Relations between Pakistan and the United States have deteriorated after NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two Pakistani military outposts on Saturday killing at least 24 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan described the attack as unprovoked and irresponsible. Pakistan responded by demanding the United States vacate an air base within 15 days that the CIA is suspected of using for unmanned drones. In addition, Pakistan has indefinitely shut down NATO supply lines through the country used by foreign forces in Afghanistan. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen described the attack as a “tragic unintended incident.” But unnamed NATO officials have claimed the attack occurred after NATO and Afghan forces came under fire from the military outpost. The United States has vowed to investigate the killings.
Voters in Egypt are going to the polls today in the opening round of the first parliamentary elections since former President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February. The election follows nine days of intense protests in Tahrir Square and across Egypt calling for the end of military rule. A crackdown on the protests has left at least 42 people dead and more than 3,000 wounded across the country.
A major United Nations conference on climate change has just opened in the South African city of Durban. Up to 20,000 people from more than 190 nations are expected to attend the two-week conference. At a rally on Sunday night, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu described climate change as a “huge enemy” that threatens humanity.
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “We are saying this is the last chance. Please, for goodness sake, take the right decision. This is the only world we have. This is the only home we have. If it is destroyed, we all sink.”
Former Irish President Mary Robinson also spoke ahead of the U.N. climate conference. Robinson is founder of the Climate Justice Foundation.
Mary Robinson, founder of the Climate Justice Foundation: “People are suffering because of the impacts of climate, and those who are suffering most are not responsible. So, the rich world has to take its responsibility. We have to have a continuation of Kyoto and a track that leads to a fair, ambitious and binding agreement. And we have to do it here in Durban”
The U.N. Climate Change Conference is opening at a time when South Africa is experiencing a bout of extreme weather. Eight people died in heavy flooding in and near Durban on Sunday. Scores of home were destroyed.
Police in Los Angeles are threatening to begin arresting Occupy Wall Street protesters this morning as part of an attempt by the city to dismantle the protest encampment located on the lawn of City Hall. Protesters and police have been in a standoff for hours. As we go to broadcast, police are threatening to make arrests of any protesters in the streets near the park.
In Philadelphia, the city backed down from a threat to evict Occupy protesters by 5 p.m. on Sunday.
In New York City, Occupy Wall Street protesters are calling on the city to replace thousands of books lost in the eviction of the protest encampment earlier this month. In a press conference held last week, civil rights attorney Norman Siegel revealed that property taken in the raid filled 26 sanitation trucks, and nearly 80 percent of the roughly 4,000 books housed in the so-called Peoples’ Library were either destroyed or never returned.
Norman Siegel, civil rights attorney: “You see before you, on this table, the condition of some of the books that were returned: damaged, not usable. Not a pretty site. The Bloomberg administration needs to replace every single book that’s missing or damaged, that’s not usable—together, about 3,161 books.”
In other Occupy news, Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City marked Thanksgiving by serving roughly 4,000 hot meals in Zuccotti Park, the home base of the protest movement in Manhattan’s Financial District. Meanwhile, activists with Occupy the Hood dropped off meals in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
In education news, students at the University of California, Davis, and other campuses have called for a general strike today to protest tuition hikes. Meanwhile, here in New York City, officials at Baruch College have canceled classes after 3 p.m. today ahead of a controversial vote to raise tuition at the City University of New York.
Arab states voted Sunday to impose economic sanctions on Syria in response to Syria’s violent crackdown on an eight-month uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. Nineteen of the Arab League’s 22 members voted for sanctions that include a travel ban on senior Syrian officials, freezing Syrian government assets, halting trade dealings with the central bank and stopping Arab investment. The crackdown in Syria has left more than 3,500 people dead.
A special commission in Bahrain has confirmed the Gulf nation killed and tortured dissidents during its crackdown on pro-democracy protests earlier this year. The King of Bahrain has reportedly ordered a special commission to explore recommendations issued in the wake of the massive report. Cherif Bassiouni, head of the Bahrain inquiry, described some of the tactics employed by the Bahraini government.
Cherif Bassiouni, Bahrain inquiry chief: '’Violent beatings, punching, hitting with rubber hoses, hitting with electric wires on the feet, hitting with sticks and metal sticks and wooden sticks and other things, and electric shocks and sleep deprivation and exposure to high temperature and verbal abuse and threats of rape and insults to religious faiths. In general, these acts come under the definition of torture according to anti-torture convention.'’
According to the commission, a total of 2,929 people were detained during the protests, and at least 700 remain in prison. Thirty-five people are believed to have died in the unrest between February and March, and 11 more are suspected to have been killed later on. In addition to torture, international organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations human rights agency have accused the government of using excessive force and carrying out unfair trials. Activist Ala’a Shehabi says conditions on the ground in Bahrain continue to worsen.
Ala’a Shehabi, activist: “There’s ongoing violence. There’s ongoing abuses. There’s a complete lack of faith that the government will even read the report, let alone implement the recommendations. And I, for one, my husband has been in jail for eight months, and the report didn’t even go as far as demanding the immediate and unconditional release of around 500 political prisoners in Bahrain today.”
Five political activists detained in the United Arab Emirates have been granted a presidential pardon, one day after being convicted of crimes against the state. The activists were arrested in April after they signed an online petition demanding political reforms, including free elections for parliament. Charges against the five included insulting the country’s top leadership, endangering national security, inciting people to protest, and urging an election boycott.
A leading advocate for the survivors of the 1984 Bhopal disaster is calling on India to boycott the 2012 Olympic Games in London because Dow Chemical is an official sponsor of the event. On December 3, 1984, around 40 metric tons of toxic gases leaked from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal. The Indian government said soon afterward that around 3,500 people died, but campaigners estimate the total number of dead due to the leakage at 25,000, with many people still suffering. Years after the leak, Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide. Satinath Sarangi is an activist with the Bhopal Group for Information and Action.
Satinath Sarangi, Bhopal Group for Information and Action activist: “We are opposing Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the Olympic Games because Dow is still running away from its legal liabilities towards the victims of Bhopal, the worst industrial disaster in history. Dow, as the owner of Union Carbide Corporation, Dow Corporation is legally liable to compensate for the deaths of over 25,000 people and the poisoning and continued sickness among half-a-million people in Bhopal.”
A Mexican human rights lawyer has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court in The Hague requesting an investigation into the deaths of hundreds of civilians at the hands of the military and drug traffickers in Mexico, where more than 45,000 have died in drug-related violence since 2006. The suit alleges that Mexican troops and police are regularly violating the rights of citizens in their crackdown on the drug cartels.
In presidential campaign news, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich received a boost Sunday when he received the endorsement of the Manchester Union Leader, New Hampshire’s largest newspaper. New Hampshire holds the nation’s first presidential primary on Jan. 10. For the second campaign in a row, the newspaper has passed on endorsing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney despite his lead in the New Hampshire polls. The newspaper endorsed John McCain in the 2008 race. In the 2000 race, the newspaper picked Steve Forbes over George W. Bush.
German police detained 1,300 anti-nuclear protesters on Sunday during a sit-in to block a train carrying 150 tons nuclear waste from France. The protest delayed the train by over 15 hours.
The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has won a major Australian journalism prize for its leaking of secret U.S. diplomatic cables. The judges of the annual Walkley Awards praised the organization by saying, “WikiLeaks applied new technology to penetrate the inner workings of government to reveal an avalanche of inconvenient truths in a global publishing coup.”
The legendary journalist Tom Wicker has died at the age of 85. He covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy for the New York Times. Years later, he became a vocal critic of the Vietnam War and was invited by the prisoners at Attica to serve as a mediator during the 1971 prison uprising.
Richard Grossman, a longtime critic of corporate power, has died at the age of 68. He was the founder of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy and was co-author of the book “Taking Care of Business: Citizenship and the Charter of Incorporation.”