A US federal appeals court blocked the implementation of new FCC rules that would have allowed for greater media consolidation. The suit against the FCC was filed by the grassroots group Prometheus Radio Project from Philadelphia. In a 2-1 ruling, the court ordered the FCC to provide detailed justification to support their decision that would have lifted caps on cross ownership limiting how many tv stations and newspapers a single company can own in a geographical area. One of the plaintiff’s in the case, Marc Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America, said "Today’s ruling reinforces the public mandate for a diverse and democratic media."
CNN is reporting the Pentagon is preparing to send as many as 15,000 more ground troops to Iraq if violence worsens. This news comes as the death toll from fighting yesterday has risen to over 100. At least 320 people were injured. Members of the Iraqi resistance launched coordinated uprisings in five cities: Baghdad, Mosul, Baquba, Fallujah and Ramadi. The Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attacks.
President Bush was questioned for 70 minutes by federal investigators in the criminal case examining who within the Bush administration broke federal law by leaking the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Plame is the wife of one of President Bush’s chief critics on Iraq, Ambassador Joseph Wilson. During questioning, Bush was accompanied by Jim Sharp, the private attorney recently hired by Bush. The New York Times said it was extraordinary to have a sitting president questioned for so long in a criminal proceeding. Bush’s chief advisor Karl Rove has been one of the officials cited as a possible source for the leak. Numerous other top officials including Vice President Dick Cheney and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales have also been questioned.
The Supreme Court has refused to order Vice President Dick Cheney to make public the names of industry executives and lobbyists who helped secretly craft the Bush administration’s energy policy. The court didn’t rule outright in the government’s favor but sent the case back to a lower court. Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club had brought the lawsuit against the administration. The case was closely watched in part because Justice Antonin Scalia refused to recuse himself after it was revealed that he had gone duck hunting with the Vice President while the court was deliberating over the case.
In other Cheney news, the Vice President is coming under criticism for cursed on the floor of the Senate in an exchange with Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. Cheney approached Leahy shortly after the entire Senate posed for their 2004 class photo to complain about recent comments Leahy made about Cheney’s former company Halliburton profiting from the Iraq. After a brief discussion, Cheney blurted out "F** off " or "go F** yourself" according to news reports. Leahy told the press later "I think he was just having a bad day. I was kind of shocked to hear that kind of language on the floor."
The Supreme Court voted 5-4 yesterday to overture the criminal sentencing guidelines of Washington State. The guidelines put decisions about increased sentences in the hands of judges. The Court ruled that such a decision requires a jury to find proof beyond a reasonable doubt that an increased sentence is appropriate. Federal guidelines operate in a similar way and may now have to be rewritten to limit the judge’s role in sentencing.
New York state’s highest court ruled yesterday that a provision in the state’s death penalty law is unconstitutional, effectively suspending the death penalty in New York. The court found the state’s current law was written in a manner to actually encourage jurors to impose the death penalty even in cases where it was not warranted.
The Washington Post reports House Intelligence Committee Chair Porter Goss has become President Bush’s top choice to replace George Tenet as CIA Director. Goss worked for the CIA for nine years.
Britain’s attorney general has accused the US government of setting up an unfair system to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay where four British men are still being held. He said the military tribunals do not meet the standards of justice of international law.
The Air Force has announced that the U.S. fighter pilot who mistakenly bombed and killed four Canadians in Afghanistan will not face court martial and charges of manslaughter. Instead he will be charged for the much less serious crime of dereliction of duty. Instead of 64 years in prison, he faces one month in confinement or loss of one month’s pay.
Lawmakers urged the Army yesterday not to use Israeli-made bullets in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Congressman Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii said of the Israeli-made bullets "by no means, under any circumstances should a round be utilized." Other lawmakers noted that the US could suffer a public relations crisis if Israeli bullets were used to fight Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. Legislators urged the army to keep buying the Israel bullets — which are needed to make up for a shortfall — but they urged that the bullets only be used for training.
And the government’s top attorney, Solicitor General Theodore Olson, has announced he is retiring. Olson’s has represented the government in several major Surpeme Court cases this year and played a prominent role in the impeachment of President Clinton. His wife, the commentator Barbara Olson, died on Sept. 11 aboard American Airlines flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon.
Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell has announced he will visit the Darfur region of Sudan next week. 1.2 million people have fled their homes there after government-backed militias raided the area. The UN has described the Sudan situation as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.