Nine soldiers with the US-led NATO force have died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, making this the deadliest year for foreign troops since the war began nine years ago. Few details were available on the crash, but it occurred in southern Afghanistan, where violence has surged in recent months. The deaths push this year’s foreign troop toll to at least 529, surpassing last year’s record of 521 casualties.
The milestone comes as British forces have handed control of one of southern Afghanistan’s most violent districts to the United States. Sangin, located in Helmand province, has accounted for nearly a third of British casualties since the 2001 invasion.
A Justice Department probe has found the FBI improperly monitored activist groups and individuals between 2001 and 2006. The investigation covered FBI spying on the Thomas Merton Center, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Greenpeace, The Catholic Worker, and a Quaker peace activist. The FBI was found to have opened and extended the monitoring despite lacking grounds to suspect unlawful activity. Some Greenpeace members were placed on a terrorism watch list after agents wrongly designated their nonviolent civil disobedience as “Acts of Terrorism.” In one case, FBI Director Robert Mueller was found to have provided Congress with false information in claiming a 2002 Pittsburgh antiwar rally was monitored because of intelligence that persons with links to international terrorism would be present. Investigators say Mueller’s false testimony was unintentional because he was wrongly informed.
The National Bureau of Economic Research says the US economy officially exited recession in June 2009, even though millions of people remain unemployed today. The NBER says the recession lasted eighteen months, the longest since World War II. More than eight million people have lost their jobs since late 2007.
The news comes as President Obama fielded questions about his handling of the economy in a televised appearance on the business news network CNBC. Speaking before a Town Hall-style audience, President Obama criticized Republican efforts to maintain the Bush-era tax cut for the wealthiest Americans.
President Obama: “What the Republicans are proposing is that we, in addition to that, provide tax relief to primarily millionaires and billionaires. It would cost us $700 billion to do it. On average, millionaires would get a check of $100,000. And, by the way, I would be helped by this, so I just want to be clear. You know, I’m speaking against my own financial interests. This is a — it is an irresponsible thing for us to do.”
Obama also took questions from audience members, including a financial executive who said Wall Street has felt vilified by the White House. Obama responded that he thinks a large majority of the population “feels like I’ve been too soft on Wall Street.” An audience member who described herself as middle-class said Obama has failed to deliver on his campaign slogan of “change.”
Questioner: “I’m one of your middle-class Americans, and quite frankly, I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now. I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I’m one of those people, and I’m waiting, sir. I’m waiting. I don’t feel it yet.”
The United Nations has opened a round of talks on pledges to reduce poverty under the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs. Over a hundred world leaders are in New York for the sessions, which come as part of the annual General Assembly. On Monday, Bolivian President Evo Morales called for ending what he called Northern domination of the South.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: “If we wish to make progress, it is our obligation to reach the Millennium Development Goals. And in order to reach these goals, the South has to stop financing the North. This millennium should see the closure of the open veins of the South that are bleeding towards the North.”
Morales went on to propose the nationalization of natural resources as well as companies that provide basic services and utilities. He also renewed calls for the creation of a “Bank of the South” stretching from the Americas to Asia.
Outside the UN, a group of protesters rallied Monday to call on rich countries to uphold their pledges on combating poverty and funding treatment for HIV/AIDS. In New York’s Times Square, Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty unveiled a “Maternal Death Clock” to track maternal mortality during childbirth.
Salil Shetty: “If we don’t have a very strong focus on the poorest people on the planet, the women, indigenous people, the people who are excluded and left behind, we are going to find ourselves in the same situation in 2015, where the averages look good, but the people who need these goals the most — the women, the poorest people — are going to be left out.”
The editors of a local newspaper in the Mexican town of Ciudad Juárez have issued a defiant call to continue their reporting following the murder of a young journalist last week. The victim, twenty-one-year-old Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco, was the second reporter from the El Diario de Juárez to be killed in the drug violence that has besieged Mexico. In a front-page editorial, the editors of El Diario write, “We don’t want to see more dead. We don’t want to see more wounded, nor do we want to be intimidated. It is impossible for us to do our job under these conditions. Tell us, then, what you expect from us, as a newspaper?” They continue, “This is not a surrender. This is about a truce with those who have imposed the force of their law in this city, so that you will respect the lives of those who dedicate themselves to the job of informing the public.”
The administrator of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill compensation fund has announced he’ll waive a requirement that subtracts cleanup workers’ wages from any future claims of damages resulting from the BP spill. Kenneth Feinberg announced the decision Monday, two months after the initial policy sparked outrage among Gulf Coast residents. The ruling had applied to anyone involved in the Vessels of Opportunity program, which has employed hundreds of people left out of work because of the spill.
A prominent Australian war correspondent has revealed the news giant CNN refused to air footage of an apparent war crime by US troops in Iraq. In an interview with the Australian network ABC, Michael Ware says he witnessed a US soldier fatally shooting an Iraqi teenager in the back of the head. The boy then lay dying for twenty minutes. Ware says CNN decided the footage was too graphic for broadcast. He’s been unable to release it because CNN owns the tapes.
Islamic leaders from across the United States have gathered in New York to discuss growing Islamophobia in the wake of the controversy over the proposed Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan. Speaking before the Islamic Leadership Council, Nihad Awad of the Council of American-Islamic Relations criticized the campaign against the Park51 project.
Nihad Awad: “We believe that the entire nation has been engulfed into misunderstandings and misinformation. There has been a campaign against this project that we believe was unfair and unnecessary. We also understand that there are some legitimate concerns and fears that came out of the 9/11 tragedy, which all our leaders here and Muslims nationwide and worldwide have condemned. So it is unfair to associate this building, this community, with 9/11.”
And the Senate is expected to vote today on advancing a military spending bill that includes repealing the ban on openly gay servicemembers known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Republicans have stalled the bill as part of an effort to maintain the ban. The Senate is also expected to take up a provision that would allow undocumented young people a chance at citizenship called the DREAM Act. Under the measure, immigrant youth could obtain permanent residency with a chance for citizenship, provided they attend college for at least two years or enlist in the military.