The Honduran coup regime has left open the possibility of allowing the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya for the first time. On Wednesday, the installed Honduran president Roberto Micheletti said the country’s Supreme Court would review a new Costa Rica-backed proposal. The plan calls for restoring Zelaya to office but under several conditions, including the establishment of a power-sharing government. Zelaya has accepted the proposal but says it’s doomed to failure since Honduran courts have already ruled out his return. On Wednesday, daily marches continued in the capital Tegucigalpa. One protester said pro-Zelaya rallies face ongoing threats.
Protester: “We are a group against the military coup, and they started to attack us. Only they can march. Only they can march, and the police protect them.”
Zelaya was in Nicaragua on Wednesday and has vowed to return to Honduras by the end of the week.
In other Honduras news, one of the world’s largest trade union federations is calling for a global boycott of Honduran ships in protest of Zelaya’s overthrow. The International Transport Workers Federation has urged hundreds of member unions to refuse to unload Honduran ships as part of a boycott of the coup regime.
The Obama administration continues to deny UN requests to investigate conditions at Guantanamo Bay and other US prisons overseas. The Washington Post reports at least two human rights investigators were recently turned down after asking to visit Guantanamo. A top UN torture official also requested a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but was denied. One researcher says though the Obama administration has banned CIA torture techniques, it’s avoiding a legal obligation under the 1984 Convention Against Torture to investigate unresolved allegations. Six months after the Bush administration left office, the UN officials say the investigations are particularly urgent since a statute of limitations on prosecuting alleged torturers expires as early as next year.
The Obama administration meanwhile is facing a Friday deadline on whether to continue jailing Guantanamo Bay prisoner Mohamed Jawad. The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged Jawad’s indefinite imprisonment, saying he’s been abused, threatened, and deprived of sleep in US custody. The case has received further scrutiny because it’s believed Jawad was jailed when he was twelve years old. Federal District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle has given the Justice Department until tomorrow to explain why Jawad should still be jailed. Huvelle called the government’s current case “an outrage” and “riddled with holes.”
In Iraq, an internal State Department audit has found the US embassy is overstaffed and needs to be scaled down. The $700 million facility currently employs more than 1,800 staffers and over 13,000 contractors. The report came as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met President Obama at the White House on Wednesday. Obama repeated previous claims that the US has no territorial designs in Iraq, saying the US isn’t seeking military bases or control of Iraqi resources.
Meanwhile, the official US death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan has surpassed the 5,000 mark. The Pentagon has recorded at least 5,002 military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number doesn’t include the dozens of soldiers who have committed suicide in war-related incidents.
The Obama administration is intensifying rhetoric toward Iran. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the US would consider a “defense umbrella” over the Middle East to protect Gulf allies if the Iranian government doesn’t meet international demands on its nuclear activities. Clinton said she hopes that Iran would realize that “If the US extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it’s unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer.”
Vice President Joe Biden is in the country of Georgia after visiting the Ukraine. On Wednesday, Biden vowed the Obama administration’s support for Georgia nearly one year after Georgia’s failed US-backed attack on Russian forces in a breakaway region.
Vice President Joe Biden: “The reason I am back and the reason President Obama asked me to come back was to send an unequivocal, clear, simple message to all who will listen and those who even don’t want to listen, that America stands with you at this moment and will continue to stand with you.”
Biden has supported Ukrainian and Georgian membership in NATO, which Russia says violates previous US pledges against NATO expansion.
The Senate has narrowly failed to pass an amendment that would have allowed gun owners to carry their weapons across state lines. On Tuesday, Senators voted 58-to-39 in favor of the proposal, two votes short of the sixty needed for approval. Twenty Democrats and all but two Republicans voted with the majority. The measure’s sponsor, Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota, says he hopes to reintroduce the measure later this year.
A new study says hundreds of federal immigration raids in New York and New Jersey have been unconstitutional. The Nassau County-backed report says armed immigration agents broke the law when they forcibly entered homes in pre-dawn raids. The raids were intended to nab dangerous criminals, but instead resulted in the detention of Latinos accused of civil immigration violations but no criminal activity. Acting without warrants, the agents carried out searches despite failing to obtain legally required consent in 86 percent of the cases. Nassau police commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said the findings should trigger a federal investigation.
President Obama held a prime-time White House news conference on Wednesday, the fourth of his presidency. Obama spent much of the hour defending his push for healthcare reform.
President Obama: “So let me be clear: If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit. If we do not reform healthcare, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket. If we don’t act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance every single day. These are the consequences of inaction; these are the stakes of the debate that we’re having right now.”
Obama also acknowledged the US won’t be able to provide healthcare insurance to every American without adopting single payer, which his administration has opposed.
A federal judge has ruled the Fire Department of New York City used racially discriminatory hiring practices that unlawfully prevented hundreds of qualified African American and Latino applicants from joining the department. New York City has the least diverse fire department of any major city in the nation.
And new figures show some of the top beneficiaries of the Wall Street bailout are increasing their employee bonuses over a year ago. According to the Washington Post, the top six US banks have allotted $74 billion to pay their employees, up from $60 billion at the same point last year.