Headlines: Pro-Ethanol Dems Threaten Climate Bill; California Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

Democracy Now Headlines: Pro-Ethanol Dems Threaten Climate Bill; California Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

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 Nominates Sotomayor for Supreme Court

President Obama has nominated federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Sotomayor would become the nation’s first Hispanic justice. Speaking at the White House Tuesday, Obama hailed her experience and background.

President Obama: “After completing this exhaustive process, I have decided to nominate an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice: Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the great state of New York. Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system, providing her with a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice.”

The 54-year old Sotomayor is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents who raised her in a public housing project in the Bronx. If confirmed she would become the nation’s 111th justice and the third woman to hold a seat on the court.

Sotomayor is Obama’s first appointment of a new Justice since taking office. The vacancy opened up with Justice David Souter’s pending retirement at the end of the Supreme Court’s term next month.

GOP Sen.: Nominee Could Be Influenced by “Race, Gender”

At least two Republican lawmakers have already cited Sotomayor’s race and gender in questioning her nomination. Congressmember Lamar Smith of Texas said he’s concerned Sotomayor has already displayed “personal bias based on ethnicity and gender.” Meanwhile, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma said: “It will be important for those of us in the U.S. Senate to weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences.”

California Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

California’s Supreme Court has upheld a ballot measure banning gay marriage. Last November, a slight majority of California voters approved Proposition Eight, which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman. On Tuesday, the court rejected lawsuits arguing Proposition 8 was not simply a constitutional amendment, but a constitutional revision requiring legislative approval. In San Francisco, around 175 people were arrested after blockading traffic to protest the decision.

Protester: “I am more determined than ever now that the court has said that Stuart and I have a fully legal marriage in the state of California after twenty two years together that I am more determined than ever to make that a reality for every loving, committed couple in our state.”

The court did rule to preserve the 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place while gay marriage was legal in California.

Army Chief: U.S. Could Remain in Iraq for 10 Years

The top U.S. Army officer says the U.S. is prepared to remain in Iraq for a decade despite an agreement to withdraw all forces by 2012. Speaking in Washington, Army chief of staff General George Casey suggested the U.S. could remain in Iraq longer than pledged because of global events. Casey said: “Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction. They fundamentally will change how the Army works.”

Group: Gitmo Prisoner Was Likely 12 When Jailed

In Afghanistan, a human rights group is claiming an Afghan prisoner at Guantanamo Bay was only twelve years old when he was jailed–not 17 or 18 as the Pentagon claims. Mohammed Jawad has been jailed at Guantanamo for more than six years. Many poor Afghans don’t know their exact ages because of a lack of accurate records. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission says interviews with his family show Jawad likely wasn’t even a teenager when he was captured. The group also says Jawad suffered repeated torture in both Afghan and U.S. custody.

Montana Town Offers to Jail Gitmo Prisoners

A small town in Montana is offering to hold Guantanamo Bay prisoners should President Obama go ahead with his vow to close the military jail. City officials in Hardin have offered up a recently-built prison that has yet to house a single prisoner. Hardin is in Montana’s poorest county and had built the prison in the hopes of reviving its economy.

Around 30 Killed in Pakistan Bombing

In Pakistan, about 30 people were killed and another 250 wounded in an attack earlier today. Armed gunmen opened fire on police and intelligence offices in the city of Lahore and then set off a car bomb when government forces returned fire. It was one of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan this year and the third to hit Lahore in several months. Government officials say it could be retaliation for the U.S.-backed offensive that has displaced hundreds of thousands in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

168 Killed as Cyclone Hits India, Bangladesh

At least 168 people have been killed in a deadly cyclone in eastern India and Bangladesh. The toll is expected to rise as rescue workers reach areas cut off by deadly mudslides. Thousands of people have been displaced following heavy storms that destroyed their homes.

UN Officials Calls for Sri Lanka War Crimes Probe

A top UN official is calling for a war crimes probe in Sri Lanka’s internal conflict between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says both sides “grossly disregarded the fundamental principle of the inviolability of civilians.” Last week, the Sri Lankan government declared victory after a twenty-six-year war and a recent spike in fighting that displaced some 300,000 people.

Bolivia, Venezuela Dismiss Uranium Accusations

The Bolivian and Venezuelan governments are dismissing Israeli accusations they’ve supplied uraninum for Iran’s nuclear program. On Monday, a leaked Israeli intelligence document said both Bolivia and Venezuela have aided Iran’s nuclear development. Bolivian Presidential Minister Juan Roman Quintana ridiculed the charge.

Juan Roman Quintana: “Really, it forms part of the anthology of stupidity. If there’s something that characterizes our policy as a government, it’s the policy of peace.”

Bolivia says it hasn’t produced uranium in more than twenty-five years.

Trial over Shell Allegations in Niger Delta Delayed

Back in the United States, a landmark trial against oil giant Royal Dutch Shell’s alleged involvement in human rights violations in the Niger Delta has been delayed until next week. Shell is accused of several abuses including complicity in the torture and execution of Nigerian writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists.

Pro-Ethanol Dems Threaten Climate Bill

On Capital Hill, a group of Democrats are threatening to derail a landmark climate and emissions bill to address concerns by the nation’s Ethanol producers. The bill would cut greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. House Agricultural Committee Chair Collin Peterson says he’s gathered 40 Democrats to oppose the measure unless it counters a recent EPA finding that “indirect land use” must be taken into account when calculating ethanol’s carbon footprint.

Burris Pledged to Donate Money While Seeking Senate Appointment

A newly-released FBI recording shows Senator Roland Burris promised to donate money to then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich at the same time as he was seeking a Senate appointment. Blagojevich appointed Burris to President Obama’s vacated Senate seat just weeks after Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges. Burris has previously claimed he never discussed the Senate seat with Blagojevich or anyone acting on his behalf.

Report: Paul Farmer in Talks for Top Aid Post

And the activist medical anthropologist Paul Farmer is reportedly in talks for an appointment by the Obama administration to run U.S. health projects overseas. The Boston Globe reports Farmer told colleagues of the potential appointment earlier this month. Farmer is founder of the charity Partners in Health, which provides healthcare for people with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other conditions in Haiti, as well more than eight other countries around the world. He has vocally criticized U.S. de-stabilization efforts in Haiti as well as major U.S. corporations that have pursued profit at the expense of global health.

Local and Michigan Headlines: Lawmakers Consider Ban on Life for Juveniles; Mamals Moving North

Here is our round-up of headlines covering Grand Rapids and Michigan over the past few days. We’re slowly getting back into the swing of things after a full weekend of gardening, so if we missed anything, let us know in the comments:

Headlines: Afghan Peace Talks Call For U.S. Withdrawal; 17 Arrested At Anti-Coal Protests in West Virginia

Democracy Now Headlines: Afghan Peace Talks Call For U.S. Withdrawal; 17 Arrested At Anti-Coal Protests in West Virginia

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.

UN Security Council Condemns North Korean Nuclear Test

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously condemned North Korea for carrying out an underground nuclear test Monday. It was North Korea’s second nuclear test in three years. Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said it is too early to tell if the Security Council will approve a new round of sanctions against North Korea.

Susan Rice: “What we heard today was swift, clear, unequivocal condemnation in opposition to what occurred. The meeting was brief and everybody spoke and everybody essentially took the same view. We are now resolved to work on a resolution. We believe it ought to be a strong resolution with appropriately strong contents, but obviously unless and until we have completed the process of negotiating that resolution, it would be premature to suggest what its contents would be.”

In a statement Monday, North Korea said the nuclear test was intended to “bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defense in every way.” Hours after the Security Council vote, North Korea fired two more short-range missiles. In response to the nuclear test, South Korea announced it would immediately join a US-led initiative to intercept ships suspected of carrying nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, component parts or missiles to deliver them. Pyongyang has warned it would consider South Korea’s membership in the Proliferation Security Initiative to be an act of war. At the White House, President Barack Obama denounced North Korea’s actions.

President Obama: “North Korea’s actions endanger the people of Northeast Asia, they are a blatant violation of international law, and they contradict North Korea’s own prior commitments. Now, the United States and the international community must take action in response.”

Afghan Peace Talks Call For U.S. Withdrawal

In Afghanistan, leaders of the Taliban and other armed groups are reportedly talking to intermediaries about a potential peace agreement, with initial demands focused on a timetable for a withdrawal of American troops. This according to the New York Times. The discussions have so far produced no agreements, since the militants appear to be insisting that any deal include an American promise to withdraw.

Three U.S. Soldiers Killed in Suicide Bombing

Meanwhile a suicide car bomber plowed into a NATO convoy earlier today, killing three American soldiers and a civilian passer-by on a main road north of Kabul.

Pakistani Civilians Stuck in Swat Valley Facing Humanitarian Catastrophe

In Pakistan, Human Rights Watch is calling on the military to lift its curfew in the Swat Valley where the Pakistani military is battling the Taliban. Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch said: “The government cannot allow the local population to remain trapped without food, clean water, and medicine as a tactic to defeat the Taliban.” More than 2.4 million people have fled the region this month but up to 200,000 civilians remain trapped inside the conflict zone.

U.S. Relies on Foreign Nations To Hold Prisoners

The New York Times is reporting the United States is now relying heavily on foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain prisoners seized outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. The current approach began two years ago and has gained momentum under President Obama. Detainees who once would have been taken to secret CIA prisons or Guantanamo are now being handed over to other governments. At least four Middle Eastern countries as well as Pakistan are currently holding men captured based on information provided by the United States.

Sen. Feingold Warns Obama About Preventive Detention Plan

Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin has criticized President Obama’s plan to hold some prisoners indefinitely inside the United States without trial. In a letter to the president, Feingold said any system that permits the government to indefinitely detain individuals without charge violates basic American values and is likely unconstitutional. Feingold said, “Indeed, such detention is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world.”

Proposed Israel Laws Call for Loyalty Oath and Ban on Nabka Protests

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party plans to propose a law requiring residents to swear loyalty to the Jewish state. The party has also proposed legislation to ban the commemoration of the “Nakba” or “disaster,” which many Arab Israelis and Palestinians mark while the Jewish state marks its Independence Day. Under the proposed legislation, those publicly commemorating the Nakba could be jailed. The proposed laws have been denounced by Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship.

Khalaili, Arab Israeli Resident: “First, we as Arabs, and as the remaining Palestinians, refuse this discourse. We consider the Nakba a part of the Palestinian history and culture. Just like we don’t ask the Jews to cancel the Holocaust. Using the same measurements, and the same meanings, it is impossible to cancel the Nakba day because it is an element that can’t be excluded from the Palestinians existence.”

Netanyahu: Israel Will Continue Building Settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel will continue to build homes in existing West Bank settlements, defying U.S. calls to halt settlement growth.

400 LA Students Walk Out of Classes to Protest Teacher Cuts

In Los Angeles, about 400 students walked out of classes on Friday to protest possible teacher layoffs. The Los Angeles Unified School District faces up to $131 million in new cuts this year and could lay off up to 2,500 teachers.

17 Arrested At Anti-Coal Protests in West Virginia

In West Virginia, 17 people were arrested Saturday during a series of protests against the coal industry. The protesters marked a new phase of Operation Appalachian Spring, a campaign to end mountaintop removal mining. The first two arrests occurred when two activists wearing hazmat suits and respirators boated onto an 8-billion-gallon toxic coal slurry lake to unfurl a 60-foot floating banner reading, “No more toxic sludge!” They were charged with trespass and littering. Later in the day eight more protesters were arrested on trespassing and conspiracy charges after they walked onto the Kayford Mountain mine and locked themselves to a giant dump truck. Seven others were arrested at Massey Energy’s Marfork Coal facility. Former West Virginia Congressman Ken Hechler took part in the protest but police refused to arrest the 94-year-old former lawmaker.

Six of the anti-coal protesters remain in jail.

Medical Group Calls For Ban on Genetically Modified Foods

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has called for a moratorium on genetically modified foods. The medical organization warned that genetically modified foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health. Dr. Amy Dean said “Multiple animal studies have shown that GM foods cause damage to various organ systems in the body. With this mounting evidence, it is imperative to have a moratorium on GM foods for the safety of our patients’ and the public’s health.”

Indian Human Rights Activist Dr. Binayak Sen Released on Bail

In India, human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen has been released on bail after being held for two years. Sen is the National Vice President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. He was arrested in May 2007, for allegedly helping the Maoist insurgency in the state of Chhattisgarh.

California Supreme Court To Rule on Gay Marriage Law Today

In California the state Supreme Court will issue its ruling today on whether the state’s gay-marriage ban will stand. In addition the court is expected to address the legal status of some 18,000 same-sex couples who were married in California before voters approved Proposition 8, banning same sex marriage.

State Department To Extend Benefits to Partners of Gay Diplomats

Meanwhile Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to soon announce that the partners of gay and lesbian U.S. diplomats will be eligible for many benefits currently denied them and allowed to spouses of heterosexual diplomats.

Liberty University Bans College Democrats Club

And in education news, Liberty University has banned the College Democrats Club from campus. In a letter to the group, a school administrator wrote: “We are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by Liberty University.” Liberty University is a Christian College founded by the late Jerry Falwell.

Michigan Scientists to Legislators: Do Something About Global Warming

On Tuesday, a group of more than 150 scientists, researchers, and academics released a letter urging Michigan’s U.S. Representatives and Senators to take action against climate change by supporting measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The letter says that global warming could have devastating consequences on Michigan’s economy and environment and that in order to avoid such consequences, action needs to be taken.

Grand Rapids area Representative Vern Ehlers reacted to the letter, saying in The Grand Rapids Press that:

“The scientific community is pretty well in agreement that the amount of greenhouses gases are changing things … that it is, in fact, dangerous,” Ehlers said.

“It’s a major problem. Wishing it away doesn’t solve it.”

Ehlers indicated that he supports the cap-and-trade concept of dealing with emissions.

The letter is important because here in West Michigan, we see an awful lot of hyped “science” that purports to discredit global warming. We’ve had local TV meteorologists (Craig James and Bill Steffen) dismiss the science, the activities of a local think-tank, and numerous letters to the editor in the Grand Rapids Press that have denounced global warming, despite the scientific consensus on the issue. In that sense, hopefully this letter will make some headway in convincing people that there really isn’t a debate over global warming–it’s a scientific reality. Also, kudos to the Grand Rapids Press for not giving space to a “skeptic” to discount the impact of the letter.

Local signers include Prof. Al Steinman, aquatic biologist and climate change expert from Grand Valley State University; Prof. R. Jan Stevenson, climate researcher and biologist from Michigan State University; and Prof. Karel Rogers, biologist and climate researcher from Grand Valley State University.

The full text of the letter follows:

As scientists living and working in colleges and universities in the state of Michigan, we urge the Michigan Congressional delegation to support strong federal policies for rapid and deep reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. We are convinced that immediate action is necessary to avoid the worst consequences of global warming on Michigan’s economy and environment, including the Great Lakes. While slowing the damaging effects of climate change poses enormous challenges, we also believe such action presents Michigan with real opportunities to reinvigorate our economy and improve the quality of life for all Michiganders.

Controlling carbon emissions is critical to the energy future of our state and nation. It will help Michigan and the United States take full advantage of the clean renewable resources and energy efficient technologies that are available today. A workable federal policy to combat global warming will also encourage researchers, investors, and businesses to accelerate development and deployment of next generation energy technologies. Putting a price on carbon is a critical step toward building a clean energy future for the US and right here in Michigan.

Federal climate policy offers a unique opportunity to protect valuable natural resources and stimulate the economy ‐ the benefits to Michigan will likely far exceed the costs. A comprehensive federal climate and energy policy can provide the stable regulatory framework, appropriate market signals, and long‐ term investment commitment necessary to jumpstart new business, transition core industries, and enhance our global competitiveness. Recent studies have shown that capping carbon pollution and promoting energy efficiency could create millions of new jobs nationally and more than 150,000 new jobs in Michigan, nearly 50,000 of them in manufacturing. Michigan already boasts one of the nation’s largest solar components manufacturers, and will be one of the first states to produce advanced automotive batteries. Michigan universities are already partnering with major industries and suppliers, as well as Silicon valley funded start‐ups, to deliver next generation vehicles and fuels technologies, while we also put idled manufacturing capacity to work building components for wind turbines. Sound climate policy will accelerate this transition – it is a critical part of the stimulus our struggling economy needs.

Doing nothing is not a viable option for Michigan. Our state faces serious economic, social, and ecological impacts from global warming. If climate change continues on its present course, not only will we miss out on the new economic opportunities outlined above, but two of Michigan’s biggest industries, agriculture and tourism, could suffer. Additionally, climate change could seriously impact water quantity and quality in the Great Lakes, leading to greater conflicts over water resources in the region.

Agriculture is Michigan’s second largest industry, contributing $60.1 billion to the state’s economy annually and providing more than 1 million jobs, according to the Michigan State University Extension. About 24 percent of all Michigan workers are employed in the state’s agriculture/food system. Many of the jobs and much of the economic impact provided by Michigan’s agriculture industry could be lost if climate change continues on its present course. Conversely, Michigan universities are leaders in agriculture and bioenergy research, and Michigan farmers stand to gain from federal policy that promotes renewable energy and caps carbon pollution. Farmers, for instance, could realize new revenue by leasing land for wind turbines and assigning unproductive cropland to carbon offset programs and producing biomass for next generation renewable fuels.

Associated with warming temperatures, increased ozone concentrations can decrease crop production and damage one of Michigan’s few economic bright spots. Intense rainstorms during spring planting season and summer droughts, both of which have increased in recent decades, will continue with greater intensity under “business as usual” carbon emissions and will likely reduce agricultural productivity and pollute our surface waters, including the Great Lakes. Hotter, drier summers and more droughts will require additional irrigation for crops that were previously rain‐fed. Warmer winters will favor more southern insects, pests, and plant pathogens. Perennial fruit crops like Michigan’s tart cherries are particularly vulnerable to increased climate variability caused by regional warming. All of these factors could dramatically reduce agricultural production and increase costs for farmers, agribusinesses, and others who have either direct or indirect ties to Michigan’s important agriculture industry.

Left unchecked, climate change will also harm our state’s tourism industry. Tourism contributes $17.5 billion each year to Michigan’s economy and provides 200,000 jobs, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Winter sports, such as skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and snowboarding will suffer due to shorter, warmer winters. Warmer Great Lakes, rivers, streams, and inland lakes will change the distribution of fish species, and many species of cool‐water fish — including all four of our trout species (Brook, Lake, Rainbow and Brown Trout) — could disappear from our region. Bird‐watching activities will slow due to a decline in bird diversity, particularly among waterfowl and songbirds. Longer, hotter summers could increase beach use, but beach recreation could see a decline in activities because of more volatile weather and potential increases in pollution and waterborne‐ and insect‐ diseases.

Policymakers have a clear choice: allow climate change to continue on its present path and cause serious long‐term damage to Michigan’s natural resources and economy, or embrace an enlightened global warming solutions policy that will protect our air, water, land, and Great Lakes while spurring economic growth right here in Michigan.

For all these reasons, we urge the passage without further delay of reasonable global warming solutions policies that can give Michigan citizens, businesses, and farmers cost‐effective, clean and affordable energy.

Local and Michigan Headlines: Traverse City Pursues Renewable Energy; Smoking Ban in the State House

Grand Rapids and Michigan headlines from the past 24 hours:

  • Bicyclist’s death in crash with city dump truck serves as solemn reminder for those gathered at ‘Ride of Silence’ event – On the day of the annual “Ride of Silence” to commemorate cyclists killed by motorists, a 55-year old man was killed while biking after he was hit by a City of Grand Rapids dump truck.
  • Family at risk of losing home fights fallout from questionable mortgage practices – Michigan Messenger has an interesting look at Bretlin Home Mortgage and its role in the current foreclosure crisis.
  • Traverse City’s Utility Goes Greener – “As three Michigan utilities await decisions on their applications to build new coal-fired power plants, this Up North town’s municipally owned utility is earning high praise for heading in the opposite direction.” Traverse City Light & Power is aiming to generate 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
  • Let’s Eliminate the MBT – The Chamber of Commerce is advocating the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax and Blogging For Michigan asks how they would plan to make up for the revenue. Moreover, they point out that the groups like the Chamber had a major role in shaping the tax, so if they have a problem with it, it is largely their own fault.
  • Closing the Digital Divide – This article from Rapid Growth Media looks at a new Grand Rapids non-profit called ellohay! West Michigan that plans to give away 100 gently-used laptops to individuals who otherwise would not have access to them.
  • Partial smoking ban clears 1st hurdle – A proposed ban on smoking in restaurants, bars, and other work sites is once again being revived in the Michigan House. The bill that is being looked at this year includes exemptions for Detroit’s casinos and cigar and smoke shops across the state.
  • Profiles in Cowardice – the Debbie Stabenow Story – This post from Michigan Liberal points out that Senator Debbie Stabenow recently voted to remove funding aimed at closing the Guantanamo Bay prison. It’s the latest in a series of weak positions from the Senator.
  • Engler wants Guantanamo detainees brought to Michigan – I missed this a few weeks ago (thanks to Michigan Liberal for the reminder), but apparently former Republican Governor of Michigan John Engler wants hold Guantanamo Bay prisoners in the Upper Peninsula. He says Michigan could make up to $1 billion per year on such a deal.

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

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.

Superfund Lawyer with Ties to Major Polluters Nominated to Run DOJ Environmental Division

President Barack Obama has made a controversial pick to head the Department of Justice’s Environmental Division. Last week, President Obama nominated Ignacia S. Moreno to be Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division in the Department of Justice.

Ignacia has an extensive corporate background and is currently the corporate environmental counsel for General Electric. General Electric is the United States’ #1 Superfund polluter and just recently lost an eight-year case in which it attempted to show that parts of the Superfund law are unconstitutional.

Before joining General Electric, Moreno defended General Motors in another Superfund case while a lawyer at Spriggs and Hollingsworth. In the 1990s, Moreno worked for the Clinton administration and attempted to weaken the dolphin-safe tuna law.

This is all problematic because Moreno’s position would be to enforce federal environmental laws, including protections of such as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Superfund. It’s hard to see how she would be a good choice to hold companies accountable, especially when she specifically argued that one of the laws was potentially unconstitutional.

This is made all the more disappointing when you consider that it is coming on top of news that the Obama administration has ruled that 42 out of 48 mountaintop removal coal mining permits are “environmentally responsible”.

Headlines: Obama Criticized for Reviving Military Commissions; Obama Administration OKs New Mountaintop Removal Permits

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Criticized for Reviving Military Commissions; Obama Administration OKs New Mountaintop Removal Permits

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.

Tamil Tiger Leader Killed; Sri Lanka Claims Victory

Sri Lanka’s quarter-century long civil war is in its final throes, with the militant Tamil separatist group, the Tamil Tigers almost completely defeated. The leader of the Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was reportedly killed earlier today while trying to flee in an ambulance. Several other senior Tamil Tigers have also been found dead. On Sunday the Sri Lankan military claimed victory after the Tamil Tigers said it was “prepared to silence its guns” and admitted that the fighting had reached a “bitter end.” An estimated 8,000 civilians have been killed in Sri Lanka since January when the military intensified it attack on the separatist group. We’ll have more on Sri Lanka after headlines.

Rumsfeld Covered Briefing Papers in Biblical Texts

GQ Magazine has revealed former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly placed Biblical quotes on President Bush’s top-secret briefings during the early days of the invasion of Iraq. One briefing paper showed an image of a U.S. soldier in Baghdad below the Biblical quote: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Another briefing paper included a photograph of a U.S. tank next to the quote “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” A third briefing paper showed U.S. tanks entering an Iraqi city alongside the quote “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith.” Some Pentagon officials were concerned that, if Rumsfeld’s top secret briefings were ever leaked, they could be interpreted as a suggestion that the war was a battle against Islam. One Pentagon official warned the fallout “would be as bad as Abu Ghraib.”

Obama Criticized For Reviving Military Commissions

Human rights organizations are criticizing President Obama’s decision to revive the military tribunal system for Guantanamo Bay prisoners despite the administration’s pledge to grant prisoners expanded legal rights.

Stacy Sullivan of Human Rights Watch: “This has been tried before. The first round of military commissions were struck down by the Supreme Court. They were revived under slightly improved rules and once again they were still profoundly unfair. They allowed coerced evidence into the courtroom and they had terrible hearsay rules, the judges didn’t even know what the rules were. The proceedings were totally chaotic. This will be the third time that there is an effort to resurrect the military commissions and we have absolutely no faith that they are going to be any better, even if you do improve the rules slightly.”

On Friday President Obama unveiled new legal protections for prisoners in the renewed system. These include bans on hearsay evidence and evidence obtained through torture, as well as giving prisoners more leeway in selecting their military counsel.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs defended the tribunal system.

Robert Gibbs: “The president, as I said, during the debate said that properly structured military commissions had a role to play. The changes that he is seeking, he believes, will ensure the protections that are necessary for these to be conducted in order to reach that certain justice, as well as live up to our values.”

Report: U.S. Special Forces Sent Into Pakistan

The Wall Street Journal reports the U.S. is sending Special Forces into Pakistan to train Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force responsible for battling the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. Twenty-five to fifty Special Forces personnel are deploying to two new training camps in Baluchistan, a Taliban stronghold on the Afghan-Pakistani border. A senior American military officer said he hoped Islamabad would gradually allow the U.S. to expand its training footprint inside Pakistan’s borders.

Report: 1,000 Suspected Taliban Killed in Pakistan

The Pakistani military is now claiming it has killed more than 1,000 suspected Taliban fighters along the Afghan border. Pakistan is considering widening its offensive to outside of the Swat Valley. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told the Sunday Times of London: “Swat is just the start. It’s a larger war to fight.” The military offensive in the Swat Valley has already displaced more than a million people.

29 Killed in U.S. Drone Strike in Pakistan

Meanwhile the U.S. has carried out another drone strike inside Pakistan, killing as many as 29 people Saturday in South Waziristan.

Brother of Afghan President Survives Attack

In Afghanistan, gunmen attacked the convoy of President Hamid Karzai’s brother earlier today. Ahmad Wali Karzai survived but the gunmen killed one of his bodyguards.

Blackwater Guards Shot Civilian Car In Afghanistan

Four U.S. contractors affiliated with the company formerly known as Blackwater fired on an approaching civilian vehicle in Kabul earlier this month, wounding at least two Afghan civilians. The contractors were off duty at the time and had been reportedly drinking.

Obama Addresses Abortion Debate At Notre Deame

During his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, President Barack Obama called on both sides of the abortion debate to tone down their rhetoric and search for common ground.

President Obama: “The fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.”

About 40 people were arrested at Notre Dame Sunday protesting President Obama’s support of abortion rights.

Aung San Suu Kyi Put on Trial in Burma

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi went on trial today on charges of breaking the conditions of her house arrest after a US man swam to her home. If convicted she faces a further five years in detention. Aung San Suu Kyi has spent most of the last 19 years in detention. We’ll have more on Burma later in the show.

Obama and Netanyahu to Meet in Washington

President Barack Obama is meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington today. Obama is expected to ask Netanyahu to freeze Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank while Netanyahu is expected to stress that “time is running out” for stopping Iran’s nuclear program. The meeting comes as reports emerge that Israel has begun constructing a new settlement in the northern West Bank for the first time in 26 years. Tenders have been issued for 20 housing units in the new Maskiot settlement and contractors have arrived on site to begin foundational work.

The group Israeli Peace Now movement called the move proof that “Netanyahu is not ready to commit to a two-state solution” and is striving to “prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.”

Four Kuwaiti Women Elected to Parliament

In Kuwait, a group of women have won election to the Kuwaiti parliament for the first time. The U.S.-educated economist Roula Dashti is one of four women who won seats.

Roula Dashti: “Change is coming to Kuwait; we want a culture of solutions to many issues we can cooperate in. We want a constructive debate and if it’s God’s will this period will be the period for building a nation”

Women in Kuwait gained the right to vote and to run for office in 2005.

Russian Police Break Up Gay Rights Parade

In Russia, riot police police broke up a peaceful gay rights parade in Moscow Saturday and detained 40 people. The march had been outlawed by Moscow authorities.

Obama Taps Republican Governor To Be China Envoy

President Obama has named Utah Governor Jon Huntsman to be the next U.S. ambassador to China. Huntsman is a Republican who had been mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012. Huntsman, who speaks Mandarin, served as deputy U.S. trade representative in the administration of President George Bush from 2001-2004. He also served as co-chair of Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Jon Huntsman: “You have my commitment that we will take the U.S.-China relationship to new heights- focused on not just that which divides us but more importantly, that which unites us knowing that this will be critical for lasting peace and prosperity for citizens on both sides of the Pacific. I’m reminded of my favorite Chinese aphorism, it goes something like this: ‘Together we work, together we progress.’ This more than anything else I think captures the spirit of our journey going forward.”

General Electric Begins Dredging Hudson River

General Electric has begun dredging for PCBs in the Hudson River, 25 years after the contamination was deemed a federal Superfund site. GE discharged as much as 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson before PCBs were banned in 1977. The contaminated sediment will be transported by train to a hazardous waste site in Andrews Texas near the New Mexico border. The Sierra Club in Texas has opposed the plan. Neil Carman said: “All they’re doing is relocating toxic waste, They’re moving a problem from one location to another [and] creating problems for future generations to solve.”

While GE is paying to clean up the river, the company is still challenging the constitutionality of the Superfund law in federal court.

Obama Taps GE Attorney To Be Nation’s Top Environmental Litigator

Meanwhile President Obama has tapped a top attorney at General Electric to be the nation’s top environmental litigator. If confirmed Ignacia Moreno would lead the Justice Department’s efforts to enforce environmental laws and defend federal regulations in lawsuits. Her selection has concerned many environmental groups. Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch said: “It seems as if she has spent maybe more time defending polluters than prosecuting them.”

Obama Administration OKs New Mountaintop Removal Permits

In other environmental news, the Obama administration has given the green light for 42 more mountaintop removal permits dealing a victory for the coal industry. Mountaintop mining involves blowing off the tops of mountains to get at the coal underneath.

FBI Spied on Iowa Protesters Before Republican Convention

The Des Moines Register has revealed an FBI informant and an undercover Minnesota sheriff’s deputy spied on political activists in Iowa City last year before the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. Confidential FBI documents obtained by paper provide in-depth descriptions of more than a dozen Iowa political activists. This includes personal information such as names, height, weight, place of employment, cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Some of the surveillance occurred when the activists met last year at the Iowa City Public Library.

Peruvian Indigenous Groups Fight Plans to Develop Natural Resources

And the Peruvian government has sent troops into the Amazon to squash protests by Peruvian indigenous groups who oppose plans develop the region’s natural resources. On Friday the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle called for an insurgency against new laws that open up natural resource sectors like gas, lumber and oil to private investors.

Indigenous leader Alberto Pizango: “The national committee for the struggle appointed by all of you has decided by expressed mandate to prepare itself to declare our (indigenous) communities as an insurgency against the government of Mr. Alan Garcia Perez… Insurgency means disobeying the government because of the mistreatment. They abuse us. They are killing our communities.”

Ehlers Named Co-Chair of House Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucus

vern ehlers

Republican Represntative Vern Ehlers was named co-Chairman of the House Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucus. Ehlers was a former Vice-Chairman and Co-Chair of the Caucus. The Caucus formed back in 1996 as a bi-partisan forum for discussing renewable energy. The caucus does not vote as a bloc nor does it lobby for specific legislation. It’s goal is simply education.

In announcing the appointment, Ehlers’ office touted the fact that he is an “environmentalist:”

My background as a scientist and an environmentalist gives me a valuable perspective on the way we produce and consume energy. As Co-Chairman of this caucus, I will continue my leadership in Congress on these issues by advocating for research on renewable energies and energy efficient technology.

Ehlers has a better voting record on the environment than many Republicans, but there has always been room for improvement. MediaMouse.org looked at his views on the environment a few years ago and found that Ehlers supports nuclear power, has consistently supported trade agreements with limited environmental protections, and has supported legislation that has made it easier to log National Forests.

Moreover, while he has consistently been endorsed by environmental organizations, his actual voting record puts him in the middle of Congressional rankings.