Chrysler Extends Plant Closure to 1 Month
The struggling auto giant Chrysler has announced plans to close all thirty of its North American plants for one month. The company says workers will be able to supplement lost income through state unemployment and supplemental unemployment benefits.While all forty-six thousand unionized workers won’t see a pay-check, Chrysler will continue to pay top management. Chrysler engineer Dan Klein said he hopes to return to work.
Dan Klein: “I’d rather go to work. I’ve been there 17 years, like I said and I believe I missed one day for having a stroke. My father worked there for 43-and-a-half years and only missed five days.”
The Wall Street Journal reports Chrysler has also revived talks with General Motors about a possible merger. Meanwhile the Ford auto company says it will shut down ten North American assembly plants for an extra week in January.
Obama to Nominate GOP Rep. LaHunt for Transportation Dept.
President-elect Barack Obama has announced more cabinet picks. On Wednesday Obama officially nominated former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to head the Agriculture Department and Colorado Senator Ken Salazar to serve as Secretary of the Interior. Obama is also reportedly planning on nominating Republican Congressmember Ray LaHood of Illinois to become Transportation Secretary. LaHood would be the second Republican in Obama’s cabinet after Defense Secretary Robert Gates. More on Obama’s latest cabinet nominations after headlines.
Obama Picks Anti-Gay Marriage, Anti-Abortion Evangelical for Inaugural Invocation
Meanwhile, Obama is drawing criticism from gay and lesbian activists for his choice to deliver the invocation at next month’s inauguration. Obama has selected the Reverend Rick Warren, a leading evangelical opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage. Warren supported California’s recent gay marriage ban and has compared abortion to the Nazi Holocaust. He’s also backed the idea of assassinating U.S. foes, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In a letter to Obama, Joe Salmonese of the Human Rights Campaign said: “Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans.”
Commanders Offer Obama Iraq Timeline Beyond Stated 16-Month Withdrawal Pledge
Top U.S. military commanders have presented President-elect Obama with an Iraq withdrawal timetable that doesn’t match Obama’s campaign promise for a pullout within sixteen months. The plan, drafted by General David Petraeus and General Ray Odierno, would leave U.S. combat troops in Iraq beyond Obama’s stated May 2010 deadline. Obama has said he intends to keep the 16-month pledge but would listen to his commanders’ advice. Whatever advice he takes, Obama’s plan would still leave tens of thousands of U.S. troops behind in a so-called “support” role to the Iraqi army.
State Dept. IG: Iraq Could Ban Blackwater
The State Department Inspector General is warning the private military firm Blackwater Worldwide could lose its authorization to operate in Iraq next year. In a new report, the inspector general says there’s a “real possibility” the Iraqi government will deny Blackwater a license and ban it from the country. Five Blackwater guards were indicted earlier this month for the September 2007 massacre of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.
Iraqi Officials Accused of Attempted Revival of Baath Party
At least 34 Iraqi Interior Ministry officials have been arrested in a sweeping raid. The officials are accused of corruption and trying to rebuild Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.
Iraq Protests Continue as Jailed Journalist Faces Charges for Shoe Incident
In other Iraq news, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush will face charges of attacking a head of state. The journalist, Muntadar al-Zaidi, failed to appear at his Wednesday court hearing. Zaidi’s brother says he was too badly injured from abuse by Iraqi jailers to make it to court. Iraqis continue to support al-Zaidi in street protests. In Fallujah, U.S. troops reportedly opened fire above the heads of a group of students rallying for Zaidi’s release. The students pelted the U.S. troops with shoes and rocks. One protester was treated for gunshot wounds. In Baghdad, a resident said Bush should be put on trial, not Zaidi.
Baghdad resident: “Bush must be brought to the trial but not Muntadher since he killed a million Iraqi citizens and displaced four-milion outside Iraq as well as destroyed the country. Besides that, thousands of detainees are held
in custody. He must be brought to trial but not the persecuted man Muntadher.”
The passions over Zaidi’s shoe-throwing action have spilled over into the Iraqi parliament. On Wednesday, Iraqi lawmakers held a raucous session over how to respond to Zaidi’s ongoing imprisonment. The session had been called to address the status of forces agreement with the U.S., but a group of lawmakers called for an emergency session on Zaidi’s case.
Protesters Lob Shoes Outside White House
Meanwhile in Washington, DC, a group of anti-war activists held a shoe protest of their own on Wednesday. A group including Code Pink members and anti-war veterans gathered in front of the White House. The demonstrators threw shoes at a man wearing a President Bush face mask and a jail uniform.
Morales: Expel U.S. Ambassadors Until Cuba Embargo Dropped
In Brazil, Latin American and Carribean leaders wrapped up a summit Wednesday seeking greater regional integration.
Brazilian President Lula da Silva: “What we are discovering today, is that among us there are other opportunities we had not discovered yet, which we had not discussed, because it was much easier to turn either to the United States or to the European Union.”
Leaders at the summit meanwhile appeared to reject a proposal from Bolivian President Evo Morales on protesting U.S. policy towards Cuba. Morales said all Latin American countries should expel their U.S. ambassadors until the U.S. ends the Cuban embargo.
UN Halts Gaza Food Aid, Israeli Attack Kills Palestinian Civilian
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the United Nations says the Israeli blockade has again forced it suspend food aid to the Gaza Strip. The UN says “irregular border access” has prevented it from delivering wheat supplies. Meanwhile, a Palestinian civilian was killed and two others injured in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza Wednesday. Israel says it was responding to Palestinian rocket fire.
Anti-War U.S. Vets Support Israeli Military Objectors
Meanwhile today has is the international day of solidarity with Israeli military objectors. More than twenty U.S. war resisters have signed on to a letter of support for Israeli youths who refuse to serve in the military. The letter says: “The Global War on Terror, like the Israeli occupation, is propped up by racism and dehumanization and sets the stage for never-ending war and occupation. We are inspired by the brave refusal of our brothers and sisters in Israel to take part in these destructive policies, and we want to let them know… that they have our deepest respect and support.”
Illinois Supreme Court Rejects Blagojevich Ouster
Back in the United States, the Illinois Supreme Court has rejected a move from the state Attorney General to have Governor Rod Blagojevich deemed unfit for office. State lawmakers are still considering whether to launch impeachment hearings. Speaking outside his Chicago home, Blagojevich told reporters he’s “dying” tell his side of the story.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich: “I am not going to answer any questions. I’m just going to be very brief and say that I can’t wait to begin to tell my side of the story to you guys and most importantly the people of Illinois that is who I am dying to talk to. There is a time and place for everything. that day will soon be here. you may know more about that today, maybe no later than tomorrow.”
Lindh Parents Ask Bush for Commutation
The parents of John Walker Lindh have asked President Bush to commute their son’s 20-year-sentence before he leaves office. Lindh is the American citizen captured in Afghanistan seven years ago. Bush has ignored previous commutation requests from Lindh and his family.
New School Students Protest Kerrey With Sit-in
And here in New York, dozens of students at the New School launched a sit-in Wednesday night against the college’s embattled president, former Senator Bob Kerrey. The students are occupying a school dining hall and calling for more of a voice in how the New School is run. Kerry received a no-confidence vote from New School faculty last week.