A U.S. drone attack in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan has killed at least 20 people. Pakistani intelligence officials say the victims were alleged militants who had crossed over the Afghan border. But Al Jazeera reports women and children were among the dead when a missile killed 16 people inside a single home.
The Obama administration is downplaying a row over Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s latest criticism of the U.S.-led occupation. Over the weekend, Karzai urged the United States to “reduce military operations” and end night raids on Afghan homes. Speaking in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said U.S. military operations are in Afghanistan’s “best interests.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We remain very sensitive to the concerns, so there have been revisions in the tactical directives that recognize the sensitivity of conducting night operations, but we believe that these operations are in the best interests of the Afghan people, the Afghan government and the ISAF troops who are working with their Afghan counterparts to secure the country.”
New details have been revealed on the Obama administration’s expansion of military operations to hunt al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States is considering proposals to establish Yemeni military bases in remote areas backed by U.S. Special Operations Forces. The White House is also discussing plans to place control of Special Operations teams hunting for al-Qaeda members under control of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Clashes have erupted between protesters and UN troops in Haiti amidst rising unrest over a cholera outbreak that’s killed more than 900 people. On Monday, two people were killed in a protest at a UN peacekeeping base in the city of Cap-Haïtien. Nepalese troops stationed there have been accused of inadvertently bringing the cholera outbreak to Haiti. Health experts have said the cholera strain is uncharacteristic of Haiti and the Caribbean but closely matches the Nepalese troops’ home region. Over 14,600 people have been treated with cholera-like symptoms, and cases have now been reported in all ten of Haiti’s provinces. At a tent camp in Port-au-Prince, Francois Servranckx of the group Doctors Without Borders said the outbreak continues to grow.
Francois Servranckx: “Here in Port-au-Prince the number of cases is still increasing in our different facilities. We work in eight different places in Port-au-Prince. It’s not anymore doubling everyday like it was a couple of days [ago] but it’s still a pretty significant increase. We are talking about more than 1,000 patients being treated in a week, basically.”
The United Nations has warned some 270,000 Haitians could fall ill in the coming years.
Britain has reportedly agreed to compensate around a dozen former Guantánamo Bay prisoners for abetting their torture and abuse. The British government launched an inquiry into the prisoners’ allegations of torture in July. A formal announcement is expected later today.
The payouts come as Amnesty International is urging the European Union to take action over the CIA’s rendition flights and secret prisons on European soil. In a new report, Amnesty says the E.U. has failed to hold member states to account for participating in the Bush-era rendition and torture program. Amnesty International’s Julia Hall said accountability in Europe would put pressure on the Obama administration to follow suit.
Julia Hall: “You know, the real question is how long can the U.S. hold out. With all this information coming out, with such determined advocates, with civil society making noise about it, how long can the U.S. hold out? If the E.U. were to add its voice, it would be another pressure point that the U.S. would have to then respond to. And we can only hope that they will do it.”
Palestinians are voicing outrage over a sweeping package of U.S. incentives to coax Israel to partially freeze settlement expansion for just three months. The Obama administration has reportedly offered to give Israel 20 advanced F-35 warplanes worth around $3 billion and to veto U.N. resolutions seeking Middle East peace. The freeze would not be extended after 90 days and also would not apply to occupied East Jerusalem. Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi said Israel was being rewarded for agreeing to temporarily pause the seizure of occupied land.
Hanan Ashrawi: “So Israel is gaining all sorts of strategic gains in order to minimize and postpone its theft of Palestinian land for three months. This is unacceptable. I wonder what they will give Israel if we start asking for the dismantlement of settlements or if we get to a situation where we are signing an agreement.”
The Israeli cabinet is preparing to vote on the proposal but says it’s waiting on a formal letter from the Obama administration. At her news conference in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declined to offer details but praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for supporting the deal.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “With respect to the Middle East, this is a very promising development and a serious effort by Prime Minister Netanyahu. I don’t want to go into the details today, but I will say that we’re in very close touch with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, working intensively to create the conditions for the resumption of negotiations that can lead to a two-state solution and a comprehensive peace in the region.”
New figures show the number of U.S. households obtaining emergency food aid nearly doubled since the start of the recent economic recession. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of families seeking assistance from food pantries jumped from 3.9 million in 2007 to 5.6 million last year. The number of U.S. households deemed “food insecure” also exceeded 50 million last year, amounting to a record 14.7 percent.
Twelve people were arrested in Washington, D.C., on Monday in a protest against the ban on openly gay and lesbian service members in the military. The protesters chained themselves to the fence in front of the White House. The group included Lt. Dan Choi, an openly gay service member discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” earlier this year. Choi said Democrats, who have backed a delay in repealing the ban, are engaging in what he called “silent homophobia.”
Dan Choi: “There is a loud homophobia of those with platforms, and there is a silent homophobia of those who purport to be our friends and do nothing. Loud homophobia and silent homophobia have the same result. They must be combated, and this is what we intend to do today.”
Lawmakers have returned to Capitol Hill for a so-called “lame duck session” following the midterm break. Congress will be in session until a new congressional term begins in January. On Monday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky announced he would back down on opposing a ban on earmarks. The Tea Party movement has rallied Republican lawmakers to oppose the practice. Speaking on the Senate floor, Democratic Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania urged lawmakers not to remain idle until the new Congress begins.
Sen. Arlen Specter: “And I begin by suggesting that our session does not necessarily have to be a 'lame duck,' that we have the capacity to respond to the many pressing problems of the country, as we choose. We can spread our wings, and we can fly.”
In other news from Washington, the House Ethics Committee has ruled there’s sufficient evidence to consider a wave of ethics charges against Democratic Congress member Charles Rangel of New York. Rangel is accused of 13 violations, including improper political donations and tax filings. The committee’s ruling came after Rangel walked out of a hearing in protest. Rangel had asked for a delay because he says he cannot afford to pay his attorneys. The committee will now consider whether to formally convict Rangel and recommend penalties.
A former Alabama state trooper has pleaded guilty to killing a black protester at a civil rights march 45 years ago. Seventy-seven-year old James Bonard Fowler pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter two weeks before he was set to go on trial for the 1965 death of Jimmie Lee Jackson. Jackson’s slaying set off a protest march in nearby Selma that became known as “Bloody Sunday” when Alabama police attacked demonstrators crossing a bridge. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached at Jackson’s funeral. Fowler has been sentenced to six months in prison.