In Pakistan, at least ten people have been killed in a pair of US drone attacks. Both the strikes took place in North Waziristan.
In Afghanistan, official results from last month’s national elections show President Hamid Karzai ahead with 54 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff with main rival Abdullah Abdullah. But the results came hours after a UN commission said it found widespread electoral fraud and ordered a recount at a number of polling stations. On Tuesday, Abdullah said the election had been “a tragic joke.”
Abdullah Abdullah: “I was not surprised, because I was aware of the trend. I knew that IEC [Independent Electoral Commission] works under the pressure from the palace, presidential palace. The chief of IEC, the commander-in-chief, Mr. Luddin, is working for Mr. Karzai. So are a few other members of the secretariat. So it didn’t come as a surprise to me, but it was disappointing for the people of Afghanistan, and I think it sounds like a tragic joke.”
In other news from Afghanistan, four US Marines and seven Afghan troops were killed Tuesday in eastern Kunar province. The Pentagon says its forces were ambushed after being invited to attend a meeting near the Pakistani border.
Meanwhile, an American journalist has been freed from captivity, but the rescue operation also led to the death of his Afghan interpreter and possibly an unknown number of Afghan civilians. New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell and the interpreter, Sultan Munadi, were abducted by suspected Taliban militants four days ago. Farrell was rescued early Wednesday when NATO forces raided the compound where he and Munadi were held. Farrell says Munadi was killed as the two tried to flee the ensuing gunfire. Local villagers reportedly said civilians were also killed in the firefight.
In Iraq, at least seventeen Iraqis were killed and more than forty wounded Tuesday in nationwide attacks. Four US troops were also killed, marking the deadliest day for US forces since pulling out of major Iraqi cities in June.
The Justice Department has submitted a new court filing alleging five Blackwater operatives had preexisting hostilities to Iraqis before killing seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square two years ago. The five contractors are being prosecuted for the attack, which also wounded another twenty Iraqis. In court documents submitted Monday, the Justice Department says one of the accused operatives regularly bragged about killing Iraqis, which he viewed as “payback for 9/11.” The defendant, Nicholas Slatten, was also said to have deliberately opened fire to instigate gun battles on prior occasions.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, an Israeli human rights group is echoing Palestinian figures on the number of Palestinian children killed during Israel’s US-backed assault on the Gaza Strip. The Jerusalem-based B’Tselem says Israeli forces killed 252 Palestinian children, nearly three times the number claimed by the Israeli military. B’Tselem says its workers conducted meticulous research, gathering death certificates, photographs and testimony for each of the victims. The study lists children as those sixteen and under. A report in May by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said 313 children were killed under the age of eighteen. Overall, well over half the nearly 1,400 Palestinians killed were civilians. B’Tselem also says the Israeli military carried out a minimum of 2,360 air strikes on Gaza during the three-week assault.
Vietnam is accusing the US of delaying funding for the cleanup of an airport contaminated by the toxic chemical defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange has been linked to cancer, diabetes and birth defects among millions of Vietnamese as well as American veterans. Vietnamese officials say the US has held up funds to clean up the Da Nang airport, where US forces stored Agent Orange and loaded it onto warplanes. The accusation came at an annual meeting of US and Vietnamese officials on Agent Orange, the fourth session since 2006.
In Australia, police have opened a war crimes investigation into the 1975 killings of five Australian journalists by Indonesian troops in East Timor. Australian television correspondent Greg Shackleton and his crew had come to East Timor to report on the Indonesian invasion. The probe comes nearly two years after an Australian coroner ruled the journalists were killed by Indonesian troops. The killings were ordered by Indonesian generals to prevent the journalists from exposing the Indonesian military’s mass killings of Timorese.
The UN is warning the global economic meltdown should prompt a major regulatory overhaul and the advent of a new global currency to replace the US dollar as the world standard. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, or UNCTAD, says the dollar’s preeminence worsens existing imbalances and further burdens debt-ridden countries. UNCTAD Director Heiner Flassbeck said the world’s leading economies have failed to introduce regulation that could take on the financial instruments that caused the meltdown.
Heiner Flassbeck: “The world, as everybody knows, is in deep economic crisis, and there is no clear signal that the world can go out very quickly. And secondly, what is the second message is that, in terms of financial regulation, not much has been achieved.”
Flassbeck also said new regulation would curb the capital flights and speculation that have devastated economies while driving up commodity prices.
Heiner Flassbeck: “The closest correlation between financialization and the movement of prices you see in agricultural commodities. Can the international community allow that, due to financial speculation, rice or wheat is driven — the price of rice or wheat is driven to a level where people are starving or people are dying of hunger? Is that acceptable?”
Back in the United States, real estate analysts are warning of a potential new round of foreclosures due to a risky home loan scheme that allows consumers to choose their interest rates for a limited time. The loans, known as option adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, have been taken out by hundreds of thousands of borrowers. They allow homeowners to pay a low interest rate before the rates “reset” back to normal and the principal also becomes due. A new report from Fitch Ratings says about $134 billion in ARMs will “reset” over the next two years. Mortgage payments would then rise an average 63 percent, or over $1,000, each month.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor has officially taken her seat on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor joined with the eight other justices Tuesday at an investiture ceremony in the Supreme Court’s chambers.
Sotomayor’s first hearing is set for later today. The court will hear arguments in a case centering around government limits on corporate spending in election campaigns. The right-wing group Citizens United is challenging marketing and distributing restrictions on its 2007 film Hillary: The Movie. The film was subjected to federal oversight because it was deemed to have violated campaign finance laws barring corporations from electioneering. The American Civil Liberties Union has backed Citizens United, saying the campaign finance rules violate freedom of speech. But other progressive groups say the campaign finance rules are critical safeguards against corporate control of the political process.
And President Obama delivered a speech Tuesday broadcast to millions of schoolchildren across the United States. Several school districts in Maryland, Texas, Virginia and other states chose not to broadcast the speech amidst Republican accusations that Obama would attempt to indoctrinate students. Obama focused his remarks on working hard and getting an education.
President Obama: “You cannot drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to train for it and work for it and learn for it. And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.”