Auto giant General Motors filed for Chapter 11 Monday in one of the largest bankruptcy cases in US history. Under the proposed restructuring plan, the US government will invest another $30 billion in GM — in addition to the $19 billion it has already received — and take ownership of 60 percent of the company.
In Wichita, Kansas, the Women’s Health Care Services clinic remains closed two days after the murder of its founder Dr. George Tiller. Associates of Tiller said the clinic will resume normal operations next week. Tiller was assassinated Sunday by Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion activist with ties to separatist militia groups. Roeder faces a scheduled court hearing today. Tiller had been a target of anti-abortion activists for over two decades. His clinic was bombed in 1985. Eight years later, he was shot in both arms. On Monday, anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, said Tiller reaped what he sowed.
Randall Terry: “Pro-life leaders and the pro-life movement are not responsible for George Tiller’s death. George Tiller was a mass murderer, and, horrifically, he reaped what he sowed. Mr. Tiller’s untimely death can be a teaching moment for what child-killing is really all about and what he was doing behind those doors in his grisly trade.”
Due to the threat posed by anti-abortion activists, Attorney General Eric Holder has dispatched US Marshals to protect women’s health clinics and abortion providers nationwide.
United Nations human rights investigators have entered Gaza to probe possible war crimes and other violations of international law during Israel’s military assault on Gaza last December. Israel has refused to cooperate with the investigation. The UN team is headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone.
Richard Goldstone: “On behalf of the four members of the fact-finding mission sent here by the United Nations to do a fact-finding with regard to not only the military campaign in December and January in the past few months, but also to look at any violations of international human rights law, of international humanitarian law.”
President Obama has reiterated his call for Israel to freeze the construction of settlements in the West Bank. Obama’s comment came in an interview on National Public Radio in which he also indicated that he would be more willing to criticize Israel than previous administrations have been.
President Obama: “Part of being a good friend is being honest. And I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests, but also US interests. And that’s part of a new dialogue that I’d like to see encouraged in the region.”
Pakistani soldiers have rescued scores of students and staff from a military-run college who were abducted by Taliban militants in the northwest of the country on Monday. Pakistani officials said seventy-one students and nine staff members had been rescued. Meanwhile, a court in Pakistan has ordered the release of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the leader of an Islamic charity accused of being a front for a group tied to the Mumbai attacks that killed more than 170 people.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has reportedly designated his youngest son to be the country’s next ruler. Little is known about his youngest son, who is thought to have been born in 1983 or early 1984.
Former President Jimmy Carter said last night that he disagrees with President Obama’s decision to block the release of hundreds of photos of torture committed at US prisons overseas. Carter spoke on CNN.
Jimmy Carter: “Most of his supporters were hoping that he would be much more open in the revelation of what we’ve done in the past. But he’s made a decision with which I really can’t contend, that he doesn’t want to resurrect the past, he doesn’t want to punish those who are guilty of perpetrating what I consider crimes against our own laws and against our own Constitution, and the revelation of those pictures might very well inflame further animosity against our country, causing some harm to our soldiers. So I don’t agree with him, but I certainly don’t criticize him for making that decision.”
Jimmy Carter also also addressed the possible prosecution of Bush administration officials.
Jimmy Carter: “I think prosecuting is too strong a word, what I would like to see is a complete examination of what did happen, the identification of any perpetrators of crimes against our own laws or against international law, and then, after all that’s done, decide whether or not there should be any prosecutions. But the revelation of what did happen, I think, is what I would support.”
Meanwhile, the former top coalition commander in Iraq, General Ricardo Sanchez, has called for a truth commission to investigate abusive interrogation practices. Sanchez said, “If we do not find out what happened then we are doomed to repeat it.” Sanchez was in command of Iraq when the infamous abuses occurred at Abu Ghraib. In 2006, a German attorney filed a war crimes suit against Sanchez and other high-ranking officials.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney defended the military prison at Guantanamo, saying the US needs a place to hold suspected terrorists. Cheney said the only alternative the Bush administration had to creating Guantanamo was to kill terror suspects.
Dick Cheney: “If you’re going to be engaged in a world conflict, such as we are, in terms of global war on terrorism, you know, if you don’t have a place where you can hold these people, your only other option is to kill them. And we don’t operate that way.”
Newly released Pentagon statistics show the number of armed contractors in both Iraq and Afghanistan is rapidly rising. The number of military contractors in Afghanistan increased by 29 percent in the second quarter of 2009. The number in Iraq jumped by 23 percent. Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill reports there are now over 240,000 private contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A coalition of civil society groups, as well as some US lawmakers, are criticizing a recent Senate vote to expand funding for the International Monetary Fund by $108 billion. Inter Press Service reports opponents of the funding are concerned about the conditions the IMF usually imposes upon low-income countries when they accept these funds. Typically, the IMF requires recipient countries to reduce their budget deficits and increase interest rates. As a result, countries have been forced to cut essential social programs, like unemployment insurance and other safety-net mechanisms.
In El Salvador, Mauricio Funes was sworn in as the country’s new president Monday. Funes’s party, the FMLN, is a former guerrilla group that fought El Salvador’s US-backed military government for close to twenty years. Before the start of the inauguration ceremony, Funes visited the shrine of slain Archbishop Oscar Romero at the Cathedral of San Salvador. Romero, the so-called “voice of the voiceless,” was a powerful advocate for the poor and a leading critic of the former military government in El Salvador when he was assassinated while saying mass on March 24, 1980.
Mauricio Funes: “In the midst of the tough economic situation in El Salvador, the least we can do is pay homage publicly to the memory of Monsignor Romero.”
After months of protests, Democratic Sen. Max Baucus has agreed to meet with a delegation of leading single-payer national health plan advocates on Wednesday. Baucus chairs the Senate Finance Committee and plays a key role in the debate over reforming the healthcare system. He has repeatedly said a single-payer system is off the table and has iced out single-payer advocates from committee hearings.
Death penalty opponents in Texas are planning to protest today outside the prison where Terry Lee Hankins is scheduled to be executed. Hankins is set to become the 200th person executed under Texas Governor Rick Perry. No governor has overseen more executions in modern US history. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the state of Ohio should have another chance to sentence a convicted killer to death, despite a previous factual finding that the man is mentally retarded.
In Arizona, a human rights activist from the group No More Deaths went on trial Monday for leaving plastic jugs of water in a National Wildlife Refuge near the US-Mexico border. The activist, Walt Staton, says the water jugs were left to prevent migrants from dying of dehydration. The US government has accused Staton of “knowingly littering” in the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge. The group No More Deaths has worked for years to provide humanitarian aid to migrants. Over the past decade, nearly 2,000 men, women and children have died while trying to cross the border into Arizona.
And the Catholic priest, historian and writer Thomas Berry has died at the age of ninety-four. The self-described “geologian” founded the Riverdale Center for Religious Research. In 2005, Berry told a reporter, “If the earth does grow inhospitable toward human presence, it is primarily because we have lost our sense of courtesy toward the earth and its inhabitants.”