The New York Times reports senior U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan are pushing to expand special operations ground raids inside Pakistan. The Times reported the proposed escalation amounts to the opening of a new front in the nine-year-old war. U.S. forces have been engaged in a secret war inside Pakistan for years, but the Pentagon appears ready to openly expand its role. One senior American officer said, “We’ve never been as close as we are now to getting the go-ahead to go across.”
The number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this year has topped 700, making 2010 by far the deadliest year for foreign troops. The dead include 493 U.S. troops and 101 British soldiers.
North Korea has said it will allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors back into the country to ensure that it is not processing highly enriched uranium. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson made the announcement after meeting with officials in Pyongyang. Richardson has been acting as an unofficial envoy for the Obama administration.
Bill Richardson: “Among the proposals, first, the North is willing to allow the International Atomic Agency personnel to visit the Yongbyon sites to make sure that there’s no enriched uranium efforts; secondly, the North is willing to negotiate with South Korea to sell close to 12,000 spent fuel rods and ship them out of the country.”
Governor Richardson said that he saw a change in attitude from North Korea.
Bill Richardson: “I noticed a pragmatic attitude on their part, a more realistic attitude, a view perhaps that they’ve moved a little too far down the precipice and that it was time to come back and pull back and start negotiations again. I did notice that. And when I pushed hard for non-retaliation, I saw a little bit of movement in a positive direction.”
WikiLeaks has released a number of new U.S. diplomatic cables pertaining to the Middle East. One memo from 2007 indicates that members of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party asked Israel to attack members of the rival Palestinian movement Hamas. The memo also quotes the head of Israel’s security agency Shin Bet praising the organization’s working relationship with Abbas. Fatah is said to share with Shin Bet “almost all the intelligence that it collects.” Meanwhile, another leaked cable mentions a possible “secret accord” between Israel and the United States to continue the “natural growth” of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
A third leaked cable reveals that the U.S. embassy in Damascus suspected that Israel was behind the 2008 assassination of a top security aide to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. General Muhammad Suleiman was shot dead by a sniper in the Syrian city of Tartous on August 1, 2008. At the time, Suleiman was special presidential adviser for arms procurement and strategic weapons.
In other WikiLeaks news, another leaked cable reveals that the Bush administration drew up ways to retaliate against Europe for refusing to use genetically modified seeds. In 2007, the U.S. ambassador to France said retaliation was needed because France and other European nations continued to ban biotech seeds produced by Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred. In the leaked cable, Ambassador Craig Roberts said, “Europe is moving backwards not forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with Austria, Italy and even the Commission.”
The Washington Post has revealed new details about how the United States has assembled a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators. As part of the system, the FBI is operating a massive database known as Guardian with the names and personal information of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents who have never committed a crime but were reported to have acted suspiciously by a local police officer or a fellow citizen. The database contains over 160,000 suspicious activity files. Despite the sweeping size of the database, the FBI says it has resulted in only five arrests and no convictions. In addition, the Post reveals the FBI is storing 96 million fingerprints in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The Post also reports local law enforcement agencies have begun using surveillance equipment designed for war zones. In Memphis, Tennessee, some police patrol cars now contain military-grade infrared cameras that can snap digital images of one license plate after another while analyzing each almost instantly.
In political news, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour is coming under criticism for praising the role of the White Citizens’ Councils which opposed racial integration in the 1950s and 1960s. In addition, Barbour recalled the civil rights struggle in his hometown, Yazoo City, Mississippi, saying, “I just don’t remember it as being that bad.” Barbour has been widely viewed as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012. Barbour described the White Citizens’ Councils as an “organization of town leaders,” but historians in Mississippi said the White Citizens’ Councils played an active role in trying to keep public schools segregated. Following the 1955 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. The Board of Education, a group of 53 black parents in Yazoo City signed a petition to desegregate public schools. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger newspaper reports the White Citizens’ Councils responded by taking out an advertisement in the local newspaper listing the names of the 53 black parents. The parents’ names also appeared on placards around town and in cotton fields. Most of those who had signed the petition were forced to leave the city because they lost their jobs and couldn’t find other work.
A new study by the Environmental Working Group has detected a probable carcinogen, hexavalent chromium, in tap water in 31 of 35 American cities. The highest levels were in Norman, Oklahoma; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Riverside, California. The chemical, hexavalent chromium, got public attention in the 2000 film Erin Brockovich and has been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
The Israeli government is attacking Human Rights Watch over its new report “Separate and Unequal” that details Israel’s discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
Yigal Palmor, spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry: “This latest report from Human Rights Watch is just like its predecessors: full of mistakes, error, half-truths, misleading comments, misleading analysis and very tendentious presentation altogether.”
Bill Van Esveld of Human Rights Watch defended the report.
Bill Van Esveld: “It’s not just that the settlements have it better, we all know that. It’s not just that the Palestinians have it worse, we know that. It’s that there’s a systemic widespread policy of discrimination that is unnecessarily harsh, and it’s making it virtually impossible for Palestinians to live their daily life in East Jerusalem and in Area C of the West Bank.”
Iran has sentenced a prominent filmmaker to six years in jail and banned him from shooting films or scriptwriting for 20 years. Jafar Panahi is a celebrated filmmaker who has won awards at the Chicago, Cannes and Berlin film festivals for his films The Circle and Offside. Panahi was jailed after being accused of gathering and carrying out propaganda against the system. Last year he publicly supported the opposition in Iran’s disputed presidential election. In addition, another young Iranian director, Mohammad Rasoulof, has also been sentenced to six years in jail on similar charges.
The presidents of Harvard and Yale have indicated they are planning to welcome ROTC back to campus now that Congress has repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” President Obama is scheduled to sign the repeal into law on Wednesday.
In Puerto Rico, at least 21 students were arrested Monday when police attempted to crush a student strike at the University of Puerto Rico. The strike was called in protest of a tuition hike that takes effect next month.