At least 40 people have been killed in a suicide attack on a mosque in northern Afghanistan. The victims had gathered to mark the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Another 70 people were wounded.
Violence continues in Syria despite an informal agreement for a four-day holiday ceasefire. Clashes erupted between government forces and rebel fighters earlier today near a northern military base. A number of anti-regime protests have been held across Syria, with troops firing tear gas and live rounds to disperse demonstrators in several areas. On Thursday, a spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the ceasefire marked a critical juncture for the Syrian conflict.
Martin Nesirky: “The secretary-general welcomes the reported announcements about a suspension of violence during the Eid holiday. Obviously, the world is now watching to see what will happen on Friday morning. It’s in everybody’s interest, not least the long-suffering Syrian people, that the guns fall silent tomorrow morning for the Eid holiday.”
Twenty-one people are dead across the Caribbean, including 11 in Cuba, after Hurricane Sandy slammed the region with heavy rains and powerful winds. The late-season storm hit the Bahamas Thursday and is now expected to head for the United States. Forecasters are warning the storm could collide with another from Canada, creating a potentially devastating hybrid that could ravage parts of the northeastern United States early next week.
President Obama took a break from campaigning on Thursday to cast an early ballot in his hometown of Chicago. Speaking at the polling center, Obama encouraged Americans to take advantage of early voting.
President Obama: “For all of you who have not yet early voted, I just want everybody to see what an incredibly efficient process this was, thanks to the outstanding folks who are at this particular polling place. Obviously folks in Illinois can take advantage of this, but all across the country we’re seeing a lot of early voting. It means you don’t have to figure out whether you need to take time off work, figure out how to pick up the kids and still cast your ballot. If something happens on Election Day, you will have already taken care of it. If it’s bad weather, you won’t get wet, or, in Chicago, snowy. But, you know, this was really convenient.”
Campaigning in Ohio, Republican nominee Mitt Romney predicted to supporters that his election would mean an increase in workers’ take-home pay.
Mitt Romney: “President doesn’t have a plan to get America working again. We have a five-point plan, and I’ll tell you about it in a moment, that’s going to get more jobs and more take-home pay. And that’s what America needs, and that’s why we’re going to get elected.”
As Mitt Romney vowed to create jobs in a campaign speech on Thursday, workers at a Freeport, Illinois, plant set for closure under ownership by his former company, Bain Capital, staged a walkout Thursday — one day after 14 people, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, were arrested. Workers have staged an encampment called “Bainport” across from the Sensata Technologies plant to protest plans to move the factory to China, ending 170 jobs.
A federal appeals court has rejected the group Planned Parenthood’s challenge of a funding ban in Texas. Texas has sought to cut payments to Planned Parenthood and exclude it from a government-funded health program for low-income women because it also provides abortions. The Texas program offers cancer and health screenings as well as birth control services to some 130,000 low-income women, about 40 percent of whom are served through Planned Parenthood. But on Thursday, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans declined to reconsider an earlier ruling upholding the ban. In response, Texas Gov. Rick Perry immediately announced Texas will stop all payments to program participants affiliated with abortion providers. A recent George Washington University study has warned Texas will be unlikely to provide adequate care to the patients currently served by Planned Parenthood.
The Supreme Court is set to decide today on whether to hear a challenge to the conviction of five former top officials with the Holy Land Foundation, once the nation’s largest Muslim charity. The five were convicted on charges of backing the Palestinian group Hamas, though they were never accused of supporting violence, instead for funding charities that aided Palestinians in need. On Thursday, supporters of the Holy Land Five rallied outside a federal building in Manhattan. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights said Holy Land had given money to groups also funded by the U.S. State Department.
Michael Ratner: “The foundation gave charity to … zakat committees in Palestine, charitable committees. Those committees were given aid by our own government, by [U.S.] AID.”
The government’s case relied on Israeli intelligence, as well as disputed documents and electronic surveillance gathered by the FBI over a span of 15 years. The first trial ended in a hung jury, but prosecutors obtained convictions in a retrial the following year.
Seventeen people were arrested on Thursday protesting U.S. drone warfare at the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, New York. Members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars were detained after creating a blockade outside three of the base’s gates, holding signs and pictures of children killed by U.S. drone attacks overseas. It was the latest in a series of protests outside the base, where the drones are operated remotely.
The late former Democratic senator and presidential candidate George McGovern was remembered Thursday at a funeral service in his home state of South Dakota. McGovern, best known for running on an antiwar platform against President Richard Nixon in 1972, died on Sunday at the age of 90. Speakers at Thursday’s service included Vice President Joe Biden.
Students at Wesleyan University in Connecticut are continuing to protest against the school’s decision to change its admission practices by ending what is known as “need-blind admissions” to all applicants. Qualified students now face possible rejection if they are deemed unable to pay full tuition, now around $60,000 a year, making it one of the most expensive schools in the country. Students say the new policy will target the poor and middle class.
Daniel Plafker, Wesleyan student activist: “The reason we’re out here today is to stand in opposition to proposed cuts to the need-blind financial aid policy. Essentially what that allows the admissions office here to do, and in other places, is to actively discriminate against applicants based on their socioeconomic class. This is a decision that was made behind the backs of students, without transparency, behind closed doors, at a time when most of the students weren’t even on campus to know about it.”
On Saturday, Democracy Now! video production fellow Nemo Allen attempted to interview Wesleyan President Michael Roth about the policy change after the school’s football game. Roth refused to answer questions and then grabbed Allen’s microphone and walked away with it.
Nemo Allen: “Why has there been a total lack of transparency with this decision being made? President Michael Roth of Wesleyan University, why has there been a total lack of transparency?”
Michael Roth: “There has been a lot of transparency. There has been a lot of transparency.”
Nemo Allen: “There has been? Excuse me, you have to give that back.”
Michael Roth: “Who are you? I don’t have to do anything.”
Nemo Allen: “I’m with Democracy Now!”
Michael Roth: “Thank you.”
Nemo Allen: “You have to give me my microphone back.”
Michael Roth: “I will. We’re going to walk over — we’re going to walk over to the media relations.”
Wesleyan President Michael Roth eventually returned the microphone after being instructed to do so by a police officer.