News in Brief: Crucial Upcoming Elections in Afghanistan Face International Scrutiny, and More

Crucial Upcoming Elections in Afghanistan Face International Scrutiny

International observers are concerned that increased violence in Afghanistan could allow voter fraud and political corruption to compromise the country’s elections on September 18. Allegations that fraud and mismanagement may have contributed to US-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s victory in last year’s elections escalated tensions between the Karzai government and its Western backers, according to a New York Times report. The nine-year Afghanistan occupation has once again become the subject of international debate and controversy, and the upcoming elections are expected to be a crucial litmus test of the fledgling Afghan government’s competence and legitimacy as the Obama administration prepares to initiate troop withdrawals next year.

US to Spend Millions on More Border Security

The Senate passed and sent to the White House a bill providing $600 million in funding for security along the US-Mexico border. The money will pay for the deployment of 1,500 additional National Guard troops and unmanned Predator surveillance drones along the border. President Obama is expected to sign the bill.

Unemployment Claims on the Rise

The number of new unemployment benefits claims grew to 484,000 in past weeks, the highest number the US has seen since February, according to an Associated Press report. The number of claims “represents a very adverse turn in the labor market, threatening income growth and consumer spending,” Pierre Ellis, an economist at Decision Economics, wrote in a note to clients. Last month, Senate Democrats finally defeated an ongoing Republican filibuster to fund a renewal of unemployment benefits for millions of American who had been out of work the longest and run out of aid during the economic crisis.

Kurdish Women Organize to Fight Against Rape

At least four Kurdish adolescent girls have been raped by officials in southeastern Turkey, the latest in a string of sexual abuses and rape scandals involving Kurdish women in a region plagued by ethnic tensions, according to Inter Press Service. Kurdish women’s rights activists have reported violent threats and even rape for publicly fighting back against the assaults, but they have succeeded in placing women in government positions to hold those responsible accountable by prosecuting offenders and going after officials who turned a blind eye.

The New Battle of Blair Mountain

A lone coal mine worker has taken a stand in the new Battle of Blair Mountain, according to an interesting piece in the Los Angeles Times. Environmentalists and direct action, mountain justice activists have fought to keep the mountain in West Virginia from being destroyed by mountaintop removal strip mining for years, but local Kenny King wants to save Blair Mountain because of it’s important historical significance as the site of the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain, where thousands of unionized miners clashed with authorities protecting the coal companies in a fight for better wages, conditions, autonomy and solidarity. West Virginia has kept the battle out of its history books to appease its most profitable and environmentally destructive industry.