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 fifty-four-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.
At least two Republican lawmakers have already cited Sotomayor’s race and gender in questioning her nomination. Congress member 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 US 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’s Supreme Court has upheld a ballot measure banning gay marriage. Last November, a slight majority of California voters approved Proposition 8, 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.
The top US Army officer says the US 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 US 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."
In Afghanistan, a human rights group is claiming an Afghan prisoner at Guantanamo Bay was only twelve years old when he was jailed — not seventeen or eighteen 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 US custody.
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.
In Pakistan, about thirty 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 US-backed offensive that has displaced hundreds of thousands in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.
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.
A top UN official is calling for a war crimes probe in Sri Lanka’s internal conflict between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels. UN 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.
The Bolivian and Venezuelan governments are dismissing Israeli accusations they’ve supplied uranium 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 Ramon Quintana ridiculed the charge.
Juan Ramon 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.
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.
On Capitol 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 forty 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.
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.
And the activist medical anthropologist Paul Farmer is reportedly in talks for an appointment by the Obama administration to run US 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 as more than eight other countries around the world. He has vocally criticized US destabilization efforts in Haiti as well as major US corporations that have pursued profit at the expense of global health.