In Washington, Congress is expected to vote today to confirm Judge Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. Senate Democrats failed to halt his nomination on Monday after 19 Democrats voted against a filibuster. Senate aides say they now expect 41 Senators, including Republican Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, to vote against Alito’s confirmation. If so, Alito will be joining the court with less Senate support than any Supreme Court justice in the past century besides Clarence Thomas who was opposed by 48 Senators in 1991. Legal experts predict Alito will move the Court sharply to the right. People for the American Way President Ralph Neas warned "If Alito is true to his record, he will side far more often with the rights of the powerful against the powerless, favor corporations and big government against the rights and privacy of individuals." Neas went on to say that Alito will "seek to roll back a woman’s right to choose, and undermine legal protections for women, immigrants, minorities, and Americans with disabilities." If confirmed, Alito could be sworn in as early as today hours ahead of the President Bush’s State of the Union address . While Bush will be addressing Congress tonight, protesters–led by the World Can’t Wait coalition–will be demonstrating outside the Capitol. The group is staging over 60 protests across the country tonight as well as another demonstration on Saturday in Washington.
In Georgia, Coretta Scott King–the widow of Martin Luther King Junior–has died at the age of 79. She had spent her life fighting for civil rights and preserving her late husband’s legacy. In April of 1968 she led a march through Memphis just days after Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. Later that year she led the Poor People’s March in Washington, D.C. She continued working for equality, peace and economic justice for the remainder of her life, both in the United States and abroad.
In news on Iran–the U.S. and the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have agreed that the Security Council should directly deal with Iran’s nuclear program. Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful means but Europe and the United States have claimed Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons. Until now Russia and China have both resisted taking Iran to the Security Council which could impose sanctions or other punitive measures. As a concession toward Russia, the countries agreed no action would be taken until March. Iran’s top nuclear official said today that moves to send Iran’s case to the UN Security Council were not legally justified and that the crisis should be solved diplomatically.
In Iraq, a new video has been broadcast showing kidnapped freelance journalist Jill Carroll. The silent video showed Carroll in tears in clear emotional distress. She was kidnapped over three weeks ago in Baghdad. Al Jazeera reported that Carroll called on her family, her colleagues and Americans throughout the world to ask that all Iraqi prisoners be freed. Carroll’s editor at the Christian Science Monitor said "Anyone with a heart will feel distressed that an innocent woman like Jill Carroll would be treated in the manner shown in the latest video."
Meanwhile ABC News co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt are returning to the United States for further medical treatment. Both men were seriously wounded in a bomb attack in Iraq on Sunday. Woodruff suffered head injuries and wounds to his upper body and broken bones. Doctors said he was briefly brought out of sedation long enough to open his eyes briefly and respond to stimuli to his hands and feet overnight. Meanwhile doctors said Vogt is alert and has been sitting up and speaking.
Oil giant ExxonMobil reported Monday it made a record $36 billion last year–a sum larger than the economies of 125 countries. Exxon became the first company to ever make more than $10 billion in a financial quarter. During the last three months of 2005 the oil giant made over $1,300 every second or nearly $5 million every hour. The country’s three biggest oil companies–ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips–earned a combined $63 billion last year. Officials from the country’s major oil companies, however, are refusing to testify this week at a Senate hearing looking into whether oil industry mergers in recent years have made gasoline more expensive at the pump. While it is making record profits, Exxon Mobil is also trying to avoid paying damages from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. On Friday the corporation asked a federal appeals court to erase an order for Exxon to pay out five billion dollars in damages ordered by an Alaskan jury.
In other business news, the stock value of Halliburton reached a new all-time high on Monday following the report that Halliburton had its most successful year in its 86 year history.
Newsweek has revealed that there have been deep divisions within President Bush’s own Justice Department over the legality of the administration’s tactics since 9/11. In a major piece titled The Palace Revolt, Newsweek reports a group of conservative attorneys stood up to the hard-liners led by Vice President Cheney over whether the president can assume near unlimited powers in the so-called war on terror. According to Newsweek, these attorneys fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law. Some were so concerned over the legality of the administration’s eavesdropping program that they lined up private attorneys in case the program even drew the scrutiny of Congress or prosecutors.
Despite the controversy over its domestic eavesdropping operations, The National Security Agency is in the process of expanding its operations by building a new hub and data warehouse in the Denver region. According to the Government Executive Magazine, the new Colorado facility will serve as the NSA’s center for data mining. The site will reportedly be able to hold the electronic equivalent of the Library of Congress every two days.
In Georgia, six human rights activists were sentenced to up to three months in jail on Monday for participating in non-violent protests outside the Fort Benning military base that houses what was once known as the School of the Americas. A total of 32 activists were charged with trespassing after they walked on the military base in November calling for the closing of the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation.
And playwright Wendy Wasserstein has died at the age of 55. She was best known for the Pulitzer Prize winning play The Heidi Chronicles. The lights on Broadway are to be dimmed tonight in her honor.