International pressure for new sanctions against Iran is growing after Tehran announced more moves to expand nuclear fuel production and enrichment plants. The United States, France and Israel led calls for what would be a fourth set of sanctions against Iran. The Pentagon said the United States wanted a UN Security Council resolution on Iran “within weeks” over its nuclear program. On Monday Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran was forced to decide to begin refining uranium to a higher level by international powers who for months ignored the country’s proposal on fuel swap.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh: “We have been waiting for months about our proposal. One thing in brief and in conclusion is, there was a common element in both proposals. The common element was that Iran was ready to send equivalent required material out and receive the fuel simultaneously. They should have appreciated this concession by Iran. And we didn’t want, in fact, to produce it ourselves. Otherwise we should have started eight months ago, because we are master of enrichment technology. They forced us to choose this option. They should be blamed, those who totally ignored for the last nine months or most.”
The auto giant Toyota has recalled 436,000 units of the 2010 Prius because of a problem in the hybrid car’s braking system. The recall was announced today. In recent months, Toyota has recalled about eight million cars worldwide over gas pedals that could stick or become caught on floor mats. Meanwhile, the Washington Post has revealed the nation’s largest auto insurer, State Farm, alerted federal safety regulators as early as 2007 about safety issues with certain Toyota models. Regulators waited more than a year before they pressed Toyota to issue recalls.
The United Nations is warning that Haiti may soon face another catastrophe as the rainy season approaches. Aid workers are racing to move victims outside floodplains and into tents. They are also trying to clear tons of debris from ravines, canals and riverbeds, so rain does not turn the camps into breeding grounds for disease.
Kim Bolduc of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti: “The concern now, obviously, is the rainy season that is about to come. So, regarding shelter, we are now considering the setting up of some hazard-resistant or hurricane-proof type of shelter. This is obviously a better solution, a more costly one, and probably it would take longer to bring them in here. We would recall that the port facilities are not operating. And basically, this equipment are very heavy, and they would need the port to be open to be able to bring them in. Otherwise, bringing them in by planes would have an enormous cost.”
The health insurance company Anthem Blue Cross is coming under intense pressure for deciding to raise rates by as much as 39 percent for individual policyholders. Anthem is a California-based subsidiary of the health insurance giant WellPoint, which earned $2.7 billion in the last quarter of 2009. In a letter released Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asked the company to explain the rate increase. She wrote, “These extraordinary increases are up to 15 times faster than inflation and threaten to make health care unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of Californians, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet in a difficult economy.”
In other healthcare news, a new report by the Associated Press has revealed the CEO of the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly received a compensation package valued at over $16 million for 2009, up 54 percent from 2008. John Lechleiter received a $1.5 million salary, a $3.5 million bonus, and was granted stock valued at over $11 million.
A new poll has found nearly two-thirds of respondents oppose the Supreme Court’s recent ruling to allow corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to elect and defeat candidates. President Obama and other Democrats have openly criticized the ruling, but recently made public tax forms show Democrats are already taking in record amounts of corporate funds. ABC News reports the Democratic Governors Association took in $23 million in 2009, most of it from corporations and unions. The contributors included nearly every top lobbying firm in Washington, and from such multinational giants as Exxon Mobil. The DGA even accepted funds from the US subsidiaries of companies with foreign ownership. The Republican Governors Association brought in nearly $18 million last year.
First Lady Michelle Obama is launching a nationwide campaign to fight childhood obesity today. About 32 percent of children and adolescents today — 25 million kids — are obese or overweight. The First Lady said she has already implemented some lifestyle and dietary changes at home.
Michelle Obama is not expected to call for a tax on soda, a proposal pushed by many public health advocates who say it would reduce obesity and could help finance healthcare reform. The Chicago Tribune reports the American Beverage Association, the lobbying arm of the soft drink industry, has led an intense lobbying effort over the past year to smother a plan to tax sugared beverages. The association formed a coalition called Americans Against Food Taxes that included the soft-drink makers, their suppliers, and such mass marketers as McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza. The coalition argued that higher food and drink taxes would unfairly burden poor people. The coalition recruited a bevy of Latino groups to oppose the tax, including Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity, the National Hispana Leadership Institute, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the National Hispanic Medical Association. Nearly all the groups, including the National Hispanic Medical Association, had received beverage industry money in the past or have industry representatives on their governing boards. The National Hispanic Medical Association pulled out of the coalition last week.
With almost all the ballots counted in Ukraine, opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych is on course to become Ukraine’s next president. The Russian-backed Yanukovych won about 49 percent of the vote, beating Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has yet to concede defeat. Yanukovych’s victory has been described as an extraordinary comeback after his defeat five years ago in the so-called Orange Revolution at the hands of Viktor Yushchenko, whom he is set to replace as president.
In news from Pakistan, numerous news sources are now reporting the head of the Pakistan Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, has died from injuries suffered in a US drone missile strike last month. Mehsud is the second Taliban leader to have been killed in the past six months.
A Chinese court has sentenced an activist who investigated the deaths of thousands of schoolchildren in the country’s massive 2008 earthquake to five years in jail. Tan Zuoren was convicted of inciting subversion of state power. Tan had estimated at least 5,600 students died in the 2008 earthquake, many of them because of poorly built schools.
Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered two members of the International Solidarity Movement released on bail, saying Israeli immigration officers overstepped their bounds by detaining them in the West Bank. On Sunday, Israeli soldiers raided the West Bank city of Ramallah and detained Spaniard Ariadna Jove Marti and Australian Bridgette Chappell. The pair’s lawyer described their arrest as part of a campaign by Israeli authorities to halt weekly demonstrations against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank. Jamal Juma, the coordinator for the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, said his movement’s office was also raided on Sunday night by Israeli troops.
Jamal Juma: “They started with arrests and taking us to the interrogation centers for long periods. And now they’ve raided the campaign’s offices, confiscated our stuff, and hindered our work. They are trying to terrify people, terrify us as activists and people working on this issue. It is obvious why they are doing this. It is because Israel is afraid of the expanding popular resistance.”
At the University of California, Irvine, twelve students were arrested Monday for repeatedly disrupting a speech by Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. Oren was interrupted a total of ten times by members of UC Irvine’s Muslim Student Union. After the fourth interruption, Ambassador Oren left the stage for twenty minutes, while political science professor Mark Petracca addressed the students. Ambassador Oren then returned and was interrupted six more times.
The commander of Canada’s biggest Air Force base has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of two women. Col. Russell Williams was commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario. Williams was also charged in the sexual assaults of two other women.
Here in this country, an Army sergeant who served in Iraq has been accused of waterboarding his four-year-old daughter because she refused to recite her ABCs. Twenty-seven-year-old Joshua Tabor was arrested last week and charged with assaulting a child. Police in Washington state said the Iraq war veteran would sit his daughter on the edge of the bathroom sink and hold her head down until it was nearly submerged in water, dunking her if she refused to recite the alphabet. Police said they began an investigation of Tabor after receiving reports that he was walking around his neighborhood holding a Kevlar helmet and threatening to bust out windows.
And Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania has died at the age of seventy-seven. He was the powerful chair of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. In 2002, Murtha voted to support the invasion of Iraq, but three years later he shocked many in Washington when he introduced a bill calling for the immediate withdrawal of US troops.
John Murtha: “I believe we should redeploy responsibly as quickly as possible. I feel very strongly we can’t desert Iraq, but we have to find a way to reduce our presence. We’ve actually become the enemy in some cases. When you look at what’s happened with our troops occupying the country when they said we’d be liberators, some of the military things that we have to do as military and some of the enemies we’ve made, we really lost ground. The incidents are increasing, rather than decreasing. We’ve got 130,000 troops, and we’re spending $8 billion a month, and we need to reduce our presence and let the Iraqis take over.”
Murtha’s congressional career was tainted by his close ties to the defense industry. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington listed Murtha on its most corrupt congressmen list for five years in a row.