Human Rights Watch is warning a new Sudanese military offensive is increasing the risks to civilians in Darfur. The group says government forces have stepped up indiscriminate bombings of villages, displacing thousands of people. Meanwhile, the Sudanese government has rejected a US-backed proposal to send more than 15,000 UN and NATO peacekeepers to Darfur.
In Washington Thursday, Illinois Senator Barak Obama urged international intervention: “They can excuse themselves for inaction by saying 'we didn't know.’ This is not one of those circumstances. This is being filmed. It’s being documented. People have written about it. It is a slow rolling genocide. And the notion that we are going to standby in the face of this is unacceptable. And I think this is unacceptable to the American people. And my hope is that it is unacceptable to the international community.”
In Washington, speculation is increasing White House aide Karl Rove will be the next person charged in the CIA leak case. On Wednesday, Rove spent more than three hours appearing before the grand jury investigating the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. It was Rove’s fifth grand jury appearance. MSNBC is reporting Rove was questioned about his previous failure to disclose he had spoken about Plame to a reporter for Time Magazine. Several analysts said the questioning suggests the grand jury is preparing an indictment on perjury charges. Lawyers in the case expect a decision within the next few weeks.
In other news, the CIA is warning former employees not to engage in unapproved conservations with the media. According to the Financial Times, one former official said several retired employees have been threatened with the loss of their pensions. Another former official said CIA head Porter Goss has increased polygraph testing on current employees. The official said Goss is trying to “scare everybody.”
A new Congressional report says the cost of the war in Iraq will soon top $320 billion dollars — a figure that will likely more than double by war’s end. According to the Congressional Research Service, the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan stand to cost nearly as much as the departments of Education, Justice and Homeland Security combined.
As gas prices continue to soar, the world’s largest oil company has once again announced record-breaking profits. On Thursday, Exxon Mobil reported a quarterly profit of $8.4 billion dollars — the fifth-highest quarterly total for any public company in history. In January, Exxon posted profits of almost $11 billon dollars, which stands as the highest quarterly profit of any company ever.
In other news, a coalition of elderly advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit accusing the Bush administration of failing to ensure low-income Americans are properly enrolled in the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. The suit says the Bush administration’s alleged negligence has prevented thousands of Medicare recipients from receiving proper care.
On Capitol Hill Thursday, Republican Senator Arlen Specter said the Bush administration is continuing to stonewall congressional inquiries into its warrantless domestic spy program. Specter said he is considering a proposal to cut off funding for the National Security Agency until the Bush administration answers questions over the program’s legal justification. Specter said : “Institutionally, the presidency is walking all over Congress.”
Here in New York, 57 people were arrested Thursday at a protest in support of New York University’s graduate students union. Members of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee have been on strike since November over the school’s refusal to negotiate a second contract.
In other news, ten states have filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over its decision not to regulate carbon dioxide pollution as a contributor to global warming. The states, led by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, are asking the government to impose tougher pollution standards on new power plants.
In Mexico, lawmakers have passed a declaration of support for Monday’s walkout for immigrant rights in the United States. Mexico’s Congress will send a delegation to Los Angeles to take part in the event.
A new report from two watchdog groups says 18 of this country’s wealthiest families have been behind a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign to repeal the federal estate tax. According to Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy, the families have directely funded campaigns and set up shadow associations to spread misleading information on the benefits of repealing the tax. The groups say a repeal of the estate tax would save the families over $71 billion dollars. The families include those behind the companies Wal-Mart, Campbell’s soup, and Mars Incorporated. Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen called the campaign “one of the biggest con jobs in recent history.”
In other news, the lone survivor of the Sago mine tragedy has provided new details of his colleagues’ last hours. In a letter to the 12 miners’ families, Randal McCloy Jr. said at least four air packs did not work, forcing them to share the devices among themselves. McCloy wrote : “As my trapped co-workers lost consciousness one by one, the room grew still and I continued to sit and wait, unable to do much else.”
And four days after he led a march of thousands of supporters to begin a ten-day jail sentence, Transit Workers Union leader Roger Toussaint will be released today six days early. Toussaint was jailed Monday for authorizing last year’s strike that shut down New York City’s Transit system.
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