A US drone strike in Pakistan has killed at least eight German citizens suspected of being linked to Pakistani militants. The identities of the German men have not been released. The attack came one day after the US issued a travel alert about potential terrorist attacks in Europe. The CIA has sharply increased its use of drones to carry out strikes inside Pakistan in recent weeks. Monday’s attack was the twenty-sixth drone strike in the past thirty-seven days.
In other news from Pakistan, aid workers are predicting as many two million Pakistanis will be infected with malaria in coming months due to the devastating floods. The World Health Organization estimates 250,000 Pakistanis are believed to have already been infected.
The Supreme Court started its new term on Monday, and for the first time the Court has three female justices with Elena Kagan joining Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the bench. Kagan has recused herself from nearly half of the Court’s fifty-one scheduled cases because she played a role in the litigation while serving as US solicitor general. In one of its first decisions, the Court refused Monday to hear a lawsuit filed by a group attorneys seeking to learn whether the National Security Agency had tapped their phones because they represent prisoners at Guantánamo.
Monday’s session of the Supreme Court also marked the first time in almost thirty-five years that the Court was without Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired earlier this year. On Monday, NPR News aired an interview with the ninety-year-old Stevens, who said he regrets only one vote he made on the Supreme Court: his decision in 1976 to uphold the death penalty. He now describes the decision as “incorrect.”
John Paul Stevens: “I voted to uphold the death penalty. And I thought, at the time, that if the universe of defendants eligible for the death penalty is sufficiently narrow, so that you can be confident that the defendant really merits that severe punishment, that the death penalty was appropriate. But what happened over the years is the court constantly expanded the cases eligible for the death penalty, so that the underlying premise for my vote in those cases has disappeared, in a sense.”
The Washington Post reports special interest groups have spent $80 million on the November congressional elections, more than five times as much as they did during the 2006 midterm. The increased spending is due in part because the Supreme Court cleared the way for unlimited spending by corporations, unions and other interest groups on election ads earlier this year in its decision in the Citizens United case. The bulk of the money is being spent by conservatives, who have swamped their Democratic-aligned competition by a seven-to-one margin in recent weeks. One of the biggest spenders nationwide is a little-known Iowa group called the American Future Fund, which has spent $7 million on behalf of Republicans in more than two dozen House and Senate races.
In campaign news, the comedian Bill Maher is threatening to continue to release archival footage of Republican senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell of Delaware until she agrees to appear on his HBO program. During the 1990s O’Donnell was a regular on Maher’s show Politically Incorrect. Maher recently rehashed a clip of O’Donnell from 1999 when she admitted that she had dabbled in witchcraft.
Bill Maher: “You were a witch?”
Christine O’Donnell: “I dabbled into witchcraft. I never joined a coven. But I did —- I did -—”
Jamie Kennedy: “Wait a minute, you were a witch?”
Bill Maher: “Yes, she was a witch.”
Christine O’Donnell: “I was a witch. Wait, but that’s exactly why” —
Jamie Kennedy: “I mean, wait a minute. How did you used to be a witch?”
Christine O’Donnell: “Because I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things. I’m not making this stuff up! I know what they told me they do! I mean, and one of my dates, one of my dates, my first dates — one of my first dates with a witch was on a Satanic altar, and I didn’t know it. And I mean, there was a little blood there and stuff like that.”
Bill Maher: “That was a date?”
Jamie Kennedy: “Your first date was a Satanic altar?”
Christine O’Donnell: “Yeah, yeah. We went to a movie and then, like, had a little midnight picnic on a Satanic altar.”
Christine O’Donnell is now a tea party favorite who is trying to secure the conservative and religious vote in Delaware. Her witch comments have created such a stir that she decided to address the controversy in her first campaign TV ad released on Monday.
Christine O’Donnell: “I am not a witch. I’m nothing you’ve heard. I’m you. None of us are perfect, but none of us can be happy with what we see all around us: politicians who think spending, trading favors and back-room deals are the ways to stay in office. I’ll go to Washington and do what you’d do. I’m Christine O’Donnell, and I approve this message. I’m you.”
In other political news, legal questions are being raised in Chicago over Rahm Emanuel’s run for mayor to replace Richard Daley. Two of Chicago’s top election lawyers say President Obama’s former chief of staff is not eligible to run because of a requirement in Illinois that a candidate for mayor must reside in the town for a year before the election. Emanuel and his family have been living in Washington since 2009. In his first campaign video, Emanuel says he is glad to be home.
Rahm Emanuel: “Hi, I’m Rahm Emanuel. My father came to Chicago as an immigrant from Israel. I was born here, and my wife Amy and I raised our three children here. I spent six years in Congress representing Chicago. Then President Obama asked me to serve as his chief of staff. It was a great honor to work for him, but I’m glad to be home.”
The video might give viewers the impression Rahm Emanuel was glad to back at his home home in Chicago, but the website Politico has revealed the video was actually filmed in Washington, DC, in the offices of AKPD Message and Media, the firm founded by David Axelrod.
In Tennessee, a local fire department refused to put out a house fire last week because the homeowner had forgotten to pay $75 for fire protection from a nearby town. The firefighters showed up to the scene of the fire and then watched as the home of Gene Cranick burned to the ground. Cranick’s neighbors had paid the $75 fee, so when the fire spread across the property line firefighters took action, but only to save the neighbor’s property. The local mayor defended the actions of the firefighters. South Fulton Mayor David Crocker said, “Anybody that’s not in the city of South Fulton, it’s a service we offer. Either they accept it or they don’t.” On Monday, Gene Cranick appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
Gene Cranick: “Everything that we possessed was lost in the fire. Even three dogs and a cat that belonged to my grandchildren was lost in it. And they could have been saved if they had been — they had put water on it. But they didn’t do it, so that’s just a loss.”
Keith Olbermann: “When you all called 911, as I understand it, you told the operator you’d pay whatever was necessary to have the firefighters come put out and prevent the fire from spreading to your house. What was their response?”
Cranick: “That we wasn’t on their list.”
New reports by the ACLU and the Brennan Center for Justice have found a sharp rise in debtor prisons across the country. Poor defendants are being jailed for failing to pay legal debts. In Ohio, a man named Howard Webb, who earns $7 an hour as a dishwasher, has served two stints in jail totaling over 300 days for being unable to pay nearly $3,000 in fines and costs from various criminal and traffic cases. In Michigan, a twenty-five-year-old single mother named Kawana Young has been jailed five times for being unable to afford to pay a few minor traffic tickets. Eric Balaban of the ACLU said, “Incarcerating people simply because they cannot afford to pay their legal debts is not only unconstitutional but also has a devastating impact upon men and women, whose only crime is that they are poor.”
The Israeli military has ordered an investigation into a video uploaded to YouTube that apparently shows an Israeli soldier belly dancing beside a bound and handcuffed Palestinian woman. On the video, you can hear the soldier dancing to music and occasional cheers from his fellow soldiers who were documenting the dance. It is not known yet when or where the video was shot. It was uploaded on YouTube over the weekend and aired on Israeli TV last night.
The Israeli government has deported Irish Nobel Peace laureate and activist Mairead Maguire a week after she was denied entrance at Ben Gurion Airport. For the past week Maguire was held in an Israeli jail as she challenged Israel’s decision to ban her from entering the country for ten years. Israel placed the ban on her after she rode on a humanitarian aid boat that attempted to reach Gaza earlier this year. Maguire spoke to reporters on Monday before her deportation.
Mairead Maguire: “I hope the court will allow me to stay in Israel with my Israeli and Palestinian friends.”
Reporter: “Why do you want to come here?”
Maguire: “Because I love this country and I’m very sad there’s so much suffering. I come to support all those who are working for peace and reconciliation. There will be peace in this country, I believe it, but only when Israel ends apartheid and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.”
Fellow Nobel Prize laureate Jody Williams defended Mairead Maguire’s attempt to stay in Israel.
Jody Williams: “Mairead believes that she had the right to challenge the state of Israel for trying to keep her out. She does not believe she has done anything wrong when she was on the Rachel Corrie, with the flotilla. It was attacked in international waters. It was dragged — she was dragged to Israel, and then they say she can’t come back to Israel. It was not her intention to end up there in the first place.”
In news from Haiti, the aid agency Oxfam says a massive influx of free foreign food after January’s earthquake helped feed many displaced people but undercut Haitian agriculture and hurt farmers’ incomes. Oxfam says the international community needs to help develop Haiti’s agriculture-based economy. The problem dates back over a decade. Earlier this year former President Clinton publicly apologized for forcing Haiti to drop tariffs on imported subsidized US rice during his time in office. The policy wiped out Haitian rice farming and seriously damaged Haiti’s ability to be self-sufficient.
British physiologist Robert Edwards has been awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his role in developing in vitro fertilization. The Nobel medicine prize committee said Edwards’s work had brought “joy to infertile people all over the world.”
Klas Kärre, Nobel Committee: “Briefly, what he did was to develop, in several steps, a method whereby you can take out eggs from the woman and let those eggs meet the sperm of her partner in a test tube or in vitro, which means in glass, in glass a test tube, and then put back the fertilized egg for normal development in the woman.”
Robert Edwards said his discovery impacted other areas of medicine, as well.
Robert Edwards: “We knew for the first time that science and medicine had entered human conception decisively and that from now on we would look at illnesses and disease and other disorders in embryos as part of medicine.”
And the Obama administration is expected to announce plans today to install solar panels atop the White House’s living quarters. The panels will heat water for the first family and supply some electricity. The announcement will be made today by Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The move comes one month after the White House rejected a proposal by environmentalist Bill McKibben and students from Unity College to reinstall the White House solar panels used by President Carter in the 1970s. The panels were later taken down by President Reagan.