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New Protests in Iran Show Hope for Reform Still Alive

On what was meant to be a day of anti-American sentiment, anti-government protesters instead took to the streets in Tehran, Iran. Today is the 30th anniversary of the Iranian takeover of the American Embassy in Iran and the beginning of the Islamic revolution that put the Shah of Iran in power in 1979.  Demonstrations for the anniversary are sponsored by the state, but opponents of the current government used the occasion to demonstration their support for reform. Police used teargas and violence to subdue protesters, New York Times.

Protests have been ongoing in Iran since the disputed June 12 presidential election. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad officially won reelection but supporters of reform candidates Mir-Hussein Moussavi and former president Muhammad Khatami alleged that the election was a fraud. Censorship and heavy surveillance by police prevent reformist Iranians from staging large-scale or long-running protests but protesters have been able to show their support and their growing numbers by coordinating reform demonstrations during state-sponsored demonstrations, such as at the Quds Day rallies in September. Iranians are also coordinating on Twitter and by text message. Timeline: Iran after the election, Al Jazeera.

President Obama appealed directly to the Iranian people in a statement released today. He called on Iranians to put aside the 30 years of mistrust that followed the seizure of the American Embassy and to start a new chapter of cooperation and mutual respect, Whitehouse.gov.

See our Live Blog for more information. See also the Green Wave of Freedom website for reports on reform efforts from inside Iran, Mowjcamp and the website for former presidential candidate Mehdi Karoubi, Tagheer. Use Google Translate to change the text to your language.

5 British soldiers were shot inside a police training facility in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The shooter was described as a “rouge policeman.” It is unknown if the Taliban was involved in the attack. Strategy in Afghanistan has focused on training Afghan police and soldiers in hopes that those forces will one day be capable of stabilizing the country without the aid of NATO forces, BBC News. Taliban link to the shooting probed, BBC News.  Q & A on British troops in Afghanistan, BBC News.

Voters in Maine overturned a law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor that had allowed same-sex couples to marry.  Maine becomes that 31st state that has rejected same-sex marriage by popular vote, ABC News.  Republican candidates won the race for governor in both Virginia and New Jersey, ABC News. In New York City, incumbent Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg won reelection. The race was closer than had been expected with the Democratic candidate getting 46% of the vote to Bloomberg’s 51%. Mayor Bloomberg, who has a personal fortune of $20 billion, spent $90 million of his own money on his reelection campaign, New York Times.

At least 91 people are dead and thousands have been displaced by Tropical Storm Mirinae in Vietnam, Associated Press.  Vietnam is still recovering from Typhoon Ketsana, Citizen’s Daily Brief.

American diplomats were allowed to meet with Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi despite her house arrest. Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for much of the past 20 years. Suu Kyi was democratically elected President of Burma but a military junta did not allow her to take office. The junta controls the country, which it has renamed Myanmar. The U.S. has initiated a new policy of engaging with the country’s leaders, CNN International.

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140 Dead in Clash Between Uighurs and Police in China

140 people are dead and 1,000 wounded after members of the Uighur ethnic group, a predominantly Muslim minority group in China, clashed with Chinese security forces in the capital city of  Urumqi in the province of Xinjiang. The victims have not been identified and it is unknown if the majority of the victims were Uighur activists, Chinese security forces, or civilians. It is also unknown exactly what sparked the riot but the unrest follows an incident at a toy factory in south China in which two Uighurs were killed, Voice of America. The protest in pictures,  BBC News.

Xinjiang is an autononmous region similar to Tibet. Uighurs, who have no ethnic or historical relation to the Han Chinese that make up 80% of China’s population, say they are persecuted by the Chinese government. China has encouraged people who are ethnically Han Chinese to move into the Xinjiang where Uighurs are currently the majority. Some Uighur activist groups have been labeled terrorist groups and about 20 Uighurs who were living in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks were picked up by US forces and sent to Guantanamo Bay. The US is currently in negotiations to release the men to countries other than China where they say they will be executed.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara has died at the age of 93. A member of President Kennedy’s team of Harvard-educated “best and the brightest,” McNamara attempted to apply corporate business models and academic methods of analysis to the Vietnam War, Washington Post.  McNamara defended his involvement in the Vietnam War and outlined lessons he had learned from its conduct in Errol Morris’s excellent documentary “The Fog of War,” IMDB.

Following up on the outcome of the events we chronicled in last night’s live post, Honduran President Zelaya was not permitted to land in Honduras and was diverted to Nicaragua instead. The internim government has declared that if Zelaya lands on Honduran soil, he will be arrested, CNN International. The Organization of American States has suspended Honduras until Zelaya is reinstated, Washington Post.

US President Obama meets with Russian President Medvedev in Moscow today. The US aims to reach a deal with Russia to reduce nuclear stockpiles, BBC News. They will hold a press conference today at 10:30am EDT, Whitehouse.gov [live audio].

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