At least ten people have been killed in a US air strike in Pakistan’s North Waziristan. It was at least the tenth US attack in the tribal region this month.
The Indian-controlled region of Kashmir is seeing its worst violence since pro-independence protests erupted three months ago. On Monday, Indian police killed eighteen people after thousands took to the streets in defiance of a curfew. The protests appear to have been sparked by anger over the aborted plan to burn the Quran in the United States. Over 100 people were wounded. The Indian government has canceled all commercial flights into Kashmir and has widened the curfew to new areas.
The Obama administration has reportedly finalized a $60 billion deal to sell advanced military aircraft to Saudi Arabia. It would be the largest-ever single arms deal in US history. State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley declined to confirm the plans until the White House submits the deal for congressional approval.
P.J. Crowley: “There is a process involved in this, which includes congressional notification, so I’ll reserve comment at this point. You know, suffice it to say that at the core of our policy is making sure that there is stability in the region.”
Under the agreement, Saudi Arabia could buy or upgrade over 150 F-15 fighters and purchase nearly 200 new helicopters.
Senate Republicans are gearing up for a clash over President Obama’s plan to end the Bush-era tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. Last week Obama unveiled a plan to extend tax cuts only for households earning less than $250,000. On Monday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell unveiled a measure that would continue all the tax cuts indefinitely. The move comes one day after House Republican leader John Boehner said he would vote for Obama’s plan if he had no other choice. Obama’s plan is also facing opposition from several members of the Senate Democratic caucus. On Monday, Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut said he opposed ending the tax cut, saying, “The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be.”
The primary season wraps up today with votes in seven states as well as the District of Columbia. Incumbents facing strong challenges include Democratic Congress member Charles Rangel of New York and Washington, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty. Seven incumbent members of Congress have been defeated in primary votes so far this year.
The imam behind the proposed Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan has suggested he’s open to delaying construction or even relocating the project altogether. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said “all options” are being considered.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: “We are exploring all options as we speak right now, and we are working through what will be a solution, God willing, that will resolve this crisis, diffuse it, and not create any of the unforeseen or untoward circumstances that we do not want to see happen.”
US-brokered talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are resuming today in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the Middle East on Monday to help lead the summit. Israel has refused to extend its partial freeze on West Bank settlement construction despite Palestinian vows to pull out from the talks if building resumes.
The Israeli military, meanwhile, is facing new allegations around the sexual abuse of jailed Palestinian children. In an interview with CNN, an unidentified Palestinian youth said a group of Israeli soldiers had tried to sodomize him with an object while he was in custody.
Unidentified youth: “I was handcuffed and holding onto the chair with my hands. They tried to insert a plastic stick inside me. They tried to sodomize me with it. I fell forward and tried to move away.”
Reporter: “He claims a dozen officers were laughing at him, only stopping when their boss walked in. He says they did not manage to insert the stick.”
Earlier this year, the group Defense of Children International said it had gathered affidavits from fourteen Palestinian children claiming Israeli soldiers had either sexually abused them or threatened sexual abuse. The alleged victims were between the ages of thirteen to sixteen years. Defense of Children International has submitted their testimony to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.
The Obama administration is asking Arab states to withdraw a measure calling on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The proposal would build on the non-binding measure approved at an assembly meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency last year. Israel is the only nation in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, but the country has never officially acknowledged its program. By shunning the forty-year-old Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel has not had to reject atomic arms or allow the IAEA to probe all of its nuclear sites. On Monday, the US ambassador to the IAEA, Glyn Davies, defended Israel’s rejection of the NPT.
Glyn Davies: “Israel, remember, was an original member of the IAEA. They’ve always been in compliance with their obligations to the agency. So I think the challenge, the problem, that’s posed by the arguments that are being made by the Arab side is that they’re trying to expand the IAEA’s mandate in a way that would take it beyond its core functions. Issues of whether or not a sovereign state has chosen to associate itself with a treaty is outside the scope of the IAEA.”
Davies also went on to criticize Iran in light of a recent IAEA report accusing Iran of hindering nuclear inspections. The IAEA says it’s been unable to confirm whether all of Iran’s nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes. Davies called Iran’s barring of two inspectors an “escalation.”
Glyn Davies: “We believe a country has rejected inspectors based on the report that was issued by the IAEA, and that is very troubling, very concerning. It’s a real escalation, I think, in the effort by Iran to stonewall and stiff-arm the IAEA’s activities.”
In other Iran news, the Obama administration has announced it won’t pay the bail to secure the release of Sarah Shourd from an Iranian prison. Shourd is one of the three American hikers who have been jailed in Iran since July 2009. Iran has said it would allow Shourd’s release on health grounds on $500,000 bail. On Monday, the State Department said it won’t pay Iran, citing US policy not to fund prisoner bail.
Cuba has unveiled what’s being described as its most sweeping economic reforms since President Raúl Castro took the helm in 2006. On Monday, the Cuban government said it would lay off at least half-a-million state workers while easing restrictions on private businesses to help them find new jobs.
A new survey shows a large number of government scientists and inspectors believe corporate interests are undermining food safety in the United States. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, one in four respondents said pressure from the food industry had forced the withdrawal or modification of policies intended to protect consumers during the past year. More than 38 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “public health has been harmed by agency practices that defer to business interests.” And 31 percent said the presence of former food industry insiders among the top echelons of the US Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department has skewed the decision-making process.
And newly disclosed records show that one of the most prominent photographers of the civil rights era, Ernest Withers, was also a paid informant for the FBI. According to the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Withers worked closely with the FBI to monitor civil rights activists during the 1960s. Withers is said to have provided photographs, background information and scheduling details to two agents in FBI’s Memphis spying office. Withers photographed Dr. Martin Luther King at several marches and was the only photographer to cover the entire trial of those accused in the murder of the black teenager Emmett Till. In January 2007, months before his death, Amy Goodman interviewed Ernest Withers at his studio in Memphis, Tennessee. He talked about one of his most famous pictures: a mass of striking sanitation workers holding signs reading “I am a man” at what would turn out to be the last march led by Dr. King.
Ernest Withers: “The last march of his, of Martin King, they were lined up there at [inaudible] and Hernando outside of Cleveland Temple Church, and they were there with all those ’I’m a Man’ signs. And I thought it was dramatic and historic in what it was, but I didn’t know it was ending up to be as popular. But it was the last march of Martin King.”
Withers’s alleged involvement was revealed because the FBI forgot to redact his name in declassified records discussing his collaboration.