In a nationally televised address on Monday night, President Obama defended his decision to authorize the U.S.-led attack on Libya to enforce a no-fly zone. Obama said the United States has a humanitarian duty to prevent atrocities overseas.
President Barack Obama: "We have intervened to stop a massacre, and we will work with our allies and partners to maintain the safety of civilians. We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supplies of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Gaddafi leaves power. It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Gaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power. But it should be clear to those around Gaddafi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on Gaddafi’s side."
While President Obama claimed the military’s mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, he did not mention that the U.S.-led air strikes have been strategically targeted to aid the Libyan rebels in their fight against forces loyal to Gaddafi. On Monday, senior U.S. military officials admitted that the Libyan rebels could be quickly overrun if the air strikes ceased. This is U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, director of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Navy Vice Admiral Bill Gortney: "Clearly the opposition is not well organized, and it is not a very robust organization. I mean, that’s obvious. So any gain that they make is tenuous, based on that. I mean, it’s — clearly they’re achieving a benefit from the actions that we’re taking. We’re not coordinating with it, but I think General Ham’s assessment is pretty good.”
Earlier today in London, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the political leader of Libya’s rebel movement, Mahmoud Jibril. It marked their second meeting in a little more than a week. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has announced plans to send a special envoy for Libya to Benghazi within the next week for talks with rebel opposition leaders.
Japanese authorities have reported a number of new setbacks at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. Plutonium has been found in the soil near the plant, providing new evidence that the fuel rods in at least one of the plant’s reactors had experienced a partial meltdown. Meanwhile, workers are scrambling to stop a new leak of highly contaminated water from reaching the ocean near the nuclear plant.
The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research has released data showing the radiation leak in Japan is far worse than the one at Three Mile Island in 1979. Researchers estimate the Japanese plant has released 160,000 times as much radioactive iodine-131 as the Three Mile Island accident. The researchers said the radiation leak in Chernobyl was 10 times larger than the leak so far in Japan.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said today his government remains in a state of maximum alert. The Japanese government is now considering nationalizing Tokyo Electric Power, the owner of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. Mounting costs and public anger are threatening the future of the company, the largest power utility in Japan and Asia.
The U.S. Army has issued another apology to the people of Afghanistan after Rolling Stone magazine published more photos of U.S. troops posing with the corpses of Afghan civilians. Similar photos appeared last week in the German magazine Der Spiegel and were broadcast on Democracy Now! The Pentagon said, “The photos published by Rolling Stone are disturbing and in striking contrast to the standards and values of the United States Army." The photos include images of a group of U.S. Army soldiers accused of killing unarmed Afghan civilians in cold blood. Rolling Stone also published a graphic video of U.S. soldiers shooting and killing two Afghans on a motorcycle. The video was taken on patrol with a helmet-mounted camera. Soldiers later shared the video with others in clear violation of Army standards.
The Pakistani government has vowed to compensate the families of 39 civilians who died in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan on March 17. Each family will receive approximately $3,500. It is believed to be the first time Pakistan has offered compensation to the victims of a U.S. drone strike. Sarah Holewinski of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict said, "Drone victims have been all but ignored. Before this pledge of compensation, civilian victims received nothing for their losses."
Former U.S. Department of State spokesperson P.J. Crowley told the BBC Monday that he had no regrets over his comments criticizing the military’s treatment of accused Army whistleblower Bradley Manning, even though the comments led to his ouster. Crowley resigned earlier this month after accusing the Pentagon of being "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid" in its treatment of Manning.
P.J. Crowley: “I thought that the treatment of Bradley Manning, the fact that he had to sleep naked and stand in a jail cell naked, was counterproductive to our broader effort of appropriately prosecuting someone who has violated his oath of office.”
Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has revealed ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his family are under house arrest in Egypt. The announcement was made after rumors emerged suggesting Mubarak had fled to Saudi Arabia.
In Ivory Coast, forces loyal to U.N.-backed President-elect Alassane Ouattara have attacked the town of Daloa as the country moves closer to an all-out civil war following last year’s disputed elections. The city of Daloa is strategically important because it is located in the heart of Ivory Coast’s cocoa belt.
Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is criticizing Republican efforts to cut social spending at a time when many of the nation’s largest corporations are paying nothing, or almost nothing, in federal income tax. Sanders has released a list of the 10 worst corporate income tax avoiders. Companies include Exxon Mobil, Bank of America, General Electric, Chevron, Boeing, Valero Energy, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, ConocoPhillips and Carnival Cruise Lines. In the case of General Electric, the company has made $26 billion in profits in the United States over the past five years. During that time, it has received over $4 billion in tax refunds from the IRS.
Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a law to cut off benefits for unemployed workers after 20 weeks instead of 26. While Michigan has maintained an unemployment level of more than 10 percent longer than any other state, it will soon pay fewer weeks of unemployment benefits than any other state. Other states around the country are considering similar legislation. Florida Republicans are seeking to cut unemployment benefits to 20 weeks as well. Some analysts suggest that number could drop to as low as 12 weeks if state unemployment falls to five percent or less. Meanwhile, in Arkansas, the State Senate has signed into law a bill reducing state-paid benefits by one week, while tightening eligibility. Indiana has also tightened eligibility for unemployment benefits and has capped weekly payments at $390.
Democratic lawmakers from Indiana have returned to the state after fleeing five weeks ago in an attempt to derail a Republican effort to pass anti-union legislation. Democratic House members said they returned after Republicans made a number of concessions including withdrawing a measure that would have made Indiana a "right to work" state, meaning that no workplace could require employees to join a union or pay union dues.
In Wisconsin, a dispute of whether the state’s new union-busting law has gone into effect will be the focus of a hearing today before a Dane County circuit judge. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s administration has already begun enforcing the law that strips the rights of most public employees to collectively bargain. The state is no longer collecting dues on behalf of state unions, and public employees are now being charged more for their pensions and healthcare. Meanwhile, some local governments are not implementing the new law for their employees.
In other labor news, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina has said he hopes to see all federal employees lose the right to collectively bargain. He made the comments in an interview with the website ThinkProgress.org.
Scott Keyes: “Senator, would you like to see some of these bills that we see at a state level curbing the collective bargaining rights of public employees’ unions, would you like to see that on a federal level?”
Sen. Jim DeMint: “Well, I don’t believe collective bargaining has any place in government."
Scott Keyes: "Including at a federal level?”
Sen. Jim DeMint: “Including at the federal level. That’s what elections are, collective bargaining, for people who are [inaudible]. So I think it just doesn’t make sense, when we’re elected as representatives, to determine the fiscal condition of the government, then to have an unelected third party bargaining at the table with monopoly power. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Attorneys for Walmart are heading to the U.S. Supreme Court today to urge justices to block a group of past and current female workers from filing a massive class action sex-discrimination lawsuit against the retail giant. The justices will decide whether the small group of women who began the case 10 years ago can represent a huge nationwide class action that may include millions of current and former employees who accuse the world’s largest retailer of discrimination.
The U.S. Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal of Georgia death row prisoner Troy Davis, whose case has been taken up by death penalty opponents across the globe. Davis was convicted for the 1989 killing of an off-duty white police officer. Since then, seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted their testimony, and there is no physical evidence tying him to the crime scene. With his legal appeals exhausted, Davis’s fate rests largely in the hands of Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Parole.
In business news, Sprint Nextel, the nation’s third-largest cellphone provider, is urging regulators to block AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile. Sprint is claiming the acquisition would harm consumers and reduce competition. Meanwhile, the AT&T and T-Mobile merger has received the support of several prominent unions and civil rights organizations, including the AFL-CIO, the Communication Workers of America and the NAACP.