President Obama has fired the opening salvo in a looming battle with Republicans over the future of tax cuts for the wealthy. Speaking Wednesday in Ohio, Obama called for an end to Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans when the cuts expire at the end of the year.
President Obama: "We should not hold middle-class tax cuts hostage any longer. We are ready this week, if they want, to give tax cuts to every American making $250,000 or less. That’s 98, 97 percent of Americans. Now, for any income over this amount, the tax rates would just go back to what they were under President Clinton. This isn’t to punish folks who are better off — God bless them — it’s because we can’t afford the $700 billion price tag."
The oil giant BP has released the results of a four-month internal probe of the April 20th explosion that caused the worst offshore oil spill in US history. While admitting partial fault, BP appeared to put more blame on the other companies and contractors that worked on the Macondo well. The report could be a preview of BP’s legal strategy, should it face criminal charges. Heavy blame is laid on Transocean, the operator of the rig. The report also absolves BP’s well design, saying it played no role in the spill. The report doesn’t fault any BP officials by name or recommend any punitive action.
At least ten alleged militants have been killed in a pair of US missile strikes in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan. It was at least the sixth US attack inside Pakistan in less than a week.
New details have emerged in the case against twelve US soldiers over the killings of unarmed civilians in Afghanistan. Five of the soldiers are accused of killing three Afghan men for sport and then collecting their fingers as trophies. Seven other soldiers are charged with covering up the killings and assaulting a new recruit who helped bring them to light. The Afghans were killed after the soldiers allegedly decided to form a "kill team" to carry out deadly attacks.
In other news from Afghanistan, the Washington Post is reporting Afghan President Hamid Karzai intends to limit the international role in investigating alleged corruption in his government. Karzai has backed new proposals that would bar US and other foreign officials from direct involvement in two anti-corruption task forces within Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry.
In Mexico, the mayor of a town in the northern Mexico state of San Luis Potosí has been killed in an armed attack. Alexander Lopez Garcia was shot dead Wednesday after gunmen stormed his office. He is the third Mexican mayor to be slain in less than a month.
In other news from Mexico, seven people have been arrested for their alleged roles in the massacre of seventy-two Central and South American migrants last month. The mass slaying near the US border is believed to be the single deadliest attack of Mexico’s drug war. The head of Mexico’s National Security Council, Alejandro Poiré Romero, announced the suspects’ capture.
Alejandro Poiré Romero: "This arrest will help to completely clarify what happened in San Fernando and means an important step to put an end to impunity in aggressions to migrants committed by organized criminals."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has said that the US is prepared to widen the so-called war on drugs into a Plan Colombia-style initiative for Mexico and Central America. Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, Clinton also said the drug cartels in Mexico are coming to resemble an insurgency.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "These drug cartels are now showing more and more indices of insurgency. All of a sudden, car bombs show up, which weren’t there before. So it’s becoming — it’s looking more and more like Colombia looked twenty years ago, where the narcotraffickers control certain parts of the country. The newly inaugurated president of Costa Rica, President Chinchilla, said, 'We need help, and we need a much more vigorous US presence.' So we are working to try to enhance what we have in Central America."
Mexican lawmakers immediately criticized Clinton’s remarks. Sen. Ricardo Monreal of Mexico’s Labor Party said, "If the United States thinks it is necessary to apply the same model to us they applied to Colombia, they are mistaken."
Clinton’s comments come as a new study claims as many as three out of every four guns used in crimes in Mexico originate in US border towns. According to the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, US government data shows 75 percent of the guns were purchased in the four US states that border Mexico — Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. The actual number could be higher, as the figure only takes into account the guns that were recovered and submitted for tracing. Overall, 19,000 US guns were used between 2006 and 2009. The group’s co-chair, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, says Congress blocked release of the data until March of this year after it was initially requested in 2009.
Cuban President Fidel Castro has accused Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of anti-Semitism over Ahmadinejad’s comments on Israel and the Nazi Holocaust. Ahmadinejad has denied the mass killing of Jews in Nazi death camps and has made incendiary remarks that some have interpreted as a threat to Israel’s existence. Speaking to The Atlantic magazine, Castro said Ahmadinejad should acknowledge the history of Jewish suffering, saying, "There is nothing that compares to the [Nazi] Holocaust." Castro also echoed the calls of his brother, Cuban President Raúl Castro, for reforming Cuba’s economic system, saying, "The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore."
In Colombia, a suspect has been arrested in the 2001 killings of two union leaders at a mine owned by the Alabama-based coal company Drummond. The suspect, Jaime Blanco Maya, is the brother of Colombia’s former Inspector General. The victims’ families have long maintained Drummond hired the masked gunmen that killed Valmore Locarno and Victor Orcasita in March 2001, as well as Gustavo Soler seven months later. A former senior official at Colombia’s executive intelligence agency has claimed he witnessed Drummond’s top official in Colombia hand over a suitcase full of money to pay for the assassinations.
The Florida-based Christian pastor who wants to burn the Quran on September 11th is vowing to continue with his plan. On Wednesday, Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center said he would proceed despite complaints of bigotry and government warnings that burning the Muslim holy book could endanger US troops.
Terry Jones: "It is possibly time for us in a new way to actually stand up, confront terrorism. There is something very much wrong with our policies when we stand there and we watch a building full of people die because our so-called policies do not allow us to do anything. So, as of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing. So, on September the 11th, we shall continue with our planned event."
A flight attendant for Compass Airlines has been fired from her job after publicly revealing she qualifies for food stamps. The flight attendant, Kirsten Arianejad, had made the disclosure in a television interview as part of a campaign calling for a living wage for airline employees.
The Sacramento Bee is reporting that the oil giant BP has played a role in developing the new environmental curriculum for California’s public schools. BP employees were part of a state-appointed team responsible for crafting the program’s "guiding principles.” The curriculum will be taught to over six million public school students in some 1,000 districts.
A new study says some five million needy children missed out on government-funded healthcare programs despite being eligible. The Urban Institute Health Policy Center says of the 7.3 million uninsured children in 2008, 65 percent were eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, CHIP.