Judge John Roberts testified Tuesday that he believes the Constitution protects the right to privacy but he refused to say how he would vote on abortion cases if confirmed to be chief justice of the United States. Roberts said the 1973 Roe v. Wade case was “settled as a precedent of the court.” The Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Roberts all day on Tuesday. Another round of questioning is scheduled for today. For the most part Roberts refused to answer questions about any topic that may come before the court. But he did answer a question by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont regarding presidential war powers.
LEAHY: Do you believe, that the president has a commander in chief override to authorize or excuse the use of torture in interrogation of enemy prisoners even though there may be domestic and international laws prohibiting this specific practice
ROBERTS: Senator, I believe that no-one is above the law under our system and that includes the president. The president is fully bound by the law, the constitution and statutes.
If confirmed Roberts will be the youngest chief justice in over 200 years. We’ll have more on the hearings in a few minutes.
In Iraq, a suicide car bombing has killed at least 114 Shiite day laborers in Baghdad. 220 people were injured. It is believed to be the second deadliest bombing of the war. The explosion went off at 7 a.m. as the day laborers gathered in search of work. Meanwhile another 17 Iraqis were killed after they were dragged from their homes in the middle of the night and shot dead. The executions occurred in the town of Taji.
In Northern Iraq, U.S. forces have widened their attacks on Sunni strongholds in the region. Over the weekend, U.S. and Iraqi forces carried out a major assault on the city of Tal Afar. On Tuesday the U.S. attacked the city of Haditha.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, the Senate’s most senior member, Robert Byrd called for the Bush administration to withdraw from Iraq and bring the troops home. Byrd said “We cannot continue to commit billions in Iraq when our own people are so much in need, not only now, in New Orleans, but all across America for everything from education to health care to homeland security to securing our own borders.”
Here in this country the slow death count continues in the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Katrina. The official death is now over 650 with 423 people dead in Louisiana.
On Tuesday President Bush vowed he takes personal responsibility for the mistakes made in the relief effort. “Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. And to the extent that the federal government didn’t fully do its job right, I take responsibility,” Bush said. “I want to know what went right and what went wrong. I want to know how to better cooperate with state and local government, to be able to answer that very question that you asked: Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm. And that’s a very important question. And it’s in our national interest that we find out exactly what went on and — so that we can better respond.” Meanwhile the Attorney General of Louisiana has pressed criminal charges against the owners of a nursing home where 34 people drowned. The state is accusing the owners of not following its own evacuation plans.
In Houston, community media activists have begun broadcasting a low power FM radio station from the parking lot of the Astrodome. The station called CAMP–KAMP — will serve the evacuees living inside and the feed will be carried in other parts of the region where evacuees are staying.
In legal news, a federal appeals court has ruled that the government can indefinitely detain the Brooklyn-born Jose Padilla who was accused of plotting to set off a dirty bomb inside the United States. Padilla, who is a US citizen, has been held for over three years in solitary conferment on a Navy brig. No charges have ever been filed against him and he has never appeared before a judge. The ruling overturns an earlier decision that “indefinite detention without trial” is unconstitutional.
Up to 200 detainees at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay are taking part in a hunger strike at the prison. The military has acknowledged 128 prisoners are involved but attorneys put the total at 200 or nearly 40 percent of the total prison population. Since the hunger strike began in the first week of August, 18 hunger strikers have been hospitalized including 13 who are being force-fed through intravenous tubes.
Newly declassified sections of the 9/11 commission’s report reveals that the Federal Aviation Administration was warned as early as 1998 that Al Qaeda could “seek to hijack a commercial jet and slam it into a U.S. landmark.” This is the earliest known warning that a 9/11-like attack could take place. It also raises new questions about the veracity of then National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice testimony before the commission. She told the commission “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.” This information was contained in the commission’s original report but remained classified until this week. In addition another declassified section shows that officials realized months before the Sept. 11 attacks that two of the three airports used by the hijackers had suffered repeated security lapses.
In Texas, lawyers for death row prisoner Frances Newton are seeking a last-minute stay on her execution. She is scheduled to be killed later today. On Tuesday Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee held a press conference to urge Governor Rick Perry to stay the execution. On Monday one of the state’s main newspapers–the Austin American Statesman–came out in support of a new trial for Newton. The paper’s editors wrote “The public cannot be certain of her guilt, but she’s going to die for the crime anyway. Newton was denied a basic requirement for a fair trial–a competent lawyer.” Newton would be the 13th prisoner executed this year in Texas. She will be the first African-American woman killed in Texas since Reconstruction.
In other news from Texas: U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s top political fundraiser and the executive director of one of his Texas political action committee were charged Tuesday with two felony election charges of violating Texas election law and criminal conspiracy to violate law for their role in the 2002 legislative races.
The International Labor Rights Fund has filed a class action on behalf of 15 foreign workers against Wal-Mart. The lawsuit accuses the retail giant of ignoring sweatshop conditions at many of its suppliers’ facilities overseas. The workers filing the suit are from Bangladesh, Swaziland, Indonesia, China and Nicaragua.
In New York, the Democratic party held its mayoral primary Tuesday. With 100 percent of the precincts reporting Fernando Ferrer won 39.95 percent of the vote — just shy of the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff with the second place finisher, Anthony Weiner. With more than 25,000 absentee ballots uncounted, Ferrer could still avoid a runoff. The Democratic nominee will then face Mayor Michael Bloomberg in November.
In business news, two of the countries largest airlines, Delta and Northwest, are on the verge of filing for bankruptcy.
And in the music world, a hip—hop song highly critical of President Bush’s response to hurricane Katrina has quickly become one of the most popular songs online. The Houston hip hop group The Legendary K.O. remixed Kanye West’s single “Gold Digger”, Kanye’s recent comment that “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People” and added new lyrics about Bush’s handling of the crisis. Tens of thousands of copies of the song have been downloaded from the web over the past few days.