Ecuador has declared a state of emergency after President Rafael Correa escaped what he’s denounced as a coup attempt against him by members of Ecuador’s armed forces. On Thursday, a group of police officers attacked Correa as he met with them to discuss new austerity measures. Correa was rushed to a hospital after a tear gas canister exploded near his face. He was then held captive for twelve hours after police officers surrounded the hospital, trapping him inside. Correa was ultimately freed in an operation by military forces loyal to his presidency. In addition to the attack on Correa, mutinous police and soldiers also stormed Congress, blocked roads, set fires outside their barracks and took control of Quito’s international airport. At least two people were killed and dozens injured.
More than two dozen tankers carrying fuel for US and NATO troops in Afghanistan have been set ablaze in Pakistan. Unidentified militants opened fire on the trucks earlier today as they sat parked in a terminal. The incident comes one day after Pakistan blocked a NATO supply route after a cross-border helicopter attack mistakenly killed three Pakistani troops.
In other news from Pakistan, video has emerged appearing to show Pakistani troops executing six blindfolded young men. The group that posted the video said it was taken during the Pakistani military’s US-backed assault in the Swat Valley in the summer of 2009. The victims are lined up with their hands tied behind their backs before the soldiers open fire. The Pakistani military has denounced the video as a fake.
In Afghanistan, US-led NATO troops have reportedly killed four Afghan children and wounded three adults in eastern Ghazni province. According to Al Jazeera, NATO helicopters fired at the victims as they gathered in a local orchard.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is expected to resign today to pursue a run for Chicago mayor. President Obama has reportedly tapped longtime aide Pete Rouse as Emanuel’s temporary successor. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs paid tribute to Emanuel on Thursday.
Robert Gibbs: “I think his leadership, his energy, has helped us accomplish so much in helping our economy recover, in passing landmark Wall Street reform, healthcare reform, credit card reform, student loan reform, all of the things that — there is not a — there is not an important thing that has happened in this administration that we’ve been able to accomplish for the American people that has not involved heavily his signature.”
Emanuel’s departure comes just over a month before the midterm elections. On Thursday, President Obama urged a youth gathering in Washington to mobilize for the vote.
President Obama: “They say that there is an enthusiasm gap and that the same Republicans and the same policies that left our economy in a shambles and the middle class struggling, year after year, that those folks might all ride back into power. That’s the conventional wisdom in Washington. We cannot let happen. We cannot sit this out. We can’t let this country fall backwards. The stakes are too high. We have to move this country forward for you and your future. So, there had better not be an enthusiasm gap, people. Not now.”
Earlier in the day, President Obama met with Sarah Shourd, the American hiker who was freed last month after more than a year in an Iranian prison. Obama met Shourd along with her mother and the mothers of the two hikers still jailed in Iran, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.
Israel has reportedly rejected a series of new US incentives to extend briefly a settlement freeze in the occupied West Bank. According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Obama administration offered to back Israel’s insistence on maintaining a long-term military presence along the eastern border of a future Palestinian state. The US also offered Israel military equipment and a pledge to veto UN resolutions on Arab-Israeli peace for at least a year. But according to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned down the offer because he would have had to extend the partial settlement freeze for another two months. A European diplomat who discussed the issue with administration officials said he was told that the US believes Netanyahu is “humiliating” Obama. The Palestinian Authority meanwhile has said it will delay a decision on whether to walk away from the talks because of Israel’s ongoing settlement expansion until an Arab League meeting next week. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Palestinians remain committed to a peace deal.
Saeb Erekat: “We have always said our position. We’re not against direct negotiations. On the contrary, we want to see to it that we reach an endgame, end of conflict, a permanent status solution, establish the two-state solution, a state of Palestine on the 1967 borders, to live side by side in peace and security with the state of Israel.”
The Obama administration has announced that four major European oil companies have agreed to end their energy investments in Iran. The US reached agreements with Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Eni and Statoil under a new round of sanctions approved in July. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg announced the move in Washington.
James Steinberg: “I am pleased to announce that we have received commitments from four international energy firms to terminate their investments and avoid any new activity in Iran’s energy sector, delivering a significant setback to Iran. These are the first public actions involving companies investing in Iran’s energy sector since the ISA was expanded by Congress on July 1st, when President Obama signed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act into law.”
The Fort Hood, Texas military base is grappling with a record number of military suicides. Four veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their own lives in the past week alone. All four died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Around twenty soldiers have committed suicide at Fort Hood this year, surpassing the record fourteen in 2008.
In California, Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman is facing a controversy over claims she knowingly employed an undocumented immigrant for nine years. Nicky Diaz Santillan says Whitman and her husband knew she didn’t have documented status but kept her on in her job as a housekeeper until June 2009. Immigrant rights groups have accused Whitman of hypocrisy for backing tough sanctions against employers who hire undocumented workers.
And a coalition of over 400 groups including labor unions, as well as civil rights, gay rights and antiwar organizations are gathering in Washington, DC, on Saturday for a march ahead of next month’s midterm elections. Organizers say the “One Nation Working Together” rally will focus on the theme of jobs, justice and education for all.