A Swedish medical charity has accused US troops of raiding an Afghan hospital while searching for wounded Taliban fighters. Troops tied up four hospital employees and two family members of patients. US troops also forced patients out of their hospital beds and broke into locked rooms including the ultrasound ward. Anders Fange of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan called the episode a “clear violation of globally recognized humanitarian principles about the sanctity of health facilities and staff in areas of conflict.” Wednesday’s raid occurred a week after US forces attacked a medical clinic where an injured Taliban leader had reportedly sought treatment.
A prominent Afghan-based rights group is estimating between sixty and seventy Afghan civilians died last week in the US air strike in Kunduz province. Afghanistan Rights Monitor based its estimate on interviews with local residents. The air strike has sparked a national debate in Germany over the role of the country’s troops in Afghanistan. It was a German commander who ordered the air strike.
In other Afghan news, the UN-backed commission charged with investigating Afghanistan’s presidential election said that it has found “clear and convincing evidence of fraud” in the results. The commission ordered a recount of ballots from questionable polling stations. Supporters of President Hamid Karzai have been accused of setting up hundreds of fictitious polling sites where no one voted but where hundreds of thousands of ballots were still recorded toward the president’s re-election.
Speaking at an AFL-CIO rally on Labor Day, President Obama said “it’s time to act” for healthcare reform.
President Obama: “Let me just say a few things about this healthcare issue. We’ve been fighting for quality, affordable healthcare for every American for nearly a century, since Teddy Roosevelt. Think about that. Long time. The Congress and the country have now been vigorously debating the issue for many months. The debate’s been good. And that’s important because we’ve got to get this right. But every debate at some point comes to an end. At some point, it’s time to decide. At some point, it’s time to act. Ohio, it’s time to act and get this thing done.”
As President Obama spoke on Monday, Democratic Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus began circulating a new proposal that leaves out a government-run public option but imposes some fees on the health insurance industry. Baucus’s plan calls for the formation of nonprofit, member-owned insurance cooperatives. On Wednesday, President Obama will give a major address to Congress and lay out his proposed revamp of the healthcare system.
President Obama is heading to Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia today to deliver a speech to students across the country. Obama will urge students to work hard, make the most of their education, and stay in school. The speech has generated some controversy. Last week the chair of the Florida Republican Party accused Obama of using taxpayer dollars to “indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda.” Some schools are refusing to broadcast Obama’s message, and some parents are threatening to keep their children home from school today.
The Obama administration’s special adviser for environmental jobs, Van Jones, has resigned, citing what he described as a “vicious smear campaign against me.” For the past month, Fox News has run a series of reports on Jones’s alleged association with communists and his decision to sign a petition calling for a congressional probe of the 9/11 attacks. Jones is the founding president of Green for All and author of the book The Green Collar Economy. Time Magazine recently named Jones one of the 100 most influential people in the world. We will have more on his resignation after headlines.
In economic news, the nation’s official unemployment rate surged to 9.7 percent in August, but economists say the actual unemployment rate is nearly 17 percent. Employers cut 216,000 jobs last month. Teenagers have been particularly hard hit. The teenage unemployment rate is now over 25 percent, the highest level since the government began keeping track of such statistics in 1948.
Israel has announced plans to build 455 more housing units in the West Bank, defying demands from the Obama administration for a freeze on settlement construction. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said President Obama regrets Israel’s decision. Gibbs said, “the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop.”
Meanwhile, on Friday Israeli troops fired tear gas at a journalist from Al Jazeera while she was live on the air covering a Palestinian protest against the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank. This is part of reporter Jacky Rowland’s live report.
Jacky Rowland: “The residents of the village of Bilin — oh [bleep] — the residents of the village of Bilin come every week. I may have to stop soon, because we’ve been gassed right here. Anyway, the residents of Bilin come every week to the village to basically make the point that this is their land that has been stolen to build this wall, their land which has also been stolen to build the illegal Jewish settlement of Modi’in Illit, which is just beyond the wall. And they are also making the point that no amount of tear gas, no amount — they’re throwing straight at me! Sorry, we’re under attack!”
News Anchor: “OK, Jacky, are you” —
Rowland: “They’re obviously trying to take us off the air.”
Rowland: “I’m OK. I’m OK. It’s not fatal. I’m still here. But the soldiers are basically throwing tear gas canisters” —
Anchor: “Did you see where they came from, Jacky?
Rowland: “— right at us. I beg your pardon.”
Anchor: “I mean, did you see where they came from? Was there any warning?”
Rowland: “No. They threw it straight at us. It’s quite obvious that we’re the target now, not the protesters.”
Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland was not injured in the attack. However, in the West Bank village of Na’alin, two photographers were shot Friday while covering another demonstration.
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that former Attorney General John Ashcroft can be personally sued for the wrongful detention of an innocent US citizen. The court determined that Ashcroft circumvented the Constitution after the September 11 attacks by using the federal material witness law to hold Abdullah al-Kidd and other innocent men without charge. The court said detention of witnesses without charge was “repugnant to the constitution”.
A new study has revealed the United States is quickly expanding its role as the world’s largest weapons supplier. In 2008, the US signed weapons agreements worth nearly $38 billion. That’s ten times as much as Italy, the world’s second largest arms dealer. The US is now responsible for 68 percent of all business in the global arms bazaar.
In business news, the nation’s largest electronic voting machine vendor, Election Systems & Software, has bought its largest competitor, Premier Election Solutions, a unit of Diebold. The move greatly consolidates the electronic voting machine industry. According to Verified Voting, more than 120 million registered voters use one of these two companies’ systems.