At least three people have died in an attack on the US consulate in the Pakistani city Peshawar. A witness said he saw attackers armed with rocket-propelled grenades approach the consulate. They first opened fire at security personnel at the post near the consulate, and then blasts went off. A Pakistani intelligence official said no one was wounded inside the US complex, but three of its guards had been killed. Hours earlier, a suspected suicide bomber blew himself up at a political meeting in the Lower Dir district, about fifty miles northeast of Peshawar, killing thirty-eight people.
In Iraq on Sunday, three suicide bombers detonated car bombs within moments of each other in a coordinated attack on foreign embassies in central Baghdad. As many as forty-one people died, and more than 200 were injured. It was the deadliest attack in Iraq since January. The blasts occurred near the Iranian, Egyptian and German embassies. Meanwhile, on Friday gunmen killed twenty-four people in a Sunni village south of Baghdad. The attacks have occurred at a time of political uncertainty in Iraq following the March 7th parliamentary elections. Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group said the perpetrators of the violence are trying to take advantage of the political situation. Hiltermann said, “They want to exploit the current security vacuum and trigger violence between political parties. That will be a prescription for civil war.”
In Afghanistan, US-led forces have admitted to killing two pregnant Afghan women and a teenage girl during a nighttime raid on February 12. Afghan investigators told the Times of London US Special Forces soldiers tried to cover up the killings. US forces reportedly dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies, then washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened. One of the women killed was a pregnant mother of ten, and another was a pregnant mother of six. Initially NATO military officials suggested that the women were stabbed to death, or had died by some other means, hours before the raid. In other news from Afghanistan, German troops accidentally killed six Afghan soldiers on Saturday.
The killings occur as tension mounts between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Western leaders. Last week Karzai issued a harsh rebuke of Western and United Nations involvement in Afghanistan, criticizing what he called “massive interference from foreigners.” On Saturday, he reportedly told a group of lawmakers, “If you and the international community pressure me more, I swear that I am going to join the Taliban.”
Beginning today, more than 200,000 unemployed workers won’t receive their unemployment insurance benefits because Congress failed to agree on extending the emergency unemployment insurance measure. Also affected are COBRA health insurance subsidies for the unemployed. The bill was held up a single lawmaker, Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. The Hill newspaper reports those who will miss unemployment checks may see them in the future. That’s because Senate Democrats want to pass an extension of the program that can be applied retroactively once Congress is back in session next week.
The Labor Department has announced 162,000 jobs were created in March, the largest job gain in three years. But the nation’s official unemployment rate remains at 9.7 percent.
President Obama said the new jobs figures are encouraging.
President Obama: “And I’ve often had to report bad news during the course of this year as the recession wrecked havoc on people’s lives. But today is an encouraging day. We learned that the economy actually produced a substantial number of jobs instead of losing a substantial number of jobs. We are beginning to turn the corner.”
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens says he will decide soon whether to retire after thirty-five years on the court. The eighty-nine-year-old liberal justice told the Washington Post he plans to leave either this year or next. He said, “I will surely do it while he’s still president,” referring to Democratic President Barack Obama. His retirement would allow Obama to make a second appointment to the court in a year.
A new federal report has criticized the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program, which gives state and local law enforcement agencies authority to enforce immigration laws. The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General found the program does not have adequate safeguards against racial profiling and other civil rights abuses. In addition, the report said local police officers have misused the program by targeting undocumented immigrants who have been arrested for minor offenses. The report states, ”ICE cannot be assured that the 287(g) program is meeting its intended purpose, or that resources are being appropriately targeted toward aliens who pose the greatest risk to public safety and the community.” Critics of the program say many immigrants will no longer call the local police for help out of fear they could be arrested and deported. Laura Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union said, “The 287(g) program, as this latest report confirms, all but abandons the constitutional guarantees of fair treatment and due process, and encourages racial and ethnic profiling.”
South African President Jacob Zuma is calling for calm following the murder of a white supremacist leader named Eugène Terre’Blanche. Terre’Blanche was a longtime supporter of the apartheid government and an advocate for the creation of an all-white republic within South Africa. The killing comes ten weeks before South Africa hosts the World Cup. Police say the killing was carried out by two farmworkers over a wage dispute, but supporters of Terre’Blanche claim it was racially motivated. Jackson Mthembu of the African National Congress called on the country to act with maturity.
Jackson Mthembu, African National Congress: “Through our speculations, we might even create and fuel polarization of the various nationalities that we find in our country. We are therefore saying this time, these trying times in our country, needs all of us to act with maturity. And we, as ANC, will play our part. We expect other parties will do the same. Our condolences go to the family of Terre’Blanche, his organization and all those who were close to him.”
Egyptian authorities arrested the publisher of a new book praising former UN nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei. Egyptian security officials detained Ahmed Mahanna on Saturday and seized his computer, manuscripts and copies of the book ElBaradei and the Dream of a Green Revolution. Mahanna was released on Sunday. Mohamed ElBaradei has emerged as Egypt’s highest-profile dissident since he retired as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He is considering running for president and challenging Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt since 1981.
Here in New York, opponents of the Indian Point nuclear power plant have won a major victory. The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation has refused to grant the plant a critical water quality certification needed for the plant’s two reactors to stay open. The state said the power plant’s water-intake system kills nearly a billion aquatic organisms a year and that radioactive material had polluted the Hudson River after leaking into the groundwater. Opponents of the plant said they hope this ruling could lead to the plant’s closing. State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Westchester said, “This is the beginning of the end of this massive destruction of the river.”
Environmentalists are criticizing the Obama administration for supporting a Bush-era policy that allows private mining companies to dump toxic waste on federal land without compensating the government for any environmental damage. Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona criticized the administration’s decision. Grijalva said, “[The rule] makes no sense from a taxpayer standpoint, an economic standpoint or an ecological standpoint. The only people to benefit are the country’s largest mining companies.”
Anti-whaling activists from Greenpeace chained themselves to the mooring ropes of a cargo ship in the Netherlands in an effort to prevent a ship from leaving to Japan. Greenpeace claimed the ship was illegally transporting seven containers storing meat from ten endangered fin whales. Trade in these and other whales species is banned under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species. This treaty was signed by 175 countries, with the exception of Japan and Iceland, which refuse to comply with its legislation and continue to trade in whale meat.
Security has been beefed up in state capitols across the country after at least thirty state governors received threatening letters last week from a leader of a right-wing group called Guardians of the Free Republics. The group called on the governors to step down within three days or be removed. Investigators said they fear the broad call for removing top state officials could inspire individuals to act out violently. The Guardians of the Free Republics has been associated with the sovereign-citizen movement.
And in China, 115 miners have been rescued after being trapped in a flooded coal pit for more than a week. Rescuers are still working on reaching the thirty-eight still-trapped miners. In 2009, over 2,600 workers died in mining accidents in China.