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Iranian Nuclear Physicist Assassinated in Tehran

An Iranian nuclear physicist was assassinated today in a bomb blast outside his home in Tehran. Massoud Ali-Mohammadi was a nuclear scientist who taught at Tehran University and who might have had links to Iran’s disputed nuclear program. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Iran’s Foreign Ministry blamed Israeli and American agents. The killing comes one month after Iran accused the United States of kidnapping another Iranian nuclear scientist, Shahram Amiri, who has been missing since June when he traveled to Saudi Arabia on a religious pilgrimage.

Yemeni Cleric Warns Against “Foreign Occupation”

Yemen’s most influential Islamic cleric warned the Yemeni government against allowing a "foreign occupation" of the country. Sheikh Abdul-Majid al-Zindani also criticized the US and Britain for scheduling a conference in London to discuss the future of Yemen.

Sheikh Abdul-Majid al-Zindani: “We were surprised by the calling of the London conference, which means that the Yemeni government is a failure. The advisers know that this conference is to declare the failure of this government."

Sheikh al-Zindani raised suspicions that the United States intends to send troops to seize Yemen’s oil resources and strategic Red Sea and Gulf of Aden coastlines if Yemen’s government collapses. The United States has accused the sheikh of having ties to al-Qaeda, but Yemen’s government has openly allied with him in the past and still courts his support.

White House Considers New Tax on Large Banks

The White House is considering imposing a new tax on large banks in an effort to recoup some of the money taxpayers spent on bailing out the financial system. The New York Times reports the general idea is to devise a levy that would help reduce the budget deficit and would also discourage the kinds of excessive risk-taking among financial institutions that led to a near collapse of Wall Street in 2008. The Obama administration has so far rejected a transaction tax on financial trades and a special tax on executives’ bonuses.

Federal Reserve Refuses to Release Details about Bailed-Out Banks

The Federal Reserve has asked a US appeals court to block a ruling that for the first time would force the central bank to reveal secret identities of financial firms that might have collapsed without the largest government bailout in US history. The Bloomberg news agency sued in November 2008 after the Fed refused to name the firms it lent to or disclose the amounts or assets used as collateral under its lending programs

Federal Reserve Made $45 Billion in 2009

In other banking news, the Washington Post reports the Federal Reserve made a record $45 billion profit in 2009. Unlike most government agencies, the Fed funds itself from its own operations and returns its profits to the Treasury.

Federal Trial on Same-Sex Marriage Ban Begins in California

A federal trial over California’s ban on same-sex marriage opened Monday in San Francisco. The trial is the first in any federal court over same-sex marriage and is the first step in a case that could reach the Supreme Court. During the opening day of the trial, same-sex couples said they’re second-class citizens without the equal right to wed.

Bruce Cohen, of the American Foundation for Equal Rights: “We think the consequences have been huge already just in the last week with the news cycle, the amount of attention that this issue has been given, and is hopefully getting to people that haven’t thought about it a lot. There’s a small percentage of Americans who feel really strongly one way or the other about this issue, but there are a lot of Americans who haven’t really thought about gay marriage, don’t really understand what’s at stake, haven’t heard both sides of the story. And for us to have a chance to explain to people why we have the right to be in love and to get married just like every other American and that it’s a fundamental right guaranteed us by the Constitution, that’s going to be huge regardless of the outcome of the case, although we are very much hoping that we will win, of course, and believe we have the lawyers to take us there."

Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund said the court should not overturn the decision of the California voters to ban same-sex marriage.

Jordan Lorence, Alliance Defense Fund: "This is where the people listen to discussions, listen to the debates, and find and reach some sort of decision on their own. And the court should basically leave those decisions alone and let — and if people want to change it over time, it’s up to them. But it’s not for a court or a bunch of rich activists that are funding this case to come in and basically trump what the — what the people have already decided.”

Pope Calls Gay Marriage an "Attack on Creation"

Pope Benedict on Monday linked the Catholic Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage to concern about the environment. He suggested that laws undermining "the differences between the sexes" were threats to creation.

Six Foreign Troops Die in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, six international troops, including at least three Americans, died Monday in the deadliest day in more than two months for international forces. The deaths come one week after retired US General Barry McCaffrey said the US should expect to see between 300 and 500 troops killed and wounded each month in Afghanistan by summer.

Suicide Rate for Veterans Jumps 26 Percent

In other military news, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said the suicide rate among eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-old men who have left the military rose 26 percent from 2005 to 2007. Shinseki said an average of eighteen veterans commit suicide each day.

European Doctor: Big Pharma Exaggerated Threat of Swine Flu

A prominent European health expert has accused pharmaceutical companies of deliberately exaggerating the severity of the swine flu outbreak in order to make billions on flu vaccines. Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg, head of health at the Council of Europe, described it as "one of the greatest medicine scandals of the century." The European Court of Human Rights plans to hold an emergency debate on Dr. Wodarg’s claims later this month.

Nigerian Leader Breaks Silence

The Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka is leading a rally in Nigeria today to demand the government end uncertainty over who is running the country. Up until today, Nigeria’s President Umaru Yar’Adua had not been seen or heard in public since he left for Saudi Arabia for medical reasons seven weeks ago. Yar’Adua broke his silence earlier today by calling the BBC for a three-minute phone interview, but he gave no indication as to when he might return to Nigeria.

Umaru Yar’Adua: "At the moment, I am undergoing treatment, and I’m getting better from the treatment. I hope that very soon there will be tremendous progress, which will allow me to get back home."

Trial of Killer of Abortion Provider George Tiller Set to Begin

Jury selection in the trial of Scott Roeder has been postponed until tomorrow. Roeder was charged with first-degree murder after he shot dead abortion provider George Tiller last May at a church service in Wichita, Kansas. Roeder has admitted he killed Dr. Tiller, but he has insisted the shooting was justified because it prevented Tiller from performing further abortions. Jury selection was delayed two days after a dispute arose over whether Roeder’s defense could argue in court that their client’s actions warrant the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

NJ Lawmakers OK Medical Marijuana Bill

Lawmakers in New Jersey have approved a measure that would make the state the fourteenth in the nation to legalize the use of marijuana for some medical patients. Gov. Jon Corzine has said he would sign it into law before leaving office next Tuesday.

Fox News Hires Sarah Palin

In media news, Fox News announced Monday it has hired former Alaskan governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin as a commentator. Palin will appear on The O’Reilly Factor tonight.

Single-Payer Activists Call Democrats to Allow C-SPAN to Air Healthcare Negotiations

The advocacy group Single Payer Action is heading to Capitol Hill today to protest the decision by the Democratic leadership to prevent C-SPAN from televising the negotiations reconciling the Senate and House healthcare reform bills. The Single Payer Action protesters plan to wear t-shirts that read “C-SPAN In. Big Insurance Out.”

Hunger Strikers Call for Closure of Guantanamo

Protesters gathered outside the White House on Monday to mark the eighth anniversary of the opening of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. One hundred twenty-five people have started a twelve-day hunger fast calling for the prison to be closed. Fasters include Frida Berrigan of Witness Against Torture.

Frida Berrigan, Witness Against Torture: “We’re here to hold up a mirror to the Obama administration in the hopes that what they see is not a reflection of the hope and change that they promised but the hardened continuity, hardened continuity with the Bush administration."

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