Negotiations in Costa Rica between the ousted democratically elected president of Honduras and the military-backed coup government collapsed on Sunday when the de facto government rejected a call for ousted President Manuel Zelaya to return but with limits on his power. President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica had presented a seven-point plan that would have restored Zelaya as president under a power-sharing government. As part of the plan, presidential elections would also be moved up. Zelaya’s delegation accepted the entire plan, but the coup government rejected Zelaya’s reinstatement under any condition. Costa Rican President Oscar Arias warned a civil war could break out.
Oscar Arias: “As you and many Hondurans know, there are weapons. What happens if one of those weapons is shot at a soldier, or a soldier shoots at an armed citizen? A civil war could break out, and blood will spill, something the Honduran people do not deserve. My conscience tells me that I cannot give up and must continue working for at least three more days, and that is what I propose to do.”
On Saturday, President Zelaya threatened to return to Honduras and stage an insurrection if he is not restored to power.
President Manuel Zelaya: “If the international community allows this coup, authorizes this coup, it’s also authorizing society to rise up and to choose the path of insurrection that is in Article 3 of the Honduran constitution. The path of insurrection is a path authorized in the constitution to defend the constitutional order. They are then authorizing guerrillas to return, insurgents to return.”
On Capitol Hill, the House Education and Labor Committee has joined the Ways and Means Committee in approving legislation to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system and expand insurance coverage. The vote came as a bipartisan group of centrist and conservative senators are asking Democratic and Republican leaders to put off a vote on healthcare reform legislation for seventy days. The six senators are three Democrats, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Ben Nelson of Nebraska; independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut; and two Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine. The Sunlight Foundation reports each of these senators has raised at least $1 million from the health and insurance sectors combined over the course of their respective careers. On Saturday, President Obama focused on healthcare in his weekly radio address and urged Congess to pass healthcare reform.
President Obama: “I don’t believe that government can or should run healthcare. But I also don’t think insurance companies should have free reign to do as they please. That’s why any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange: a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, costs and track records of a variety of plans, including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest, and choose what’s best for your family.”
In other healthcare news, the House Education and Labor Committee approved an amendment sponsored by Congressman Dennis Kucinich that would enable individual states to adopt a single-payer Medicare-for-all-style health plan.
The banking industry continues to pull in massive profits less than a year after receiving tens of billions in taxpayer bailouts. On Friday, Citigroup reported a $4.3 billion second quarter profit. Bank of America announced it had pulled in a $3.2 billion profit during the same period. Earlier in the week, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase reported multi-billion-dollar quarterly profits as well.
Another Goldman Sachs executive appears set to take a prominent position in the Obama administration. On Friday, President Obama said he would nominate Robert Hormats, a vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, to a top economic position at the State Department.
Tension between the Obama administration and the Israeli government appears to be growing after Israel rejected a US call to suspend construction on a planned housing complex in occupied East Jerusalem. On Thursday, the US State Department summoned Israel’s ambassador in Washington and told him that plans to build a twenty-unit apartment building project in East Jerusalem should not go ahead. But Israel has publicly rejected the request.
Israeli Vice Premier Silvan Shalom: “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, and we would continue to build in Jerusalem, like in every other city within the state of Israel. It’s the policy of all the Israeli governments since 1967, since Jerusalem was united, and I think that the demand not to build in Jerusalem is unacceptable.”
In other economic news, the official unemployment rate is now over ten percent in sixteen states. In Michigan, the unemployment rate has surpassed 15 percent, the first time any state has hit that mark since 1984.
The House Intelligence Committee has announced plans to investigate the CIA’s handling of its secret assassination program. The probe will likely focus on whether Vice President Dick Cheney improperly intervened to stop the agency from telling Congress about the initiative.
The United States and India are expected to sign an agreement today that would take a major step toward allowing the sale of sophisticated US arms to the South Asian nation. The pact could prove a boon to US companies, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Both firms are in the running to compete for India’s plan to buy 126 multi-role fighters, which would be one of the largest arms deals in the world. The announcement is expected to be made as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits India. Clinton is also expected to sign an agreement enabling US companies to sell nuclear reactors to India, a deal that will likely benefit General Electric and Westinghouse Electric. Meanwhile, on Sunday India rejected calls by the US to accept mandatory national cuts in carbon dioxide emissions.
Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami has called for a referendum on the legitimacy of the Iranian government in the wake of last month’s disputed presidential election. Meanwhile, on Friday another influential former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said during a prayer sermon that the government had lost the trust of many Iranians. Rafsanjani also called for the release of the protesters arrested since the election.
In Afghanistan, sixteen civilian contractors died Sunday when their Russian-owned civilian helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff at southern Afghanistan’s largest NATO base. Meanwhile, the Taliban has released a video of a US soldier who was captured after he walked off his base in eastern Afghanistan on June 30. Pentagon officials identified the soldier as twenty-three-year-old Bowe Bergdahl of Idaho.
Voice Off Camera: “Whenever you have arrested Afghans, why is it you treat them very badly? You torture, sexually harass, insult them during investigation. You have also insulted our religious symbols, such as our Holy Koran and Holy Prophet. Why do you guys do that? What’s your real purpose for that?”
Bowe Bergdahl: “Our commanders have ordered us to gain information by whatever means that we can. And by that, I mean there are no rules for what they have us do.”
Voice Off Camera: '’Now that you have been captured by the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, what are yous feelings?'’
Bowe Bergdahl: “Well, I’m scared. I’m scared I won’t be able to go home. It is very unnerving to be a prisoner.”
A journalist from Al Jazeera who was imprisoned at Guantanamo for more than six years has announced plans to sue former President Bush and other top Bush administration officials. Sami al-Hajj says he plans to file suit with other former prisoners for the illegal detention and torture he and others suffered at the hands of US authorities. The case will be brought by the Guantánamo Justice Centre, a new organization open to former prisoners at the US base.
In technology news, Amazon.com has remotely deleted some digital editions of two books purchased by users on the Kindle digital book reader. Ironically, the books were George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. The Kindle is a digital book reader made by Amazon that allows users to download entire books to be read on a portable device. Even after users purchase books, Amazon retains the ability to remotely access the book and delete it. In the case of the Orwell books, Amazon said versions of the book were added to the store by a company that did not have rights to them.
The University of California Board of Regents has voted to grant honorary degrees to all Japanese Americans who were students at the university before being forced into federal internment camps during World War II. School officials estimated that more than half of the 700 Japanese Americans enrolled during the 1941-42 school year never returned to graduate after their release from the internment camps.
Commemorations are being held across the country today to mark the fortieth anniversary of man’s first landing on the moon.