The United Nations chief investigator on torture is calling on the Obama administration to order a full investigation of the role of US forces in human rights abuses in Iraq. Manfred Nowak’s call came after the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks released nearly 400,000 classified US military documents that detail how US forces did nothing to stop reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers. In addition, the WikiLeaks war logs show at least 15,000 more Iraqi civilians have died in Iraq than previously thought. In the streets of Baghdad, local residents say the leaked documents confirm what they have known for years.
Salah, Baghdad resident: “I think there is no new information, because all Iraqis witnessed the events following the invasion and those following the war. At least every family has a detainee who was tortured in prison, whether taken by Iraqi or foreign forces, or they know someone who was killed, either by Iraqi or foreign forces. This is something we all know about. We don’t need documents to know this. The only thing is that these documents are official confirmation.”
Health officials in Haiti say the toll from a cholera epidemic has risen to 253 dead and over 3,000 infected. Most of the deaths have occurred in the rural Artibonite region north of the capital Port-au-Prince, but there have been a growing number of confirmed cholera cases in the capital city, as well. Authorities have begun establishing treatment centers in Port-Au-Prince, where over one million Haitians have been living in tent camps following the January earthquake.
Dr. Jon Arbus, Pan American Health Organization: “This outbreak is likely to get much larger, given our experience with cholera epidemics in the past, particularly in a population that has really no protective immunity, not having been exposed recently to cholera. So we expect it to get bigger, and we have to expect that and react to it.”
In the Haitian town of Saint Marc, patients with cholera have been seeking treatment at the local hospital.
Roselin Elins: “Yeah, I felt the symptom in my stomach, and then I went to the bathroom, and I had watery diarrhea. I went to the hospital, and they told me how to make an oral serum at home. I drank it all night, and it didn’t help the diarrhea, so I’m back at the hospital.”
In Louisiana, large amounts of oil from the BP spill has been spotted floating toward fragile marshes on the Mississippi River delta. A photographer from the Times-Picayune captured images of the oil on Friday. In some areas the oil strips were as much as 400 feet wide and a mile long. The discovery came just days after the US Coast Guard declared little recoverable surface oil remained in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the Obama administration from lifting the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling. The suit charges that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to prepare an environmental impact statement before he lifted the ban on drilling.
Tensions are rising between the Israeli government and the Catholic Church after a gathering of prominent Catholic bishops called on Israel to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories and to stop using the Bible to justify the occupation. The bishops issued the statement following a two-week special synod of bishops organized by the Vatican.
Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in the United States: “This is clear for us. The concept of the promised land cannot be used as a base for the justification of the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of Palestinians. Four to five million Jews have been brought in, and three to four million Palestinians have been chased out of their land, where they lived for 1,400 to 1,600 years. Therefore, what we want to say here, it is a political question, but the justification of Israel’s occupation of the land of Palestine cannot be based on sacred scriptures.”
Israel responded to the Vatican conference by saying the bishops’ meeting was hijacked by an anti-Israel majority.
In other news from the Middle East, Israel’s top general has revealed Israeli commandos fired 308 live bullets aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship in May, as well as some 350 beanbag rounds and non-lethal paintballs. Testifying on Sunday before Israeli’s state-appointed inquest, Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi justified the use of force and said Israel’s killing of eight Turks and one US citizen on the aid boat had been unavoidable.
In news from Texas, a Republican congressional candidate has told a local TV station that a violent revolution might be needed if Republicans do not win control of Congress in next month’s election. Stephen Broden, a Christian minister, made the remark in an interview with WFAA in Dallas.
Stephen Broden: “Our nation was founded on violence.”
Interviewer: “In 2010 you would urge that as an option, though?”
Stephen Broden: “The option is on the table. I don’t think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms.”
Stephen Broden is attempting to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. The Dallas Morning News had officially endorsed Broden, but the paper took the unusual step this weekend of withdrawing the endorsement following his remarks about violent revolution. Broden’s national profile has been rising in recent years thanks to his frequent appearances on the Glenn Beck Show on Fox News.
In news from Canada, there have been developments in the case of Alex Hundert, the G20 protest organizer at the center of a free speech controversy. Hundert was arrested during the G20 summit in June and then held for three weeks. After his release, he was placed under strict bail conditions that astonished many legal experts in Canada. He was not allowed to speak to the media, he could not participate in any public demonstration or political event, and he wasn’t allowed to see his girlfriend without supervision. On September 17, he was arrested again for speaking on a panel discussion at a university and held for almost a month in jail. Hundert was released on October 13. On Saturday, he was arrested again, but police have not revealed any details about why. In one of his last interviews before his September arrest, Hundert spoke to Submedia TV.
Alex Hundert: “They’re trying to scare us. It’s standard harassment and intimidation. And again, that’s something that the police do all the time. The police are always intimidating and harassing people and their communities when people are, you know, saying things that the police don’t want them to say.”
The UN special rapporteur for human rights in Burma has warned that the electoral process ahead of next month’s elections in Burma has been deeply flawed. Tomás Ojea Quintana questioned if there is any chance the elections could be seen as free and fair.
Tomás Ojea Quintana: “I expressed my disappointment with the developments of the electoral process in Myanmar. It is clear that the process remains deeply flawed. Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association have been further restricted through implementation of the election laws and directives of the electoral commission. There has been no release of prisoners of conscience.”
In news from Mexico, thirteen people died on Saturday in Ciudad Juárez when gunmen stormed a birthday party and started shooting. The dead included six women and girls. Meanwhile, around 300 doctors marched in Ciudad Juárez on Friday demanding protection from authorities. Due to the rising level of drug violence in the city, doctors no longer provide home visits, and dozens of clinics have been shut down.
Dr. Leticia Chavarria, who took part in Friday’s protest: “The lack of security has harmed doctors in many ways. The most serious issues are extortion and kidnappings. Lots of doctors have had to close their clinics or hide, reaching a point of having to see patients in hiding, because of fear, because they are being threatened with extortion and kidnapping.”
New Hampshire’s largest newspaper is defending its decision to refuse to publish marriage notices for gay and lesbian couples, even though same-sex marriage is permitted in the state. On Saturday, the Union Leader of Manchester refused to print a marriage notice for Greg Gould and Aurelio Tine, who got married that day in Portsmouth. The paper’s decision has split the state’s two main Senate candidates. Democratic candidate Paul Hodes denounced the paper’s decision, while a spokesperson for Republican candidate Kelly Ayotte said government officials have no business telling a free press what it should or should not do.
President Obama has issued a video statement condemning the recent surge in suicides by gay teenagers across the country. In the past six weeks, at least seven gay and lesbian teenagers have committed suicide, in many cases following incidents of bullying or public humiliation by classmates.
President Obama: “Like all of you, I was shocked and saddened by the deaths of several young people who were bullied and taunted for being gay, and who ultimately took their own lives. As a parent of two daughters, it breaks my heart. It’s something that just shouldn’t happen in this country. And we’ve got to dispel this myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, that it’s some inevitable part of growing up. It’s not.”
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