In other news from Somalia, the Washington Post reports President Obama is being urged by some in the Pentagon to carry out strikes against camps by the Al-Shabab militant group in southern Somalia. Others in the administration oppose military strikes, because there is no evidence the group is planning attacks outside Somalia.
The Pakistani newspaper The News is reporting US bombing raids have killed 687 Pakistani civilians since 2006. During that time US Predator drones carried out sixty strikes inside Pakistan, but reportedly just ten of the strikes hit their actual targets.
Meanwhile, fourteen peace activists were arrested Thursday outside Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, where Air Force personnel pilot the unmanned drones being used in Pakistan. The activists were arrested after holding a ten-day vigil to raise awareness of the drone strikes. Among the arrested were Kathy Kelly and Father John Dear.
In Iraq, five US soldiers were killed in a suicide truck bombing in Mosul on Friday. It was the deadliest strike against US forces in Iraq in thirteen months.
In Afghanistan, a prominent female lawmaker and women’s rights activist was shot dead on Sunday. Sitara Achikzai was killed outside her home in Kandahar by Taliban gunmen on motorbikes.
President Obama has sided with the former Bush administration in claiming that prisoners held by US troops overseas have no US legal rights. On Friday, the Justice Department appealed a federal judge’s decision granting three detainees at the US military prison Bagram in Afghanistan the right to challenge their detention in US courts.
In economic news, federal regulators shut down two banks on Friday: Cape Fear Bank in Wilmington, North Carolina, and New Frontier Bank of Greeley, Colorado. Twenty-three banks have collapsed so far this year.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports the committee overseeing federal banking bailout programs is investigating the lending practices of institutions that received public funds, following a rash of complaints about increases in interest rates and fees. Last week, Bank of America told some customers that interest rates on their credit cards will nearly double to about 14 percent. The bank is also imposing fees of least $10 on a wide range of credit card transactions. Citigroup is pushing new loans that carry annual interest rates of 30 percent, while Wells Fargo is offering its own form of a payday loan that carry annual interest rates of about 120 percent. Last year, US banks and savings institutions collected nearly $40 billion in deposit account charges and fees for everything from ATM usage to balance transfers. The fees accounted for about 25 percent of the industry’s total revenue.
In Thailand, at least seventy anti-government protesters were injured earlier today when troops fired into the air in Bangkok and used teargas to clear protesters from the streets. Thailand’s prime minister declared a state of emergency on Saturday after 1,000 protesters stormed a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The summit was canceled, and Asian leaders had to be evacuated by helicopter. Most of the protesters are supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006. Thaksin still has deep support among the urban and provincial poor due to his policies to help the poor during his time in office.
In other news from Asia, Sri Lanka’s government has declared a two-day pause to its offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels. Human Rights Watch estimates that 3,000 people have been killed since January as the Sri Lankan military attempts to eliminate the pro-separatist Tamil Tigers. The group accused the military of firing artillery into a designated no-fire zone.
In domestic news, President Obama has nominated Larry EchoHawk to lead the Bureau of Indian Affairs. EchoHawk is a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and the former attorney general of Idaho. He will become the first high-profile Mormon to join the Obama administration’s senior ranks.
Newsweek is reporting the Obama administration has abandoned plans to restore a federal ban on certain semi-automatic assault guns despite a recent spate of killings. On Sunday, California Senator Dianne Feinstein told 60 Minutes she plans to hold off trying to renew the ban that she authored in 1994.
Lesley Stahl: “There is some sense that the President has so many crisis issues on his plate right now that the idea of bringing up guns, which is considered part of the culture wars, would be such a diversion.”
Sen. Feinstein: “I agree with you. I wouldn’t bring it up now.”
Stahl: “So you’re going to hold off?”
Feinstein: “That’s correct. I’ll pick the time and the place, no question about that.”
In education news, Clark University in Massachusetts has canceled a scheduled speech by Holocaust scholar Norman Finkelstein after the Jewish campus group Hillel objected to his appearance. Finkelstein is known as one of the most prominent academic critics of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Clark University President John Bassett said Finkelstein’s speech on campus “would invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding.”
At Central Connecticut State University, the opinion editor at the school’s newspaper has been dismissed because she is a member of a socialist club on campus. The paper’s editor fired Marissa Blaszko last month citing her antiwar activism and her membership in the Youth for Socialist Action club. Blaszko said, “We shouldn’t have to swear off our interest in activism, or hide our opposition to a war, to work for our campus newspaper.”
In New York, nineteen students at the New School were arrested Friday after police broke up a student occupation calling for the firing of university president Bob Kerrey. Student activist Fatuma Emmad accused the police of using excessive force.
Fatuma Emmad: “Police began to violently and brutally attack people that were observing outside, alleging that they were people trying to escape from inside the occupation. And there’s footage that can be seen of the police attacking one student and having at least six officers around him. He’s not resisting arrest.”
Video shot at the scene by Brandon Jourdan shows police firing pepper spray into a New School building and police officers knocking students to the ground on the sidewalk. The New York Police Department originally denied any pepper spray was used but reversed their claim after Jourdan’s video was posted online.
And demonstrations to protest the government’s handling of the economic crisis were held in over sixty cities on Saturday. The protests were organized by the group A New Way Forward. They are calling on the government to nationalize, reorganize and decentralize the country’s banks.