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Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito continued for a third day Wednesday. Alito’s view on abortion remained a key point of debate. Democrats criticized Alito for not doing something that Chief Justice John Roberts did just four months ago during his confirmation hearings — state that Roe v. Wade was the settled law of the land. Alito’s membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, or CAP, also drew criticism. In 1985, in a job application to become an assistant attorney general, Alito noted that he was a member of the group along with the Federal Society. By 1985 the Concerned Alumni of Princeton was already a highly controversial group because it opposed equal educational opportunities for women, minorities and the disabled.
This news on Iran — Russia, the US, the European Union and China will reportedly hold talks next week on Iran’s resumption of nuclear activities. The Iranian government has removed U.N. seals on its uranium enrichment equipment, sparking an outcry from the United States and Europe. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Iran’s move did not violate international law, but may be brought before the UN Security Council. Meanwhile, Western leaders stepped up their rebukes of Iran.
Iran insists it’s removed the seals to resume research activities, and has no plans for uranium enrichment.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Israel has indicated it will allow Palestinians in Jerusalem to vote in upcoming national Palestinian elections. Last month, Israel announced it would not allow Jerusalem’s Palestinians to vote because of the participation of the Palestinian group Hamas. Meanwhile, doctors for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon say they will be easing him off medication that has kept him in a medically induced coma since he suffered a stroke last week.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government says it has suspended talks on a tourism project with evangelical leader Pat Robertson. This in response to Robertson’s suggestion Ariel Sharon’s stroke was divine punishment for pulling out of the Gaza Strip. As Democracy Now reported last week, Robertson was heading a consortium in talks with the Israeli government to build a sprawling biblical theme park by the Sea of Galilee. Israel Tourism spokesperson Ido Hartuv said Robertson’s comments had offended many Israelis, but added: "Evangelicals are the best friends of Israel and they are very, very welcome here."
In Brazil, a funeral service was conducted Wednesday for Lt. Gen. Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar, the former commander of the UN force in Haiti. Lt. Bacellar was found dead in his Port-au-Prince hotel room Saturday with a gunshot wound to his head. UN officials are calling his death a suicide. He had recently clashed with his UN superiors and Haitian business leaders over his opposition to crack down the poor neighborhood of Cite Soleil. Meanwhile, Brazilian Ambassador Paulo Cordeiro de Andrade Pinto told the Associated Press investigators want to probe other possibilities before confirming Lt. Bacellar’s death as a suicide. Pinto declined to say what those possibilities were.
In other news, the bodies of 24 Haitian migrants have been found in the Dominican Republic in the last two days. The victims apparently died of suffocation while crossing the Haiti-Dominican border in a sealed truck. Immigration has been the source of considerable tension between the two countries for many years. Last May, the Dominican government deported over 2,000 Haitians following the slaying of a Dominican woman.
In Chile, former military dictator Augusto Pinochet was stripped of his legal immunity Wednesday, clearing the way for him to face charges he murdered political opponents in the 1973 coup that brought him to power. Chilean courts have previously stripped Pinochet’s immunity for other cases, but he has avoided several trials by convincing judges he is medically unfit to stand trial. If the current case proceeds, it would reopen one of the most notorious human rights cases involving Pinochet’s dictatorship — the so-called Caravan of Death, in which 75 jailed dissidents were killed in the weeks immediately after the coup.
In news from this country, the Associated Press is reporting former House Majority leader Tom Delay pressured the Bush administration to shut down an Indian-owned casino that lobbyist Jack Abramoff wanted closed — shortly after a tribal client of Abramoff’s donated money to DeLay’s political activities. Delay made the request just weeks after the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, then a client of Abramoff’s, made a $1,000 dollar donation to Delay’s Texans for a Republican Majority. That committee is at the center of the campaign finance charges that forced Delay to step down as House Majority leader last September. Former Attorney General John Ashcrof declined to take action at the time. The Choctaw Indians tribe is among four tribes Abramoff admitted last week of defrauding out of millions of dollars.
In California, a new $125 billion dollar budget proposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger includes spending cuts aimed mainly at welfare recipients. The proposed cuts to welfare programs would total almost $200 million over the next two years. A child-care program for welfare recipients in work programs would be eliminated. The Los Angeles Times reports the savings the state would achieve from the cuts would do little to address the multi-billion-dollar deficits that California still faces for the next several years.
In South Carolina, five white teenagers have pleaded guilty to lynching a black teenager. The youths, ages 17 and 18 years old, entered the pleas shortly before their trial was set to begin Tuesday. They were given sentences raging from 2 1/2 to six years in state prison. Their victim, 17-year — old Isaiah Clyburn, said through his lawyer that he forgave them. The five teens attacked Clyburn as he walked along a rural road in Cherokee County, South Carolina on July 7. According to prosecutors, the teens shouted racial slurs at Clyburn and beat him repeatedly as he tried to escape.
In Miami, two Cuban-Americans have been arrested on charges they spied in the United States for the Cuban government. Carlos and Elsa Alvarez, both of whom work at Florida International University, were jailed without bail on charges they conducted espionage for nearly 30 years. No evidence has emerged the couple spied on the US government. Government sources say the couple’s activities focused on Cuban exile groups who have worked to overthrow the government of Cuban President Fidel Castro. The Alvarezes will appear in federal court a week from today. Their attorneys indicated they will plead not guilty.
The Washington Post is reporting a high-ranking US army official has invoked his right not to incriminate himself while testifying in the military tribunal of two soldiers accused of using dogs to intimidate detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The decision by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller — who helped set up interrogations at Abu Ghraib — comes shortly after Col. Thomas Pappas, the commanding officer at Abu Ghraib, accepted immunity from prosecution this week and was ordered to testify at an upcoming military trial. According to the Post, Col. Pappas, could be asked how abusive tactics emerged, who ordered their use and their possible connection to officials in Washington. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said: "It’s a steppingstone going up the chain of command, and that’s positive. It might demonstrate that it wasn’t just a few rotten apples."
And in Australia, six of the world’s leading polluting countries announced a multi-million dollar fund to develop clean-energy — but insisted they will continue to rely on polluting fossil-fuels to run their industries and economies. The United States, China, Japan, India, South Korea and Australia — which together account for nearly half the world’s emissions of dangerous greenhouse gases — were holding the inaugural Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.
They’ve formed the group as an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol, which has set firm emissions targets. Representatives of the world’s biggest mining and energy firms attended the talks. The final declaration said private corporations will be encouraged, but not required, to cut gas emissions. It also said fossil fuels QUOTE: "will be an enduring reality for our lifetimes and beyond."
Environmental groups slammed the talks as a sham.