In Afghanistan, at least five civilians have been killed and another thirteen injured in a US air strike. The Pentagon says US forces had called for the strike after coming under fire. Most of the victims were members of the same family, and the dead included a four-year-old girl. Witnesses said US forces fired on the family members as they tried to flee their home.
Meanwhile, at least eleven civilians were killed earlier today in a roadside bombing in Kandahar province. The dead included five children.
In Indonesia, at least nine people have been killed and another fifty wounded in bombings on two luxury hotels in the capital Jakarta. The attacks occurred within minutes of each other. It was the worst militant bombings to hit Indonesia since 2005.
In Honduras, thousands of people blocked main roads Thursday in the ongoing protests for the return of the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya. The blockades came amidst rumors Zelaya is making his second attempt to return to Honduras since his ouster. Earlier this month, the coup government blocked Zelaya’s plane when he tried to land at Honduras’s main airport. Speaking in Bolivia, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Zelaya had told him of his plans to return.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: “President Zelaya is returning to Honduras. They haven’t been able to frighten him. He told me, 'Honduras has many borders, on land, on sea. I am not going to go running around the world. I am not going to finish my time feeling bad for myself. I prefer to die in Honduran territory.' Let’s accompany Zelaya on his path to dignity.”
Chavez was in Bolivia to mark the 200th anniversary of Bolivian independence. On Thursday, Bolivian President Evo Morales honored the struggle of indigenous people in Bolivia’s history.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: “Today we are honoring these native leaders, mestizos and creoles, as well. But we must remember that the native people not only fought for the independence of this country, but mainly for their rights.”
The US is nearing an agreement to use three military bases inside Colombia. The Colombian government says the bases would be used for joint anti-drug operations. The ten-year deal would also extend the current arrangement allowing up to 1,400 US troops and military contractors on Colombian soil. Opposition Colombian senator Gustavo Petro called the plan a violation of sovereignty.
Gustavo Petro: “This treaty aims to allow United States troops to be in Colombia. As a sovereign country, we must respect the fact that only Colombian troops have the right to be in Colombia.”
Colombia is the largest recipient of US military aid in the Americas.
Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor appears headed to a speedy confirmation after her last day of questioning on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Jeff Sessions, said he won’t try to filibuster a vote on Sotomayor’s nomination. During her closing remarks, Sotomayor said her judicial record in untainted by personal views.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor: “I would tell them to look at my decisions for seventeen years and note that in everyone of them I have done what I say that I so firmly believe in: I prove my fidelity to the law, the fact that I do not permit personal views, sympathies or prejudices to influence the outcome of cases.”
A full Senate vote on Sotomayor’s nomination is expected to come early next month.
Senate Democrats have dropped a key proposal from the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier for workers to join unions. On Thursday, Senate negotiators said they would drop a card-check provision that would require employers to recognize a union if a majority of workers signed cards in favor of unionization. Labor groups had made card-check their top priority in the bill’s passage. But the provision came under intense opposition from business lobbyists, swaying several so-called “moderate” Senate Democrats.
President Obama spoke in New York Thursday at the 100th anniversary of the NAACP, the nation’s largest civil rights group. In what NAACP President Benjamin Jealous described as Obama’s “most forthright speech” on race since taking office, Obama sounded off on his recurrent theme of personal responsibility.
President Obama: “Government programs alone won’t get our children to the Promised Land. We need a new mindset, a new set of attitudes, because one of the most durable and destructive legacies of discrimination is the way we’ve internalized a sense of limitation, how so many in our community have come to expect so little from the world and from themselves.”
The financial giant JPMorgan Chase has announced second quarter profits of over $2.7 billion. The company repaid $25 billion in TARP aid last month but continues to rely on other federal help through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve. JPMorgan is the second major Wall Street firm to post a huge profit this week, following Goldman Sachs’s announcement of a $3.44 billion second quarter.
And the American Conservative Union is coming under scrutiny for offering to back the shipping company FedEx in a legislative dispute in return for a $2 million payment. According to Politico, the ACU approached FedEx with a proposal to publicly lobby against legislation that would force the company to negotiate union contracts locally instead of nationwide. In its letter to FedEx, the ACU said, “We stand with FedEx in opposition to this legislation.” But when FedEx declined to pay the ACU for its public support, the group switched sides and backed rival company UPS, which supports the measure.