The Pentagon is seeking to speed deployment of an ultra-large “bunker buster” bomb on the most advanced US bomber as soon as July 2010 – three years ahead of schedule. The 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator is designed to destroy deeply buried bunkers beyond the reach of existing bombs. Analysts say the request from the Pentagon reflects growing unease over nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea. In a request for $68 million in funding, Under Secretary of Defense Robert Hale said there was “an urgent operational need for the capability to strike hard and deeply buried targets in high-threat environments.” The precision-guided weapon, built by Boeing, could become the biggest conventional bomb the United States has ever used.
A group of high-ranking Latin American diplomats are planning to head to Honduras to pressure the coup-installed leaders to restore ousted President Manuel Zelaya. The trip is being organized by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and the Organization of American States. On Monday, Cesar Caceres, a spokesperson for the coup government, rejected calls for Zelaya’s return.
Cesar Caceres: “The last president of Honduras will not be allowed to assume the presidency, given that the mediation has been declared a failure. The option stemming from the negotiation will not be addressed again via dialogue if there continues to be the threat of organizing guerrillas from encampments in Nicaragua with the support of Mr. Daniel Ortega, Hugo Chavez, and the People’s Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).”
On Monday, pro-Zelaya supporters gathered to mourn a fellow supporter shot during a protest last week.
Israel Maya, the president of the Honduras Teachers’ Association: “As the educators of the country, we would like to officially register our protest, because we do not want the coup d’etat to continue. We want the government to be reinstituted and that President Zelaya return as the true president who we chose at the voting booth.”
Former President Bill Clinton has made a surprise visit to North Korea to try to win the release of two jailed US journalists. Euna Lee and Laura Ling of Current TV were sentenced to twelve years of hard labor following their arrest on the North Korea-China border in March. Clinton may also discuss North Korea’s nuclear program during the trip. North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator greeted Clinton when he landed earlier today in Pyongyang. Clinton is the highest-profile American to visit North Korea since his own secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, went there in 2000. The trip marks President Clinton’s first diplomatic mission abroad for the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has begun a seven-nation, eleven-day trip to Africa. Her trip begins in Kenya, where she is expected to meet with Somalia’s President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. She will also visit two of Africa’s largest oil suppliers, Nigeria and Angola. Nigeria is the fifth-largest supplier of crude to the US, and Angola is the sixth. Also on the itinerary is South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Cape Verde.
On Monday, Hillary Clinton met Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the State Department. Clinton criticized Israel for evicting more than fifty Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.
Hillary Clinton: “These actions are deeply regrettable. I have said before that the eviction of families and demolition of homes in East Jerusalem is not in keeping with Israeli obligations, and I urge the government of Israel and municipal officials to refrain from such provocative actions.”
A new book on the history of the Secret Service reports the rate of threats against the President has increased 400 percent since President Obama took office in January as the nation’s first African American president. According to author Ronald Kessler, Obama is the target of more than thirty potential death threats a day. Most of the threats have been kept under wraps, because the Secret Service fears that revealing details of them would only increase the number of copycat attempts.
In related news, Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates has revealed that he has received death threats following his arrest last month inside his own home by a white police officer. Gates said he has been forced to change his email address and phone number. Harvard officials have also suggested he move from his home in Cambridge.
Iranian state television has reported police have questioned the three Americans who were arrested on Friday after apparently crossing into Iran during a hike in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region. The detained Americans have been identified as Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal. Shane Bauer is a freelance journalist who has written for The Nation magazine and the Pacific News Service. Earlier this year, Democracy Now! aired a report co-produced by Bauer on the US military allying with Sunni militias in Iraq.
A coalition of human rights groups have asked the United Nations to investigate the forcible disappearance of a Spanish citizen almost four years ago. Mustafa Setmariam Nasar was last seen in Pakistan in October 2005. According to media reports, the influential Islamic theorist was apprehended by Pakistani officials and handed over to US officials. He has not been heard from since. Media reports indicate that Nasar was held for a time at a US military base on the British-owned island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
Federal prosecutors said Monday that evidence against seven North Carolina men accused of plotting violent jihad overseas may involve classified material that will raise national security issues if given to their defense attorneys. The government has filed a motion under the Classified Information Procedures Act. This might allow prosecutors to present secret evidence to the judge that the defense won’t be able to see.
Three US peace activists from Minneapolis have been deported from Israel after trying to enter the country as part of a human rights delegation. Israeli officials reportedly said the three were security risks and would not be allowed to enter the country. The activists are Sarah Martin, a sixty-nine-year-old retired nurse, and two members of the Anti-War Committee, Katrina Plotz and Karen Sullivan.
Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists have condemned the Venezuelan government for withdrawing the licenses of thirty-four radio stations on alleged “administrative grounds.” A majority of the stations shut down had aired criticisms of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Venezuela’s Public Works Minister claimed the stations were shut down because they violated regulations by failing to update their registrations or allowing their licenses to expire. Meanwhile, on Monday about thirty-five members of a Venezuelan party that supports Chavez stormed the head office of Globovision, an opposition television station. Venezuela’s Interior Minister said the government “energetically rejects” any violent actions.
CNN has refused to air a television commercial attacking CNN host Lou Dobbs for promoting the conspiracy theory that President Obama was not born in the United States and was therefore not eligible for the presidency. The media watchdog group Media Matters produced the ad.
Narrator: “CNN’s Lou Dobbs has been promoting the false right-wing conspiracy that President Obama hasn’t produced a valid US birth certificate…CNN President Jon Klein said Dobbs’s obsession was 'legitimate.'…It’s time for 'The Most Trusted Name in News' to live up to its slogan. Let CNN know there’s nothing 'legitimate' about racially charged paranoia.”
In June 2008, the Obama campaign made public his birth certificate that showed he was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961, forty-eight years ago today. Birth notices for Obama were also printed in the Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
In other media news, former TV news anchor Dan Rather sued CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves and former CBS News President Andrew Heyward on Monday in a bid to have them reinstated as defendants in his $70 million lawsuit against the network. Rather accused the two men of fraud relating to his claim that CBS made him a scapegoat in a scandal over a 2004 report about President George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard.
Massachusetts public health officials have warned parents of young children to avoid storing infant formula or breast milk in plastic bottles containing bisphenol A, or BPA. State officials also urged pregnant or breastfeeding women to avoid the common chemical in other food and drink containers. Studies in laboratory animals suggest BPA might increase the risk of of developmental problems in some fetuses and young children. The Boston Globe reports environmental health advocates praised the state for the warning but said it didn’t go far enough. They want state public health officials to follow the lead of Connecticut and ban BPA in all children’s products sold in Massachusetts.
And the longtime activist and organizer Marilyn Clement has died at the age of seventy-four after a battle with cancer. She was founder and national coordinator of Healthcare-NOW. Over the past five decades, she worked for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the African National Congress, and The Guardian newspaper. Marilyn Clement appeared on Democracy Now! in 2007 advocating for a single-payer healthcare system.
Marilyn Clement: “We need healthcare now. People are desperate. Desperate. And 18,000 people are dying every year, simply for lack of healthcare coverage of any kind. And so, think about how many thousands of people will die between now and 2012. So we’re putting forward a single-payer national healthcare system for everybody that would cost a lot less money. Think about every dollar you spend on healthcare: one-third of it now goes to the insurance companies for their profits, their administration, their advertising, their lobbyists, so if we take that one-third that we’re now spending on spurious — we don’t need them, we don’t need the insurance companies — and that would cover literally everybody who is uncovered in the United States for a lot less money and provide for the kind of system that most countries in the world, most of the advanced countries in the world, enjoy. So we’re saying, join us.”