Over 20,000 mourners lined up Thursday to pay their respects to the late Senator Edward Kennedy as his body lay in repose within a flag-draped coffin at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Police reported 6,000 people were still in line as of midnight to get inside. The library stayed open until 2:00 a.m. to accommodate the crowds.
Robert Kennedy, Jr., Senator Kennedy’s nephew: “It reflects the concerns that he had for the working people and the poor people and an idealistic vision of our country, and that a lot of people believed in that. It’s a very touching outpouring for every member of my family.”
Mourners included the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Rev. Jesse Jackson: “We mourn his passing, celebrate his living. We’re deeply in the debt of Ted Kennedy for his record of high-risk service. When he voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to end legislative Jim Crow, that was tyranny territory. For that, his brothers were killed, Dr. King killed, Medgar Evers killed. When he voted for the Voting Rights Act, he changed the American political landscape. When many would dip out an ocean with a bucket, he built a canal. He changed the course.”
A funeral for Sen. Kennedy will be held tomorrow in Boston. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
In Afghanistan, the family of Mohamed Jawad has announced plans to sue the US government for imprisoning their child for more than six years at Guantanano. After his release earlier this week, Jawad said he was tortured and threatened into confessing to throwing a grenade at a US soldier. Jawad says he was just twelve years old when he was detained.
An Afghan lawmaker has publicly criticized the US military for using a helicopter gunship to attack a medical clinic in eastern Afghanistan where an injured Taliban leader had reportedly sought treatment. Afghan Parliamentarian Khalid Faroqi said, “There must have been another way or tactic to use to get to him without destroying the hospital.” The US military said its troops only opened fire on the clinic after they were fired on and had ensured there were no civilians inside. Amnesty International has urged NATO forces to launch an investigation into the attack.
In other news from Afghanistan, the BBC is reporting Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan, held an “explosive” meeting last week with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the country’s recent election. Holbrooke is believed to have complained about the use of fraud and ballot stuffing by some members of the president’s campaign team, as well as other candidates.
The Obama administration’s decision to use seven military bases in Colombia is expected to come under heavy scrutiny today at a summit of South American presidents in Argentina. Several South American nations have expressed fear that the bases could be used for military incursions into neighboring states. On Thursday, protesters gathered ahead of the summit to protest the US-Colombia deal.
Jorge Acuna: “We, with all of the social organizations, support this march for peace and rejection of the installation of the military bases in Colombia. And we want the people to be able to participate and for their values to be heard when we give our support for the call by [Bolivian President] Evo Morales for the people of Latin America to unite.”
In other news from Latin America, staff at the US State Department have recommended that the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya be officially declared a “military coup,” a step that would force the Obama administration to cut off as much as $150 million in US funding to Honduras. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to make a decision on the matter. US law bars aid to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree. Meanwhile, the secretary general of the Organization of American States has rejected a proposal by the coup government that would allow Zelaya to return to Honduras. Under the plan, Honduras’s interim ruler, Roberto Micheletti, offered to resign and accept Zelaya back into the country — as long as the democratically elected Zelaya gives up his claim to the presidency.
Banking regulators are warning that the number of banks at risk of failure has reached a fifteen-year high. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said the number of “problem banks” had risen from 305 to 416 during the second quarter. The FDIC has already shut down eighty-one banks this year. This comes at a time when the nation’s largest banks are getting even bigger due to a series of federally arranged mergers and taxpayer bailouts. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup now issue one of every two mortgages and about two of every three credit cards. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo now each hold more than ten percent of the nation’s deposits, despite a rule barring such a practice.
Former President Jimmy Carter and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited the construction sites of the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank and criticized Israel’s settlements in the region. Carter and Tutu are both part of The Elders, an organization of former global leaders trying to pressure Israel and the Palestinians to relaunch peace talks.
Jimmy Carter: “Although it’s very important now to stop all the settlement building and expansion in all of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, that’s just a first step. The final step will have to be for all Israeli settlements to be removed from Palestine. And let there be an independent nation here on this land where we’re standing side by side in peace with Israel be the ultimate goal.”
Desmond Tutu shared his personal experience with the media.
Desmond Tutu: “You don’t get true security from the barrel of a gun. They tried to oppress us with the barrel of a gun. They found that, in the end, true security came when the human rights of all were recognized and respected.”
In Washington, the Federal Communications Commission has launched a probe into the cell phone and wireless industry for possible anti-trust violations. After a wave of consolidation, just four companies — AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile — now control most of the mobile phone market.
A Spokane, Washington man has been arrested after allegedly threatening to kill the family of Dr. Warren Hern, the head of the Boulder Abortion Clinic in Colorado. Donald Hertz was charged with transmitting a threat in interstate commerce and violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. Hertz is the first person indicted under the 1994 FACE Act since the May 31 murder of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider from Wichita, Kansas, who was shot to death while attending church.
An Idaho Republican gubernatorial candidate is claiming he was only joking when he said he would buy a license to hunt President Obama. At a rally in Twin Falls on Tuesday, Rex Rammell was discussing hunting tags, when an audience member shouted a question about “Obama tags.” Rammell responded, “The Obama tags? We’d buy some of those.” Rammell says he sees no reason to apologize, because he was joking. Meanwhile, Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins of Kansas is coming under fire for saying, “Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope.” Jenkins claims her comment was not a reference to someone who could challenge President Obama. The phrase “great white hope” is widely believed to have entered usage in the early twentieth century, when a black boxer named Jack Johnson captured the heavyweight title. Many whites reacted to Johnson’s achievement by trying to find a so-called “great white hope” who could beat him.
The Green Party of Arkansas has sued in federal court, challenging the state of Arkansas’s decision to decertify the party, a move that will result in the Greens losing access to the ballot in the next election cycle. Arkansas decertified the Green Party, even though one of its candidates won a seat in the State House of Representatives last year. The state said the party was decertified because the Green Party’s presidential candidate, Cynthia McKinney, failed to win more than three percent of the vote in the 2008 election.
And antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan arrived in Martha’s Vineyard to lead a protest near the home where President Obama is vacationing. Sheehan made international headlines four years ago when she led large protests outside President Bush’s home in Crawford, Texas. On Thursday, Sheehan criticized Obama for expanding the war in Afghanistan.
Cindy Sheehan: “The only change I see in the foreign policy of this country has been a change for the worse. As Obama promised his base that troops would be out of Iraq, so far not one troop. He said that he would — he did say he would send more troops to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and unfortunately that’s a promise that he’s kept.”