The United States is facing a diplomatic crisis as the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun releasing over 250,000 secret diplomatic cables. The cables have already proved embarrassing to numerous world leaders. The cables show the Saudi King Abdullah has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran. Yemen’s president has helped to cover up U.S. air strikes inside Yemen. Numerous leaked memos on Afghanistan confirm reports of widespread corruption inside the Karzai government. One cable from the United Arab Emirates shows Karzai’s vice president once entered the UAE with $52 million in cash. Other leaked cables reveal a secret U.S. plan to spy on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and top U.N. officials. Also of note is a memo from the U.S. embassy in Honduras from 2008 that clear states the military coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya was “illegal and unconstitutional.”
In Haiti, Sunday’s presidential election was marred by widespread reports of voting fraud and chaos. Twelve of Haiti’s 19 presidential candidates have called for peaceful protests against what they described as “massive fraud.” The candidates accused Haitian President René Préval of trying to steal the election and install his chosen candidate, Jude Celestin. The election was Haiti’s first since January’s devastating earthquake and the recent cholera outbreak. Anne Marie Josette Bijou is among the presidential candidates calling for a new election.
Anne Marie Josette Bijou: “We, the candidates to the presidency of the Republic of Haiti, before the Haitian people and the international community, want to denounce all of the fraud that has been going on all over the country. We have a system in which we have detected fraud. We suggest suspension of the electoral process.”
In Iran, one nuclear scientist has been killed and another seriously wounded in separate bomb attacks in Tehran. Assailants on motorcycles reportedly attached bombs to the cars of the scientists as they were driving to work. Majid Shahriari is at least the third Iranian nuclear scientist to die under suspicious circumstances in recent years. Iranian State TV blamed Israel for the attack.
Tension remains high on the Korean Peninsula as thousands of U.S. troops take part in a massive military exercise with South Korea. The nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier, with its 75 aircraft and 6,000 sailors, is taking center stage in the overt show of force. The exercises come just days after North Korea fired a barrage of missiles at South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, killing four and wounding dozens. Meanwhile, China has called for a meeting of the six nations involved in the stalled talks aimed at ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons.
In Afghanistan, NATO forces say a gunman in an Afghan police uniform has killed six service members. The shooter reportedly turned his weapon on NATO troops during a training mission earlier today. It is unclear whether the shooter was a police officer or someone who had infiltrated the training exercise.
Thousands of delegates, scientists and activists are gathering in Cancún, Mexico, for the start of a two-week United Nations Climate Change Conference. A new scientific report being issued today reveals that up to a billion people could lose their homes in the next 90 years due to climate change. The report by the Tyndall Center for Climate Change also predicts up to three billion people could lose access to clean water supplies. On Saturday, activists with Greenpeace launched a hot air balloon over the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza. The balloon carried the message “rescue the climate.”
Joao Ttalocchi: “Greenpeace is here today at Chichen Itza, Mexico to remind delegates meeting for the U.N. climate talks of a very important lesson: even the most advanced civilizations collapse. If we do nothing, climate change will have devastating consequences for humanity. But it’s not too late. Simply by making the right choices, governments can and must set us on a path to a safe future by making climate change history.”
Mexico’s ambassador on climate change, Luis Alfonso de Alba, spoke in Cancún on Saturday.
Luis Alfonso de Alba: “First of all, Mexico wants to contribute with its own efforts to reduce emissions and to pay attention to the most vulnerable places in the country but also to be aware that 'anything will do' will not be good enough if other countries don’t pull their weight or do what they are supposed to do. The problem is global. There is only one atmosphere, and what one or even a few countries do will not be enough. We need the international community to be committed.”
A coalition of environmentalists have filed a groundbreaking lawsuit in Ecuador against the oil giant BP for violating Ecuador’s constitution, which recognizes “the rights of Nature” across the globe. Plaintiffs include Nnimmo Bassey, the president of Friends of the Earth International, and the Indian scientist Vandana Shiva.
Vandana Shiva: “This morning we filed in the constitutional court of Ecuador this lawsuit defending the rights of nature, in particular the right of the Gulf of Mexico and the sea, which has been violated by the BP oil spill. We see this as a test case of the rights of nature enshrined in the constitution of Ecuador, which is why it’s about universal jurisdiction, beyond the boundaries of Ecuador, because nature has rights everywhere.”
A 19-year-old Somali-born man is being arraigned in court today in Portland, Oregon, on charges he plotted to set off a large bomb at the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Mohamed Osman Mohamud was arrested Friday after a longtime FBI sting operation. Undercover FBI agents orchestrated much of the bomb plot, supplying Mohamud with money, providing materials to construct the fake bomb, and blocking Mohamud from leaving the Portland area to take a job in Alaska. Portland police officials said the general public was never at risk.
Sgt. Pete Simpson: “You know, there was no real threat to the public last night, no safety concerns whatsoever. The device was fake. It looked real; it was meant to be so the suspect believed that it was a real device. In his mind, he detonated a device last night. He blew up an explosive in downtown Portland. That was never going to happen.”
Two days after the bomb plot was uncovered, an arsonist set a fire at the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center in Corvallis, Oregon, where Mohamed Osman Mohamud had once prayed. No one was hurt, but part of the center’s office was burned. Officials believe it was arson.
Carla Pusateri, Corvallis Fire Department Fire Prevention Officer: “The fire is still under investigation. We’ve concluded our scene investigation and collected some evidence. The fire does appear to be incendiary and intentionally set.”
A jury in Texas has found former Republican House majority leader Tom DeLay guilty of money laundering and conspiracy for funneling $190,000 in campaign donations to Republican candidates to the Texas legislature in the 2002 elections. DeLay faces five to 99 years in prison for the money laundering conviction and two to 20 years for a conspiracy count, as well, plus fines.
Rosemary Lehmberg, Travis County District Attorney: “The verdict was clear to the jurors that he was guilty of both.”
Reporter: “Are you worried about an appeal?”
Reporter: ” [inaudible] to criminalize politics, that this is a political vendetta to criminalize politics. Can you respond?”
Lehmberg: “They have said that from the beginning, and we have not, of course, criminalized any politics. This was about holding public officials accountable, that no one is above the law.”
In technology news, the federal government has shut down more than 70 websites, including several search engine sites that focus on files distributed through a technology pioneered by BitTorrent. The websites were shut down by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In addition, ICE shut down several music blogs and sites that sell pirated products including scarves and golfing gear.
European Union nations have signed off on a proposed $113 billion emergency loan for Ireland. The bailout was approved a day after an estimated 100,000 people took to the streets of Dublin on Saturday to oppose the plan to rescue Ireland’s banking sector. Irish trade unions have announced plans to launch a campaign of civil disobedience in the coming weeks.
Tom Coleman, Irish protester: “We don’t want to pay for private business, private industry and corrupt government. And the people are going to pay. And we’re not happy. We don’t want the IMF [International Monetary Fund] in here. The IMF created this situation, and they’re in for money. And they don’t care about the future. They don’t care about Ireland.”
Meanwhile, in Britain, tens of thousands of students took the streets last week to protest planned budget cuts.
Mark Bergfeld, student organizer: “We must say that the damage done by thousands of young kids doesn’t anywhere come close to the damage which is being done by the Con-Dem government in this country. The Con-Dem government in this country is decimating higher education, is decimating the welfare state, and is imposing an austerity agenda. They have no mandate to cut, and the broken futures, the broken future of generations to come, in no way compare to a few broken windows.”
Parliamentary elections were held in Egypt on Sunday. Egypt’s opposition parties have accused the ruling party of manipulating the election results to ensure a sweeping victory. According to Human Rights Watch, there were reports of numerous irregularities including arrests and harassment of journalists and denial of access for opposition candidate representatives to at least 30 polling stations.