Pakistani militants continue to strike convoys carrying fuel for NATO troops in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, at least fifty-five trucks were set ablaze in northwest Pakistan, hours after an earlier attack that destroyed eight tankers near the southwest city of Quetta. Attacks on the tankers have soared since the Pakistani government blocked a NATO supply route after three of its troops were killed in a cross-border US attack last week. The US has formally apologized, saying the soldiers were mistaken for Taliban fighters. NATO spokesperson Joseph Blotz meanwhile said the convoy attacks won’t impact the Afghan war effort.
Joseph Blotz: “We do have plenty of supplies and stocks within Afghanistan. We do have access to transports and logistics through other border crossing points to Pakistan, but also to neighboring countries in the north. So there is no danger for the ongoing future ISAF operations.”
A federal panel has revealed the Obama administration deliberately prevented government scientists from disclosing the full extent of the BP oil spill. On Wednesday, the national oil spill commission released documents showing the White House budget office denied a request to make public the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s worst-case estimate for the spill size. Despite receiving internal warnings the well was spewing between 2.7 million to 6.8 million gallons of oil a day, government officials repeatedly publicized a figure of 210,000 gallons a day.
The first civilian trial of a former Guantánamo Bay prisoner has been delayed after a federal judge ruled prosecutors can’t call a key witness to the stand. The prisoner, Ahmed Ghailani, has pleaded not guilty on charges surrounding the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa that killed 224 people. On Wednesday, District Judge Lewis Kaplan barred a Tanzanian man who says he sold weapons to Ghailani on the grounds he was tracked down as a result of Ghailani’s coerced statements under CIA interrogation. Defense attorney Peter Quijano praised the decision.
Peter Quijano: “Judge Kaplan ruled today that the Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We could not agree more with the court. This case will be tried upon lawful evidence, not torture, not coercion. It is the Constitution that won a great victory today. We applaud the court for its courage and support for the law.”
Ohio has filed suit accusing the lender Ally Financial and its GMAC Mortgage division of fraud in approving scores of foreclosures. It’s the first suit of its kind in the widening scandal over the improper approval of thousands of foreclosures by some of the nation’s largest banks. Ally as well as Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase have suspended foreclosures in twenty-three states after admitting to authorizing foreclosure affidavits and other documents without proper vetting. Speaking to Bloomberg News, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray said Ally’s alleged fraud was widespread.
Richard Cordray: “Everything that we have seen indicates that there may have been thousands of cases where they systematically defrauded the court by filing affidavits under oath that claimed personal knowledge where the signer did not have that knowledge. In an individual case, if an attorney filed a false affidavit, that would be — result in swift and severe sanctions, disciplinary misconduct and so forth. The fact that this may have done on a mass scale is pretty breathtaking to us.”
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper also announced Wednesday he’s begun investigating fifteen lenders, including Ally, and has asked them all to freeze foreclosures during the probe. Attorney General Eric Holder meanwhile said the Justice Department is looking into the improper foreclosures.
The banking giant Wells Fargo has agreed to modify over 8,700 mortgages to settle claims it deceptively pushed crippling loans on borrowers in eight states. Under the deal, Wells Fargo will spend over $770 million to restructure the loans over a three-year period. Despite admitting to misleading customers, Wells Fargo also announced it won’t stop foreclosures and will proceed with evictions.
A Florida woman has revealed an agent hired by her bank broke into her home after she fell behind on her mortgage payments. Nancy Jacobini of Orange County was inside her home when she heard the intruder. Thinking she was being burglarized, Jacobini called 911.
Dispatcher: “Do you hear somebody trying to open the front door?”
Nancy Jacobini: “Yes, yes.”
Nancy Jacobini: “My alarm is going off.”
Nancy Jacobini: “He’s in. He’s in the house.”
Dispatcher: “He’s in the house?”
Nancy Jacobini: “Yes.”
The intruder turned out to be an employee hired by Jacobini’s bank, JPMorgan Chase, to change her locks. But Jacobini was only three months behind on her payments and wasn’t in foreclosure. Chase has apologized for the incident. Jacobini has hired an attorney to pursue legal action against the bank.
New figures show the US deported a record 392,000 undocumented immigrants last year. Just under half were people convicted of criminal activity.
The FBI has arrested 133 people, including over ninety law enforcement officers, in a sweeping anti-corruption operation in Puerto Rico. The US Attorney for Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez, helped unveil the charges in Washington.
Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez: “Because we are faced with the disconcerting reality that drug trafficking has invaded the sanctity of our state and municipal police departments. Badges were sold and honor was compromised for drug money many times during this investigation.”
It’s said to be the largest police corruption probe in the FBI’s history.
Former President Bill Clinton is vowing that hundreds of millions of dollars in delayed US aid is finally on the way to Haiti. Speaking after a tour of camps housing thousands of refugees, Clinton said he expects the US to release most of the $1.15 billion it’s yet to deliver in the next week. The Associated Press revealed last week that Republican Senator Tom Coburn has held up over $900 million in congressionally approved aid over objections to a $5 million provision to create the office of a US coordinator for Haiti policy. Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive also said Haiti’s reconstruction commission had approved over $700 million in new projects.
Bill Clinton: “We are going to now move to be much more strategic and emphasize the areas of greatest need: the housing, the rubble removal, the jobs. We still have many schools to build, many teachers to train, many learning materials to get, and a plan that will have universal enrollment. That’s the most important thing, but we need a lot of money for it.”
Cuba marked the thirty-fourth anniversary of the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 on Wednesday with a call for the US to extradite the key suspect. Seventy-three people were killed in the October 6, 1976 attack, which was the first and only mid-air bombing of a civilian airliner in the Western Hemisphere. Speaking before relatives of the victims, Cuban President Raúl Castro called on the Obama administration to extradite the anti-Castro Cuban exile and CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles.
Cuban President Raúl Castro: “The government of Cuba asks President Obama or whoever is in charge of the fight against terrorism to act firmly and without double meanings against those who from the United States have and continue to perpetrate terrorist acts against Cuba.”
Castro also called for the release of the Cuban Five, who are serving lengthy sentences in the US for trying to monitor violent right-wing Cuban exile groups responsible for attacks inside Cuba.
A US and two Japanese scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for developing a chemical research tool known as “palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling.” Richard Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki invented the tool to allow scientists to build chemicals that can aid in the production of pharmaceuticals and electronics. Nobel committee member Astrid Gräslund compared it to a Lego toy.
Astrid Gräslund: “It is about joining carbon atoms together in a way that you want to do. So if you want to say it in very simple words, you could say it’s like building a Lego toy, and you want to join two pieces together and you want to decide how and what to do with them, so this is what this reaction does. You decide, and it simply performs for your chemical reaction.”
The Supreme Court has heard arguments in the case of a Pennsylvania man challenging a homophobic church that held a protest at his son’s military funeral. The father, Albert Snyder, initially won a $5 million judgment against the Westboro Baptist Church, which demonstrates outside military funerals to publicize its anti-gay views. Church members believe that military deaths are God’s punishment for homosexuality in the United States. A federal appeals court overturned the $5 million penalty last year after ruling the church’s First Amendment rights were violated. Earlier this year, the court ordered Snyder to pay Westboro over $16,000 to cover the costs of its successful appeal. On Wednesday, Snyder said the church’s actions shouldn’t be considered an issue of free speech.
Albert Snyder: “In my opinion, speaking as a father, the Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church conduct was so extreme, it went beyond all possible bounds of basic human decency, that it can be regarded as utterly intolerable in a civilized nation. All we wanted to do was bury Matt with dignity and respect.”
A new poll shows two-thirds of Americans support raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 an hour. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, the number includes 51 percent of Republicans.
And students across the country are planning to walk out of classes today as part of the National Day of Action to Defend Public Education. The call for nationwide protests originated in California following last November’s student strikes and building takeovers. Tens of thousands of people took part in the first national day of action in March.
Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa has won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature. Llosa is one of Latin America’s leading novelists and essayists. He rose to prominence in the 1960s. Some of his best-known novels include The Green House and The War of the End of the World.