Headlines: Petraeus Admits U.S. Violated Geneva Conventions; General Motors Declares Bankruptcy

Democracy Now Headlines: Petraeus Admits U.S. Violated Geneva Conventions; General Motors Declares Bankruptcy

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

General Motors Declares Bankruptcy

General Motors is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today in what is expected to be one of the largest and most complex bankruptcy cases ever. The bankruptcy filing caps a remarkable fall for the 100-year-old company which was once the world’s largest car manufacturer. Under the proposed restructuring plan, the U.S. government will invest another $30 billion in GM and take ownership of 60 percent of the company. The Canadian government, a union health trust and current bondholders would own the rest. The restructuring will result in the lost of 21,000 more jobs, the shuttering of at least 12 factories, and the closing of 2,600 car dealers. President Obama is expected to outline the proposed restructuring in a speech today. Administration officials said the government will remove itself from day-to-day operations of GM once a new management team is in place. Congressman Denis Kucinich of Ohio urged the White House not to subsidize GM’s overseas growth at the expense of U.S. workers. In a statement Kucinich said: “We must not allow GM to use U.S. taxpayer dollars to close plants in America in order to open markets for products made in China and other countries.” Residents of Detroit said they were saddened and anxious by the bankruptcy of GM.

Mary Ann Bielaczyc, Detroit area resident: “They are all scared. Their day to day existence is depending on this. I have a brother who is a contract worker for GM and he never knows from one day to the next if he is going to have a job. My next door neighbor’s son works for GM, or used to, found out his job was eliminated. It’s scary.”

In other auto news, a federal judge has cleared a path for Chrysler to get out of bankruptcy by approving a sale of most of the company’s assets to a new entity to be run by the Italian company Fiat.

Anti-Abortion Activist Arrested in Killing of Kansas Doctor

In Kansas, police have arrested a 51-year-old anti-abortion activist in connection to the murder of Doctor George Tiller. Tiller was shot dead Sunday as he attended services at his church in Wichita. The National Abortion Federation says Dr. Tiller is the eighth abortion provider to be assassinated in the United States since 1977. President Obama said he is “shocked and outraged” by Tiller”s killing. US Marshals are now being deployed to protect women’s health clinics and doctors across the nation. We’ll have more on this story after headlines.

Report: Global Warming Causes 300,000 Deaths Each Year

A new report by the Global Humanitarian Forum estimates global warming is causing more than 300,000 deaths each year. The report is considered to be the first comprehensive study of the human impact of global warming. The Global Humanitarian Forum is a think tank headed by Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general. If emissions are not brought under control, within 25 years, the organization estimates 310 million more people will suffer adverse health consequences related to temperature increases, 20 million more people will fall into poverty and 75 million extra people will be displaced by climate change.

White House To Create “Cyber Czar” Position

President Obama has announced plans to create a White House-level position of “cyber czar” to coordinate and oversee federal efforts to improve network security and response to cyber attacks.

President Obama: “It’s now clear this cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation. It’s also clear that we’re not as prepared as we should be, as a government or as a country.”

Obama also said that his administration would not dictate cybersecurity standards for private companies and that he was committed to protecting the privacy of Americans.

President Obama: “Our pursuit of cybersecurity will not–I repeat, will not include–monitoring private sector networks or Internet traffic. We will preserve and protect the personal privacy and civil liberties that we cherish as Americans. Indeed, I remain firmly committed to net neutrality so we can keep the Internet as it should be–open and free.”

Military Contractors Hired To Wage Cyberwarfare

Meanwhile the New York Times reports the military is now spending billions of dollars hiring defense contractors or so-called hacker soldiers to help wage cyberwarfare. Nearly all of the largest military companies ? including Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon ? have received major cyber contracts with the military and intelligence agencies.

Pakistan Forces Retake City of Mingora in Swat Valley

Pakistani forces have retaken the city of Mingora after a bloody clash with Taliban fighters. Mingora is the main city in the Swat Valley. Red Cross officials said Pakistani civilians in the region are in dire need of aid. Houses have no running water, no power and food is scarce. The fighting has forced 3 million people to flee their homes.

Petraeus Admits U.S. Violated Geneva Conventions

The head of the US Central Command, General David Petraeus, admitted in TV interview that the United States has violated the Geneva Conventions. Petraeus made the comment while expressing support for President Obama’s decision to ban certain extreme interrogation techniques, but he did not specifically say which parts of the Geneva Conventions had been violated.

General David Petraeus: “When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Conventions we rightly have been criticized, so as we move forward I think it’s important to again live our values, to live the agreements that we have made in the international justice arena and to practice those.”

Obama Urges Court Not To Release Uighurs Into U.S.

The Obama administration has urged the Supreme Court to reject a petition filed by 14 Chinese Uighurs held at Guantánamo seeking their release into the United States. The Uighurs are still being held at Guantanamo even though they are no longer consider enemy combatants. In a brief filed on Friday the Obama White House backed the Bush administration’s claim that the court does not have the power to order the Uighurs released into the United States.

White House Sides With Saudi Royal Family in 9/11 Lawsuit

The Obama administration is also urging the Supreme Court to throw out a lawsuit filed against the Saudi royal family brought by families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. The lawsuit accuses Saudi Arabia of helping to finance Al Qaeda prior to the attacks that were carried out by 19 men, including 15 Saudis. The Justice Department filed the brief on Friday, less than a week before President Obama is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia to meet King Abdullah.

Obama Defends Sotomayor Nomination In Response to GOP Attacks

In his weekly radio address, President Obama defended his decision Saturday to nominate federal judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court after days of attacks by Republican lawmakers and activists. If confirmed Sotomayor would become the first Latina to serve on the high court.

President Obama: “There are, of course, some in Washington who are attempting to draw old battle lines and playing the usual political games, pulling a few comments out of context to paint a distorted picture of Judge Sotomayor’s record. But I am confident that these efforts will fail; because Judge Sotomayor’s seventeen-year record on the bench-hundreds of judicial decisions that every American can read for him or herself-speak far louder than any attack; her record makes clear that she is fair, unbiased, and dedicated to the rule of law.”

Limbaugh and Tancredo Accused Sotomayor Of Being Racist

Over the past five days several high-profile Republicans have attacked a 2001 speech by Sonia Sotomayor in which she asserted that as a Latina woman, she would offer wiser judgments than a white male judge in some cases. Last week talk show host Rush Limbaugh accused Sotomayor of being a racist.

Rush Limbaugh: “She brings a form of bigotry or racism to the court… How can a president nominate such a candidate? And how can a party get behind such a candidate? That’s what would be asked if somebody were foolish enough to nominate David Duke or pick somebody even less offensive.”

Former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo compared Sotomayor’s past membership in the Latino advocacy group La Raza to being a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Tom Tancredo: If you belong to an organization called La Raza, in this case, which is, from my point of view anyway, nothing more than a Latino — it’s a counterpart — a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses. If you belong to something like that in a way that’s going to convince me and a lot of other people that it’s got nothing to do with race. Even though the logo of La Raza is “All for the race. Nothing for the rest.”

In response, La Raza accused Tancredo of defaming the organization and for making up the organization’s motto.

U.S. and Cuba To Hold Talks

In news from Latin America, the United States and Cuba have agreed to resume direct talks on migration and open discussions on reestablishing direct mail service between the two countries.. Official talks between the two countries were last held in 2003.

7,000 Indigenous Activists Gather in Peru

Some 7,000 indigenous activists gathered in Peru Friday to show support for Amazon tribes who are protesting against a package of laws they say will threaten their native lands. Thousands of Amazon Indians have been on strike for more than a month over a series of presidential decrees that open up natural resource sectors like gas, lumber and oil to private investors. Miguel Palacin helped organize the fourth Continental Summit of Indigenous People.

Miguel Palacin: “The government of Peru is really going against the rights of native people. The indigenous territories are being handed over to mining companies, oil companies and loggers, and today, after a 49-day protest by the indigenous people, there is still no answer. We have an unstable government and from here we will send a message to the world to say that this government disregards the indigenous people.”

Six Killed After Abbas-Backed Forces Raid Hamas Hideout

In the West Bank, six people were killed on Sunday when forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raided a Hamas hideout just days after Abbas met with President Obama. It was the bloodiest internal Palestinian clash in the West Bank since 2007. After the raid, Hamas threatened to call off Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation talks with Fatah that had been scheduled to resume in Cairo in July.

President Of Ohio State Resigns From Board of Massey Energy

The president of Ohio State University has resigned resigned from the board of directors of Massey Energy after coming under pressure from opponents of mountaintop removal coal mining. Gordon Gee had served on the board of Massey since 2000. Massey Energy is one of the biggest companies using mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia.

Los Angeles School District Cancels Summer School Programs

In education news, the Los Angeles Unified School District has announced it is canceling most of its summer school programs due to the district’s budget crisis. Almost all summer school classes as well as playground and pool programs are being canceled at the district’s elementary and middle schools. Meanwhile dozens of Los Angeles school teachers are staging a hunger strike to protest budget cuts.

Air France Plane Carrying 288 Missing Off Coast of Brazil

And an Air France plane carrying 228 people from Brazil to France has gone missing over the Atlantic. A search and rescue mission is under way off the coast of Brazil.


Local and Michigan Headlines: Detroit Free Press Cutting Its Staff; Auto Worker Contracts

Here are some interesting stories from the past 24 hours:

If we missed anything, let us know.

Bicyclist Killed in Grand Rapids

Ride of Silence

Yesterday, a 55-year old Grand Rapids man was hit while traveling on a bicycle in Grand Rapids.

According to media reports, the unnamed bicyclist was hit by a City of Grand Rapids dump truck who was pulling out of a driveway. The driver of the truck says he did not see the bicyclist but stopped when he heard an unusual noise and saw the man laying in the street. Witnesses at the scene said the man was not wearing a helmet and that he was in shock and struggling to breathe before dying.

The incident occurred on the same day as the “Ride of Silence” a bike ride held each year to commemorate the lives of cyclists hit by motor vehicles. According to the website M-Bike.org, there motorists struck 2,160 bicyclists–killing 18–last year in Michigan.

Unfortunately, this incident is a reminder that for all the talk about making Grand Rapids a bicycle friendly city and Michigan’s ranking as a bicycle friendly state, bicycling remains a potentially dangerous means of transportation. As someone who bikes on a daily basis, barely a day goes by where there isn’t a vehicle that passes too close or a car that fails to pay attention and almost hits me. Sadly, this almost always happens in conjunction with insults yelled out the window and obscene gestures coming from the driver, who always views the cyclist as an obstacle to be overcome rather than a legitimate user of the road.

M-Bike.org has a good overview of Michigan’s bicycling laws, which include cyclists’ rights to the road. The City of Grand Rapids’ Bicycling Information Sheet contains information about local laws.

Headlines: Obama Unveils Vehicle Mileage, Emissions Standards; Senate Democrats Block Funds to Close Guantanamo Bay Prison

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Unveils Vehicle Mileage, Emissions Standards; Senate Democrats Block Funds to Close Guantanamo Bay Prison

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Senate Dems Block Funds for Gitmo Closure

Senate Democrats are refusing to finance the closure of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay until the Obama administration submits a detailed plan. On Tuesday, Democratic leaders said they would reject an $80 million request to relocate Guantanamo’s 240 prisoners and vowed to block the transfer of any prisoners into the United States. The move follows a similar action by House Democrats last week. It could mean delaying President Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison by at least several months.

Senate Approves Credit Card Bill

The Senate has voted to impose new regulation on the credit card industry. The measure would give credit card companies a nine-month deadline to comply with new rules including a 45-day notice and an explanation before raising customers’ interest rates. They’d also be forced to post agreements on the internet and allow online bill payments without added fees. The measure is weaker than original versions that included an amendment to cap interest rates at fifteen percent. Other defeated proposals would have protected consumers from spending money they don’t have and limited how companies impose new fees. Meanwhile the New York Times reports banks are now considering a series of measures to recoup their anticipated lost profits from the new rules. The moves include imposing new annual fees and curbing cash-back and rewards programs to sterling borrowers. The House is expected to vote on the credit card bill as early as today. A final version could be held up by an amendment added to the Senate bill that would allow people to carry loaded guns in national parks. House leaders say they might vote separately on that proposal.

Admin Mulls New Regulatory Body for Financial Products

The Obama administration is reportedly mulling proposals for a new regulatory commission overseeing financial products and services including mortgages, credit cards and mutual funds. The proposed commission would be tasked with ensuring loans and other financial products are structured and marketed fairly.

Obama Unveils Vehicle Mileage, Emissions Standards

President Obama has unveiled new national emissions and mileage requirements for cars and light trucks. The rules aim to cut emissions by 30 percent and require passenger cars to average thirty-nine miles per gallon by 2016. On Tuesday, Obama noted the rules are the first to impose federal regulations on car emissions in the United States.

President Obama: “For the first time in history, we have set in motion a national policy aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new trucks and cars sold in the United States of America.”

The White House estimates the regulations would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 900 million metric tons over the lifetime of more efficient vehicles. Appearing with Obama at the White House, California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneger praised the new rules.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneger: “We are very happy this has happened because it means a reduction of one-third of greenhouse gases and one-third of oil consumption. As you have heard the President said–this is reducing oil consumption by 1.8 billion gallons of oil. This is staggering. It’s the equivalent of taking 55 million cars off the road.”

U.S.-Russia Panel Says Missile Shield Wouldn’t Work

A joint American-Russian commission has concluded the proposed U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe would be ineffective against the types of Iranian missiles it would purportedly aim to stop. The Bush administration launched the program under the pretense it would protect Europe against Iran, but it’s widely seen as a far-strike weapon. The commission of U.S.-Russia scientists bolsters that perception. In their report for the EastWest Institute, the scientists say Iran is highly unlikely to produce a nuclear-tipped missile, and the proposed defense shield wouldn’t be able to stop one anyway. The scientists say Iran is years away from producing a nuclear warhead and could only do so with major and highly visible foreign assistance. It also notes Iran would be further unlikely to launch an attack because doing so would assure its own destruction through U.S. retaliation. The Obama administration has so far continued with the missile program but hinted it could be open to its cancellation.

Sri Lanka Blocks Aid Workers from Reaching Displaced

In Sri Lanka, the government continues to prevent aid workers from reaching some 300,000 people displaced in the fight with Tamil Tiger rebels. Earlier this week the Sri Lankan government declared victory after a twenty-six year war. The Times of London reports Sri Lanka is blocking the UN from reaching government run-camps housing refugees. There are fears camp populations will be hit with an outbreak of contagious diseases including hepatitis and dysentery.

Palestinian Authority Installs New Cabinet

In the Occupied Territories, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has sworn in a new cabinet to head the Palestinian Authority. Former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was re-instated to his old post, along with several other members of the Fatah faction. Fayyad denied reports of renewed talks between Palestinian officials and Israeli leaders despite ongoing Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad: “I don’t think it’s really the right time to be talking about negotiation, when in fact there are understandings and agreements that have been reached that require immediate implementation. I don’t think Mr. Netanyahu set the right tone by clearly avoiding any reference to the possibility of a solution concept that has become a matter of the national consensus, namely the two-state solution.”

Meanwhile in Gaza, Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum rejected the cabinet as illegitimate amidst ongoing national unity talks brokered by Egypt.

Fawzi Barhoum: “The formation of the government by Abu Mazen in the West Bank will reinforce the political chaos, judicial and legislative, which he is carrying out over there in the West Bank. This is considered to be a deliberate sabotage of the internal Palestinian dialogue and threatens the negotiations slated to take place in the future in Cairo.”

2 Americans Killed in Afghan Attack

In Afghanistan, two Americans have been killed in a roadside bombing near Kabul. The Pentagon says the victims were a U.S. soldier and a military contractor.

Pentagon: Blackwater Contractors Weren’t Allowed to Carry Weapons

In other news from Afghanistan, the Pentagon says four US contractors with the company formerly known as Blackwater weren’t authorized to carry weapons when they fired on an approaching vehicle in Kabul earlier this month. At least one Afghan civilian was killed and another two wounded in the attack. The contractors were off-duty at the time and had been reportedly drinking. The contractors now say Blackwater officials had supplied them with the guns in violation of their military contract.

Spanish Lawmakers Vote to Restrict Foreign Probes

In Spain, lawmakers are trying to block their judiciary’s war crimes investigations of foreign governments including the United States. On Tuesday, Spain’s Congress voted to limit judges’ jurisdiction to cases with a clear Spanish connection. Spain’s National Court is currently investigating 13 foreign cases under the principle of universal jurisdiction. They include the torture of U.S. prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. The Spanish vote follows weeks of pressure by foreign governments seeking to curb the investigations. It’s unclear whether the vote will apply to the current cases or only to future ones.

Obama Envoys Disclose Speaking, Consulting Fees

Newly-disclosed financial statements show two top Obama administration envoys received hundreds of thousands of in consulting and speaking fees last year. Dennis Ross, who serves as special advisor for Iran, received more than $200,000 in speaking fees from pro-Israeli government groups. Ross refused to disclose how much he earned for appearances on the cable news network Fox News. Meanwhile, Obama’s envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, reported $1.7 million in income last year. Holbrooke’s earnings included more than $300,000 as a consultant for Coca-Cola and $10,000 for serving as a director on the board of the bailed-out insurance giant AIG.

U.S. Priest Slain in Guatemala

A U.S. priest who helped expose abuses by the Brazilian military dictatorship during the 1970s has been killed in Guatemala. The Reverend Lawrence Rosebaugh died Monday in a robbery attack by masked gunmen. He was 74 years old. In 1977, Rosebaugh hand-delivered a letter to First Lady Rosalynn Carter detailing his abuse at the hands of Brazilian forces, helping to bring international attention on the Brazilian dictatorship.

Uruguyan Writer Mario Benedetti Dies at 88

And the Uruguyan writer Mario Benedetti has died at the age of 88. A popular novelist and playwright, Benedetti was also an outspoken political commentator, criticizing U.S. intervention in Latin America and the Cuban embargo.

Headlines: Obama To Introduce New Car Emissions and Mileage Requirements; Red Cross Warns of “Unimaginable Humanitarian Catastrophe” In Sri Lanka

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama To Introduce New Car Emissions and Mileage Requirements; Red Cross Warns of 'Unimaginable Humanitarian Catastrophe' In Sri Lanka

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

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.

Local/Michigan Headlines: Chrysler Closing Dealerships; New Study on Tax Breaks and Jobs

Here’s some of what has been happening in Grand Rapids and Michigan in the past twenty four hours:

If we missed anything, let us know in the comments.

Headlines: Government, UAW Might Become Major GM Shareholders; 2008 Was Deadliest Year For Palestinians Since 1948

Democracy Now Headlines: Government, UAW Might Become Major GM Shareholders; 2008 Was Deadliest Year For Palestinians Since 1948

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Government Might Become Majority GM Shareholder

General Motors has offered its final plan to reorganize in an effort to avoid bankruptcy. The car company has proposed slashing bond debt, cutting over 21,000 more U.S. jobs and emerging as a nationalized automaker under majority control by the U.S. government. The proposed restructuring would also shut down GM’s Pontiac operations. As part of the restructuring, GM is asking the Treasury Department for an additional eleven point six billion dollars in loans, in addition to the fifteen point four billion it has already received.

GM CEO Fritz Henderson: “I do think that General Motors will remain a global corporation without a doubt, but I think there’s no question in my mind also that the nature of those global relationships will change.”

Henderson said GM would probably declare bankruptcy if the bondholders reject the terms. By the time it is finished, G.M. expects to have only 38,000 union workers and 34 factories left in the United States, compared with nearly 400,000 workers in more than 150 plants at its peak employment in 1970.

Report: UAW To Own 55% of Chrysler Under Restructuring Deal

There are major developments in the proposed restructuring of Chrysler. The car company and labor leaders have agreed to a tentative deal where the United Auto Workers union’s retiree health-care fund would become the majority shareholder of Chrysler in exchange for cutting in half what the automaker owes the health care trust.

WHO Raises Pandemic Threat Level Over Swine Flu Fears

The World Health Organization has raised its pandemic threat level one notch as more cases of swine flu become known. In Mexico officials say 149 people have died from influenza but only 26 of the deaths have been confirmed to be swine flu. Nearly 2,000 people have been hospitalized with serious pneumonia. In the United States, the Centers For Disease Control has doubles it s number of confirmed U.S. cases to 48. Cases have also been confirmed in Canada, Spain, Britain and Israel but no deaths have been reported outside Mexico.

Flu expert Dr. John McCauley: “I think we are facing the danger of pandemic for the following reasons. One, this is a new virus that humans have not seen before. We have not come across a virus exactly like that. We have seen other H1N1s but not this particular variant. And so it’s a new virus to which humans appear to have no significant immunity. Secondly, it is spreading human to human. And so these are the hallmarks of a virus that could become a pandemic virus.”

CDC Dismisses EU Travel Advisory

Mexico has responded to the outbreak by shutting down all schools nationwide for more than a week and placing limits on public gatherings. The European Union has urged travelers to avoid the United States and Mexico “unless it is very urgent for them.” Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control, criticized the EU travel warning.

Richard Besser: “Based on the situation in the United States right now, I think it is quite premature to be putting travel restrictions on people coming to the United States. We have 20 cases of swine flu, we’re doing active surveillance. So far we’ve seen one hospitalization.”

Researchers believe the outbreak of swine flu may have occurred near a Mexican factory pork farm partly owned by Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, the largest producer of hogs in the United States. At the United Nations, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon warned poor nations may be hit particularly hard by the flu outbreak.

Ban Ki-Moon: “The swine flu outbreak shows yet again that in our interconnected world no nation can deal with threats of such dimension on its own. Poor nations are especially vulnerable. They have been hit hard by other crisis this year-food, energy, the global economy, climate change. We must ensure that they are not also hit disproportionately hard by a potential health crisis.”

380 Same-Sex Couples Marry in Iowa

In Iowa, more than 380 same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses Monday following a state Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. Dozens of couples held weddings Monday after being granted waivers of Iowa’s three-day waiting period.

Jennifer Waldron: “I’m actually quite overwhelmed right now with emotion which actually really surprises me. but just to have the validation from the public that we are in a loving and committed relationship and that it’s important.”

91 Disability Rights Activists Arrested Outside White House

Over 100 people were arrested in Washington on Monday during a series of unrelated demonstrations. 91 disability rights activists were arrested after members of the group ADAPT chained their wheelchairs to the White House fence. The protest was held to raise awareness of the Community Choice Act, pending legislation that they said would allow disabled individuals to use their Medicaid payments for community-based services.

Five Members of Congress Arrested At Sudanese Embassy

Five members of Congress were arrested Monday outside the Sudanese embassy during a demonstration condemning Sudan’s decision to expel 16 aid agencies from Darfur.

The arrested included Democrats John Lewis of Georgia, Keith Ellison on Minnesota, Lynn Woolsey of California, Donna Edwards of Maryland and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts. They were charged with crossing a police line, a misdemeanor, and released.

Seven Greenpeace Activists Arrested

Also on Monday seven Greenpeace activists were arrested for scaling a construction crane and unfurling a banner with a picture of Earth and the message “Too big to fail.”

Blackwater Training Site in Illinois Picketed; 22 Arrested

In Mt. Carroll, Illinois, 22 people were arrested Monday at a protest outside a training site run by Xe, the company formerly known as Blackwater.

30,000 Pakistanis Flee Fighting in Northwest Region

In Pakistan as many as 30,000 people have fled Northwest Pakistan in recent days to escape fighting between the Taliban and Pakistani military. Al Jazeera reports civilians left their homes after the Pakistani military began their assault on Sunday against Taliban fighters in Lower Dir, near the Taliban-held Swat valley. The military action in Lower Dir comes weeks after the government allowed the Taliban to implement their interpretation of Islamic law in the neighboring Swat valley. Critics of Pakistan’s deal with fighters in Swat say that it has only emboldened the Taliban.

Sri Lanka Blocks UN Aid Mission

The Sri Lankan military has blocked a United Nations aid mission from entering the area where the Sri Lankan military continues to attack Tamil Tiger separatists. Some 50,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in the conflict zone. John Holmes, the UN humanitarian affairs chief, failed in his attempt to bring a halt to the fighting.

John Holmes: “I think our view is that the key point is when this conflict comes to an end, however it ends, I think it is much better if it ends without more civilian bloodshed, then there is a real need to address the political issues, to define solutions to the political problems which underlie all this, to react in a generous way to make sure that not only win the military victory but win the peace as well. Obviously that is the solution.”

Meanwhile Sweden’s foreign minister has been refused entry to Sri Lanka. Carl Bildt was due to visit Sri Lanka on a European mediating mission aimed at bringing about an immediate ceasefire between the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE. On Sunday the Sri Lankan government rejected a Tamil Tiger call for a unilateral ceasefire.

Obama Admin Seeks Reversal of Mountaintop Mining Rule

The Interior Department said Monday it will try to overturn a Bush administration rule that made it easier for coal mining companies to dump mountaintop debris into valley streams. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he will ask the Justice Department to go to the courts to withdraw the Bush regulation and send it back to Interior to stop the policy.

Report: Israel Built 9,000 Homes in Occupied Territories Under Olmert

A new report has determined the Israeli government under Ehud Olmert built or issued bids for some 9,000 settlement homes for Israelis in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. The Israeli watchdog groups Peace Now and Ir Amim urged President Barack Obama to step in quickly and pressure Israel’s new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to halt further settlement expansion.

Group: 2008 Was Deadliest Year For Palestinians Since 1948

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights says more than 1,000 Palestinians were killed in 2008 in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, making it the deadliest year since Israel was founded in 1948. A total 860 Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops in Gaza and the West Bank. Another 161 Palestinians were killed in factional fighting.

Detained Iranian-American Journalist Continues Hunger Strike

The Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi has entered her second week of a hunger strike protesting her imprisonment in Iran. She was sentenced earlier this month to eight years of imprisonment this month on charges of spying for Washington. Her father, Reza Saberi, said she plans to continue her hunger strike until she is released. Roxana turned 32 on Sunday.

Conde Naste Closes Portfolio Magazine

And in media news, Conde Nast has decided to close the two-year-old magazine Portfolio. Meanwhile newly released statistics show paid weekday newspaper circulation has fallen seven percent over the past six months.

Headlines: White House Forces Out GM CEO; Thousands Protest G20 in London

Democracy Now Headlines: White House Forces Out GM CEO; Thousands Protest G20 in London

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.<

Spanish Court Launches Probe of Bush Administration Officials

A Spanish court has launched a criminal investigation into whether six Bush administration lawyers, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the Bush administration’s use of torture at Guantanamo. Spain’s law allows it to claim jurisdiction in the case because five Spanish citizens or residents who were prisoners at Guantanamo Bay say they were tortured there. The case was sent to the Spanish prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who ordered the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998. The other former Bush administration officials facing investigation are former Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee, Pentagon official Douglas Feith, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights praised the Spanish court’s decision and said arrest warrants might have already been issued.

Michael Ratner, author of The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: “If you’re any of those six at this point, you don’t want to go to the twenty-five countries that make up the European Union, because you may be subject to immediate arrest. What will happen next is this investigation will most likely continue in a very vigorous form. It will look at those six, and it also has the possibility of going up the chain of command, not just to Rumsfeld, but all the way up to Cheney and Bush. So it’s a serious investigation. It’s one that the Obama administration has to take very seriously. And it means, for them, that the pressure is increasing really in this country to open its own criminal investigation.”

Waterboarding, Torture of Abu Zubaydah Produced False Leads

Meanwhile, former senior government officials have told the Washington Post that the CIA’s decision to waterboard and torture their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaydah, produced little intelligence. The officials said not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaydah’s tortured confessions. Most of the useful information gained from him was obtained before waterboarding was introduced.

Dozens Killed in Pakistan as Militants Seize Police Academy

In Pakistan, gunmen seized a police training academy in Lahore and killed as many as forty police officers before Pakistani officials were able to retake the building after an eight-hour siege. As many as eighty officers were injured. The Pakistani newspaper Daw said militants attacked the police academy with machine guns and grenades. 850 young cadets were inside the building when the assault began.

President Obama Outlines Plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan

The attack came two days after President Obama defended his decision to send 21,000 more US troops to Afghanistan and to increase aid to Pakistan. Obama said his one goal is to wipe out al-Qaeda militants whom he said were plotting new attacks on the United States.

President Obama: “The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos or al-Qaeda operates unchecked. We have a shared responsibility to act, not because we seek to project power for its own sake, but because our own peace and security depends upon it. And what’s at stake at this time is not just our own security; it’s the very idea that free nations can come together on behalf of our common security.”

The New York Times reports the Obama administration was divided over what to do in Afghanistan. The commanders in the field wanted a larger surge of troops but Vice President Joseph Biden reportedly warned against getting into a political and military quagmire.

White House Forces Out GM CEO Wagoner

In business news, General Motors Chair and CEO Rick Wagoner has stepped down after he was asked to resign by the Obama administration as part of the government’s demand for GM and Chrysler to restructure before receiving more federal aid. President Obama is scheduled to unveil his full plan for the auto industry today. The McClatchy Newspapers reports Obama will reject requests for almost $22 billion in new taxpayer bailout money for GM and Chrysler, saying the car makers have failed to take steps to ensure their viability. The government sought the departure of the GM chief and said the company needed to be widely restructured if it had any hope of survival. The government is expected to provide the company with sixty days’ operating capital to give it time to undertake reforms. The government will also grant Chrysler thirty days’ operating funds, but said it must merge with the Italian car maker Fiat in order to remain viable. So far, GM and Chrysler have received $17.4 billion in government rescue money, a fraction of what the government has given to help revive the banking industry.

Unemployment Rate Over 10% in Seven States

New employment figures show Michigan still has the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 12 percent. In February, the unemployment rate jumped into double figures in Nevada, North Carolina and Oregon. The jobless rate is also above ten percent in California, South Carolina and Rhode Island.

35,000 Protest in London Ahead of G20 Summit

At least 35,000 protesters marched in London Saturday to kick off a series of demonstrations leading up to the G20 summit. Protest organizers said the turnout was three times larger than expected. Protest organizer Chris Knight with the group G20 Meltdown said the demonstrations will focus on the bankers who wrecked the economy.

Chris Knight: “The main message to them, really, is you are–you are financial fools. You are the architects of this catastrophe, with the exception of Barack Obama, of course, who has to make a choice which side he’s on still. But those fools, what makes them feel that they are the people qualified to sort out the mess? And if you ask me what do we want from them, I would say it’s quite a lot, actually. It’s–we want the earth. Give us back our planet. We want it; you’ve got it. We’re gonna take it, and you should be good-humored about it. You are incompetent idiots who have messed everything up, and you should step aside and let the people take over.”

The protest against the G20 is expected to be the largest anti-capitalist demonstration in London in years.

Terry Pierce, protester: “We say that unless the leaders of the world break from capitalism, unless there’s a change in the whole attitude towards climate change and towards poverty, towards the problem in the world, then there’s no chance resolving these problems. We need a socialist alternative.”

Large demonstrations are also expected this week in France and Germany during the NATO summit in the French city of Strasbourg.

Gates: US Has No Plans to Shoot Down N. Korean Missile Test

In news from Asia, North Korea says it will launch a communications satellite as early as Saturday, but Japan and other nations have accused North Korea of secretly testing an intercontinental ballistic missile. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the US has no plans to shoot down the missile.

Robert Gates: “I think if we had an aberrant missile, one that was headed for Hawaii, that looked like it was headed for Hawaii or something like that, we might consider it. But I don’t think we have any plans to do anything like that at this point.”

Vast Electronic Spy Network Unveiled; Targeted Dalai Lama

A team of Canadian researchers have uncovered a vast electronic spy network that infiltrated the offices of the Dalai Lama, the Asian Development Bank, the Associated Press and many foreign embassies. Researchers linked the spy operation to servers in China but cautioned that there is no direct evidence implicating the Chinese government. Intelligence analysts say many governments, including those of China, Russia and the United States, use sophisticated computer programs to covertly gather information. The spy network known as GhostNet infiltrated nearly 1,300 computers in 100 countries. Once a computer is infected, the spies gain the ability to turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of the computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room. The spy network also gained control of mail servers for the Dalai Lama’s offices, allowing the spies to intercept all correspondence.

Israeli Troops Shoot at West Bank Protesters

In the occupied West Bank, Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Friday at a crowd of Palestinians protesting the construction of the separation wall in the town of Bilin. Reuters video showed an Israeli soldier shooting a Palestinian demonstrator with a rubber-coated bullet at point-blank range, injuring his leg. Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti attended the demonstration and said the new Israeli government will further damage the lives of the Palestinians.

Mustafa Barghouti: “The only thing that the new Israeli government is bringing is more settlement, more land confiscation, more discrimination, more apartheid and more building of this wall that is killing the lives of the Palestinians and destroying the option of peace based on two-state solution.”

Campaign to Boycott Motorola Launched in New York

The company Motorola is a target of a new boycott campaign organized by the group New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel. Organizer Ryvka Bar Zohar accused Motorola of supporting Israel’s military occupation.

Ryvka Bar Zohar: “Motorola produces bomb fuses, communications devices, surveillance technology, that’s used directly by the Israeli military in its ongoing occupation of the Palestinian people.”

Eight Die in NC Nursing Home Shooting

In North Carolina, eight people died Sunday after a gunman opened fire at a nursing home in the town of Carthage. Seven elderly patients died as well as a nurse. The Raleigh News and Observer reported the gunman’s estranged wife was working at the nursing home at the time of the attack but was not listed as a victim.

Union Activist & Folklorist Archie Green, 91, Dies

And the union activist and folklorist Archie Green has died at the age of ninety-one. The New York Times said Green single-handedly persuaded Congress to create the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. For decades, he studied what he called laborlore: the work songs, slang, craft techniques and tales that helped to define the trade unions. Two years ago, he published The Big Red Songbook (Charles H. Kerr), a collection of lyrics to more than 250 songs written by the Industrial Workers of the World, best known as the Wobblies.

Headlines: 17,000 US Troops to Afghanistan; Auto Companies Request Additional $21.6 Billion in Federal Aid

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Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Obama Orders 17,000 Troops to Afghanistan

In his most significant military decision to date, President Obama has ordered an additional 17,000 US troops to Afghanistan. The move fulfills a campaign pledge to increase the size of the US occupation. The new deployments will take effect in May, increasing the US occupation force to 55,000–a 50 percent rise. Another 32,000 non-US NATO troops are also in Afghanistan. The news came as the UN said Afghan civilian casualties jumped by nearly 40 percent last year. US-led forces were responsible for nearly 40 percent of the deaths, killing 828 people out of a reported 2,100 casualties.

Obama Signs Stimulus Bill, Preps Foreclosure Plan

President Obama meanwhile is set to unveil a $50 billion foreclosure prevention plan later today. The program would offer government money to mortgage companies that let borrowers restructure loans. The plan also reportedly grants bankruptcy judges greater leeway to change mortgages and lets homeowners refinance loans if they owe more than their home is worth. The expected announcement comes one day after Obama signed the economic stimulus bill into law at a ceremony in Denver.

President Obama: “And what makes this recovery plan so important is not just that it will create or save three-and-a-half million jobs over the next two years, including 60,000-plus here in Colorado, it’s that we’re putting Americans to work doing the work that America needs done, in critical areas.”

Auto Giants Request Additional $21.6B; GM to Cut 47,000 Jobs

The auto giants General Motors and Chrysler have asked the government for another $21.6 billion in federal aid. The companies say they need the money to avoid filing for bankruptcy. GM also unveiled a plan to cut 47,000 more jobs; close five North America plants; and drop several brands, including Saturn and Hummer. General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner said the company wants to avoid bankruptcy.

GM CEO Rick Wagoner: “Based on our analysis, we continue to believe that bankruptcy would be a highly risky and very costly process, potentially very time-consuming, that should only be undertaken as a last resort. So our focus, our primary efforts continue to be on transforming our business and executing GM’s viability plan outside of bankruptcy court.”

GM has already received some $13.4 billion in loans under the auto industry bailout. It says it would need as much as $100 billion in government financing if it goes through bankruptcy.

Treasury: Banks Reduced Lending After Bailout

New figures show the taxpayer-funded bailout of Wall Street did not lead to the promised boost in bank lending. The Treasury Department says the twenty largest banks receiving taxpayer bailout money actually reduced giving out loans in the last three months of 2008. The Treasury says the drop in lending would have been greater without the taxpayer money.

Texas Billionaire Accused of $8B Fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged a Texas billionaire and three of his companies in an $8 billion fraud scheme. The SEC says Robert Allen Stanford used his Antigua-based bank to defraud investors by selling them phony certificates of deposit. Last year, the Forbes Rich List ranked Stanford the 205th wealthiest person in the United States. The Center for Responsive Politics says Stanford’s lobbying could likely have helped defeat passage of the Financial Services Antifraud Network Act in 2002. The measure would have created a centralized record of banking, insurance and financial regulators to combat fraud. Stanford Financial Group made its most political contributions over the 2001-2002 cycle, when the bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

Federal Judge Refuses to Dismiss Blackwater Charges in Iraqi Deaths

A federal judge has refused to dismiss charges against five Blackwater mercenaries accused in the mass killing of fourteen Iraqis in September 2007. Defense attorneys had contended the US government doesn’t have jurisdiction to bring charges, because the guards were granted immunity. Judge Ricardo Urbina refused to drop the charges but said he thinks the defense argument is “strong” and should be decided by the trial judge or jury. Blackwater recently renamed itself “Xe” in an attempt to repair its image.

EPA Mulls Regulating Coal-Fired Plants

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will consider reversing a Bush administration order weakening regulation of coal-fired power plants. On Tuesday, EPA head Lisa Jackson said the agency will consider and hear public comments on reimposing limits on carbon dioxide emissions. Jackson made the announcement in response to a Sierra Club petition against a coal plant in Utah.

FARC Rebels Kill 8 Indigenous Colombians

In Colombia, the rebel group FARC has admitted to killing eight indigenous Colombians they say passed intelligence to the Colombian military. The killings have forced a new wave of Awa indigenous people to flee their homes. Indigenous leader Luis Fernando Arias condemned the attack.

Luis Fernando Arias: “The Colombian armed forces accuse us of not wanting to cooperate, that we do not give information, and the guerrillas say that they kill us because we are army informants. What we want is, in a clear manner, to tell all the actors in the conflict, to all the armed players, to stop involving the Indian tribes and regular citizens in the armed conflict.”

Guatemala Apologizes to Cuba for Bay of Pigs

Guatemala has issued a formal apology to Cuba for taking part in the US “Bay of Pigs” invasion of 1961. The Kennedy administration used Guatemalan soil to train the group of militants used in the ultimately failed attack. On Tuesday, Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom said he wished to “officially ask Cuba for forgiveness.” The US has never apologized for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Hundreds Protest Mexican Army Raids Near US Border

In Mexico, hundreds of people have blocked roads near the US-Mexico border in protest of an army crackdown on drug-related violence. The government says it’s trying to stop drug cartels that have stepped up smuggling and violent attacks. But some human rights groups say the danger has only increased since troops arrived. Fifteen Mexicans have been killed in drug-related violence since Sunday.

Clinton Arrives in Indonesia on First Trip Abroad

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is on her first foreign trip since taking the State Department helm. Clinton arrived in Indonesia today following her first stop in Japan.

Burris Probed for Senate Appointment Claims

And two probes have begun into Illinois Senator Roland Burris after he gave conflicting accounts of how he came to be named to his seat. Burris recently acknowledged he had conversations with allies of former Governor Rod Blagojevich before Blagojevich named him to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat. Burris also said he tried to raise money for Blagojevich at the request of the governor’s brother. When questioned under oath last month, Burris failed to tell state lawmakers about these conversations. The United States Senate Ethics Committee and a local Illinois prosecutor say they’re investigating Burris in light of the claims. Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office last month after he was accused of trying to sell Obama’s seat.