More than 100 people were killed in Iraq on Sunday in one of the country’s deadliest days this year. A series of bombings hit Baghdad shortly after fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was sentenced to death for allegedly planning and funding attacks. A leading Sunni Muslim politician, Hashemi fled Baghdad in December when Iraq’s Shia-led government accused him of running death squads. Hashemi has denied the charges, saying they are politically motivated. The controversy around Hashemi has sparked fears of worsening the sectarian turmoil between Shiites and Sunnis. In Sunday’s worst attack, more than 50 people were killed when a bomb struck a crowded commercial area.
The United States has formally handed control of the Bagram air base to the Afghan government in a key milestone for the more than decade-long NATO occupation. But despite the handover, the United States is continuing to retain control over several dozen prisoners in a dispute with the Afghan government. The New York Times reports the spat apparently centers on Afghan refusals to adopt the no-trial detention system demanded by the U.S. government.
Scores of Syrian government forces have been killed in a double bombing in the besieged city of Aleppo. Residents and activists say the bombs targeted makeshift barracks housing soldiers stationed in Aleppo to root out opposition fighters. Syrian state media says at least 17 soldiers were killed and 40 were wounded.
Speaking at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Russia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States continues support for the Syrian opposition.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We haven’t seen eye-to-eye with Russia on Syria. That may continue. And if it does continue, then we will work with like-minded states to support the Syrian opposition to hasten the day when Assad falls and to help prepare Syria for a democratic future and, you know, help it get back on its feet again. There’s no point passing a resolution with no teeth, because we’ve seen time and time again that Assad will ignore it and keep attacking his own people.”
President Obama hit the campaign trail over the weekend after a new round of job numbers underscored his challenge to overcome a struggling economy in order to win re-election. The Labor Department reported Friday the economy added 96,000 jobs last month, a lower number than had been predicted. The official unemployment rate saw a slight dip to 8.1 percent, but only because less people reported they were actively looking for work. Speaking in New Hampshire, Obama urged supporters to back his call for tax cuts only for those making below $250,000.
President Obama: “Today, we learned that after losing around 800,000 jobs a month when I took office, business once again added jobs for the 30th month in a row, a total of more than 4.6 million jobs. But that’s not — that’s not good enough. We know it’s not good enough. We need to create more jobs faster. We need to fill the hole left by this recession faster. We need to come out of this crisis stronger than when we went in. And there’s a lot more that we can do. You know, when Congress gets back to town next week, you need to send them a message: go ahead and give middle-class families and small businesses the confidence of knowing that their taxes, your taxes, will not go up next year.”
Campaigning in Virginia on Saturday, Republican nominee Mitt Romney seized on the latest job figures to paint Obama as weak on the economy.
Mitt Romney: “This president has not fulfilled his promises, and then he went to the Democrat convention and spoke at great length and had a lot of wonderful things to say, but he didn’t say what he’d do to help people get jobs or come out of employment — out of unemployment or to get people that are poor back to the middle class. He doesn’t have a plan. He doesn’t have any ideas. And we’ve got to make sure he doesn’t have any more days in the White House after January.”
Some 25,000 Chicago public school teachers have gone on strike for the first time in 25 years. The teachers are walking off the job after union leaders failed to reach agreement with the nation’s third-largest school district over education reforms sought by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The Obama administration is drawing controversy for siding with two former Latin American leaders in unrelated cases involving the massacres of civilians. The White House has informed Bolivia that it will not extradite former President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to face charges over the mass killing of Bolivian protesters in 2003. At least 64 civilians were slain and more than 400 were wounded when the Bolivian military cracked down on protests that sparked an uprising against de Lozada’s government. De Lozada has been indicted in Bolivia but has not been tried because he has been living safely in exile in the United States ever since. On Friday, Bolivian President Evo Morales said the Obama administration had rejected Bolivia’s extradition request on the grounds a civilian leader cannot be tried for a military’s crimes. Morales blasted the decision, calling the United States a “paradise of impunity.”
Bolivian President Evo Morales: “The U.S. can’t send a letter saying civil society can’t be responsible for military actions. I reject these claims. I do not agree. This is a pretext for the U.S. to turn into a haven for delinquents, a paradise of impunity. It is easy for us to see that a country that has never respected the dignity and sovereignty of Latin America can’t extradite someone who’s done so much harm to the Bolivian people and works for the American empire.”
In a separate move, the U.S. government has filed a court briefing declaring former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo enjoys immunity from a Connecticut civil suit for alleged war crimes. The suit accuses Zedillo of responsibility for a 1997 massacre in the Chiapas village of Acteal when government-backed paramilitary groups killed 45 people as part of an attempt to quash the Zapatista popular uprising. Zedillo now lives in Connecticut and teaches at Yale University. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they will be forced to drop the case as a result of Zedillo’s immunity.
Clashes have erupted in the Chilean capital of Santiago ahead of Tuesday’s 39th anniversary of the U.S.-backed overthrow of President Salvador Allende. On September 11, 1973, Allende died in the presidential palace in the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power. On Sunday, Chilean police fired tear gas while protesters commemorating Pinochet’s victims set up barricades and threw Molotov cocktails.
Protests are continuing against the U.S.-backed regime in Bahrain in the face of an ongoing crackdown on government opponents. On Friday, Bahraini forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at demonstrators who defied a ban on unauthorized protests. The rally was held to call for the freedom of scores of Bahraini political prisoners after a military court upheld the convictions of 20 activists last week. The demonstrators managed to join together despite government attempts to block them from meeting up in the capital Manama. Bahrain is a key U.S. government ally, hosting the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
New figures show the United States is on pace to approach the record number of deportations of undocumented immigrants seen last year. The Department of Homeland Security says it has deported 366,000 people with just one month left in fiscal 2012. Nearly 392,000 immigrants were deported in fiscal 2011, despite illegal border crossings of migrants dropping to a 40-year low.