Navy Seals Free Ship Captain; Shoot Dead Three Somali Pirates
US Navy special forces freed an American ship captain Sunday by killing the three Somali pirates who were holding him hostage in a lifeboat. The rescue of Richard Phillips ended a five-day standoff that began when four pirates attempted to seize a US ship on Wednesday. The crew escaped harm after the captain offered himself as a hostage. Over the weekend, President Obama authorized the use of force if it appeared the captain’s life was in imminent danger. Hours before the pirates were shot dead by the Navy Seals, Admiral Thad Allen of the US Coast Guard appeared on ABC’s This Week and said an international legal framework is needed to address piracy.
Admiral Thad Allen: “I think the real issue is to create an international legal framework where there are consequences for these actions. For the past six to twelve months, we in the United States Coast Guard, with our other partners in government, have been working through entities like the International Maritime Organization to gain the UN Security Council resolutions that authorize entry into Somalian territorial waters and land to protect world food shipments. What you really have to have is a coordinating mechanism that ultimately brings these pirates to court, where they can be held accountable.”
A fourth Somali pirate is in US custody after surrendering earlier in the standoff. US officials admitted the killing of the pirates could escalate violence in the region. Somali pirates are still holding more than a dozen ships and more than 200 hostages. Piracy began in the region after Western ships started dumping toxic waste off the coast of Somalia, devastating the Somali fishing industry. Somali fishermen said they are worried about the increased presence of foreign navy warships off the coast.
Abdikadir Munganih: “We are very worried about the military activities on our sea by the international coalition who are fighting against Somali pirates, because sometimes when we go further out to sea we face a very dangerous situation because of their fleets on our sea, and since they began these operations, we catch less fish.”
US Considers Striking Al-Shabab Camps in Somalia
In other news from Somalia, the Washington Post reports President Obama is being urged by some in the Pentagon to carry out strikes against camps by the Al-Shabab militant group in southern Somalia. Others in the administration oppose military strikes, because there is no evidence the group is planning attacks outside Somalia.
Report: 687 Pakistani Civilians Killed by US Drones Since 2006
The Pakistani newspaper The News is reporting US bombing raids have killed 687 Pakistani civilians since 2006. During that time US Predator drones carried out sixty strikes inside Pakistan, but reportedly just ten of the strikes hit their actual targets.
14 Peace Activists Arrested Protesting US Drones in Nevada
Meanwhile, fourteen peace activists were arrested Thursday outside Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, where Air Force personnel pilot the unmanned drones being used in Pakistan. The activists were arrested after holding a ten-day vigil to raise awareness of the drone strikes. Among the arrested were Kathy Kelly and Father John Dear.
Suicide Bombing in Mosul Kills Five US Soldiers
In Iraq, five US soldiers were killed in a suicide truck bombing in Mosul on Friday. It was the deadliest strike against US forces in Iraq in thirteen months.
Prominent Afghan Women’s Rights Activist Killed
In Afghanistan, a prominent female lawmaker and women’s rights activist was shot dead on Sunday. Sitara Achikzai was killed outside her home in Kandahar by Taliban gunmen on motorbikes.
Obama Follows Bush Policy on Limiting Detainee Access to Courts
President Obama has sided with the former Bush administration in claiming that prisoners held by US troops overseas have no US legal rights. On Friday, the Justice Department appealed a federal judge’s decision granting three detainees at the US military prison Bagram in Afghanistan the right to challenge their detention in US courts.
Two More Banks Collapse
In economic news, federal regulators shut down two banks on Friday: Cape Fear Bank in Wilmington, North Carolina, and New Frontier Bank of Greeley, Colorado. Twenty-three banks have collapsed so far this year.
Bailed-Out Banks Scrutinized for Raising Interest Rates and Fees
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports the committee overseeing federal banking bailout programs is investigating the lending practices of institutions that received public funds, following a rash of complaints about increases in interest rates and fees. Last week, Bank of America told some customers that interest rates on their credit cards will nearly double to about 14 percent. The bank is also imposing fees of least $10 on a wide range of credit card transactions. Citigroup is pushing new loans that carry annual interest rates of 30 percent, while Wells Fargo is offering its own form of a payday loan that carry annual interest rates of about 120 percent. Last year, US banks and savings institutions collected nearly $40 billion in deposit account charges and fees for everything from ATM usage to balance transfers. The fees accounted for about 25 percent of the industry’s total revenue.
70 Thai Protesters Injured as Troops Open Fire on Demonstrators
In Thailand, at least seventy anti-government protesters were injured earlier today when troops fired into the air in Bangkok and used teargas to clear protesters from the streets. Thailand’s prime minister declared a state of emergency on Saturday after 1,000 protesters stormed a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The summit was canceled, and Asian leaders had to be evacuated by helicopter. Most of the protesters are supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006. Thaksin still has deep support among the urban and provincial poor due to his policies to help the poor during his time in office.
Sri Lanka Declares Two-Day Pause to Bombing
In other news from Asia, Sri Lanka’s government has declared a two-day pause to its offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels. Human Rights Watch estimates that 3,000 people have been killed since January as the Sri Lankan military attempts to eliminate the pro-separatist Tamil Tigers. The group accused the military of firing artillery into a designated no-fire zone.
Larry EchoHawk Tapped to Lead Bureau of Indian Affairs
In domestic news, President Obama has nominated Larry EchoHawk to lead the Bureau of Indian Affairs. EchoHawk is a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and the former attorney general of Idaho. He will become the first high-profile Mormon to join the Obama administration’s senior ranks.
Democrats to Hold Off on Restoring Semi-Automatic Assault Gun Ban
Newsweek is reporting the Obama administration has abandoned plans to restore a federal ban on certain semi-automatic assault guns despite a recent spate of killings. On Sunday, California Senator Dianne Feinstein told 60 Minutes she plans to hold off trying to renew the ban that she authored in 1994.
Leslie Stahl: “There is some sense that the President has so many crisis issues on his plate right now that the idea of bringing up guns, which is considered part of the culture wars, would be such a diversion.”
Sen. Feinstein: “I agree with you. I wouldn’t bring it up now.”
Stahl: “So you’re going to hold off?”
Feinstein: “That’s correct. I’ll pick the time and the place, no question about that.”
Clark University Cancels Finkelstein Lecture
In education news, Clark University in Massachusetts has canceled a scheduled speech by Holocaust scholar Norman Finkelstein after the Jewish campus group Hillel objected to his appearance. Finkelstein is known as one of the most prominent academic critics of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Clark University President John Bassett said Finkelstein’s speech on campus “would invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding.”
Connecticut Student Paper Editor Dismissed for Activist Ties
At Central Connecticut State University, the opinion editor at the school’s newspaper has been dismissed because she is a member of a socialist club on campus. The paper’s editor fired Marissa Blaszko last month citing her antiwar activism and her membership in the Youth for Socialist Action club. Blaszko said, “We shouldn’t have to swear off our interest in activism, or hide our opposition to a war, to work for our campus newspaper.”
19 Arrested at New School Occupation Protest
In New York, nineteen students at the New School were arrested Friday after police broke up a student occupation calling for the firing of university president Bob Kerrey. Student activist Fatuma Emmad accused the police of using excessive force.
Fatuma Emmad: “Police began to violently and brutally attack people that were observing outside, alleging that they were people trying to escape from inside the occupation. And there’s footage that can be seen of the police attacking one student and having at least six officers around him. He’s not resisting arrest.”
Video shot at the scene by Brandon Jourdan shows police firing pepper spray into a New School building and police officers knocking students to the ground on the sidewalk. The New York Police Department originally denied any pepper spray was used but reversed their claim after Jourdan’s video was posted online.
A New Way Forward Protests Held in 60 Cities
And demonstrations to protest the government’s handling of the economic crisis were held in over sixty cities on Saturday. The protests were organized by the group A New Way Forward. They are calling on the government to nationalize, reorganize and decentralize the country’s banks.