IAEA Criticizes Iran on Nuclear Disclosure
The UN’s top nuclear watchdog is accusing the Iranian government of failing to answer questions about its nuclear program. In a new report, the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran should account for allegations of the military’s role in developing nuclear power. No evidence has been presented of military involvement.
Carter: Israel Has 150 Nukes
Meanwhile, former President Jimmy Carter has revealed he believes Israel has at least 150 nuclear weapons in its arsenal. The Israeli government has never acknowledged its nuclear weapons program. But its existence has been widely known since the scientist Mordechai Vanunu leaked government documents in the 1980s. Carter’s comments mark the first time a former US president has spoken on the number of Israel’s atomic weapons. Carter also called Israel’s occupation of Palestinians “one of the greatest human rights crimes on earth.”
Pentagon, House to Investigate Propaganda Program
The Pentagon’s inspector general office has announced an internal probe into the military’s domestic propaganda program. Last month, the New York Times revealed the Pentagon has used retired military officers to generate positive news coverage and push for the war in Iraq. The move comes one day after the House approved a measure ordering investigations by both the inspector general and the congressional investigative body, the Government Accountability Office. The House probe will focus on whether the program violates laws barring government funding of domestic propaganda.
Top Military Commander Warns Troops on Political Speech
As the political use of former military officials comes under scrutiny, the Pentagon is now asking currently enlisted servicemembers to stay out of politics. In an unprecedented open letter to all those in uniform, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, says, “The US military must remain apolitical at all times and in all ways. It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway.”
Officers Won’t Be Charged in Marine Killings of Afghan Civilians
The US Marine Corps has announced it won’t bring criminal charges against two officers commanding a unit that massacred Afghan civilians last year. On March 4, 2007, several Marines opened fire on a busy highway near Jalalabad killing up to nineteen people and wounding fifty others. The Marines shot indiscriminately at civilian cars and pedestrians after an ambush on a US convoy. In a statement, the Marine Corps says an inquiry had cleared the officers of wrongdoing. The Marine probe’s 12,000-page findings won’t be publicly released.
South American Leaders Form Regional Bloc
Twelve South American nations have signed an agreement to increase political and economic ties. On Friday, leaders signed a treaty forming the South American Union of Nations, modeled partly on the European Union. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the grouping would increase regional integration.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva: “What seemed impossible happened. To the eyes of the skeptical, South America is today more integrated than ever, because we have just approved by unanimity the treaty of integration, the treaty of UNASUR.”
The agreement falls short of plans to merge regional trading blocs. But ongoing proposals include the creation of a South American defense council.
Leader of Colombian Rebel Group FARC Dies
In Colombia, the founder and leader of the rebel group FARC, Manuel Marulanda, has died. Marulanda, known as Sureshot, was seventy-seven. He had spent more than forty years fighting the Colombian government from jungle and mountain camps. A guerrilla known by his alias Alfonso Cano has been named FARC’s new leader.
Chile Cracks Down on Ex-Dictatorship Forces
In Chile, arrest warrants have been issued for nearly 100 former soldiers and police officers under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. It’s the single largest mass arrest for crimes under the seventeen-year military rule that began with the overthrow of the elected Allende government in 1973. The suspects are accused of involvement in Operation Colombo, in which at least 120 dissidents were killed. Chilean Interior Ministry lawyer Boris Paredes says the government will press the case until the end.
Boris Paredes: “Judge Montiglio’s investigations are accusatory investigations. Because of this, they give so much responsibility, which is logical here because the entire state conspired in this crime, in these horrendous crimes. Therefore, we will pursue criminal responsibilities to the end.”
More than 3,000 people died under Pinochet’s rule. He died in December 2006 after evading numerous attempts to put him on trial.
Oaxacan Teachers Press Strike with New Protest
In Mexico, striking teachers have returned to the streets in Oaxaca province. The teachers have led a two-year campaign for better work conditions and the removal of state governor Ulises Ruiz. This week, thousands of protesters occupied the main Zocalo Square. Striking teacher Octavio Cruz said the protest could last three weeks.
Octavia Cruz: “The strike will continue until we are able to find a solution or get a response to any of our demands. Yes, the strike will continue until we see fit. It is contemplated for another twenty-one days.”
The teachers are also demanding elections for a new union leader and the rejection of the energy reform that would increase private control of the state oil industry.
Castro Criticizes Obama on Embargo Pledge
In Cuba, former President Fidel Castro has criticized Senator Barack Obama for vowing to continue the US embargo if he’s elected to the White House. Speaking last week before the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami, Obama said he would open diplomacy with Cuba but maintain the embargo as a threat to win Cuban reforms.
Sen. Barack Obama: “Never in the lives of two generations of Cubans has the people of Cuba known democracy. This is the terrible and tragic status quo that we have known for half a century of elections that are anything but free or fair, of dissidents locked away in dark prison cells for the crime of speaking the truth. I won’t stand for this injustice, you will not stand for this injustice, and together we will stand up for freedom in Cuba. That will be my commitment as president of the United States of America.”
In response, Castro wrote that while Obama is “the most advanced candidate in the presidential race,” his plan represents “a formula for hunger for [Cuba].”
Harsh Sentences for Immigrant Workers Jailed in Iowa Crackdown
In Iowa, 270 undocumented workers have been sentenced to five months in prison. The workers were arrested earlier this month in an immigration raid on a meatpacking plant. It was described as the largest single immigration raid in US history. More than ten percent of the town of Postville, Iowa were put behind bars. Attorneys for the workers accused the government of violating due process rights by barring meetings with their clients and ignoring immigration laws. The hearings took place at a fairgrounds usually used for exhibiting cattle where the workers were held. Only a small number of the workers were found to have criminal records. No charges have been filed against the owners of the meatpacking plant, Agriprocessors.
UN: Burmese Junta Blocking Relief Effort
In Burma, the UN says the military junta continues to deny unfettered access to areas devastated by Cyclone Nargis. Aid officials have been barred from several parts of the Irrawaddy region where the cyclone’s impact was worst. At least 130,000 people are dead or missing.
China Could See Mass Evacuation to Evade Flooding
Meanwhile, in China, the government is warning up 1.2 million people could be evacuated from a region threatened by a new “barrier lake” formed by this month’s earthquake. The water buildup could lead to dangerous flooding and cause a new crisis.
House Arrest Extended for Burmese Pro-Democracy Leader Suu Kyi
Meanwhile, the Burmese junta has extended the house arrest of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party won national elections in 1990 but was kept out of office by the junta. She has spent twelve of the last eighteen years in detention.
South Koreans Protest Easing of US Beef Ban
In South Korea, at least twenty-nine protesters have been arrested in a protest against an agreement on importing US beef. The South Korean government’s decision to ease restrictions has sparked a national crisis. Thousands turned out in the capital Seoul this weekend amidst fears of another outbreak of mad cow disease. US lawmakers had threatened to withhold a pending trade deal unless South Korea accepted US beef.
Director Sydney Pollack Dies at 73
And the American film director and actor Sydney Pollack has died. He was seventy-three years old. Pollack’s films included Out of Africa, Tootsie and The Way We Were.