A suicide bombing in the Afghan capital of Kabul has claimed the lives of 13 members of the U.S.-led NATO occupation force, 12 of them Americans. It was the deadliest single ground attack against NATO in the more than decade-long Afghan war. A NATO spokesperson announced the bombing.
General Carsten Jacobson: “A car packed with explosives was driven by a suicide bomber towards a personal transport of ISAF. The vehicle was exploded, and we have suffered 13 casualties that we are aware of so far in Kabul, which is quite a dramatic incident today. And obviously, our feelings go out to the relatives of those who have perished today.”
In Afghanistan, new evidence has emerged the United States continued to transfer detainees to Afghan prisons, despite knowing of widespread torture there. Afghan and Western officials interviewed by the Washington Post have confirmed the United States both transferred prisoners to torture-linked prisons and later visited them there for interrogation. A recent U.N. report reported Afghan guards and officers committed abuses at the prisons, including hanging prisoners from hooks, beating them with cables, and twisting their genitals until they pass out. One of the most notorious facilities, named Department 124, was rebuilt last year with U.S. funding. The State Department is now investigating whether the United States has violated the Leahy Amendment, which bars funding for foreign military units linked to abuses of human rights.
The Obama administration is planning a major build-up of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf following its withdrawal from Iraq at the end of the year. According to the New York Times, the plan would see an increase of U.S. combat troops stationed in Kuwait. The U.S. force would be prepared to re-enter Iraq or engage in military conflict with Iran. Also under consideration is the deployment of more U.S. naval warships around the Middle East. To further bolster its armed presence, the United States is expanding military ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. A proposed new “security architecture” would cover joint air and naval patrols as well as so-called “missile defense” between the United States and its Gulf government allies. The Gulf Cooperation Council drew international criticism earlier this year after it deployed a mostly Saudi military force to help crush the uprising against the Bahraini monarchy. The news of the administration’s military plans for the Persian Gulf comes just one week after it announced the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq at year’s end.
In news from Iraq, the toll from a pair of bombings in Baghdad has increased to 36 dead and 78 people wounded. It was the deadliest attack to hit Iraq in over a month.
A rare October snowstorm has killed at least eight people and left some three million people without power in the northeastern United States. The storm touched down from West Virginia to Maine, with weather emergencies declared in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Hundreds of schools have been closed today, and some areas are even planning on delaying tonight’s Halloween trick-or-treating out of fear for children’s safety.
The Occupy Wall Street movement continues to face government crackdowns nationwide with a series of arrests over the weekend. In Denver, riot police fired pepper balls and mace into a crowd of protesters after they attempted to move onto the State Capitol grounds. Some 20 people were arrested, including 13 who tried to erect a tent in an adjacent park. The arrests followed a peaceful march that drew thousands of people into the streets of Denver. Roughly 30 people were arrested in Portland, Oregon, on charges of criminal trespassing, interfering with a police officer and disorderly conduct, after they remained in an upscale park beyond curfew hours. Meanwhile, police in Austin, Texas, arrested 39 demonstrators for attempting to maintain food tables at their City Hall encampment. In Tennessee, a night court magistrate has refused to sign off on an arrest warrant targeting demonstrators because, he argued, state officials have no authority to set the curfew. Among those arrested in Nashville, Tennessee, over the past week was a reporter for the Nashville Scene who identified himself to officers as a member of the media. The reporter, Jonathan Meador, caught his arrest on camera.
In Oakland, an Iraq War veteran and Occupy activist is continuing to recover from serious brain injuries he sustained while attending a protest last week. Scott Olsen has been communicating with friends and family at his bedside by writing notes, but reportedly cannot speak. Friends say the 24-year-old is expected to make a full recovery. Meanwhile, protesters in Oakland are reportedly planning to occupy the office of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan today. The demonstrators are seeking the return of medical supplies seized in a police raid last week.
In New York City, Occupy Wall Street protesters endured a weekend of freezing, wet weather as their ongoing occupation of a Financial District plaza entered its sixth week. Combating the elements was made all the more difficult after the New York City Fire Department confiscated the encampment’s gas power generators late last week.
Donald Afflick, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unions for New York City: “The spirit is not going to die. This is just the start of the movement. The movement is going to keep going. Winter, rain, shine or cold, we’re going to be out here to make sure this works, because 99 percent of the people deserve a better—deserve a better condition in this country, and if we don’t march now, when?”
Protester: “I think it’s going to actually grow. Already I’m noticing people are handing out hand warmers, socks, ponchos, blankets, and this is just the start. And I think the more there’s tactics that are being used to try and take away the warmth, like taking away the generators, you know, supposedly for our safety, the more people are going to react to that, and they’re going to just provide more things. We’re going to find ways to make it work.”
The weekend began for Occupy Wall Street activists with a march on the offices of major banks in midtown Manhattan. At the headquarters of JPMorgan Chase, office workers filled the windows, taking pictures of the demonstrators down below.
Protester: “I think the people up there are workers and middle-class America, for the most part, just like everybody that’s here today. It’s the people on the top floor that need to hear the message, and I think the message is trickling up.”
Occupy protests also continue across the globe over the weekend. On Saturday, thousands of people marched in the financial district of the German city of Frankfurt. Meanwhile, in London, a coalition of Christian protesters has made plans to form a prayer ring around demonstrators encamped outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Efforts to evict the protesters have led to a storm of controversy, with both St. Paul’s canon chancellor and a chaplain stepping down over the decision to pursue legal action against the camp.
The Syrian government has carried out some of its deadliest operations in months, with at least 60 civilians reportedly killed over the past three days. At least 35 people were killed on Friday when Syrian forces opened fire on protesters in the restive cities of Homs and Hama. According to activist groups, many of the victims were killed when Syrian forces hunted them down in house-to-house raids.
The NATO mission in Libya is scheduled to formally end today following a U.N. Security Council vote last week. The end to NATO’s operations will also mean the lifting of the no-fly zone and naval blockade adopted in March to weaken the regime of then-leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi. The International Criminal Court meanwhile says it is now in contact with Gaddafi’s fugitive son Saif al-Islam, who’s been indicted for crimes against humanity during the Libyan uprising. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said al-Islam, through intermediaries, has professed his innocence.
Luis Moreno Ocampo: “He said he’s innocent and he will prove to the judge he’s innocent. And then he’s more concerned about what will happen after, if he’s considered innocent by the court. So we explained to him the legal system. The judge will decide what the consequence after, but we believe we have strong evidence. For us, it’s also important to avoid that there is—we have some information there is a mercenary group trying to help him to move to a different country. And so, we are trying also to prevent this activity, so we are also working with some states to see if we can disrupt this attempt.”
Violence has flared in Israel and the Occupied Territories with a series of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip and Palestinian rocket fire into Israel. At least 12 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed in five days of attacks. The violence appears to be subsiding following an Egypt-brokered truce.
A prominent Egyptian activist and blogger has been jailed on charges of inciting violence. Alaa Abd El Fattah, considered one of Egypt’s most influential bloggers, has been ordered to spend at least 15 days behind bars. Fattah spoke to Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous back in February, two weeks into the Egyptian revolution.
Alaa Abd El Fattah: “We are continuing the pressure because we want what happens next to be power to the people and to be through democratic Egypt that represents all of its people. We should also remember that the initial slogans were not just 'Topple the regime' but were also [speaking in Arabic], which is 'Bread! Freedom! Social justice!'”
In other news from Egypt, the trial of former president Hosni Mubarak has been postponed until late December. Mubarak is facing charges for allegedly ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising against his regime.
Hundreds of people have protested in the Japanese capital of Tokyo calling for the evacuation of residents of Fukushima and the end of nuclear power in Japan in the aftermath of the March earthquake that set off a nuclear crisis. The protest has been led by a group of women who traveled from Fukushima to set up an encampment outside a Japanese ministry. Aileen Mioko Smith is the executive director of the Japanese group, Green Action.
Aileen Mioko Smith: “The Fukushima women have decided to sit-in. They’ve come down to the heart of the national government here in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. And they are demanding two things: the protection of the children of Fukushima and the end of nuclear power in Japan. The citizens met with the Japanese government yesterday, a huge number of people from 40 miles away from the nuclear power plant, because the area is so contaminated. It’s the heart of Fukushima City, the capital of the prefecture. And it’s so contaminated that we need evacuation right away. We need government support for people to be able to evacuate.”
Leading Republican presidential contender Herman Cain is facing a new controversy over a report he was accused of sexual harassment in the 1990s. According to Politico, two female employees accused Cain of inappropriate behavior during his stint as head of the National Restaurant Association, a lobby group. Both women reportedly left their jobs and received undisclosed financial settlements. Cain’s campaign says the report is untrue.
A high-profile foreclosure law firm is drawing controversy after it was found to have thrown a Halloween party mocking the homeowners it has helped displace. Leaked photos published by the New York Times show employees of the law firm of Steven J. Baum dressed up as foreclosure victims, squatters and homeless people, with their office decorated to look like a row of foreclosed homes. In one image, a defaced photo of Susan Chana Lask, a lawyer who filed suit against the firm, is displayed in a coffin, with the inscription: “Rest in Peace. Crazy Susie.” Steven J. Baum runs the largest foreclosure law firm in New York state, representing banks and mortgage companies seeking to evict foreclosed homeowners, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The firm is currently under investigation by the New York attorney general’s office and recently agreed to a $2 million fine for filing misleading documents in state and federal courts.
The United Nations says the population of the planet will reach seven billion today, just 12 years after it hit six billion. The global population is growing by roughly 200,000 people a day, and some predict that by the end of this century it could climb to 10 billion. The U.S. Census Bureau disagrees with the United Nations estimate and says the world population will likely reach seven billion in between March and April of next year.