Ex-Bush Envoy May Become Unelected “CEO” of Afghanistan
The New York Times reports President Bush’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, could soon assume a powerful, unelected position running the Afghan government. Under a plan being discussed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Obama administration, Khalilzad could essentially become the unelected CEO of Afghanistan, taking away power now held by the democratically elected Karzai. Karzai’s ties to the United States have deteriorated recently in part because of his vocal criticism over the rising number of civilian casualties due to U.S. air strikes. Zalmay Khalilzad was born in Afghanistan but is now a U.S. citizen. He served as President Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations. The Obama administration claims it is not behind the idea of inserting Khalilzad into the Afghan government but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special envoy Richard Holbrooke have been involved in the discussions. Two months ago the Guardian of London reported the Obama administration and European allies were preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Afghan government in a direct challenge to Karzai.
Obama To Introduce New Car Emissions and Mileage Requirements
President Obama is scheduled today to issue new national emissions and mileage requirements for cars and light trucks. The rules aim to cut emissions by 30% and require passenger car required to average 39 miles per gallon and light trucks 30 mpg by 2016.
The White House estimates the regulations would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 900 million metric tons over the lifetime of the more efficient vehicles, equivalent to taking 177 million cars off the road or shutting down 194 coal-fired power plants. Daniel Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign, praised Obama’s plan. He said: “This is the single biggest step the American government has ever taken to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.” The cost of new vehicles is expected to rise by at least $1,300 by 2016.
Netanyahu Refuses To Endorse Two-State Solution, Presses Obama on Iran
At a White House meeting Monday, Israel’s new Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu refused to endorse a two-state solution or to agree to President Obama’s request to halt the construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank. Obama and Netanyahu held a press conference Monday after their private meeting.
President Obama: “Now, Israel is going have to take some difficult steps as well. And I shared with Prime Minister the fact that, under the road map, under Annapolis there’s a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements, that settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward. That’s a difficult thing to recognize, but it’s an important one. And it has to be addressed. I think the humanitarian situation in Gaza has to be addressed.”
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel doesn’t want to govern the Palestinians but he did not endorse an independent Palestinian state.
Binyamin Netanyahu: “I want to make it clear that we don’t want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves, absent a handful of powers that could endanger the State of Israel. And for this there has to be a clear goal. There has to be an end to conflict. There’ll have to be compromises by Israelis and Palestinians alike. We’re ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians are ready to do their share as well.”
After the meeting Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat criticized Netanyahu’s comments.
Saeb Erekat: “Unfortunately, Mr. Netanyahu failed to mention the two-state solution, failed to mention the agreement signed, failed to mention his commitment to stop settlement activities. And the only thing he mentioned was Palestinians entitled to govern themselves by themselves. How can I govern myself by myself as a Palestinian with his occupation going on on my neck on the hour every hour? With his roadblocks segregating our towns and villages and refugee camps?”
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Obama also discussed Iran on Monday.
Binyamin Netanyahu: “But if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it could give a nuclear umbrella to terrorists or worse it could give terrorists nuclear weapons. That would put us all in great peril. So in that context I very much appreciate Mr. President your firm commitment to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear capability and also your statement you’re leaving all options on the table.”
President Obama told Netanyahu that his administration may back a new set of sanctions against Iran.
President Obama: “We are engaged in a process to reach out to Iran and persuade them that it is not in their interest to pursue a nuclear weapon, and that they should change course. But I assured the prime minister that we are not foreclosing a range of steps, including much stronger international sanctions in assuring that Iran understands that we are serious.”
Campaign Launched to Disbar 12 Former Bush Admin Attorneys
Efforts have been launched to disbar 12 former Bush administration attorneys connected to the administration’s torture program. On Monday a coalition of advocacy groups called the Velvet Revolution filed disciplinary complaints with state bar licensing boards on the grounds that the attorneys violated the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture and American law. The attorneys targeted are: John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Stephen Bradbury, Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft, Michael Chertoff, Alice Fisher, William Haynes, Douglas Feith, Michael Mukasey, Timothy Flanigan, and David Addington.
Obama Seeks $46 Million For Military Base in Colombia
President Obama is seeking $46 million to establish a new military facility in Colombia. The funding request has been opposed by several advocacy groups. John Lindsay-Poland of the Fellowship of Reconciliation said: “This base would feed a failed drug policy, support an abusive army, and reinforce a tragic history of U.S. military intervention in the region.”
The Pentagon has been looking for a new site in Latin America ever since Ecuador notified Washington last year that it would not renew the lease on the U.S. base in Manta, Ecuador.
Bill Clinton To Be Named UN Special Envoy To Haiti
Meanwhile former U.S. President Bill Clinton is expected to be named today the new United Nations special envoy to Haiti.
Supreme Court Blocks Suit Filed By Man Detained After 9/11
The Supreme Court has blocked a lawsuit against former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller filed by a Pakistani man. Javaid Iqbal was among thousands of Muslim men rounded up after Sept. 11 . According to his lawsuit he was held in solitary confinement, subjected to numerous beatings and denied medical care. He eventually pleaded guilty to identity fraud and was deported to Pakistan.
Nigerian Military Attacks Niger Delta Region
In news from Africa, the Nigerian military continues to carry out attacks in the oil-rich Niger Delta in an effort to oust militant groups from the region. The military has reportedly attacked largely civilian areas with gunboats and helicopters. As many as 30,000 civilians are displaced without adequate food or water and aid agencies have been barred from the region. On Monday militants vowed to blockade key waterways in the Niger Delta to try to prevent crude oil exports. For years the militant groups have fought for fair distribution of oil wealth to local communities in the impoverished region.
Asari Dokubo of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force: “We will not stop, I will not stop. I will continue, we will continue to proceed by any means necessary. If they bring peace, we will hold on to peace. If they bring war, we will hold on to war, because we cannot be treated like this and we cannot just be raising our hands and falling and dying. No, we are going to put up a fight.”
The state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. has joint-venture partnerships with major oil companies including Shell and Chevron in the Niger Delta. Next week Shell will stand trial in New York for its alleged role in the 1995 state execution of the Nigerian writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists.
Shell Accused of Being Most Carbon Intensive Oil Firm In World
A group of environmental organizations have accused Shell of being the most carbon intensive oil company in the world. In a report issued today – to coincide with the company’s annual shareholder meeting – Shell is criticized for its reliance on Nigerian crude oil which is associated with huge levels of gas flaring, liquefied natural gas which is highly energy intensive, and oil from Canada’s tar sands. Shell revealed to investors last year that 30% of its total resources are tar sands.
BBC: Ethiopian Troops Re-Enter Somalia
In other news from Africa, the BBC is reporting Ethiopian troops have re-entered Somalia, barely three months after leaving. This comes one day after Islamist militants seized Mahaday, a strategically important town north of Mogadishu.
Red Cross Warns of “Unimaginable Humanitarian Catastrophe” In Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan leader Mahinda Rajapaksa has declared the country to be “liberated” from Tamil Tiger rebels after a 26-year war. Sri Lankan television stations broadcast footage today of a body purported to be that of Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. While many Sri Lankans have been celebrating the end of the Tamil Tigers, the Red Cross is warning northeastern Sri Lanka still faces an “an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe.” Most aid groups are still barred from the region where 8,000 civilians have been killed since January.
Sri Lanka Detains Three Doctors Who Spoke To Media
The Sri Lankan government has detained three Sri Lankan doctors who were treating civilians inside the conflict zone. During the war, the doctors had provided detailed information about government shelling and civilian casualties to outside media and human rights organizations. Two of the doctors have been reportedly taken to the Terrorist Investigation Division in Colombo.
U.S. to Push Immigration Checks to All Local Jails
The Washington Post reports the Obama administration is expanding a program initiated by President Bush aimed at checking the immigration status of virtually every person booked into local jails. By matching inmates’ fingerprints to federal immigration databases, authorities hope to pinpoint deportable undocumented immigrants before they are released from custody. The measure could result in a tenfold increase in undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of crimes and identified for deportation over the next four years.
Bill Introduced To Guarantee Sick Days For Workers
And on Capitol Hill, Democratic Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro has introduced legislation to guarantee paid sick days to American workers. The bill would require companies with 15 or more employees to allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick leave days a year. Sen. Edward Kennedy is expected to introduce the Senate version of the Healthy Families Act later this week. Of the world’s 22 wealthiest nations, the United States is the only one not to guarantee paid sick days for workers.