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A battle over the future of the Supreme Court is brewing in Washington following President Bush’s nomination of Samuel Alito to serve on the high court. Senate Republicans roundly praised the conservative judge as a model pick to replace the retiring Sandra Day O’Connor. But Senate Democrats expressed grave concerns over Alito’s judicial views. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California said she believed the nomination was “aimed at appeasing the most right-wing elements of the president’s political base.” The Hill newspaper reports Senate Democrats are appearing to lay the groundwork for a possible filibuster of his nomination. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch used biblical terms to express the battle that will likely be waged over the nomination. Hatch said, “This one is going to be Armageddon.” Legal scholar Jonathon Turley warned Monday that Alito would shift the court significantly to the right. He said, “”There will be no one to the right of Sam Alito on this court.”
The New York Times quickly criticized the selection of Alito. In an editorial titled “Another Lost Opportunity” the paper questioned Alito’s attitudes toward civil rights, privacy and federalism. The paper highlighted several past rulings by Alito: In 1992 he ruled in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey that all of Pennsylvania’s limitations on abortion were constitutional, including the requirement that women be forced to notify their husbands before they have an abortion. In 1996 Alito declared that Washington could not regulate the sale of fully automatic machine guns. In 2000 he said Washington could not compel state governments to abide by the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Times also reports Alito has favored an inflated standard of evidence for racial- and sex-discrimination cases that would make it harder to bring them to court. When lawyers for an African-American death-row inmate sought to demonstrate bias in jury selection by using statistics, Alito dismissed that as akin to arguing that Americans were biased toward left-handers because left-handed men had won five out of six of the preceding presidential elections.
Alito’s view on abortion is also expected to be widely debated. The Associated Press interviewed Alito’s 90-year-old mother about her son’s stance on abortion. She said, “Of course he’s against abortion.” Meanwhile the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that if the Senate confirms Alito, the Supreme Court will have a Catholic majority for the first time in its history. Alito would join Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to give the nine-member court a total of five Catholics.
In Washington, Vice President Dick Cheney has promoted two members of his staff to replace Lewis “Scooter” Libby who resigned last week after being indicted on 5 counts in the CIA leak investigation. Libby is facing up to 30 years in jail for obstruction of justice, perjury to a grand jury and making false statements to FBI agents. Cheney picked David Addington to serve as his chief of staff and John Hannah to take over as assistant to the vice president for national security affairs. Both have played key roles in the so-called war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq. Three years ago Addington wrote a memo that asserted the war on terrorism renders obsolete the Geneva Convention’s limitations on questioning detainees. Meanwhile the Knight Ridder news agency reports John Hannah was the main White House contact for the Iraqi National Congress ahead of the Iraq invasion. The group of Iraqi exiles fed Hannah misinformation about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction that was used to justify the war.
In Iraq, hospital officials in the town of Qaim say up to 40 people were killed Monday in U.S. bombings near the Syrian border. An Iraqi doctor said many of the killed were women and children. Local residents said U.S. aircraft carried out a series of bombing raids beginning shortly after midnight and continuing until dawn. Military officials said they were targeting safehouses used by a local Al Qaeda leader.
Meanwhile in the southern city of Basra, a suicide bombing killed at least 20 and injured 40 more. The blast targeted a crowded area with shops and restaurants.
And U.S. losses in Iraq continue to rise. Seven U.S. soldiers were killed on Monday bringing the monthly death toll to 92. This made October the fourth deadliest month of the war for U.S. troops.
Meanwhile for the first time the Pentagon has issued a tally of Iraqi casualties–but only of those killed or injured by insurgents. In a report to Congress, the Pentagon said insurgents have killed or wounded nearly 26,000 Iraqis between January 2004 and September. The figure includes members of Iraq’s security forces. Between January and March of last year, there were an estimated 26 casualties a day. That figure has since more than doubled to 64 casualties a day. The Pentagon refuses to release a figure for Iraqi civilians killed or wounded by the US-led coalition. A study in the British medical journal Lancet a year go said about 100,000 Iraqis have been killed in the war on Iraq, mostly by US air strikes.
President Bush and Dick Cheney are facing more opposition about the war in Iraq–this time from their own church. Last week the United Methodist Church passed a resolution calling for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq. The resolution read in part “As people of faith, we raise our voice in protest against the tragedy of the unjust war in Iraq. Thousands of lives have been lost and hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in a war the United States initiated and should never have fought.” The church board also called on Congress to create and independent, bipartisan commission to investigate U.S. treatment of detainees overseas.
Meanwhile anti-Bush demonstrations in over 185 cities and campuses are being organized for Wednesday by a group called The World Can’t Wait. The group picked the first anniversary of the 2004 election to launch its effort to drive out the Bush government.
The United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution Monday calling on Syria to fully cooperate with a UN investigation into the killing of former Lebanese president Rafik Hariri. A recent UN inquiry accused top Syrian government officials of involvement in the car bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others on February 14th. U.S. UN Ambassador John Bolton said the resolution was worded broadly enough to not rule out the use of military force for Syrian non-compliance. Bolton said : “I’m confident that it’s a very tough resolution and makes it clear that serious consequences are going to follow if Syria doesn’t cooperate.” Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa responded that the idea Syrian officials knew in advance of the Hariri attack was akin to the idea the Bush administration knew in advance of 9/11.
’The Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia has revealed that the U.S. military has dumped millions of pounds of unused chemical weapons between World War II and 1970. According to newly released Army records, the military dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard gas agent into the sea along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, landmines and rockets. In addition 500 tons of radioactive water has been dumped. According to press accounts the military has been unable to identify where all of the weapons of mass destruction were dumped though it is known they were dumped off the coasts of at least 11 states.