At least thirty-five people have been killed in a car bombing in the southern Iraqi city of Bathaa. The attack struck a Shiite market district earlier today. The bombing comes as the Iraqi government has announced it will proceed with a referendum on a security pact calling for the withdrawal of all US troops by the end of 2011. If the referendum fails to pass, US forces would be required to withdraw within one year of the vote, which could come within the next few months.
In Pakistan, at least sixteen people have been killed, and more than fifty wounded, in a massive truck bombing of a luxury hotel in the northwestern city of Peshawar. It was the latest attack in response to the ongoing US-backed Pakistani offensive in nearby Swat Valley. At least two UN officials were among the dead. Dozens of foreign aid workers had been staying at the hotel.
In Kansas, the family of the murdered abortion provider Dr. George Tiller has announced the permanent closure of his Wichita clinic. The clinic is one of the few in the country that performed late-term abortions. Dr. Tiller was killed last month during Sunday services at his Wichita church.
The Supreme Court has cleared the way for sale of the auto giant Chrysler to Italian automaker Fiat. On Thursday, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from state pension funds and consumer groups opposed to the sale. Analysts had warned Chrysler faced closure had the court taken up the appeal. The pending sale received another boost Tuesday when a federal bankruptcy judged approved Chrysler’s request to cut ties with nearly 800 dealerships across the United States.
The Obama administration is expected to announce today an additional round of regulatory changes for overseeing the financial industry. The Wall Street Journal is reporting the White House has dropped several pledges including a plan to cap salaries at firms receiving government bailout money. The initial plan would have allowed a maximum salary of $500,000. Executive payments would now only be limited through congressionally approved caps on bonuses.
The announcement comes one day after the Treasury Department authorized ten of the largest bailout recipients to pay back some $68 billion in taxpayer loans. President Obama made the announcement at the White House.
President Obama: “Several financial institutions are set to pay back $68 billion to taxpayers. And while we know that we will not escape the worst financial crisis in decades without some losses to taxpayers, it’s worth noting that in the first round of repayments from these companies, the government has actually turned a profit.”
Senate Democrats have announced they’ll hold confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor in just over a month. The July 13th date has angered Republicans who say the process will be too rushed. But Democrats say they’re on track to vote on Sotomayor’s nomination on the same time line as prior nominees, including Chief Justice John Roberts.
The first Guantanamo Bay prisoner transferred to the United States has pleaded not guilty on charges surrounding the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa. On Tuesday, Ahmed Ghailani appeared in a New York federal courtroom after his arrival from Guantanamo earlier in the day. Ghailani’s military attorney, Marine Lt. Col. Jeffrey Colwell, welcomed the shift to a civilian court.
Marine Lt. Col. Jeffrey Colwell: “I think it’s a good thing for the rule of law. He’s in an established court with established procedures and processes and all that, so not in kind of a limbo that he’s been in for so many years and months.”
Two hundred twenty-four people were killed in the attacks on the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Ghailani has previously admitted to supplying the attackers but said he was unaware they intended to bomb the embassies.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, has reportedly reached an agreement to transfer up to seventeen Chinese Uyghur prisoners from Guantanamo to the Pacific archipelago of Palau. Earlier today, Palau’s government released a statement saying it would “temporarily resettle” the Uyghurs. The group is still being held at Guantanamo, even though they are no longer considered enemy combatants. The reported agreement follows the Obama administration’s efforts to block a legal petition for the Uyghurs’ release to the United States.
Peruvian indigenous leader Alberto Pizango has been granted asylum in Nicaragua after seeking refuge in the Nicaraguan embassy in the Peruvian capital of Lima. Pizango is wanted in Peru on sedition charges after leading protests opposing laws that encourage foreign mining and energy companies to invest billions of dollars in the Amazon rainforest. Over the weekend, an estimated sixty people died after police tried to break up a blockade. Indigenous groups say the toll could be far higher and are calling for the resignation of top Peruvian officials and their indictment for crimes against humanity.
In Somalia, the UN says fighting between government forces and rebel fighters has now displaced more than 117,000 people in just over a month. More than 200 people have been killed, and an estimated 700 wounded, most of them civilians. On Tuesday, the UN said attacks on civilians are worsening, with increasing incidents of bombings, rape and kidnapping.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting Egypt and Saudi Arabia have given the US a two-year deadline for an agreement on brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace. The two countries have spearheaded the Arab League peace plan that offers Israel normalized relations in return for its full withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and the creation of a Palestinian state there. Despite his pledge to pursue a peace deal, President Obama has refused to fully endorse the Arab offer, only its provision regarding Arab recognition of Israel. On Tuesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said he would welcome a change in the US position.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh: “There is information that the American representative, Mitchell, will make Israel responsible for the war in Gaza and building settlements. This is a new balance in the American stand.”
A full withdrawal from the Occupied Territories would require the dismantling of large Israeli settlements that carve up the West Bank. But President Obama has only called on Israel to meet its pledge to halt the settlements’ growth. The Arab insistence on a two-year deadline is seen as a move to encourage Obama to take meaningful steps to pressure the Israeli government, including the withholding of billions in US aid.
Back in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security has announced it’s temporarily halted the deportation of widows and widowers of US citizens. The Bush administration was criticized for enforcing an interpretation of federal law that allows for the deportation of immigrants whose spouses died either within two years of marriage or before they had obtained residency status.
In Virginia, State Senator Creigh Deeds has defeated former Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe in the primary for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Deeds will face Republican nominee Bob McDonnell in November’s election. McAuliffe lost despite a high-profile candidacy that included campaigning from former President Bill Clinton. McAuliffe recently faced controversy after consumer advocate Ralph Nader said McAuliffe tried to bribe him to stay off the presidential ballot in 2004.
In West Virginia, the state Supreme Court has ruled the coal giant Massey Energy can proceed with controversial plans for a new coal silo near an elementary school. Opponents had challenged the plant over whether its construction site exceeds the company’s mining boundary. But on Tuesday, the state Justices ruled mining sites are defined by their on-site boundaries, not the maps used in their public permits. The proposed coal silo would be built less than a football field away from the Marsh Fork Elementary school.
And the radio journalist and producer Sheryl Flowers has died at the age of forty-two. Flowers worked at Pacifica Radio’s KPFA in Berkeley before going on to National Public Radio. She was executive producer of the Tavis Smiley Show for the last eight years.