New protests have erupted in China’s western Xinjiang region, two days after at least 156 people were killed and over 1,000 wounded in China’s worst ethnic violence in decades. Earlier today, some 200 ethnic Uyghurs took to the streets to protest the mass arrest of more than 1,400 people following Sunday’s clashes. The two sides blame each other for the unrest. We’ll have more on the clashes in Xinjiang after headlines.
In Afghanistan, seven US troops were killed Monday in four separate attacks. It was the deadliest day for US forces in Afghanistan in nearly a year. Meanwhile, a Taliban militant group is claiming it has captured a US soldier who went missing last week. The militants didn’t provide any proof, but the US military has said it thinks the soldier was captured. Meanwhile, on Monday, President Obama unveiled a new agreement with the Russia government to grant overflight rights to US military shipments headed for Afghanistan.
President Obama: “I just want to thank again the Russian government for the agreement for military transit that will save US troops both time and money. And it’s, I think, a gesture that indicates the degree to which, in the future, Russian-US cooperation can be extraordinarily important in solving a whole host of these very important international issues.”
Obama was speaking in Russia, where he met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The two announced a modest cut to American and Russian nuclear stockpiles of at least one-quarter and as much as one-third. Talks have centered on a new treaty to replace the START agreement on nuclear arms reduction, which expires in December. Earlier today, Obama held meetings with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for the first time.
In Pakistan, at least twelve people have been killed in a US drone strike in the South Waziristan region. Pakistani officials say the attack hit an alleged Taliban training camp. The US has carried out more than forty drone attacks in South Waziristan in the last year.
Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya is in Washington today for meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. It’s Zelaya’s highest-level meeting with a US official since his overthrow last month. A group of right-wing Hondurans, meanwhile, have also arrived in the nation’s capital in an attempt to win US support for the coup government. The group is expected to report back to the coup leaders on what kind of backing it can expect from Washington. The unofficial delegation includes former Honduran president Ricardo Maduro.
Meanwhile in Honduras, a funeral was held Monday for one of two people killed when Honduran forces opened fire on a crowd of peaceful demonstrators who had come to the airport to support Zelaya’s attempted return. The protester, Isis Murillo, was nineteen years old. His sister, Rebeca Murillo, vowed to champion the cause her brother died for.
Rebeca Murillo: “With the death of my brother, I want to move forward and keep fighting and supporting Manuel Zelaya. The people chose him, not like [Roberto] Micheletti…My brother will give me strength. For him, I will continue fighting for the homeland.”
Despite the threats of more government violence, protests continued in Honduras Monday with several thousand marching on the presidential palace.
The Obama administration continues to downplay its stated commitment to a government-run public health insurance program. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said he thinks it’s more important to inject competition between insurance plans than it is to create a plan run by the government. Private insurers have opposed the public plan because they feel its cheaper costs would provide too much competition and potentially put them out of business. Emanuel’s comments echo recent statements from President Obama. At a White House news conference last month, Obama refused to call the public health proposal non-negotiable and said he hasn’t “drawn lines in the sand.”
President Obama, speaking June 23rd: “We are still early in this process. So, you know, we have not drawn lines in the sand, other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don’t have health insurance or are underinsured. You know, those are the broad parameters that we’ve discussed.”
The White House meanwhile has announced a deal with the nation’s hospital industry to cut $155 billion in payments over ten years. The agreement comes as part of ongoing negotiations with the healthcare industry to help defray the costs of expanding medical coverage for the uninsured. The figure is $45 billion less than President Obama recently called for. In a weekly address last month, Obama said his aides had identified $200 billion in hospital reductions over ten years. An industry executive told the Washington Post, “There was no way we could tolerate $200 billion.”
The Justice Department has opened a preliminary probe into whether large US telecommunications corporations are abusing their market power. According to the Wall Street Journal, investigators will look at whether firms are unfairly blocking users from such services as the internet calling program Skype. The probe will also focus on whether wireless giants such as AT&T and Verizon are stifling competition through exclusive deals with handset makers. On Monday, the chair of Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, Democratic Senator Herb Kohl, publicly called for a federal anti-trust probe of the wireless industry.
The financial industry is preparing to escalate a lobbying and public relations effort against the Obama administration’s proposal for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Lobbyists have begun meeting with members of the House Financial Services Committee ahead of the proposal’s expected introduction on Capitol Hill later this month. The Washington Post reports industry groups are discussing a propaganda effort similar to the campaign that derailed healthcare reform efforts under President Clinton in the 1990s. Among the proposals include a campaign similar to the “Harry and Louise” ads that depicted Clinton’s health plans as an attack on free consumer choice.
And former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara has died at the age of ninety-three. McNamara was one of the key architects of the Vietnam War, which killed at least three million Vietnamese, around one million Cambodians and Laotians, and 58,000 American soldiers.