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Newly released documents show that Supreme Court Justice nominee Samuel Alito said 20 years ago "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." Alito made the statements in a job application to become deputy assistant to Ronald Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese. In the job application he wrote "I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government argued that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." Alito said it had been a "source of great personal satisfaction" to help advance such legal causes because he believed in them "very strongly." He also wrote at the time "I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement, and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values." In the same document he revealed that he was a "lifelong registered" Republican, a Federalist Society member and that he had donated money to the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Conservative Political Action Committee. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the documents reveal that Alito is an "aggressive participant in an ideological movement intended to withdraw discrimination protections from workers." Alito’s confirmation hearing is scheduled to begin on January 9th.
On Capitol Hill, a bipartisan group of Senators reached a compromise late Monday night on the rights of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Under the deal–worked out by Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Carl Levin–detainees convicted by military tribunals can have their cases reviewed by federal courts. The agreement was reached four days after the Senate agreed to strip detainees of their right to challenge their detention in federal courts, overturning a June 2004 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the right to habeas corpus. The compromise reached would also grant any detainee sentenced to death or at least 10 years of prison by a military trial an automatic appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In addition, the deal restores federal court jurisdiction over pending cases and provides for a court review of whether standards and procedures of the tribunals are consistent with the Constitution.
A new Congressional investigation has concluded that politics played a major role in last year’s decision by federal drug regulators to bar the sale of the "morning after" birth control pill. On Monday, the Governmental Accountability Office issued a report examining why the Food and Drug Administration rejected over-the-counter sales of Plan B. For years conservative groups have opposed the sale of Plan B because some opponents of abortion consider the morning-after pill tantamount to ending a pregnancy. The GAO determined that the FDA agreed to reject over-the-counter sales of Plan B months before a government scientific review of the application was completed. The GAO also found the FDA’s decision to ignore the recommendation of an independent advisory committee as well as the agency’s own scientific review staff was unprecedented. Democratic Senators Patty Murray and Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that the GAO report ’’has confirmed what we have always suspected, that this was a politically motivated decision that came down from the highest levels at the F.D.A."
The Spanish newspaper El Pais is reporting that CIA planes made at least 10 secret stopovers inside the country while transporting detainees. The secret stops occurred at airports in Spain’s Baleaic islands. Spain’s opposition party–the United Left Party–has called on the country’s interior Minister to explain the use of Spanish airports for what it describes as the CIA’s "plane-prisons." Another Spanish newspaper — Diario de Mallorca–reports that a CIA plane that took off from the Spanish island of Mallorca was involved in the alleged CIA kidnapping of a Lebanese-born German who says he was snatched up in Macedonia and then transported to Afghanistan. The man–who has since been released–claims that in Afghanistan he was shackled, beaten, injected with drugs and questioned persistently about his alleged links with al-Qaida. A number of probes are underway in Europe over covert CIA operations there. The Italian and German governments are both investigating allegations that the CIA has kidnapped individuals within their borders. Italy is seeking the extradition of 22 CIA agents for the involvement in one such kidnapping. The Washington Post also recently reported that the CIA has two secret prisons in Eastern Europe countries.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has announced Israel has agreed to allow Palestinians to reopen the border between the Gaza town of Rafah and Egypt. The Rafah terminal is the only land crossing between Gaza and the rest of the world that bypasses Israel. According to the Israeli newspaper Haqaretz this will mark the first time Palestinians will have control over the border. In return Israel is planning to set up video surveillance to allow it to monitor all movement along the crossing. The agreement came just a day after Middle East envoy James Wolfensohn warned Israel’s border policies were turning Gaza into a "giant prison." As part of the agreement Israel will also permit the export of all Palestinian agricultural products from Gaza during the upcoming harvest. This is Condoleezza Rice:
In France, President Jacques Chirac admitted last night that the recent youth uprising revealed a "profound malaise" in French society. Chirac vowed to fight the poison of racial discrimination. France has been rocked by 18 nights of rioting and civil disturbances led by young people of Arab and North African descent. Chirac also confirmed that his government would seek to extend the right to invoke emergency laws until mid-February. Under the emergency laws, local governments are allowed to impose curfews and ban public meetings and gatherings. The laws were first put in place 50 years ago to quell the independence movement in Algeria.
The controversial former Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi met with Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Washington on Monday. Before the Iraq invasion, Chalabi was a close ally to the U.S. neoconservatives and the Pentagon. The meetings took place even though the FBI is investigating Chalabi for passing U.S. secrets to Iran. Last week Chalabi also met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Venezuela and Mexico have decided to withdraw ambassadors from each others’ countries. The move came after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused his Mexican counterpart Vicente Fox of being a "lapdog" of the United States. Chavez criticized Mexico for backing the U.S. on the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
Human rights attorneys have announced plans to sue the U.S. and Brazilian governments for their alleged role in massacres in Haiti. The lawsuits are being filed today before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. The attorneys allege that the U.S. has financially supported the Haitian security forces that have committed atrocities and that Brazilian UN peacekeeping troops have been involved in politically-motivated killings.
In Uganda the country’s leading opposition politician — Kiiza Besigye — has been arrested. The government has charged him with treason and rape. Besigye had lived in exile in South Africa for four years but returned to Uganda three weeks ago to run in the country’s upcoming election. If found guilty, Besigye could face the death penalty. Thousands of supporters of Besigye’s filled the streets Monday in protest. Police responded by firing teargas at the demonstrators.
And the influential Native American writer, philosopher, scholar and activist Vine Deloria Jr. has died at the age of 72. He was the author of many books including "Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto" and "God is Red." He was one of the most prolific and influential scholars of the twentieth century on American Indian law and policy, history and philosophy. He was also respected as an advocate for indigenous peoples’ rights around the world. Deloria"s political writings in the 1960s sounded a rallying call for Native American sovereignty and self-determination at a time when the American Indian Movement was emerging. Wilma Mankiller, the former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, said of Deloria, "He has been our ranking scholar and intellectual light for all of those years.’’