The United Nations is warning some 100,000 refugees fled Syria last month, the highest monthly total of the 18-month-old conflict so far. The figure accounts for nearly half the total number of refugees registered or awaiting registration with the United Nations. Syrian opposition activists say August was also the deadliest of Syria’s civil war, with an estimated 5,000 people killed.
At least 13 people have been killed in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and in Yemen. The Yemeni government says eight militants were killed in an eastern region on Friday, while Pakistani officials say five people died in a drone attack the following day.
At least three people were killed in Pakistan on Monday when a suicide bomber struck a U.S. consular vehicle in the city of Peshawar. Two U.S. embassy staffers were also wounded in the attack.
An appeals court in Bahrain has upheld the convictions of 20 activists on allegations of plotting to overthrow the U.S.-backed regime. The activists were sentenced by a military court last year, eight of them to life behind bars. The ruling comes days after tens of thousands of people rallied against the monarchy in the country’s first authorized demonstration in over a month. Protesters held up the pictures of a number of jailed Bahraini activists, including the Bahrain Center for Human Rights’ Nabeel Rajab, recently sentenced to three years in prison.
The U.S.-led NATO occupation in Afghanistan has suspended training of Afghan local police and special operations forces following a relentless spate of attacks on international soldiers. The training will be suspended for at least a month to root out alleged infiltrators from militant groups. The suspension does not apply to the bulk of Afghan forces on the national level. Speaking in Belgium, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Afghan militants won’t derail the occupation’s mission in Afghanistan.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “Don’t forget that for the Taliban it’s impossible to win militarily, but they try to gain some PR by undermining trust and confidence between the foreign troops and Afghan security forces. So, obviously, I will not exclude the possibility that the Taliban try to infiltrate the Afghan security forces, but, once again, they will not succeed in derailing our strategy.”
In news from Afghanistan, six civilians were killed on Saturday in a suicide bombing on a NATO base in Wardak province. No NATO troops were harmed in the attack.
The death toll from Hurricane Isaac’s battering of the Gulf Coast last week stands at six in Louisiana and two in neighboring Mississippi, with both states enduring massive flooding. Ahead of the Democratic National Convention, President Obama toured damaged areas on Monday.
President Obama: “As you can see, folks are on the ground already clearing out the debris and making sure that they’re able to recover as rapidly as possible. I want to particularly thank FEMA and the state and local authorities, because sometimes in the past we haven’t seen the kind of coordination that is necessary in response to these kinds of disasters. This time we’ve seen it.”
President Obama campaigned in battleground states over the weekend ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Speaking in Boulder, Colorado, Obama criticized Republicans for the message that came out of their convention in Tampa.
President Obama: “There was a lot of talk about 'hard truths' and 'bold choices,' but nobody ever actually bothered to tell you what they were. And when Governor Romney had his chance to let you in on his secret, he did not offer a single new idea, just retreads of the same old policies that have been sticking it to the middle class for years. They talked a lot about me, they talked a lot about him, but they didn’t say much about you.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney returned to the campaign trail over the weekend after formally accepting his party’s nomination in Tampa last week. Speaking in the battleground state of Ohio, Romney attacked President Obama’s record on jobs while making an apparent attempt to distance himself from the last Republican president, George W. Bush.
Mitt Romney: “He was going to create more jobs, and today 23 million people are out of work or stopped looking for work or underemployed. Let me tell you, if you have a coach that’s zero and 23 million, you say it’s time to get a new coach. We’re going to finally have to do something that Republicans have spoken about for a long time, and for a while, we didn’t do it. When we had the lead, we let people down. We need to make sure we don’t lead them down this time. I will cut the deficit and get us on track to a balanced budget.”
A federal judge has struck down Ohio’s effort to prevent early voting the weekend before the election. Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature had barred early weekend voting, claiming state officials need the time to prepare for Election Day. But on Friday, a U.S. district court ruled the state has failed to provide a convincing argument. Democrats have accused Republicans of seeking to block early voting in a bid to disenfranchise those likely to cast their ballots for President Obama. Ohio’s Republican attorney general says he plans to appeal.
Top Republican strategist Karl Rove has apologized to Missouri representative and Senate candidate Todd Akin after joking Akin might be “found mysteriously murdered.” Akin drew widespread condemnation and calls to drop out of the Senate race after suggesting it was rare for women to get pregnant from what he termed “legitimate” rape. Last week, a reporter from Bloomberg Businessweek who attended an exclusive briefing with Rove on the final day of the Republican National Convention quoted the influential strategist saying, “We should sink Todd Akin. If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!” During the elite fundraiser, Rove also laid out his strategy for winning the 2012 presidential election, at one point saying the people the Republicans needed to win over had previously voted for Barack Obama.
In Chicago, some 18,000 teachers and their supporters rallied on Labor Day ahead of a possible strike next week that could see more than 26,000 teachers and other school workers walk off the job. The Chicago Teachers Union is attempting to negotiate a fair contract with the nation’s third-largest school district. The union remains concerned about issues including pay, a controversial new evaluation process for teachers, and the possible closure of as many as 100 schools.
Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Charlotte on Sunday in a protest ahead of the Democratic National Convention. Organizers of the “March on Wall Street South” said they have mobilized to highlight the corporatist policies of both Democrats and Republicans.
Ben Carroll: “We’re going to organize, and we’re going to fight back. And that people feel really frustrated and rejected by the political system, that politicians of both parties aren’t doing anything to represent the interests of people and, at the end of the day, are representing the interests of these same banks and corporations here in Charlotte.”
Unrest is growing in the Maldives in the conflict between the government and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Nasheed. On Friday, state forces cracked down on a protest of thousands of people led by Nasheed calling for early elections. Tensions have flared since last week, when a Commonwealth-backed panel rejected Nasheed’s claims of having been overthrown in a coup at gunpoint earlier this year. Nasheed is well known internationally for his activism around the issue of global warming, which he says threatens the survival of his small island country.
South African prosecutors have withdrawn murder charges against striking miners for the killings of 34 colleagues last month. The charges had sparked outrage because the victims were in fact shot dead by police. They were killed more than a week after walking off the job at the Marikana platinum mine in a call for higher pay. Despite withdrawing charges against the miners, South African prosecutors say they could be reinstated at the end of a new investigation.
Nomgcobo Jiba: “The decision and pronouncement on final charges to be proffered against any persons involved will only be made once all investigations have been completed. The murder charge against the current 270 suspects, which was provisional anyway, will be formerly withdrawn provisionally in court on their next court appearance. The miners, or protesters, or the accused persons are to be released conditionally on warning and in their case postponed pending the finalization of investigations.”
The unrest in South Africa spread earlier today, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at striking miners at a gold mine near Johannesburg.
Federal prosecutors have closed a criminal probe of alleged financial misconduct by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio’s office has been under investigation since November 2010 over accusations of misusing county credit cards and tax money. A separate federal probe looking into alleged discrimination and civil rights abuses by Arpaio’s office is continuing.
The Pentagon is threatening legal action against a former Navy SEAL who has authored a new book detailing his role in the operation that killed Osama bin Laden last year. The military says the book violates the Navy’s non-disclosure agreements. The author, Mark Bissonnette, writes under the pseudonym of Mark Owen. The book’s revelations include more evidence that bin Laden posed no actual threat to the U.S. forces who stormed his compound and took his life. According to Bissonnette, bin Laden was unarmed when he was shot dead.