General Motors is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today in what is expected to be one of the largest and most complex bankruptcy cases ever. The bankruptcy filing caps a remarkable fall for the 100-year-old company which was once the world’s largest car manufacturer. Under the proposed restructuring plan, the US government will invest another $30 billion in GM and take ownership of 60 percent of the company. The Canadian government, a union health trust and current bondholders would own the rest. The restructuring will result in the loss of 21,000 more jobs, the shuttering of at least twelve factories, and the closing of 2,600 car dealers. President Obama is expected to outline the proposed restructuring in a speech today. Administration officials said the government will remove itself from day-to-day operations of GM once a new management team is in place. Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio urged the White House not to subsidize GM’s overseas growth at the expense of US workers. In a statement, Kucinich said, “We must not allow GM to use US taxpayer dollars to close plants in America in order to open markets for products made in China and other countries.” Residents of Detroit said they were saddened and anxious by the bankruptcy of GM.
Mary Ann Bielaczyc, Detroit area resident: “They’re all scared. I mean, their day-to-day existence is depending on this. I have a brother who’s a contract worker for GM, and he never knows from one day to the next if he’s going to have a job. My next door neighbor’s son works for GM, or used to, found out that his job was eliminated. And, I mean, it’s scary.”
In other auto news, a federal judge has cleared a path for Chrysler to get out of bankruptcy by approving a sale of most of the company’s assets to a new entity to be run by the Italian company Fiat.
In Kansas, police have arrested a fifty-one-year-old anti-abortion activist in connection to the murder of Dr. George Tiller. Tiller was shot dead Sunday as he attended services at his church in Wichita. The National Abortion Federation says Dr. Tiller is the eighth abortion provider to be assassinated in the United States since 1977. President Obama said he is “shocked and outraged” by Tiller’s killing. US Marshals are now being deployed to protect women’s health clinics and doctors across the nation. We’ll have more on this story after headlines.
A new report by the Global Humanitarian Forum estimates global warming is causing more than 300,000 deaths each year. The report is considered to be the first comprehensive study of the human impact of global warming. The Global Humanitarian Forum is a think tank headed by Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general. If emissions are not brought under control, within twenty-five years, the organization estimates, 310 million more people will suffer adverse health consequences related to temperature increases, 20 million more people will fall into poverty, and 75 million extra people will be displaced by climate change.
President Obama has announced plans to create a White House-level position of “cyber czar” to coordinate and oversee federal efforts to improve network security and response to cyber attacks.
President Obama: “It’s now clear this cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation. It’s also clear that we’re not as prepared as we should be, as a government or as a country.”
Obama also said that his administration would not dictate cybersecurity standards for private companies and that he was committed to protecting the privacy of Americans.
President Obama: “Our pursuit of cybersecurity will not include — I repeat, will not include — monitoring private sector networks or internet traffic. We will preserve and protect the personal privacy and civil liberties that we cherish as Americans. Indeed, I remain firmly committed to net neutrality, so we can keep the internet as it should be: open and free.”
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports the military is now spending billions of dollars hiring defense contractors or so-called hacker soldiers to help wage cyberwarfare. Nearly all of the largest military companies, including Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, have received major cyber contracts with the military and intelligence agencies.
Pakistani forces have retaken the city of Mingora after a bloody clash with Taliban fighters. Mingora is the main city in the Swat Valley. Red Cross officials said Pakistani civilians in the region are in dire need of aid. Houses have no running water, no power, and food is scarce. The fighting has forced three million people to flee their homes.
The head of the US Central Command, General David Petraeus, admitted in a TV interview that the United States has violated the Geneva Conventions. Petraeus made the comment while expressing support for President Obama’s decision to ban certain extreme interrogation techniques, but he did not specifically say which parts of the Geneva Conventions had been violated.
General David Petraeus: “When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Convention, we rightly have been criticized. And so, as we move forward, I think it’s important to again live our values, to live the agreements that we have made in the international justice arena and to practice those.”
The Obama administration has urged the Supreme Court to reject a petition filed by fourteen Chinese Uyghurs held at Guantánamo seeking their release into the United States. The Uyghurs are still being held at Guantanamo even though they are no longer considered enemy combatants. In a brief filed on Friday, the Obama White House backed the Bush administration’s claim that the court does not have the power to order the Uyghurs released into the United States.
The Obama administration is also urging the Supreme Court to throw out a lawsuit filed against the Saudi royal family brought by families of victims of the September 11 attacks. The lawsuit accuses Saudi Arabia of helping to finance al-Qaeda prior to the attacks that were carried out by nineteen men, including fifteen Saudis. The Justice Department filed the brief on Friday, less than a week before President Obama is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia to meet King Abdullah.
In his weekly radio address, President Obama defended his decision Saturday to nominate federal judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court after days of attacks by Republican lawmakers and activists. If confirmed, Sotomayor would become the first Latina to serve on the high court.
President Obama: “There are, of course, some in Washington who are attempting to draw old battle lines and playing the usual political games, pulling a few comments out of context to paint a distorted picture of Judge Sotomayor’s record. But I am confident that these efforts will fail, because Judge Sotomayor’s seventeen-year record on the bench, hundreds of judicial decisions that every American can read for him or herself, speak far louder than any attack. Her record makes clear that she is fair, unbiased, and dedicated to the rule of law.”
Over the past five days, several high-profile Republicans have attacked a 2001 speech by Sonia Sotomayor in which she asserted that as a Latina woman, she would offer wiser judgments than a white male judge in some cases. Last week, talk show host Rush Limbaugh accused Sotomayor of being a racist.
Rush Limbaugh: “She brings a form of bigotry or racism to the court…How can a president nominate such a candidate? And how can a party get behind such a candidate? That’s what would be asked if somebody were foolish enough to nominate David Duke or pick somebody even less offensive.”
Former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo compared Sotomayor’s past membership in the Latino advocacy group La Raza to being a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Tom Tancredo: If you belong to an organization called La Raza, in this case, which is, from my point of view anyway, just nothing more than a Latino — it’s a counterpart — it’s a Latino KKK without the hoods and — or the nooses. If you belong to something like that, you have to explain that in a way that’s going to convince me and a lot of other people that it’s got nothing to do with race, even though the logo of La Raza is 'All for the race. Nothing for the rest.'”
In response, La Raza accused Tancredo of defaming the organization and for making up the organization’s motto.
In news from Latin America, the United States and Cuba have agreed to resume direct talks on migration and open discussions on reestablishing direct mail service between the two countries. Official talks between the two countries were last held in 2003.
Some 7,000 indigenous activists gathered in Peru Friday to show support for Amazon tribes who are protesting against a package of laws they say will threaten their native lands. Thousands of Amazon Indians have been on strike for more than a month over a series of presidential decrees that open up natural resource sectors like gas, lumber and oil to private investors. Miguel Palacin helped organize the fourth Continental Summit of Indigenous People.
Miguel Palacin: “The government of Peru is really going against the rights of native people. The indigenous territories are being handed over to mining companies, oil companies and loggers. And today, after a forty-nine-day protest by the indigenous people, there is still no answer. We have an unstable government. And from here, we will send a message to the world to say that this government disregards the indigenous people.”
In the West Bank, six people were killed on Sunday when forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raided a Hamas hideout just days after Abbas met with President Obama. It was the bloodiest internal Palestinian clash in the West Bank since 2007. After the raid, Hamas threatened to call off Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation talks with Fatah that had been scheduled to resume in Cairo in July.
The president of Ohio State University has resigned from the board of directors of Massey Energy after coming under pressure from opponents of mountaintop removal coal mining. Gordon Gee had served on the board of Massey since 2000. Massey Energy is one of the biggest companies using mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia.
In education news, the Los Angeles Unified School District has announced it is canceling most of its summer school programs due to the district’s budget crisis. Almost all summer school classes, as well as playground and pool programs, are being canceled at the district’s elementary and middle schools. Meanwhile, dozens of Los Angeles school teachers are staging a hunger strike to protest budget cuts.
And an Air France plane carrying 228 people from Brazil to France has gone missing over the Atlantic. A search and rescue mission is underway off the coast of Brazil.