The Senate Finance Committee has rejected a pair of amendments to establish a government-funded public insurance option as part of healthcare reform. Both amendments were defeated when a group of Democrats, including Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus, joined with the committee’s Republican members. Meanwhile, the panel also approved a measure that would restore $50 million in annual federal funding for abstinence-only education.
As the Finance Committee held its session, seventeen people were arrested at the New York offices of the insurance giant Aetna. The activists linked arms and chanted slogans “People Not Profits, Medicare for All.” The action was the first in a campaign by the group Mobilization for Health Care for All to hold sit-ins at insurance company offices nationwide. Group member Mark Milano spoke out after the arrests were made.
Mark Milano: “We’re just here because of the many people we know who die because insurance companies put profits before people’s care. The myths about government death panels are a lie. The reality is that the deaths panels are the people who are paid every day to deny care to people. That’s their job. The more people they deny care to, the bigger bonuses they get. We are here to say that we will not rest until every person who needs care in America gets it, and the way to get that care for everyone is Medicare for all.”
In Iraq, the US has announced plans to send home around 4,000 troops next month. The move would leave 120,000 troops in Iraq by the end of October.
The announcement came as President Obama hosted NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen for talks on Afghanistan. Obama is weighing a new troop increase following a Pentagon review. Obama said he had received assurances NATO allies remain committed to the Afghan occupation.
President Obama: “We both agree that it is absolutely critical that we are successful in dismantling, disrupting, destroying the al-Qaeda network and that we are effectively working with the Afghan government to provide the security necessary for that country. This is not a American battle. This is a NATO mission, as well, and we are working actively and diligently to consult with NATO at every step of the way.”
In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council held a one-day debate Tuesday on a recent inquiry finding Israel committed a number of war crimes in its assault on the Gaza Strip. The head of the inquiry, Judge Richard Goldstone, said all but one of the individual Israeli attacks examined by investigators had no military purpose.
Judge Richard Goldstone: “We detail a number of specific incidents in which Israeli forces launched direct attacks against civilians with lethal consequences. These were, with only one exception, where the facts establish that there was no military objective or advantage that could justify the attacks.”
Around 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli attack, most of them civilians. Goldstone rejected Israel’s claim that it was targeting “terrorist infrastructure” in Gaza.
Judge Richard Goldstone: “If 'infrastructure' were to be understood in that way and become a justifiable military objective, it would completely subvert the whole purpose of international humanitarian law built up over the last hundred years and more. It would make civilians and civilian buildings justifiable targets. These attacks amounted to reprisals and collective punishment and constitute war crimes.”
Goldstone’s report also accuses Palestinian fighters of committing war crimes in firing rockets at nearby Israeli towns and urges both sides to conduct investigations or face prosecution by the International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, the Obama administration encouraged Israel to conduct a probe of the allegations but repeated its view that the report is “biased” against Israel.
Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner: “Although we disagree sharply with many of the report’s assessments and its recommendations and believe that it is deeply flawed, we recognize Justice Goldstone’s distinguished record of public service and his efforts to promote global justice.”
Meanwhile in Britain, a coalition of Palestinian groups is calling on a British court to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak. Barak is in London for talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The groups say Barak should be arrested for his role in directing the Israeli attack on Gaza.
The State Department has acknowledged a senior diplomat recently held a series of talks with high-ranking counterparts in Cuba. Bisa Williams, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, met Cuban officials during a six-day visit to Cuba earlier this month. Williams was in Cuba to discuss resuming direct postal service with the US for the first time since 1963.
At least 100 people have been killed after a South Pacific earthquake unleashed a tsunami on the shores of Samoa and American Samoa. Massive waves flattened coastal villages, swallowing up cars and homes. Dozens are said to be missing. The quake had a magnitude between 8.0 and 8.3 on the Richter scale.
In Guinea, the death toll from a government attack on an opposition protest Monday has reached nearly 160. Tens of thousands had gathered in a soccer stadium in the capital Conakry to protest the military junta, when troops opened fire. Opposition leaders are vowing to continue their protest.
In the Philippines, two US soldiers have been killed in a roadside bombing on Jojo island. They were the first US troops to die in an attack in the Philippines since 2002.
In New York, an Afghan immigrant has been ordered jailed without bail after pleading not guilty to conspiring to launch a bomb attack inside the United States. Twenty-four-year-old Najibullah Zazi is accused of acquiring and preparing explosive materials similar to those used in the 2005 London transit bombings. Prosecutors say Zazi bought chemicals from beauty supply stores and experimented with preparing deadly explosives. It’s unclear if authorities have uncovered the alleged materials or identified any specific targets. On Tuesday, Zazi’s attorney, J. Michael Dowling, rejected the charges.
J. Michael Dowling: “I’d like to stop this rush to judgment, because what I’ve seen so far does not amount to a conspiracy. I don’t know the names of anybody else that allegedly conspired with Mr. Zazi. Those names have not been produced.”
In media news, the New York State Supreme Court has dismissed a $70 million lawsuit by TV news anchor Dan Rather against his former employer CBS. Rather has alleged 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. His attorneys say they plan to appeal the suit’s dismissal.
And in labor news, agricultural workers have reached an agreement with a major food service company to increase wages and ensure better working conditions. The Compass Group will pay an additional 1.5 cents per pound for all tomato purchases and only buy from farms that adopt tougher labor standards. The deal was reached in partnership with the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers.