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President Obama has arrived in South Korea for the G20 leaders’ summit after a brief stop in Indonesia. In what was billed as an update to his 2009 Cairo speech on U.S. relations with Muslims worldwide, Obama addressed a large audience at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta.
President Obama: “Innocent civilians in America, in Indonesia and across the world are still targeted by violent extremism. I’ve made it clear that America is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Instead, all of us must work together to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates. We have no claim to be leaders of any religion, certainly not a great world religion like Islam. But those who want to build must not cede ground to terrorists who seek to destroy. And this is not a task for America alone.”
During his remarks, Obama also discussed the recent withdrawal of tens of thousands of U.S. troops from Iraq.
President Obama: “And meanwhile, we’ve made progress on one of our core commitments: our effort to end the war in Iraq. Nearly 100,000 American troops have now left Iraq under my presidency. Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their security. And we will continue to support Iraq as it forms an inclusive government, and we will bring all of our troops home.”
As Obama spoke of pulling out of Iraq, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the U.S. could in fact keep its troops there beyond a 2011 deadline for withdrawal. Gates made the comments during a visit to Malaysia.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: “We are open to discussing it. And I think it really depends, as much as anything, on — in terms on timing, it’s really up to the Iraqis. I think it will take them a little time, once they get a government, once they select a president, prime minister and a speaker of the Council of Representatives, to make the ministerial appointments and form the government. So, we will just — we’ll stand by, and we’re ready to have that discussion, if and when they want to raise it to us.”
Health officials in Haiti have confirmed the deadly cholera outbreak has reached the capital of Port-au-Prince. More than 70 people are being treated for the disease there, and doctors in camps for earthquake survivors have reported seeing hundreds of people displaying symptoms. On Tuesday, the Haitian government said the outbreak now threatens the entire country. Jon Andrus of the Pan American Health Organization said the outbreak will be long-term.
Jon Andrus: “What we know about Haiti’s infrastructure, it’s likely that this is not a short-term intervention. We have to think about the long term and plan for the long term for a few years in front of us. So, it’s an island, and island epidemiology enters the picture, but it has a foothold. The bacteria has a foothold in the river system and in other sources of water, and it will remain, and it will be a challenge to control future spread.”
The Justice Department has announced no one will be charged for the destruction of videos showing the interrogation of two foreign prisoners. The tapes were destroyed amidst worries they would do political damage if ever publicly revealed. According to the Washington Post, charges still could be filed related to obstruction of justice or misleading investigators during the probe. The prosecutor heading the case, John Durham, is conducting a separate investigation into whether CIA interrogators and contractors should be charged for the Bush-era torture and abuse of foreign prisoners.
The co-chair of the White House panel investigating the Gulf Coast oil spill is calling for safety overhauls at the three main companies involved. On Tuesday, William Reilly cited what he called a “culture of complacency” at BP, Halliburton and Transocean, and said each require “top-to-bottom reform.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, has subpoenaed Halliburton to disclose the chemicals used in its gas drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing. The EPA says Halliburton is the lone of nine companies to ignore a request for information on the chemicals issued earlier this year. The EPA is carrying out a national study on how hydraulic fracturing is affecting the nation’s water supplies.
New figures show nearly 59 million Americans went without health insurance for at least part of this year. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many lacked insurance despite having conditions or diseases that required treatment. The numbers marked an increase of at least four million people from the same period in 2008.
A prominent lesbian activist has filed another federal lawsuit against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex couples. Edith Windsor of New York says she was forced to pay over $350,000 in estate taxes because her marriage to Thea Spyer wasn’t recognized under federal law. Spyer died in 2009. The two married in Canada in 2007 after 41 years as a couple. The suit says the gay marriage ban effectively imposes a new tax on gay and lesbian couples.
A group of U.S. peace activists have launched a guerrilla campaign to disrupt sales of former President George W. Bush’s new memoir, Decision Points. The blog, Waging Nonviolence, has called on supporters to move copies of the book into the “Crime” section of stores where it’s sold. On Tuesday, a group of demonstrators rallied at a Dallas bookstore as Bush signed copies of the book inside. The protesters called for Bush’s arrest for authorizing torture and the war on Iraq.
The Obama administration has mildly criticized Israel’s latest plans to build more than 1,000 settlement homes in occupied East Jerusalem. During his visit to Indonesia, President Obama said Israel’s settlement expansion is “never helpful.” Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called on the United States to demand an Israeli withdrawal to its recognized 1967 borders.
Saeb Erekat: “And this is why we call upon the United States and the European Union, if they want to preserve the two-state solution and the peace process, to respond to such Israeli unilateralism by declaring the recognition of the state of Palestine on the ’67 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
In Peru, the American activist Lori Berenson has spoken out following her release this week on parole. Berenson was sent back to prison in August just three months after her release from nearly 15 years behind bars. She was convicted in 1996 by hooded Peruvian military judges of collaborating with the rebel group MRTA.
Lori Berenson: “Obviously I understand there are a lot of people that despise me, would like to see me dead, probably. It’s not easy to deal with that situation, but I understand it, and I have to live with it. And that’s why I was in jail, and that’s why I was sentenced, and that’s why this all — you know, I understand that. It would be nice if people didn’t see me as the face of terrorism, but I can’t change that, so I live with that. It’s not easy.”
Workers at the Berkeley, California-based Pacifica radio station KPFA are criticizing a decision to cancel the KPFA Morning Show and laid off the show’s entire staff. Pacifica axed The Morning Show this week, citing the need for budget cuts. Staffers say they’re being targeted for criticism of Pacifica’s executive board.
And San Francisco has become the first U.S. city to ban the high-calorie children’s “Happy Meal” served at the McDonald’s fast-food chain. On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors gave final approval to a proposal barring restaurants from giving toys with meals containing excessive fat and sugar. Under the rule, restaurants will also have to serve fruits and vegetables alongside any meals with toys. The measure will take effect in December 2011.