Thursday, July 7, 2011

  • Obama Reverses Policy Denying Condolence Letters to Families of U.S. Soldiers Who Commit Suicide


    The Obama administration has reversed a longstanding U.S. policy to deny presidential condolence letters to families of soldiers who have committed suicide, saying it hopes to reduce the stigma associated with the mental health costs of war. Service member suicides have increased as some troops serve repeated tours of duty and suffer post-traumatic stress. The new condolence letter policy went into effect this month but will not apply retroactively. Mental health and troop advocacy groups welcomed the change, but said those who die outside war zones also should be recognized, and that more should be done to prevent suicide among service members. We speak to Gregg and Jannett Keesling, parents of Chancellor Keesling, a U.S. soldier who took his own life during his second tour of duty in Iraq, and Kevin Lucey, whose son, Jeff Lucey, took his own life after returning home from military duty in Iraq. [includes rush transcript]

  • As Exxon Crude Oil Spills into Yellowstone River, Obama Mulls New Pipeline from Canada to Texas


    Oil giant Exxon Mobil faces mounting criticism of its cleanup efforts after one of its oil pipelines ruptured on Friday and leaked 42,000 gallons of crude oil into Montana’s Yellowstone River. The company initially downplayed the incident by saying it would only affect 10 miles of the river, but state officials say the oil has already stretched over 240 miles to near the North Dakota border. The spill comes as the Obama administration considers a massive new oil pipeline called the Keystone XL that would carry corrosive tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico. The pipeline would cross the Yellowstone River as well as the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest freshwater aquifer in the U.S. We speak with Alexis Bonogofsky, a family farmer who lives along the Yellowstone River and was briefly hospitalized after suffering from what doctors diagnosed as acute hydrocarbon exposure. We’re also joined by Anthony Swift of the Natural Resources Defense Council. [includes rush transcript]

  • Mexican Denied Consular Rights Faces Texas Execution Tonight Despite White House Opposition


    The Obama administration has urged Texas to delay tonight’s execution of a Mexican national, saying it would put the U.S. in breach of international obligations. Humberto Leal García is set to be executed for the 1994 kidnapping, rape and murder of Adria Sauceda, a 16-year-old girl. After his arrest, Leal was provided with court-appointed lawyers but never informed he could have access to Mexican consular officials, as is required under the United Nations’ Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Leal’s family still maintains he is innocent, and his defense attorney says his case was also hurt by inadequate counsel by his court-appointed attorney. Barring a last-minute stay by Texas Governor Rick Perry or the U.S. Supreme Court, Leal is set to be executed at 6:00 p.m. We speak with Humberto Leal’s attorney, Sandra Babcock. [includes rush transcript]

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