A series of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed at least 33 people over the past two days. On Tuesday, drones struck a pair of sites in North Waziristan killing at least 15 people. A separate attack on Monday killed 18 people in the region. The United States has now carried out at least 116 drone attacks this year, more than double the amount from last year.
In news from Africa, a delegation of heads of state from Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde have failed to persuade incumbent Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to leave office following last month’s election. The African leaders warned Gbagbo to cede power to rival Alassane Ouattara or face regional military action. Ouattara has been widely recognized as the winner of the election, but Gbagbo claims the vote was rigged.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said today that the Palestinians will ask the United Nations Security Council in January to recognize an independent Palestinian state. Three Latin American countries—Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia—have already recognized an independent Palestinian state. Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is traveling to Brazil today to lay the symbolic foundation stone of a Palestinian embassy in Brasilia. On Saturday, Abbas is due to attend the inauguration of Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff.
In Honduras, gunmen shot and killed a radio journalist named Henry Suazo on Monday. Suazo became the tenth journalist killed this year in Honduras, making Honduras the most dangerous place for journalists on a per capita basis.
The Swiss-based Press Emblem Campaign is reporting at least 106 journalists were killed overall in 2010. Fourteen journalists were killed in both Mexico and Pakistan, 10 in Honduras. Eight journalists were killed in Iraq, six in the Philippines, five in Russia, four in Colombia, Brazil and Nigeria. The Press Emblem Campaign now considers Latin America to be the most dangerous place for journalists due to the high death tolls in Mexico and Honduras.
It has been a year since two French journalists were taken hostage in Afghanistan. Vigils were held across France today calling for the release of Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier. Images of the two journalists were projected onto the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris. Jean-François Julliard of Reporters Without Borders criticized the French government, saying that more could have been done to secure the journalists’ release.
Jean-François Julliard: “We are very critical against the French government because during the first weeks of their detention, the French authorities—and Nicolas Sarkozy himself and his deputies—were very critical against the two journalists, Hervé and Stéphane, saying they took too many risks. So, we had the feeling it was not a priority for the French authorities to secure their release, and this is the reason why we are so angry today and why the families of the two hostages are so angry, as well.”
A new study by the Economic Policy Institute has found that U.S.-based companies created more jobs overseas this year than they did inside the United States. Overseas, 1.4 million jobs were created, versus less than one million within the United States. At the firm DuPont, the number of U.S. employees has shrunk by nine percent since 2005, while its work force grew by 54 percent in Asia-Pacific countries. At Caterpillar, more than half of the 15,000 people hired this year were outside the United States.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has announced it is changing how it records unemployment data figures because of what it calls an “unprecedented rise” in long-term unemployment. Beginning on Saturday, the federal government will raise the upper limit on how long someone can be listed as having been jobless, from two years to five years. Economists say the change could help them better measure the severity of the nation’s economic crisis.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has announced that 157 banks failed this year, the highest total since 1992, during the savings-and-loan crisis. About half of the the bank failures involved banks headquartered in four states: California, Florida, Georgia and Illinois.
An international human rights group has revealed the Obama administration has refused to help the Polish government investigate claims that the CIA ran a secret black site prison inside Poland. Polish prosecutors launched a probe in August 2008, but U.S. authorities have refused to cooperate, claiming that they consider the matter closed. Flight records show that seven CIA planes landed in 2002 and 2003 at Szymany, a Polish military base in northeast Poland.
WikiLeaks has released secret U.S. diplomatic cables that show the U.S. government has refused to help the United Arab Emirates investigate the assassination of a Hamas military commander in Dubai last January. Dubai officials have long suspected the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad was behind the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. The leaked cables show that the United States rejected a formal request from UAE government to provide credit card information about the suspects in the killing. The suspected assassins were using credit cards issued by the Iowa-based Meta Bank.
In New Orleans, eight young people were killed in a fire on Tuesday while squatting in an abandoned building in the Upper Ninth Ward. It was the deadliest fire in New Orleans in more than 35 years. Most of the dead were artists, welders or musicians in their late teens and early twenties. Fire officials said the squatters were burning trash in a large barrel inside the building in an effort to keep warm on what was one of the coldest nights of the year. Charles Parent is the superintendent of the New Orleans Fire Department.
Charles Parent: “When the firefighters got to the actual building itself, it was engulfed in flames and had already partially collapsed. They made the best effort they possibly could, and actually they knocked the fire down within 33 minutes. It was a tremendous stop. But when they went into the interior of the building, that’s when we discovered some of the victims. We also interviewed two people that escaped the fire before. They said they were using a barrel with wood and trash, trying to stay warm, so many of the fire victims were overcome by carbon monoxide before the actual fire itself.”
The incoming chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is threatening to derail the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Republican Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan is describing the EPA’s plan as an “unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs.” Upton made the threat in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal co-written by Tim Phillips. Phillips is a global warming denier and president of Americans for Prosperity, an organization founded by billionaire David Koch.
In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is coming under intense criticism for the city’s failure to clear snow from sections of the city following this week’s blizzard. As of Tuesday, some 250 city buses and scores of ambulances remained stranded in city streets because roads had not been plowed. Union officials blamed the slow snow removal problem on Bloomberg’s decision to slash the size of the city’s Department of Sanitation by roughly 400 workers.
An Italian anarchist group is claiming responsibility for a letter bomb sent to the Greek embassy in Rome. The Informal Anarchist Federation also claimed responsibility for two letter bombs that exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome last week, seriously injuring two people.