President Bush has called for 6,000 National Guard troops to be deployed to the U.S.-Mexican border. Bush’s proposal came during a rare prime-time address during which he also called on Congress to find a way to agree on immigration reform.
President Bush’s call for National Guard troops on the Mexican border has already been widely criticized. Mexican President Vicente Fox called the White House on Sunday to express concern over the increased militarization of the border. In Washington numerous politicians said the National Guard is already stretched too thin.
According to the Los Angeles Times, members of the Guard will be deployed to the border for two-week shifts during a period when they would normally be in training. By losing two weeks of training, Bush’s plan might result in Guard troops being less prepared for their primary roles — responding to natural and other disasters.
In other news, a senior federal law enforcement official has admitted to ABC News that the government is now tracking phone calls made by journalists in an attempt to find out who is leaking information to the media. According to the report the government has focused on journalists from the New York Times, the Washington Post and ABC News. The disclosure comes just days after USA Today reported that Verizon, BellSouth and AT&T have handed over the phone records of millions of customers to the National Security Agency. On Monday one of the companies — BellSouth — denied giving the NSA customer calling records.
Meanwhile FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said the Federal Communications Commission should investigate whether the phone companies violated the Communications Act by handing over the customer calling records to the National Security Agency. Copps said the “privacy of our citizens must still matter.”
In Iraq, a leading Sunni religious group has accused U.S. forces of killing 25 civilians in a series of recent raids near Baghdad. The Muslim Clerics Association accused U.S. and Iraqi forces of carrying out air strikes against civilians in Latifiya. In addition the group said U.S. forces shot and killed people who ran from their houses during the bombing. In a statement the Muslim Clerics Association said “We hold the Iraqi government and the occupiers responsible for this brutal atrocity.” The U.S. military admits it killed 41 people in the recent attacks but the military described all of the victims as either associates of al Qaeda or terrorists.
The Bush administration has announced it is banning arms sales to Venezuela. Officials said the decision was made because Venezuela has not cooperated with the Bush administration on so-called anti-terrorism efforts.
Meanwhile Haiti’s new president Rene Preval has signed an oil deal with Venezuela that will allow Haiti to receive Venezuelan oil under preferential conditions. Haitian President Rene Preval: “Venezuela wants to help Haiti and that’s why, today, we are signing the accord for Petrocaribe.” Rene Preval signed the agreement just hours after he was innagurated on Sunday.
The government of Ecuador has expelled the oil company Occidental Petroleum and plans to hand over the company’s local operations to a state-owned oil company. Ecuador is Latin America’s fifth largest oil producer. The move comes just two weeks after the Bolivian government announced plans to nationalize its oil and gas industry.
In other foreign news, the U.S. has announced it will restore diplomatic ties to the oil-rich nation of Libya for the first time in over 25 years. Two years ago the Bush administration lifted economic sanctions against Libya to allow U.S. oil companies to do business in the country which has one of the ten largest oil reserves in the world.
Meanwhile relatives of the 1988 Lockerbie air crash criticized the Bush administration’s decision. This is Bert Ackerman whose brother Tom was killed in the 1988 airline bombing.
More questions are being raised about Vice President Dick Cheney’s role in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Last week prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald filed paperwork that he says shows Cheney became acutely focused on Wilson after the publication of Wilson’s article in the New York Times that questioned the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq weapons of mass destruction program. Included in Fitzgerald’s filing are Cheney’s handwritten notes on a copy of the Wilson article about how he determined Niger was not supplying Iraq with yellowcake uranum. In the notes Cheney personally asked whether Wilson had been sent to Niger by his wife on a “junket” to Africa. Days after Wilson’s article appeared in the New York Times, his wife was outted as a CIA operative. Newsweek reports that the newly released notes appear to make Cheney an even more central witness than had been previously thought in the criminal probe.
In North Carolina, a third member of the Duke University lacrosse team has been indicted on rape charges. The team’s co-captain, David Evans, is accused of first-degree forcible rape, sexual offense and kidnapping. In March a black female student from North Carolina Central University accused three white members of the Duke lacrosse team of rape. The woman was hired as a dancer for a lacrosse team party held in a house rented from Duke University. There she says she was beaten, raped and choked by three white lacrosse team members who also called her racial epithets. All three players have said they are innocent of the charges.
A coalition of media activists have launched a campaign to call on the FCC to investigate whether Clear Channel should lose their radio licenses in eight markets for airing the program Star & Buc Wild. Last week the former co-host of the show, Star, was arrested on charges of endangering the welfare of a child. Star threatened on-air to sexually abuse the four-year-old daughter of a rival radio personality. He also offered listeners $500 for information on where the four-year-old went to school. In addition he made anti-Asian slurs about the girl’s mother. Excerpts of Star’s on-air threats have been posted on the website nohateradio.com.