Ten medical aid workers have been killed in Afghanistan’s remote northeast region in one of the deadliest attacks on an international aid group since the war started in 2001. The medical workers were members of a team from the International Assistance Mission, a nonprofit Christian organization that has been providing medical care in Afghanistan since 1966. The group is one of the longest-serving non-governmental organizations operating in Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility and accused the group of spying and seeking to convert Muslims to Christianity. But some officials have questioned the Taliban’s claim and suspect robbery may have been the motive. Six Americans are among the dead, including Dr. Tom Little, a sixty-one-year-old optometrist from Delmar, New York. He had been working in Afghanistan for thirty-four years. The Reverend Harry Heintz said he had known Tom Little for three decades.
Rev. Harry Heintz: “Tom was everything one could want in such a role. He didn’t go there to impose American culture. He didn’t go there to proselytize in insensitive or harsh ways. He went there to live the love of God sensitively, with his deeds speaking much louder than his words.”
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission is reporting at least 1,325 Afghan civilians have been killed so far this year. That’s a six percent increase over the same period last year. The commission blamed the Taliban and its allies for roughly two-thirds of the killings. US and international forces were blamed for just under a quarter of the civilian deaths.
New figures from the Department of Labor show the nation lost 131,000 jobs last month, keeping the nation’s official unemployment rate at 9.5 percent. But many economists say the true unemployment rate is 16.5 percent if you include jobless people who have stopped actively looking for work and part-time workers who want more hours. Government statistics also show that far more people lost jobs in June than previously estimated.
President Obama’s chief economist, Christina Romer, has resigned saying she wants to spend more time with her family. On Friday, she expressed regret for predicting last year that the federal stimulus package would keep the official unemployment rate under eight percent. Romer is the second senior member of Obama’s economic team to depart in recent weeks; White House budget director Peter Orszag left in July.
Elena Kagan has been sworn in as the nation’s 112th Supreme Court justice, becoming just the fourth woman to serve on the Court. On Friday, Kagan spoke at the White House alongside President Obama.
Elena Kagan: “This appointment is not just an honor. Much more importantly, it is an obligation — an obligation to protect and preserve the rule of law in this country, an obligation to uphold the rights and liberties afforded by our remarkable Constitution, and an obligation to provide what the inscription on the Supreme Court building promises: equal justice under law.”
Russia is continuing to face a devastating heat wave that has sparked over 800 forest fires and has blanketed Moscow with toxic smoke. The death rate in Moscow has doubled as scientists say the carbon monoxide and suspended particulate matter in the city’s air is at least twice as high as acceptable levels. During the heat wave, temperatures in Russia have reached up to 100 degrees, compared with a summer average of 75. Last week Russia banned all grain exports due to the region’s worst drought in more than a century. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says the drought and heat wave can be directly linked to global warming. He said, “What’s happening with the planet’s climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us.”
An ice island four times the size of Manhattan has broken off from one of Greenland’s two main glaciers. It is the biggest such event in the Arctic in nearly fifty years.
Juan Manuel Santos has been sworn in as Colombia’s new president, replacing Álvaro Uribe. Santos served as Uribe’s defense minister. In one of his first moves as president, Santos called for Colombia to improve relations with its neighbors.
Juan Manuel Santos: “One of my main goals as president will be to rebuild the relationships with Venezuela and Ecuador, to reestablish the trust, diplomacy and prudence.”
Colombia’s new president Juan Manuel Santos is scheduled to meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on Tuesday.
In Cuba, former president Fidel Castro addressed the Cuban National Assembly on Saturday for the first time in four years. He focused much of the speech on the threat of nuclear war. Castro warned that US pressure against Iran could trigger a devastating nuclear conflict.
Fidel Castro: “The United States would be ordering the instant death not just of hundreds of millions of people — amongst them, an incalculable number of residents of their own country — but also of the crew members of all the United States’ naval ships in the waters around Iran.”
Over 700 Mexican journalists marched on Saturday to demand that the Mexican government crack down on murders, kidnapping, disappearances and threats against the media. Journalists carried a banner listing the names of sixty-four journalists who have been murdered since 2001.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Israel’s deadly assault on the Gaza aid flotilla during testimony before Israel’s commission of inquiry into the incident. The raid killed eight Turks and one American citizen. Part of Netanyahu’s testimony was done in secret
A former cabinet official in the Clinton administration has revealed she was detained and interrogated for almost three hours at an Israeli airport last month. Donna Shalala served as Health and Human Services Secretary under President Clinton and is currently the president of the University of Miami. Shalala was apparently detained because she is of Lebanese descent. She was in Israel as part of a delegation of US university presidents organized by the American Jewish Congress.
The controversy over plans to build a mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero in New York continues to escalate. Over the weekend, CNN show host and Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria publicly rebuked the Anti-Defamation League for opposing the construction of a religious institution run by moderate Muslims.
Fareed Zakaria: “I have to say, I was personally deeply saddened by the ADL’s stand, because five years ago the organization honored me with its Hubert Humphrey Award for First Amendment Freedoms. Given the position that they have taken on a core issue of religious freedom in America, I cannot in good conscience keep that award. So, this week, I am going to return to the ADL the handsome medal and the generous honorarium that came with it. I hope this might spur them to see that they have made a mistake and to return to their historic, robust defense of freedom of religion in America, something they have subscribed to for decades and which I honor them for.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner has become the latest Republican to suggest repealing the 14th Amendment of the Constitution in order to block citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants. Boehner discussed the issue during an interview on Meet the Press.
John Boehner: “Listen, I think it’s worth considering. But it’s a serious problem that affects our country. And in certain parts of our country, clearly, our schools, our hospitals, are being overrun by illegal immigrants, a lot of whom came here just so their children could become US citizens.”
A coalition of peace groups held a rally outside the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia Sunday to show support for Private First Class Bradley Manning. Manning is the Army intelligence analyst being held on charges that he leaked classified documents including a video of a US military helicopter killing a group of people in Baghdad. Manning is also a suspect in the leaking of the Afghan war logs that were published by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks last month. Speakers at the rally included Ray McGovern, who served as a CIA analyst for twenty-seven years. McGovern praised Bradley Manning for releasing the classified documents.
Ray McGovern: “He was not afraid to face the unknown, not afraid to resist the seduction of conformity, not afraid to follow his conscience, and not afraid, most important for us today, not afraid to give us the wherewithal so that we can have enough information to follow our own consciences.” (Video from William Hughes; see more video from rally here)