Four US troops died Monday in a roadside bombing in eastern Afghanistan. At least thirty US soldiers have died so far this month, making it the deadliest month for US forces since the war began nearly eight years ago. Monday’s deaths also brought the combined US death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan to over 5,000.
At least fourteen people died earlier today in Afghanistan when Taliban militants attacked three government buildings and a US base in near-simultaneous attacks. Using suicide bombings, gunfire and rockets, the militants attacked the governor’s compound, the intelligence department and the police department in the eastern city of Gardez.
President Obama’s call to close Guantanamo by next January is in doubt after an administration task force failed to meet today’s deadline to issue a report outlining a long-term detention plan for prisoners captured after Sept. 11. The task force said it would need another six months to complete its report. Newsweek reports the panel has agreed that the Obama administration should continue to claim the right to hold some Guantánamo prisoners indefinitely without charging them either in criminal courts or in military commissions.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced plans to expand the size of the US Army by 22,000 troops in part to cope with strains from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Robert Gates: “On the recommendation of Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Chief of Staff of the Army General George Casey, and with President Obama’s strong support, today I am announcing a decision to temporarily increase the active-duty end strength of the Army by up to 22,000. That is a temporary increase from the current authorized and permanent end strength of 547,000 to an authorized temporary end strength of 569,000 active-duty soldiers.”
Mike Mullen, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, supported the expansion of the military.
Mike Mullen: “I’ve grown, as you all know, increasingly concerned over the last year and a half about stress on the force and our ability to meet the demands out there. This temporary increase helps us address that concern. It will also help us get a better handle on dwell time and boost the number of people we can deploy with the capabilities our commanders most need. And that’s really the larger point here. It’s not just about relief. It’s about renewing our efforts to fight these two wars.”
The watchdog overseeing the federal government financial bailout says the government’s maximum exposure to banks and other financial institutions could total nearly $24 trillion, or about $80,000 for every American. But Neil Barofsky, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said the government would only be on the hook for that much money in a doomsday scenario. Barofsky said, “We’re not suggesting that we’re looking at a potential loss to the government of $23 trillion. Our goal is to bring transparency, to put things in context.” In a report issued Monday, Barofsky also criticized the lack of transparency in the Obama administration’s management of the giant financial services bailout program. Barofsky said the Treasury Department has declined to require bailout recipients to explain what they are doing with their government funds.
One of the nation’s most prominent African American scholars, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has accused police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, of racial profiling after he was arrested in his own home late last week. Gates is the head of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and American Studies. Gates arrived at his home in Cambridge last Thursday afternoon to find his front door jammed. As he tried to pry it open, a neighbor called the police department and reported that a robbery was in progress. Gates grew frustrated when an investigating officer did not believe he was the owner of the home despite proof of residence. According to a police report of the incident, Gates called the officer a racist and said, “This is what happens to black men in America.” Eventually Gates was handcuffed and taken to the police station. Gates was charged with disorderly conduct.
In California, lawmakers have sealed a deal with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on a plan to close a $26 billion budget gap. Under the plan, the state government will significantly scale back services offered to residents, particularly the elderly and the poor. The Los Angeles Times reports tens of thousands of seniors and children will lose access to healthcare. Local governments will lose several billion dollars in state assistance. Many residents will stop receiving welfare checks. New drilling for oil will be permitted off the Santa Barbara coast. As many as 20,000 prisoners will be released before their sentences are complete. The agreement also involves cutting nearly $6 billion from schools and community colleges and close to $3 billion from the state’s university system.
The New York Times reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration under the Bush administration withheld research showing that cell phone use by drivers caused nearly 1,000 fatalities and 240,000 accidents overall in 2002. The agency withheld the evidence in part because of concerns about angering Congress. Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety said, “We’re looking at a problem that could be as bad as drunk driving, and the government has covered it up.” Federal researchers also shelved a draft letter they had prepared for Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to send, warning states that hands-free laws might not solve the problem. Research shows that motorists talking on a phone are four times as likely to crash as other drivers and are as likely to cause an accident as a drunk driver with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has called for a two-year timeout on new mining claims on nearly one million acres of federal lands near the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. The move reverses a decision by the Bush administration to open the land flanking the park to hard-rock mining, including uranium mining. Mining would still be allowed to continue in the area on preexisting claims. This weekend the Havasupai tribe is convening a traditional gathering focused on protecting the Grand Canyon and traditional Havasupai lands from uranium mining. The gathering will be held at Red Butte, a sacred site just south of the Grand Canyon.
Peru’s supreme court has convicted former president Alberto Fujimori of embezzlement and sentenced him to seven-and-a-half years in prison. Fujimori was found guilty of giving a $15 million bribe to a former senior aide who he feared was plotting a coup against him. In April, the same court sentenced the ex-president to twenty-five years in prison after he was found guilty of authorizing an army death squad that killed twenty-five civilians between 1991 and 1992.
The number of Latino workers who die on the job each year has soared since 1992. In 2007, 937 Latino workers died, a 76 percent increase from fifteen years earlier. The increase is due in part to the fact that more Latinos are in the workforce than ever before, but federal health officials also say Latino workers in the United States are killed at work at a 25 percent higher rate than other US workers.
Brian Kilmeade, the co-host of Fox & Friends, has apologized for remarks he made on the Fox News Channel suggesting that inter-culture marriages aren’t pure. Kilmeade made the original comment on July 8.
Brian Kilmeade: “We keep marrying other species and other ethnics and other” —
Gretchen Carlson: “Are you sure you’re not suffering from some of the causes of dementia right now?”
Brian Kilmeade: “I mean, the Swedes — see, the problem is the Swedes have pure genes, because they marry other Swedes, because that’s the rule. Finland — Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society. In America, we marry everybody. So we’ll marry Italians and Irish.”
Dave Briggs: “OK, so this study does not apply?”
Brian Kilmeade: “Does not apply to us.”
Unity: Journalists of Color had condemned Kilmeade’s words, saying they lent credence to “the basest of white supremacist ideologies, the notion that white people and non-white people are of different species, with the white race as 'pure.'”
Meanwhile, conservative commentator Pat Buchanan is coming under criticism for recent comments made on MSNBC during a discussion about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who he claimed was an affirmative action candidate.
Pat Buchanan: “White men were 100 percent of the people that wrote the Constitution, 100 percent of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence, 100 percent of the people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, probably close to 100 percent of the people who died at Normandy. This has been a country built, basically, by white folks.”
Last night, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow aired a seven-minute response repudiating Buchanan’s claims.