Bob Woodward’s new book is reporting CIA drone strikes in Pakistan have killed many Westerners, including some US citizens, as part of the US secret war inside Pakistan. Former CIA director General Michael Hayden disclosed the killings of Americans to Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari in November 2008, days after a deadly attack in the tribal area of North Warziristan. The names of the Americans killed in the drone strikes have never been released. During the meeting, Zardari reportedly gave the Bush administration the green light to carry out more drone strikes inside Pakistan. Zardari said, “Kill the seniors. Collateral damage worries you Americans. It does not worry me.” Woodward’s new book, Obama’s Wars, also reveals the CIA has created, controls and pays for a clandestine 3,000-man paramilitary army of local Afghans that conducts highly sensitive covert operations into Pakistan.
ProPublica is reporting more private contractors than soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months. This marks the first time in history that corporate casualties have outweighed military losses on America’s battlefields. More than 250 civilians working under US contracts died in the war zones between January and June. In the same period, 235 soldiers died. George Washington University Law School Professor Steven Schooner said, “It’s extremely likely that a generation ago, each one of these contractors’ deaths would have been a military death. As troop deaths have fallen, contractor deaths have risen. It’s not a pretty picture.”
At the United Nations, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that most people believe the US government was responsible for the attacks of September 11. The US delegation responded to the comment by leaving in protest. Ahmadinejad also criticized the US for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “It was said that some 3,000 people were killed on the 11th of September, for which we are all very saddened. Yet, up until now, in Afghanistan and Iraq, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, millions wounded and displaced, and the conflict is still going on and expanding.”
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim spoke at the UN and openly criticized the US invasion of Iraq.
Celso Amorim: “When President Lula first spoke in this hall in 2003, the world lived under the shadow of the invasion of Iraq. We hope that we learned the lessons from that episode. The blind faith in intelligence reports tailored to justify political goals must be rejected. We must ban, once and for all, the use of force inconsistent with international law.”
Senate Democrats have put off a vote on whether to extend President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy until after the midterm election. President Obama and his Democratic allies have proposed extending the cuts for two years, but not for households earning over $250,000 a year. Republicans want to extend the tax cuts for everyone, regardless of income.
The state of Virginia executed forty-one-year-old Teresa Lewis last night despite claims that she was borderline mentally retarded with an IQ of seventy-two. Lewis is the first woman to be executed in Virginia in nearly a century and the first woman to be executed anywhere in the United States since 2005. She was convicted of plotting with her young lover to kill her husband and stepson for insurance money. Supporters of Lewis had urged for her life to be spared because she was borderline mentally retarded, with the intellectual ability of about a thirteen-year-old. Teresa Lewis’s attorney Jim Rocap spoke after the execution.
Jim Rocap: “Tonight the machinery of death in Virginia extinguished the beautiful, childlike and loving human spirit of Teresa Lewis. For her family and friends, for her fellow inmates at Fluvanna, for her thousands of supporters in Virginia, the United States and around the world, her death is a tragic loss.”
The New York Times reports a record number of Muslim workers are complaining of employment discrimination. Federal data reports the number of complaints filed jumped 60 percent between 2005 and 2009. And the number of complaints filed in 2010 are expected to be even higher. Although Muslims make up less than two percent of the US population, they now account for about one-quarter of the religious discrimination claims filed. Mary Jo O’Neill of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said, “There’s a level of hatred and animosity that is shocking. I’ve been doing this for 31 years, and I’ve never seen such antipathy toward Muslim workers.” Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the meatpacking company JBS Swift on behalf of 160 Somali immigrants, saying supervisors and workers had cursed them for being Muslim; thrown blood, meat and bones at them; and interrupted their prayer breaks.
A US judge has sentenced Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui to eighty-six years in prison for shooting at her American interrogators while in detention in Afghanistan. Her conviction and sentencing has been widely criticized in Pakistan, where Siddiqui is believed to have been innocent and mistreated in US detention. US authorities said Siddiqui was arrested in July 2008 by Afghan police, but many human rights groups have alleged that Siddiqui was forcibly disappeared by Pakistani authorities in 2003 and interrogated and tortured at the behest of the United States. In her testimony, Siddiqui claimed to have been held in a US secret prison. In Pakistan, Aafia Siddiqui’s sister Fauzia criticized the eighty-six-year sentence.
Fauzia Siddiqui: “We had no better expectations from this judge. I mean, anything less than a hundred would be clemency on his part, I would say. He has proven — he has proven today to the whole world that the American justice system, the American justice system that America used to pride on, no longer exists.”
The United States has granted asylum for the first time to a Mexican journalist who was the target of death threats. Jorge Luis Aguirre is the editor of the Mexico news site LaPolaka.com. Aguirre received his first death threat two years ago when he answered his cell phone while driving to the funeral of a colleague who had been killed in drug violence. The caller told him, “You’re next.” Several other Mexican journalists are currently seeking asylum in the US, including one who spent seven months in an immigration detention facility.
In other news from Latin America, the Colombia army has reportedly killed Mono Jojoy, the top military commander of the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Jojoy is said to have died in a bombing raid of a major rebel encampment in eastern Colombia.
In technology news, the Federal Communication Commission has unanimously voted to finalize rules that open the vacant TV channels — so-called “TV White Spaces” — for unlicensed use including wireless broadband services. The move could result in what has been described as wi-fi on steroids.
New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is no longer the wealthiest New Yorker according to Forbes Magazine. Tea party backer David Koch is now number one after his income soared from $16 billion to $21.5 billion in 2009. The New Yorker magazine recently revealed that David Koch and his brother Charles have quietly helped bankroll the tea party movement and dozens of other right-wing causes. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported the Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry — especially environmental regulation.
Longtime anti-poverty activist Ambrose Lane has died at the age of seventy-five. For the past three decades, Lane has been a host on Pacifica station WPFW in Washington.
And thousands of opponents of mountaintop coal removal are gathering in Washington this weekend for Appalachia Rising. Organizers are calling for the Obama administration to abolish mountaintop removal mining and immediately veto the proposed Spruce Mine project.