The Supreme Court has rejected Vermont’s campaign finance law that had placed the nation’s tightest restrictions on campaign contributions and spending. Vermont enacted the law in 1997 to set strict limits on how much candidates could spend and how much individuals and political parties could contribute.
In Iraq today, at least three people were killed and seventeen injured in a suicide bombing on a gas station in Kiruk. The attack comes one day after at least forty people were killed and almost ninety more wounded in separate market bombings in the cities of Baquba and Hillah.
In other Iraq news, the New York Times is reporting US forces expelled fifty Iraqis from their homes this weekend to set up a military outpost in Ramadi. The Iraqis were sent into the streets carrying their food and clothing. The US is currently in the midst of a major operation in Ramadi that has already led to the expulsion of thousands of people.
Meanwhile the Associated Press is reporting the annual cost of maintaining military equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to triple next year to more than seventeen billion dollars. Some estimates now put war costs over the last five years at almost half a trillion dollars.
A new poll shows Americans are nearly evenly split on setting a deadline for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. According to the Washington Post and ABC News, the number of Americans favoring a timetable has grown eight points to forty-seven percent. Fifty-one percent oppose setting a deadline. Speaking at the White House, President Bush was asked about troop withdrawal on Monday.
The Israeli army has deployed a large contingent to the border with the Gaza Strip in preparation for a major offensive over a kidnapped soldier. Corporal Gilad Shalit was abducted Sunday in a Palestinian operation that left two Israeli soldiers and two Palestinians dead. On Monday, Palestinian groups offered to lead Israel to Corporal Shalit in return for the release of all Palestinian females and youths under the age of eighteen in Israeli prisons. Israel has rejected the demand and says it will target Hamas leaders if the soldier is not freed.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Naser Al-Shaer made an appeal to the kidnappers.
Back in the United States, the Supreme Court agreed Monday to rule on whether the Bush administration must regulate emissions of carbon dioxide to stop global warming. A group of US states, cities and environmental groups filed suit three years ago to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s insistence it is not required to curb CO2 under the Clean Air Act. Bush said he supported regulation during his first presidential campaign but later reversed his position after coming into office.
Meanwhile, President Bush said Monday he believes global warming is a serious problem but urged Americans to: “get beyond the debate” over whether it is caused by human activity. His comments came just days after the National Academy of Sciences released a study showing recent surges in global temperatures are unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia. The study concludes: “human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming.”
In education news, the University of Colorado announced Tuesday it wants to fire ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill. Churchill became the center of a debate over free speech and academic freedom last year over controversial comments he made on the 9/11 attacks. The University of Colorado has come under intense pressure to fire Churchill from figures including state governor Bill Owens and Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. The University says it’s firing Churchill after a committee concluded he committed research misconduct and plagiarism in his writings on Native American history. Churchill has vigorously denied the charges and maintains he is being punished for his outspoken views. He will have ten days to appeal the university’s decision. This news comes on the heels of last month’s announcement by Yale University it will not to hire prominent University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole. The decision followed a barrage of lobbying and criticism from right-wing commentators over Cole’s views on the Iraq war, Israel and the state of the Middle East.
The list of activist groups monitored under a secret Pentagon program is growing. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says the Defense Department has admitted to spying on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and anti-war protests at several universities: the State University of New York at Albany, William Paterson University in New Jersey, Southern Connecticut State University and the University of California at Berkeley. De-classified documents show the government intercepted the students’ e-mails and planted undercover agents at at least one protest. The government also refused to confirm or deny whether it had spied on activists in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. The disclosure marks the latest case of known government spying under a secret domestic intelligence program, which has also targeted the Quaker movement and other anti-war groups.
A veteran CIA officer has revealed new details of how the Bush administration built the case for invading Iraq. In an interview with the Washington Post, former CIA officer Tyler Drumheller said he repeatedly warned administration officials over the discredited Iraqi source known as “Curveball.” “Curveball” is the Iraqi expatriate whose claims were used to help build the case Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Drumheller says he personally removed the paragraph from a draft of Colin Powell’s United Nations speech that claimed Iraq had mobile biological weapons laboratories. But Bush administration officials intervened, and Powell delivered the speech with the bio-lab claim intact.
The Financial Times is reporting an internal US military study has warned that future oil supplies are at risk because of the spread of “resource nationalism” in Latin America. Both Bolivia and Ecuador have recently taken steps to nationalize oil fields, while Venezuela has raised taxes on foreign oil production. In the report, analysts with the US Southern Command say re-emerging state control over energy will “increase inefficiencies and… hamper efforts to increase long-term supplies and production.” The report also warns oil production in Mexico is at risk because of state restrictions on foreign investment. The military concludes: “Pending any favorable changes to the investment climate, the prospects for long-term energy production in Venezuela, Ecuador and Mexico are currently at risk.”
And here in New York, dozens of people gathered outside the UN Monday to call for the closure of the US prison at Guantanamo Bay. The rally was held to mark the United Nations Day for Victims of Torture. The protesters dressed in orange jumpsuits and marched behind a cage on wheels. Twenty-five people were arrested, including the peace activist Father Daniel Berrigan. Three of the arrested protesters gave their names as those of the Guantanamo prisoners who committed suicide earlier this month.