Headlines: US Attacks in Pakistan Kill 61; Huguo Chavez Wins Reelection

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Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

U.S. Drone Attacks Kill 61 In Pakistan

A pair of U.S. missile strikes over the past three days have killed 61 people in Pakistan. On Saturday a remote-controlled U.S. drone bombed three compounds in South Waziristan killing 30. Earlier today another U.S. drone struck the Kumman tribal region killing 31 people. The U.S. has now struck Pakistan at least three times since President Obama took office.

Sen. Feinstein: U.S. Using Pakistani Base For Drone Attacks

The attacks come days after Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, became the first U.S. politician to publicly state that the U.S. is using a Pakistani base to carry out the strikes. During a Congressional hearing Feinstein said: “As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base.” Until now the Pakistani government has attempted to distance itself from the U.S. airstrikes.

Pakistan To Allow Sharia Law in Malakind Region

The Pakistani government and Taliban militants appear close to reaching a ceasefire in the Malakind region of northern Pakistan. Under the deal the government said it would allow the region to be ruled under Islamic or sharia law. The deal was announced on the same day Pakistani president Asif Zardari said the Taliban was trying to take over the state of Pakistan.

Venezuela’s Chavez Wins Vote On Re-Election

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez won a referendum vote on Sunday to remove term limits paving the way for him to run again in 2013. Electoral authorities said 54 percent of voters approved the constitutional amendment to remove term limits for all politicians. Chavez held a victory celebration in Caracas last night.

Hugo Chavez: “The Venezuelan people today radiate their light and democratic, revolutionary virtues to the entire world. Let the world see this light and the people of Simon Bolivar.”

British and French Nuclear Subs Collide in Atlantic Ocean

The British and French governments are being accused of covering up a recent collision between two nuclear-armed submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. The accident occurred on Feb. 3rd or 4th but wasn’t publicly known until today. The British sub, the HMS Vanguard, was armed with 16 nuclear ballistic missiles. The French sub was carrying a similar load. It is unknown whether the collision caused a radioative leak. Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament said: “This is a nuclear nightmare of the highest order. The collision of two submarines, both with nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons onboard, could have released vast amounts of radiation and scattered scores of nuclear warheads across the seabed.”

UN: 50 Million Workers to Lose Jobs Due to Economic Crisis

In economic news, the UN’s International Labor Organization is estimating the global economic crisis could result in a staggering 50 million workers to lose their jobs. The U.N. agency’s chief Juan Somavia said: “I sense a huge popular frustration brewing.” Somavia said the current economic squeeze is “provoking tensions, political uncertainties and even possible security risks.” Last week Dennis Blair, the nation’s new Director of Intelligence, warned that the current global economic crisis has become a greater security concern to the United States than terrorism.

700,000 Italians Protest Berlusconi’s Economic Policies

Workers have staged large protests in countries across the globe. On Friday as many as 700,000 workers took to the streets of Rome to protest Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s economic policies.

Obama Hails Passage of $787 Billion Economic Stimulus Bill

Here in this country, Congress has passed the $787 billion economic stimulus bill. On Saturday President Obama hailed the bill’s passage as a major milestone.

President Obama: “This historic step won’t be the end of what we do to turn our economy around, but rather the beginning. The problems that led us into this crisis are deep and widespread and our response must be equal to the task. President Obama is expected to sign the bill on Tuesday in a special trip to Denver.

White House Moves to Weaken Executive Salary Cap Rules

While President Obama praised Congress for approving the stimulus package, White House officials said Sunday Obama wants to revise the part of the stimulus package dealing with executive compensation. Congress capped executive salaries and bonuses at all institutions receiving federal bailout money but the White House wants executive pay to be limited only at banks that received what it has described as “exceptional assistance” from the government. In other economic news, President Obama has dropped plans to name a single “car czar” who would oversee the restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler.

GOP Lawmakers Call On Sen. Burris To Resign

Republican lawmakers in Illinois are calling for Sen. Roland Burris to resign after he acknowledged that he had conversations with allies of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich before Blagojevich named him to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat. In one instance, Burris said Blagojevich’s brother had asked him for campaign donations. When questioned under oath last month Burris failed to tell state lawmakers about these conversations. Some lawmakers are accusing Burris of committing perjury. Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office last month after he was accused of trying to sell Obama’s seat.

Federal Court Rules in Favor of Mountaintop Coal Removal

A federal appeals court in Richmond Virginia has overturned a decision that restricted the controversial coal mining practice known as mountaintop removal. Friday’s decision reverses a 2007 ruling that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers had violated the Clean Water Act in issuing permits for four coal mines. Friday’s ruling is seen as a major victory for the coal industry. Environmentalists say Appalachia could now face up 90 new mountaintop removal coal mining operations, which would destroy huge swaths of the Appalachian Mountains. A coalition of environmental groups including EarthJustice, Sierra Club and Coal River Mountain Watch are now urging President Obama to ban mountaintop coal removal.

Israel Considers Releasing Palestinian Leader Marwan Barghouthi

In news from the Middle East, Israel is reportedly considering releasing imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi who has has been held since 2002. Israeli officials believe his release would likely bolster President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction before any prisoner swap with Hamas. Barghouthi is seen as a possible successor to Abbas to head Fatah. This comes as outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert attempts to negotiate a last-minute deal with Hamas under which Israel would release 1,000 or more Palestinian prisoners in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Olmert said that the release of Shalit is the top priority in any deal with Hamas.

Ehud Olmert: “This is the priority of Israel. First, Gilad Shalit. Second, the end of smuggling of arms across the Egyptian border through Philadelphi Corridor (Gaza-Egypt border) into Gaza. And third, complete total ceasefire

and any hostile activities by the Hamas from Gaza.”

Advisor: Obama to Lift Stem Cell Research

A senior advisor to Barack Obama said the president will soon issue an executive order lifting an eight-year ban on embryonic stem cell research imposed by President George Bush. Obama adviser David Axelrod discussed the issue during an interview on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.

Chris Wallace: “When are you going to issue an executive order on stem cell research?”

David Axelrod: “That–we’ll be doing something on that soon, I think.”

Chris Wallace: “An executive order lifting the ban on federal funding.”

David Axelrod: “The president is considering that right now.”

In 2001, President Bush limited federal funding for stem cell research only to human embryonic stem cell lines that already existed. Scientists believe embryonic stem cell research could eventually produce cures for a variety of diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart disease and spinal cord injuries.

U.S. Military To Recruit Temporary Immigrants

The New York Times reports the U.S. military will begin recruiting immigrants offering a chance to become citizens in as little as six months. The program will focus on immigrants with special skills who are in the United States on temporary visas. This marks the first time since the Vietnam War that the armed forces would be open to temporary immigrants.

Blackwater Changes Name to XE

The private military contractor firm Blackwater Worldwide has decided to change its name in attempt to rebrand the company’s image. Blackwater will now operate under the name Xe, pronounced like the letter “z.” Blackwater’s decision comes less than a month after the Iraqi government announced it will refuse to renew Blackwater’s operating license. In 2007, Blackwater guards killed seventeen Iraqi civilians in an unprovoked massacre in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Begins Asia Trip

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arrived in Japan on her first trip abroad as President Barack Obama’s chief diplomat. She also plans to stop in Indonesia, South Korea and China.

Civil Rights Leaders Visit India to Retrace MLK’s 1959 Trip to Study Gandhi

And a delegation of U.S. civil rights leaders has arrived in India to retrace the steps of Martin Luther King Jr., who came to India 50 years ago to study Mahatma Gandhi. Members of the delegation include Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Young and Martin Luther King III.

Martin Luther King III: “As the son of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King have had this opportunity to pay tribute to the greatest human being that ever worked on our planet, the great Mahatma Gandhi…. 50 years ago my father and mother came to this country and spent about 30 days. In this occasion, we will only be able to spend only two weeks, but, it is a special honor.”

The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power

In his third book on Pakistan, Tariq Ali does the monumental job of providing us with an important study of the historical relationship between the US and a country that has only experienced sovereignty since 1948.

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

As the US government makes the transition from the Bush to the Obama administration what will this mean for foreign policy? Media pundits have been and will be speculating on this question for months to come, but it is important to seek out independent analysis, particularly the kind of analysis that provides a solid historical context.

In his third book on Pakistan, Tariq Ali does the monumental job of providing us with an important study of the historical relationship between the US and a country that has only experienced sovereignty since 1948.

The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power covers a sixty year period from the birth of a nation to a US ally in the “war on terror.” Ali, with a keen sense of history and a personal commitment to the quest for justice in his home country of Pakistan, has provided us with an important framework for how to understand the role of his country in US foreign policy.

The book begins with the tensions that existed between India and Pakistan after the British turned over rule of the region. As Ali reminds readers throughout the book, the US was very interested in having Pakistan as an ally considering its strategic location. Pakistan borders India, Iran, Afghanistan and China. Pakistan was an important ally in the “Cold War” especially during the Reagan years and the US support for the Afghani resistance to the Soviet occupation of the 1980s.

However, before their role in the first “war on terror,” Pakistan became one of the first nations to develop a highly political vision of Islam. It was during the dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq that the reality of Pakistan being a predominantly Islamic state came into fruition. General Zia-ul-Haq promoted a Sharia (Islamic) law and developed the notorious intelligence agency known as the ISI, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. The ISI was notorious for its repression of dissent and played a valuable role in supporting the US financed mujahideens in Afghanistan during the 1980s.

The Duel also provides important insight into the post Zia-ul-Haq years and the legacy of the Bhutto family in Pakistani politics. Despite the US media canonization of Benazir Bhutto after her assassination last year, Bhutto was not a strong advocate for democracy in Pakistan. Her death had more to do with factionalism than her being a champion for democracy. Bhutto’s death opened the door for Pervez Musharraf to take complete control of power in Pakistan, an outcome the US government was quite pleased with.

Musharraf has continued to be an important ally for the US, particularly in the current “war on terror.” Ali underscores that point by devoting the last part of the book to the role that Pakistan has played in the current US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistan has played such an important role in the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan that the war has now spilled over into Pakistan. The Duel does not provide great details on the US military incursions into Pakistan, a topic Ali has written on since the book was published, but it does provide an important framework for why Pakistan will be critical in the US/NATO campaign in Afghanistan.

Just before the November, election Tariq Ali made a video plea to Barack Obama, asking him to reconsider his public position in support of increasing US troops in Afghanistan. Continuing in that spirit, The Duel will provide anyone with an important perspective, especially if you want to push the new administration to break with a long history of using Pakistan as a tool to further imperialist policies in that region of the world.

Tariq Ali, The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power, (Scribner, 2008).