to vest the independent and powerful technocrats at the Federal Reserve with more authority. My reading of recent crisis management is that the Treasury Department needed greater authority to pull together a bevy of different regulators. The United States would be mistaken to take granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency. Looking forward, there will increasingly be other options to the dollar."
The United States Chamber of Commerce is facing a wave of defections over its opposition to legislation on climate change. On Monday, the national utility Exelon said it would quit the Chamber over its climate stance. The move follows recent departures by the utilities Pacific Gas & Electric and PNM Resources. The chamber has vocally opposed the Waxman-Markey climate bill approved by the House in June. It also recently called for a new "Scopes monkey trial" on the science of climate change. The call is a reference to the Scopes trial that pitted creationists against evolutionists in the 1920s. Exelon has supported the climate bill, but has a financial incentive to do so. As the nation’s largest operator of nuclear plants, it would benefit from raising fossil fuel costs.
A group of Democratic senators has unveiled a bill that would revoke immunity for telecommunication companies that aided in the Bush administration’s warrantless spying. The Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act would reverse last year’s congressional vote to shield the companies from lawsuits. The bill’s sponsors are Democratic Senators Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy, Russ Feingold and Jeff Merkley.
And the US Secret Service has announced it’s investigating an online poll that asks respondents whether President Obama should be assassinated. Last week, more than 750 Facebook users reportedly cast votes on the poll, titled "Should Obama Be Killed?" The poll has since been removed.
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