Bush Pushes New Saudi Arms Deal During Visit to Kingdom
President Bush has arrived in Saudi Arabia in his first trip to the kingdom as president.
This comes as the Bush administration is seeking Congressional approval to sell 900
sophisticated satellite-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia as part of a twenty billion
dollar arms sale to Persian Gulf allies.
Saudi Arabia & Egypt Criticized For Jailing Dissident
Ahead of President Bush’s visit, Saudi Arabia detained several prominent dissidents
including Fouad Ahmed al-Farhan who runs a popular pro-reform blog. Al-Farhan has
been jailed without charge since December 10. On Wednesday, President Bush plans to
meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who has also been criticized for jailing
dissidents and bloggers.
One online journalist, Abdel Karim Suleiman, is serving a four-year prison sentence
for allegedly insulting Islam and Mubarak. The Committee to Protest Journalists has
called on Bush to urge King Abdullah and President Mubarak to release the jailed journalists
and bloggers. Meanwhile in Cairo, several hundred opposition activists demonstrated
on Monday against Bush’s scheduled visit.
Opposition Activists Protest Bush Visit to Egypt
Police confined the protesters to the steps of the Journalists Syndicate in Cairo.
Opposition MP Mustafa Bakri criticized Mubarak for inviting President Bush.
Mustafa Bakri: “This visit has a specific agenda–first of all it’s
against the resistance, and its meant to rally the Arab leaders against Iran, and
to continue the interference in the foreign policies of Arab states. Therefore we
reject this visit and I have requested in Parliament that Bush be kicked out and not
be received. And we have to demonstrate and clearly express our opinions against Bush
and his government.”
Israeli Forces Kill 17 Palestinians Hours After “Peace”
Israeli forces have killed at least 17 Palestinians in a series of ground and air
raids on Gaza. Another 45 Palestinians were injured. Killed in one of the raids was
Husam Zahar, the 24-year-old son of Mahmoud Zahar, one of the founders of Hamas. In
2004, Zahar’s eldest son was killed in a failed Israeli attempt to assassinate him.
Meanwhile a Palestinian sniper killed an Ecuadorian worker on an Israeli farm near
the Gaza Strip. The Israeli attack on Gaza came just hours after Israel and the Palestinians
opened what has been described as their most ambitious peace negotiations in seven
years. Saeb Erekat, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the two sides
need to make 2008 the year of peace.
Saeb Erekat: “I believe now it’s time for decisions by leaders, more
than negotiations. I believe the parameters are defined. I believe it’s doable and
I believe, if you look at the road map, it’s specifying the objectives of the peace
process to end the Israeli occupation that began at 1967. We know it’s going to be
a two-state solution and I hope that leaders on both sides will deliver the decisions
required to make the year 2008 a year of peace.”
But Hamas officials have rejected the talks with Israel.
Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas: “We consider that such meetings provide coverage
for the occupation in order for them to continue with their crimes against the Palestinian
Iraq’s Defense Minister: Foreign Troops Needed Until
At Least 2018
Iraq’s defense minister has said foreign troops will likely need to stay in Iraq to
help defend its borders for at least another 10 years. During a visit to the United
States, Abdul Qadir said “Regarding protection from any external threats, our calculation
appears that we are not going to be able to answer to any external threats until 2018
U.S. To Send 3,2000 Marines to Afghanistan
Meanwhile the U.S. military is preparing to send another 3,200 Marines to Afghanistan.
This will bring the total number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to about 30,000 – the
highest level since the U.S. invasion over six years ago.
Norwegian Journalist and Six Others Killed in Hotel Blast
On Monday, seven people died in Kabul after militants attacked the city’s most luxurious
hotel. Killed in the attack was a Norwegian journalist named Carsten Thomassen.
Romney Campaigns in Michigan Against Making Cars More
In campaign news, voters head to the polls today in Michigan, In recent days Republicans
Mitt Romney and John McCain have fought over how to help protect the auto industry
in Michigan which has the highest unemployment rate in the country. Romney, who was
born in Michigan, criticized efforts by McCain and other Washington politicians to
make cars more fuel efficient.
Romney described stricter fuel standards as an unfunded mandate from Washington that
will cripple the auto industry. Romney said: “Let’s take those burdens off and let
our companies compete.” According to the New York Times, Romney has said little on
the campaign trail about the potential dangers of climate change and almost nothing
about curbing greenhouse emissions. McCain has called for capping gas emissions linked
to global warming and higher fuel economy standards.
Judge Orders MSNBC To Allow Kucinich To Debate
In other campaign news, a Nevada judge has ordered MSNBC to include Congressman Dennis
Kucinich in tonight’s Democratic debate. Kucinich sued MSNBC after it disinvited him
just two days after it announced that he had met the criteria to take part in the
debate. The judge said he would issue an injunction stopping the debate if Kucinich
is excluded. MSNBC has announced plans to file an appeal in the case.
Citigroup to Lay Off Up To 30,000; Sprint & EMI
Plan Mass Layoffs Too
In business news, Citigroup is expected to announce a new wave of layoffs as the bank
continues to lose billions of dollars in the subprime mortgage crisis. Citigroup could
layoff as many as 30,000 employees. The bank plans to announce a writedown of twenty
four billion dollars. Citigroup is not the only corporation preparing for mass layoffs.
The telecom firm Sprint-Nextel has revealed it plans to lay off several thousand employees
on top of the 5,000 laid off last year. And the music company EMI says it plans to
let go up to 2,000 workers, about a third of its workforce.
Lawmakers Probe Lucrative Severance Pay for CEOs Tied
to Subprime Crisis
The House Oversight Committee has begun probing the lucrative severance and compensation
packages awarded to CEOS involved in the subprime mortgage crisis. Angelo Mozilo,
the co-founder of the mortgage giant Countrywide, is one of several CEOs who has been
invited to testify before the committee in February. Last week Bank Of America announced
it was purchasing Countrywide, which holds one in six homes loans in the U.S.
The Los Angeles Times reports Mozilo stands to make upward of $115 million after the
sale goes through even though Countrywide was at the center of the subprime mortgage
Greenspan to Advise Hedge Fund That Made Billions on
Former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan has become an advisor to a New York hedge
fund that has made billions of dollars on the subprime mortgage crisis. The firm,
Paulson & Company, made an estimated fifteen billon dollars by making aggressive
bets against subprime home loans.
The Wall Street Journal reports the head of the fund John Paulson made an estimated
three or four billion dollars last year – it is believed to be the largest one year
payday in Wall Street history.
Report: U.S.-Backed Exit Polls Show Opposition Won Kenyan
In news from Kenya, the McClatchy newspapers reports an exit poll carried out on behalf
of a U.S. government-backed foundation indicated that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki
suffered a resounding defeat in last month’s disputed election. The poll by the Washington-based
International Republican Institute further undermines Kibaki’s claims of a narrow
re-election victory. The poll showed opposition leader Raila Odinga won by roughly
eight percent. Meanwhile Human Rights Watch has accused Kenyan police of using live
ammunition to break up protests. In the city of Kisuma, the group said it received
credible reports that police shot dead dozens of people demonstrating against the
election results. More than 600 people have died in post-election violence.
U.S. Spy Chief Wants Authority to Monitor All Internet
In news from Washington, the head of the nation’s spy agencies has revealed the government
wants the authority to read all information crossing the Internet in the United States
including personal email messages. The New Yorker Magazine reports National Intelligence
Director Mike McConnell is drafting a plan to rewrite the rules about online surveillance.
He told the magazine the debate on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will
“be a walk in the park compared to this.”
Britain to Implant Prisoners With Spychips
The British government is planning to begin implanting machine readable microchips
under the skin of thousands of convicts to help enforce home curfews. The Independent
of London reports radio frequency identification or RFID tags would be surgically
inserted into the former prisoners. The spychips would contain scannable personal
information about individuals, including their identities, address and criminal record.
The government is also investigating how it could use satellite and radio-wave technology
to monitor the released prisoners.
Mitt Romney’s Former Investment Fund To Buy Clear Channel
In media news, the Federal Communications Commission has approved a nearly twenty
billion deal to sell Clear Channel Communications, the nation’s largest radio broadcaster,
to a group of private investors. One of the investors buying Clear Channel is Bain
Capital Partners, the Boston-based private-equity firm founded in 1984 by Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Australia Orders Japan To Stop Hunting and Killing Whales
Australia’s Federal Court has ordered Japan to stop hunting and killing whales anywhere
around its coastline or off Australian Antarctic territory. Meanwhile Greenpeace activists
have been chasing Japanese whaling ships in an attempt to disrupt the whaling hunt.
On Sunday Greenpeace said it had driven a Japanese whaling fleet out of the Southern
Ocean hunting grounds after a 24-hour high speed chase over hundreds of miles through
fog and increasingly rough seas When the Greenpeace ship approached the whaling fleet,
Greenpeace activist Karli Thomas addressed the whale hunters.
Karli Thomas: “Our vessel and crew are here in the Southern Ocean
to condemn your hunt, which includes endangered species, and to insist that you return
to port immediately. We represent millions of people around the world who want to
see an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. We join with the majority
of people in Japan who do not support whaling on the high seas.”
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