The city of Los Angeles has elected a Latino mayor for the first time since the 19th century. In Tuesday’s mayoral election, Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa unseated Mayor James Hahn by a wide margin. Los Angeles last had a Latino mayor in 1872–back when the town had only 5,000 residents. Today Los Angeles is the nation’s second largest city. Villaraigosa is a high school drop-out born in the barrio who become speaker of the California Assembly and then a member of the LA City Council. We’ll have more on the election later in the show.
The New York Times is reporting that the Air Force is seeking President Bush’s approval of a national-security directive that could move the United States closer to fielding weapons in space. The directive–which is expected within weeks–is seen as a substantial shift in U.S. policy. The Times reports that the move would likely be opposed by the international community and that it could create an arms race in space. General Lance Lord — who leads the Air Force Space Command–recently told Congress “we must establish and maintain space superiority.” According to the TImes, the Pentagon has already spent billions of dollars developing space weapons and preparing plans to deploy them. Three years ago the Bush administration withdrew from the 30-year-old Antiballistic Missile Treaty, which banned space-based weapons.
Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles was arrested in Miami Tuesday by immigration authorities. Posada is a 77-year-old former CIA operative who has been trying to violently overthrow Fidel Castro’s government for four decades. He has been connected to the 1976 bombing of a civilian airliner that killed 73 passengers–the first act of airline terrorism in the Western hemisphere. He recently snuck into the United States and applied for political asylum. We’ll have more on this in a few minutes.
More evidence has emerged that the US is waging covert operations in Pakistan. ABC News is reporting the CIA has assassinated a suspected member of Al Qaeda inside Pakistan by firing a missile at him using unmanned CIA Predator drone. According to the Washington Post, the CIA and U.S. Special Operations forces have been quietly operating inside Pakistan for more than two years with the knowledge of Pakistani authorities. The assassination marks one of the first incidences reported of the CIA using an unmanned drone to kill. In November 2002 a CIA Predator drone fired a five-foot-long Hellfire missile to kill a suspected member of Al Qaeda in Yemen. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush approved a policy to empower the CIA to carry out assassinations of suspected Al Qaeda members throughout the world — even in nations not at war with the United States.
The Army reservist who engineered one of the most notorious photos to emerge from the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq has been sentenced to six months in jail. Army Specialist Sabrina Harman faced up to five years behind bars. Harman was accused of engineering the photo that showed a hooded inmate in rags standing on a box with electrical wires attached to his hands. She also posed by a pyramid of naked detainees.
On Capitol Hill, Congressman Jim McDermott has introduced a bill calling for the government to conduct health and environmental tests on the military’s use of depleted uranium. McDermott said “We pretended there was no problem with Agent Orange after Vietnam and later the Pentagon recanted, after untold suffering by veterans. I want to know scientifically if DU poses serious dangers to our soldiers and Iraqi civilians.” About 300 metric tons of depleted uranium munitions were fired during the first Gulf War, and about half that amount has been used to date in the ongoing Iraq War. 21 other lawmakers have co-sponsored the bill known as the Depleted Uranium Munitions Study Act.
The political reform movement in Saudi Arabia has suffered another major setback. The royal kingdom has jailed three academics for up to nine years in prison for petitioning the royal family to move toward a constitutional monarchy.
In Haiti, the country’s former prime minister Yvon Neptune has now entered his second month of a hunger strike. He has been jailed without charges since last June. Congressman Kendrick Meek of Florida visited Neptune on Monday and said he was weak and that his voice was very faded. Over the weekend the Haitian government claimed that Neptune is in good health but Meek said that claim is “totally inaccurate.” Neptune’s supporters have said the former prime minister is near death.
The media reform advocacy group Free Press has launched a campaign to oust Ken Tomlinson as the president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. On Tuesday the group said it is seeking 100,000 people to sign a petition calling for his ouster. The group has accused Tomlinson of “top-down partisan meddling.” Tomlinson has denied making any changes at the CPB for political reasons. His aim–he says–it to achieve political balance on the public airwaves. Meanwhile the New York Times is reporting that the CPB is considering conducting a study on National Public Radio’s coverage of the Middle East. One CPB board member who has been critical of NPR’s reporting is Cheryl Halpern. According to the Times, Halpern is the former chairwoman of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Her family has business interests in Israel.