Police in Toronto arrested over 600 protesters taking part in demonstrations against the G20 global economic summit. Many of the arrests occurred on Sunday when police raided a University of Toronto building housing protesters. Amnesty International has called for an independent probe into the police crackdown. In a statement, the human rights organization said, "important rights associated with peaceful protest have suffered considerably in the city over the weekend." The protests were largely peaceful, though several police cars were set on fire and store windows were smashed.
Inside the G20 summit, world leaders agreed to a controversial goal of cutting government deficits in half by 2013. Economists say such a move could usher in sizable tax increases and massive cuts in government programs, including benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare. The Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz criticized the G20 agreement, saying, "There are almost no successful cases of countries cutting back on their expenditures as a way of getting out of the kind of economic downturn." Meanwhile, world leaders at the G20 failed to come to an agreement on setting new global rules for big banks or imposing a new across-the-board global bank tax.
On Capitol Hill, Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justice nominee Elena Kagan begin today. If confirmed, Kagan would become the first justice in nearly forty years with no judicial experience. Several prominent civil rights organizations have expressed concern over Kagan’s diversity record. As dean at Harvard Law School, Kagan made thirty-two tenured and tenure-track academic hires. Of these thirty-two, only one was a minority, and only seven were women. The National Bar Association, the main organization of black lawyers, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law have decided not to take a position on Kagan’s nomination. She has received the backing of the NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. On Sunday, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions suggested the Republicans may try to filibuster her nomination.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.): "Will she, as a judge, subordinate herself to the Constitution and keep her political views at bay? And then, secondly, if things come out that indicate she’s so far outside the mainstream, it’s conceivable a filibuster might occur."
On the same program, Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy dismissed the Republican criticism about President Obama’s nominee.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT): "It’s reached the point that if [Obama] had nominated Moses the law giver, some would have said we can’t have him because, among other things, he hasn’t produced a birth certificate."
Al Jazeera is reporting Afghan President Hamid Karzai has met Sirajuddin Haqqani, a major leader of the anti-US insurgency in Afghanistan. Haqqani is reported to have been accompanied to the meeting by Pakistan’s army chief and the head of Pakistani intelligence services. The Haqqani network is thought to be responsible for the most sophisticated attacks in Kabul and across the country. The meeting comes weeks after reports that Karzai has lost faith in the United States and is increasingly turning to Pakistan. On Sunday, CIA director Leon Panetta said there was "no evidence" that the Haqqani network leadership was willing to negotiate.
Leon Panetta: "We have seen no evidence that they are truly interested in reconciliation, where they would surrender their arms, where they would denounce al-Qaeda, where they would really try to become part of that society."
CIA director Leon Panetta, speaking on ABC’s This Week.
Panetta also dismissed recent criticism from the United Nations over the use of drones to assassinate suspected militants in Pakistan.
Leon Panetta: "We have a responsibility to defend this country, and that’s what we’re doing. And anyone who suggests that somehow, you know, we’re employing other tactics here that somehow violate international law are dead wrong. What we’re doing is defending this country. That’s what our operations are all about."
In news from Asia, the US and South Korea have agreed to postpone the transfer of full operational control of South Korea’s armed forces to Seoul until at least 2015. President Obama and South Korean president Lee Myung-bak made the announcement during the G20 summit in Toronto. Obama also vowed to seek congressional ratification for a long-stalled free trade agreement with South Korea.
Turkey has closed its airspace to some Israeli military flights following Israel’s deadly raid last month on a Gaza-bound aid ship carrying hundreds of Turks. Eight Turks and a Turkish American were killed in the raid.
The McClatchy Newspapers reports the Obama administration has decided not to bring criminal charges against Blackwater for trying to secure lucrative defense business in Southern Sudan while the country was under US economic sanctions.
The West African nation of Guinea has held its first free election since independence more than half a century ago. Preliminary results from the vote are not expected until Wednesday
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, hundreds of people streamed through Kinshasa on Saturday for the funeral of Floribert Chebeya, one of Congo’s top human rights activists. Chebeya was found dead in his car two weeks ago after being summoned to meet the chief of the national police. Supporters of Chebeya have called for an independent probe into his death.
Therese Mwuzinga: "We are not going to stop. We are here to get justice. We are not here just to waste our breath, but we are here to get justice. We have a way of justice and responsibility. The way of Chebeya is the way of justice."
In news on the BP oil spill, the manufacturer of the controversial chemical dispersant Corexit is beefing up its lobbying staff in Washington. The website Greenwire reports
the manufacturer Nalco recently hired Ramola Musante to run the company’s Washington lobbying effort. Musante previously worked at both EPA and the Department of Energy. Nalco has also recruited Ogilvy Government Relations.
More that 600 rallies were held Saturday to protest offshore oil drilling. The protests were organized around the theme Hands Across the Sand. Carol Newcomb brought her family to a beach in Navarre, Florida, to protest the BP oil spill.
Carol Newcomb: "It makes us sick that there is no end in sight, you know? We don’t know if it could be years before this is ever stopped and if they’re telling us the truth about what they are collecting out there."
And Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia has died at the age of ninety-two. Elected in 1958, Byrd served an unprecedented nine terms in the US Senate. He was a leading critic of President Bush’s push to invade Iraq. On the eve of the US invasion in March 2003, Byrd delivered one of his most memorable speeches.
Sen. Robert Byrd: "After the war has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America’s image around the globe. The case that this administration tries to make to justify its fixation with war is tainted by charges of falsified documents and circumstantial evidence. We cannot convince the world of the necessity of this war for one simple reason: this is not a war of necessity, but a war of choice."
In the 1940s, Byrd was a prominent member of Ku Klux Klan in West Virginia, rising to the position of "exalted cyclops." He opposed the desegregation of the US military and filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Byrd would later apologize, saying his association with the Klan was a sad mistake. In 2008, he endorsed President Obama for president.