The Supreme Court has ruled the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate the emission of “greenhouse gases” linked to global warming. The ruling is seen as a major victory for the environmental movement. Until now the Bush administration has refused to view carbon dioxide as an air pollutant subject to EPA regulation. In a 5-to-4 decision, the court ruled that the EPA violated the Clean Air Act by improperly declining to regulate new-vehicle emissions standards to control the pollutants that scientists say contribute to global warming. The Natural Resources Defense Council said the ruling “repudiates the Bush administration’s do-nothing policy on global warming.” Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch said, “This means California and other states have the clear right to limit greenhouse gas emissions if the Bush administration won’t.”
In a separate decision, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from detainees at Guantanamo challenging the legality of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The law stripped detainees of the right to habeas corpus.
The Pentagon announced on Monday it is sending another 9,000 U.S. troops to Iraq. About half of the soldiers are returning to combat duty ahead of schedule, less than a year after they left Iraq.
Meanwhile, in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, 15 people died in a suicide truck bombing on Monday. The dead included nine children and a U.S. soldier. Nearly 200 people were injured in the blast.
A new study has revealed that suicide bombings against civilians in Iraq have increased dramatically since the start of the year and are deadlier than ever. The Gulf Research Center found 92 confirmed suicide attacks against civilian targets in February and March compared with 62 in the last two months of 2006.
The first three months of 2007 has also been a particularly deadly period for reporters in Iraq. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 18 Iraqi journalists have died so far this year.
Senator Barack Obama has admitted Congress will continue to fund the war in Iraq even if President Bush vetoes the supplemental spending bill that sets a timeline for the withdrawal of troops. In an interview with the Associated Press, Obama said, “I think that nobody wants to play chicken with our troops on the ground.”
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has endorsed a bill written by Senator Russell Feingold that would cut off funding of the war within a year. The bill sets a deadline of next March 31 for completing the withdrawal of combat forces and ending most military spending in Iraq.
The Independent of London has revealed that the recent standoff between Iran and Britain over the captured British sailors may have its roots in a botched U.S. military raid in Iraq. According to the paper, the U.S. military attempted to abduct two senior Iranian security officials in northern Iraq on January 11. The officials have been identified as Mohammed Jafari, the powerful deputy head of the Iranian National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the chief of intelligence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The men were in Iraq on official business to meet with the Iraqi president. The U.S. failed to seize the two officials, but they did capture five relatively junior Iranian officials. The U.S. has been holding the five Iranians since Jan. 11 at an undisclosed location.
On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Iran to release the 15 British sailors.
Ban Ki-moon: “As the secretary-general, I would again hope that we would be able to see some early release of these U.K. sailors. I know that there are many issues involved, but it would be desirable for the international community to see early resolve on this issue in a diplomatic and peaceful way.”
The Bush administration announced on Monday that a former FBI agent has been missing in Iran for several weeks. The U.S. claims the man was in Iran on private business. His name has not been released.
In other news from the Middle East, the McClatchy Newspapers are reporting the Bush administration has launched a campaign to isolate and embarrass Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Some officials fear the campaign is aimed at destabilizing Syria. In recent weeks the State Department has issued a series of rhetorical broadsides against Syria. One official said, “It’s the new Cuba–no language is too tough.” The campaign is centered on the parliamentary elections scheduled for April 22. The U.S. is also covertly funding election monitors inside and outside Syria.
In Somalia, nearly 400 people have been killed since Thursday in what has been described as the worst fighting in the capital of Mogadishu in 15 years. Most of the fighting has been between U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops and Somali fighters allied to the Somali Council of Islamic Courts. The U.N. is estimating more than 47,000 people have fled Mogadishu since March 21.
In Zimbabwe, labor leaders have launched a two-day general strike to protest the country’s economic crisis. The country’s unemployment rate has reached about 80 percent, and Zimbabwe has the world’s highest rate of inflation. Meanwhile, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Monday he is ready to negotiate with Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, without any preconditions. Tsvangirai spoke in Johannesburg, where he is receiving medical care after being beaten by police in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai called for free and fair elections next year, but he questioned if that was possible.
Morgan Tsvangirai: “How do you go into an election when the opposition is being battered? How do you go into an election when there is no freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, the media is banned? How do you go into an election when the same machinery of running an election is militarized?”
Robert Mugabe’s government has accused Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders of plotting to violently overthrow the government.
In media news, the Tribune Company has a new owner: Chicago real estate billionaire Sam Zell. The Tribune Company publishes the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and other newspapers. It also owns several TV stations and the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
In other media news, a growing number of national Latino organizations are calling on PBS to make changes to an upcoming film by Ken Burns about World War II because it ignores the role played by Latino soldiers in the war. The 14-hour documentary reportedly includes no interviews with any Latino veterans. Over 500,000 Latinos served in World War II.
In Texas, state officials have decided to release a 15-year-old girl who was serving a seven-year prison sentence for shoving a teacher’s aide in her school hallway. Shaquanda Cotton was released on Sunday after spending a year in a prison. Her release came after weeks of protests over her sentence. Supporters say Cotton was unfairly punished because she is African-American and because of her mother’s previous involvement in a group that fought discrimination against black students. Shaquanda, who had no prior criminal record, was convicted on one count of assaulting a public servant last year. The teacher’s aide was not injured, and the incident’s details are under dispute. The judge in the case, Chuck Superville of Lamar County, has been accused of double standards after he sentenced a 14-year-old white arsonist to probation. The head of the state’s juvenile prison system has also announced plans to review the sentences of all 4,700 juveniles in state custody.
Chicago’s Police Superintendent Philip Cline has unexpectedly resigned amid a series of scandals involving police misconduct. Last week a Chicago police officer named Anthony Abbate was arrested for beating a female bartender. The beating was captured on video. It shows the 250-pound off-duty police officer pummeling the 115-pound bartender. The beating took place on February 19, but police waited over a month to make an arrest.
In business news, the subprime mortgage lending company New Century Financial has filed for bankruptcy and plans to lay off 3,200 employees. Nearly 50 mortgage lenders have now filed for bankruptcy protection or closed since the end of last year. New Century is the largest company to do so.
U.S. and South Korean trade negotiators have a signed a new trade deal, the largest U.S. free trade agreement since NAFTA was signed over a decade ago. This is Karan Bhatia, U.S. deputy trade representative.
Karan Bhatia: “The free trade agreement we are announcing today is a historic accomplishment. By breaking down barriers to trade and investment, it will benefit the industrious and creative people of both of our countries, creating new economic opportunities and strengthening vital economic and strategic partnership that goes back half a century.”
Outside the trade talks, South Korean protesters rallied against the free trade deal. One man set himself on fire and shouted “Stop the Korea-U.S. FTA.” Farmers in South Korea have opposed the deal because they fear it will lead to an inflow of cheap U.S. agricultural imports. The trade deal must still be approved by lawmakers in Washington and Seoul.
And the city of Seattle has agreed to pay $1 million to protesters arrested during the World Trade Organization demonstrations seven years ago. The money will be split by 160 protesters who were arrested in the city’s Westlake Park on December 1, 1999. In addition, the city agreed to seal the arrest records of the protesters. Attorney Tyler Weaver said, “I am hopeful that this case will send a message not only to the City of Seattle but to cities around the country that mass arrests of peaceful, law-abiding protesters will not and cannot be tolerated.”