Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination to be a Supreme Court justice. Earlier today President Bush announced he had accepted her decision. Miers had come under intense criticism from the Christian Right and many Republican senators. In a letter dated today, Miers said she was concerned that the confirmation process “would create a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interest of the country.” Miers went on to write that she needed to withdraw because Senators were seeking White House records that could not be released because of executive privilege. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote last week that this would be the honorable way for Miers to withdraw. He ended his column by saying “Faces saved. And we start again.” In a statement today, Bush said he “reluctantly” accepted her decision to withdraw.The two have been close friends for nearly two decades. Miers began working for Bush when he was running for governor of Texas in 1994. She remains White House counsel. Miers would have become the third woman to have served on the Supreme Court.
Rumors continue to fly in Washington over whether any top White House officials will be forced to resign this week for their involvement in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. On Wednesday special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald presented a summary of his case to the grand jury which could hand down indictments today or tomorrow. According to the Washington Post, Karl Rove’s legal team has been engaged in a furious effort to convince Fitzgerald that Rove did not commit perjury. If indicted, Rove will mostly likely be forced to step down.
The Village Voice is reporting over 1500 events took place across the country Wednesday to commemorate the death of 2,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq. In Washington, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and 25 others were arrested for demonstrating without a permit in front of the White House. The protesters lay on the ground in a “die-in” to symbolize the US soldiers killed in Iraq. In New York, several hundred flooded the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square with shouts of “Bush lied, 2,000 died.”
In Israel, a suicide bombing at an open-air market in the town of Hadera killed 5 Israelis and wounded over 30 others Wednesday. Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, calling the attack a retaliation for Israel’s killing of Luay Saadi, a leader of the group’s military wing, on Monday. Following the bombing, Israel launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting the Israeli government has approved a “major military operation” into Palestinian areas. In the West Bank, the Israeli army plans to impose a curfew, close off all border crossings, and bar all travel within the territory’s northern area. In northern Gaza, Israeli tanks will enter near Beit Hanun, and ground forces will be deployed for a possible large-scale operation.
Meanwhile newly-elected Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad drew international condemnation Wednesday for saying on state television : “Israel must be wiped off the map.” In response, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres said Iran should be expelled from the UN.
Lawyers for hunger-striking prisoners at Guantanamo Bay won a federal court order Wednesday mandating the government to provide them with clients’ medical records and to notify them before their clients are subjected to involuntary force feedings. As Democracy Now reported last week, scores of hunger-striking detainees have been force-fed with tubes up their noses at the U.S. military prison.
The independent inquiry investigating the United Nations Oil for Food program in Iraq will release a report today that says over 2000 companies paid illegal kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime. This according to the New York Times. The oil for food program was in place from 1996 to 2003, and allowed the Iraqi government to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods. The inquiry, headed by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Vocker, says Hussein made $1.8 billion dollars from oil for food surcharges and kickbacks. That number is dwarfed by the almost $11 billion dollars the report says Hussein made from oil smuggling to U.S. allies Jordan and Turkey, all with the full knowledge of the U.S. government.
The Washington Post is reporting the House bill that would renew the USA Patriot Act includes little-noticed provisions that would dramatically alter the federal death penalty system. The bill allows for smaller juries to decide on executions and grants prosecutors the right to re-try suspects if a jury deadlocks on sentencing. The bill also triples the number of terrorism-related crimes eligible for the death penalty. The Justice Department has already endorsed the provisions. Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch, told the Post : “These are radical changes in the way federal death penalty cases are litigated, and they were added virtually without any debate.”
U.S. energy companies are reporting record quarterly earnings this week. Exxon Mobil has reported a third-quarter profit of $9.92 billion — the largest quarterly total ever for a U.S. company. The Los Angeles Times notes the figure amounts to more than what Coca-Cola Co., Intel Corp. and Time Warner Inc. earn in an entire year. Third-quarter profits at ConocoPhillips, the country’s third-largest oil company, are up 89 percent. Together, the 29 major oil and gas firms are expected to earn $96 billion this year, up from $68 billion last year.
This news in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — the Bush administration has agreed to reinstate a workers rights law it had waived for the reconstruction effort in the Gulf Coast. The waiver of the Davis-Bacon act allowed federal contractors to pay workers less than the area’s prevailing wage. The move drew widespread criticism from Democrats and labor groups. Prevailing wages in the region were already among the lowest in the country.
In media news, CBS has replaced its news chief with its top sports broadcasting executive. CBS Sports Head Sean McManus will replace Andrew Heyward, who headed CBS News since 1996. The New York Times notes McManus has no formal news experience. A CBS spokesperson confirmed reports on political blogs that McManus had made a $250 contribution to the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004. He has also made political contributions to Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy.
In a visit to South Africa, civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson lent support to exiled Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Aristide has been living in exile in South Africa since being ousted in a coup in February 2004. Rev. Jackson said: “The people did not remove him, the US government removed him.”