Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered an investigation into a recent NATO air strike that reportedly killed as many as fifty-two civilians, including women and children. Karzai called on NATO troops to “put into practice every possible measure to avoid harming civilians during military operations.” Afghan officials say the civilians died when a NATO helicopter gunship opened fire on a compound where they had taken shelter after fleeing an expected firefight between Taliban fighters and NATO troops. US military officials have rejected the claims of the Afghan government, saying there is no evidence civilians were injured or killed.
One of the two US sailors who went missing in Afghanistan last week has been confirmed dead and his body recovered. The search continues for the other missing sailor, who is believed to have been captured by the Taliban. The Denver Post has identified the dead sailor as thirty-year-old Justin McNeley. He was the father of two sons and was due to return to the US in August.
BP has confirmed that Tony Hayward will step down as the company’s CEO in October after facing months of criticism for his handling of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi-raised Bob Dudley will take over the company. Hayward will receive an annual pension worth over $900,000, and he is expected to stay connected to BP and take a job with the company’s joint venture in Russia. In other BP news, the company announced today a record quarterly loss of $17 billion after writing off $32 billion to cover the cost of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
BP has failed to make good on its promise to set up a $20 billion compensation fund to pay Gulf oil spill claims. Fund administrator Ken Feinberg said Monday he hasn’t been able to start writing claims checks because he doesn’t want the checks to bounce.
Activists with Greenpeace have shut down BP gas stations across the city of London. The activists shut off power to the stations and then put up signs reading “Closed: Moving Beyond Petroleum.”
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace in Britain: “Greenpeace has today shut fifty garages in London. We want BP to change their strategy, not just their boss. They promised years ago to move beyond petroleum, and what they need to do today is to decide that that’s exactly what they’re going to do.”
Iran has reportedly told the International Atomic Energy Agency it will agree to take part in unconditional negotiations over its nuclear program. Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said, “The clear message of this letter was Iran’s complete readiness to hold negotiations over the fuel for the Tehran reactor without any conditions.” The news comes as the European Union has imposed a new round of sanctions targeting Iran’s foreign trade, banking and energy sectors.
Environment ministers from Brazil, South Africa, India and China met in Rio de Janeiro Monday ahead of December’s UN climate conference in Mexico. South African Environment Minister Buyelwa Sonjica criticized the US Senate for failing to pass legislation to cap carbon emissions.
Buyelwa Sonjica: “By the time we get to Cancún, they will not have completed the legislation. Clearly, we will get less than the legally binding outcome. And for us, that is a concern.”
Indian Environmental Minister Jairam Ramesh said the United States and other wealthy countries have failed to make good on promises for $30 billion in “fast track” financing for emissions reduction programs in poor countries.
Jairam Ramesh: “If money is not put on the table, which was the most important promise made by the developed countries, then it’s unlikely that we will have an outcome at Cancún. The key to Cancún lies not with the developing countries, it lies with the developed countries to fulfill their commitments on financing, which they had undertaken as part of the Copenhagen Accord.”
The World Food Programme said it is massively scaling up its food assistance operation in the West African nation of Niger, which is facing a severe drought. The agency is hoping to feed up to eight million people, many of whom have lost crops and livestock due to the drought. WFP executive director Josette Sheeran visited Niger on a fact-finding mission last week
Josette Sheeran: “We’re particularly worried about the children, and it’s why I’ve come to the center to really see the situation of the children, because their nutrition status is deteriorating very rapidly. And we’re seeing a doubling of acute malnutrition, almost overnight here, as we enter the lean season and the very difficult time. So, for the next six weeks, we really need the world to respond, to support the people of Niger, to make sure the children have adequate nutrition in their diet, and we’re really ramping up to do that.”
Two of the nation’s most prominent unions, the Service Employees International Union and UNITE HERE, have announced a settlement ending an eighteen-month dispute over the assets of the former apparel workers union UNITE. Under the settlement, SEIU will take ownership of Amalgamated Bank, the nation’s only labor-owned bank. Meanwhile, UNITE HERE will be allowed to keep about $75 million in challenged assets as well as ownership of the apparel workers’ former headquarters in Manhattan. The New York Times reports the agreement also stipulates that UNITE HERE will retain its exclusive jurisdiction to unionize workers in the hotel and gambling industries, as well as food-service workers at stadiums, convention centers, businesses, airports and airline caterers. SEIU will have jurisdiction to organize food-service workers at healthcare facilities, prisons and government buildings.
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is coming under criticism for questioning whether Islam is a religion and suggesting the Constitution’s protection of freedom of religion should not apply to Muslims. Ramsey made the comments while campaigning for the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary race.
Ron Ramsey: “Now, you know, I’m all about freedom of religion. I value the First Amendment as much as I value the Second Amendment as much as I value the Tenth Amendment and on and on and on. But then you cross the line when they try to start bringing sharia law here to the States, into the United States. We’re already in law, and we live under our Constitution, and they live under our Constitution…Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life or cult, whatever you want to call it. But certainly we do protect our religions, but at the same time this is something we are going to have to face.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists has issued a new report accusing the Honduran government of failing to investigate the recent killings of journalists. At least seven Honduran journalists were murdered between March and June of this year. The press freedom group says the government’s inaction has fostered a “climate of lawlessness that is allowing criminals to kill journalists with impunity.”
United Students Against Sweatshops has succeeded in a campaign against the sports apparel giant Nike. On Monday, Nike agreed to compensate 1,800 formerly subcontracted workers in Honduras who were laid off last year without receiving $2.5 million in severance. As part of the deal, Nike will create a $1.5 million “workers relief fund” for the Honduran workers as well as to take other measures to help the workers.
Events were held across the country Monday to mark the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. At a ceremony at the White House, speakers included disability rights activist Marca Bristo. She is the president of Access Living, a nonresidential Center for Independent Living for people with disabilities in Chicago.
Marca Bristo: “The changes that this law called for — lifts on buses; accessible facilities, streets and public services; accessible ATMs, telecommunication; access to the workplace; and many others — could not and would not have happened without us. Civil rights laws do not self-enforce. They only come to life when enlightened citizens, people who say no to the outdated policies of segregation, dependence and paternalism, seize their rights and push the envelope of reform.”
And the Puerto Rican independence activist Carlos Alberto Torres has been freed on parole after serving thirty years in jail in Illinois for seditious conspiracy. Hundreds of his supporters gathered in Chicago Monday to celebrate his release. Torres was a leader of the militant Puerto Rican independence group the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN.