Between sixty to ninety Afghans have been killed in a US bombing in northern Afghanistan. The attack struck a pair of fuel lorries that had been captured by Taliban fighters. There are reports the toll included an estimated forty civilians who had gathered to siphon fuel off the tankers. Most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. A Taliban spokesperson said the tankers had been hijacked as they made their way to refuel US forces in Kabul.
The bombing comes as the Obama administration considers plans to order thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan. The New York Times reports the proposals under consideration include a so-called “low risk” option that would send 45,000 troops. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was open to a troop increase and defended the continued occupation.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “I absolutely do not think it is time to get out of Afghanistan. And I think that the notion that you can conduct a purely counter-terrorist kind of campaign and do it from a distance simply does not accord with reality.”
Gates’s comments came hours after the Pentagon said it will extend the tours of some 3,000 soldiers in Afghanistan for up to two months.
Meanwhile, in Britain a top official has resigned in protest of the British government’s handling of the Afghan occupation. The official, Eric Joyce, worked as a senior defense aide under British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Joyce says he’s stepping down over what he calls a failing strategy in Afghanistan and the absence of a clear timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops.
The Obama administration has formally cut more than $30 million in aid to Honduras. Thursday’s announcement came shortly after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with ousted Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya in Washington. Zelaya praised the move as a step forward in pressuring the coup regime.
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya: “I think with this American decision, although we have not heard from Canada yet, a single bloc of all thirty-four countries of the Americas has formed which condemns the coup and doesn’t recognize its authorities and fraudulent elections, which are a result of the lack of liberty and the repression against the Honduran people.”
The State Department also acknowledged Zelaya’s ouster was a coup, but refused to formally designate it as such. Under US law, a coup designation would force the Obama administration to cut off up to $150 million in funding to Honduras.
In Ecuador, attorneys for Amazonian residents seeking damages from the oil giant Chevron are accusing the company of trying to illegally interfere with their case. The residents have sued Chevron for dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into Ecuador’s rain forest. An independent court-appointed expert has recommended Chevron pay up to $27 billion in compensation. But earlier this week, Chevron released secretly recorded video it says proves the judge in the case has been guilty of judicial corruption. Chevron contends the video shows Judge Juan Nunez discussing ruling in favor of the Amazon residents as well as a $3 million bribe for contracts involving another company. On Thursday, Judge Nunez said the videos were manipulated.
Judge Juan Nunez: “The tapes have been edited, manipulated, and they aren’t evidence of anything. What they are evidence of is the illegal acts carried out by [Chevron]. That’s what it is evidence of. I haven’t met with members of the government. I was never in these meetings. I was paid a visit by Aulo Gelio and Hansen and Borja in the Sucumbios court. They came to see me there and filmed inside my office, inside the court; I didn’t go looking for them.”
Lawyers for the Amazon residents say they’re considering an additional suit against Chevron for trying to disrupt the case. Julio Prieto of the Amazon Defense Coalition dismissed the video as a stall tactic.
Julio Prieto: “This seems to me to be a last-minute strategy, a smokescreen to distract public attention and to gain time. Why are they going to gain time? Because with how bad this looks, the judge is surely going to be removed from the case, and the new judge will have to start everything from zero again, and it would take any human being a considerable amount of time to do that. Now that we’re so close to hearing the sentence, I would say that this is a dirty strategy to win them one more year.”
The Treasury Department has enacted President Obama’s directive to ease certain restrictions on dealings with Cuba. The new rules allow for unlimited travel and money transfers by Cuban Americans to their family members in Cuba and free up telecommunications directed there. The Obama administration announced the eased restrictions in April but has refused calls to fully repeal the forty-seven-year-old embargo.
A coalition of indigenous and environmental groups has filed a lawsuit against a planned pipeline that would carry oil from the Canadian tar sands to the United States. The suit comes less than two weeks after the State Department authorized the Alberta Clipper, a 1,000-mile pipeline running from Alberta to Wisconsin. Tar sand oil extraction is said to generate up to five times the greenhouse gas pollution of conventional oil. The lawsuit says the Obama administration has violated federal law by failing to properly gauge the pipeline’s environmental impact.
The co-chairs of the House Progressive Caucus have sent President Obama a letter vowing to reject healthcare reform legislation that doesn’t include a public option based on Medicare rates. In the letter, Democratic Congress members Lynn Woolsey of California and Raul Grijalva of Arizona write, “A health reform bill without a robust public option will not achieve the health reform this country so desperately needs. We cannot vote for anything less.” The letter follows reports the White House has privately revived a plan that would “trigger” a public option only if private insurers are deemed to have not provided suitable care and market competition.
And the Ohio-based electronic machine company Diebold has sold off its voting machine business to a rival firm. Diebold’s touch-screen voting machines have been criticized for being prone to manipulation in elections across the United States. Diebold’s main competitor, Election Systems & Software, has purchased Diebold subsidiary Premier Election Solutions for over $5 million.