President Obama has reportedly picked Solicitor General Elena Kagan to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. The fifty-year-old Kagan served as a White House adviser during Bill Clinton’s presidency and as a Harvard Law School dean. If confirmed, Kagan would become the first justice in nearly forty years with no judicial experience.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday the Obama administration will seek a law allowing investigators to interrogate terrorism suspects without informing them of their Miranda rights. Holder made the announcement on ABC’s This Week.
Eric Holder: “We’re now dealing with international terrorism. And if we are going to have a system that is capable of dealing in a public safety context with this new threat, I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public safety exception. And that’s one of the things that I think we’re going to be reaching out to Congress to do, to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional, but that is also relevant to our time and the threat that we now face.”
The recent failed car bombing in Times Square and the attempted Christmas Day jet bombing has sparked a debate over when suspects need to be read their rights. In December the FBI questioned the airline bombing suspect for fifty minutes without reading him his rights. Last week the FBI interrogated the accused Times Square bomber for four hours before being told about his Miranda rights to a lawyer and to remain silent under interrogation.
In another development in the attempted Times Square car bombing case, Attorney General Eric Holder has publicly accused the suspected bomber Faisal Shahzad of working with the Pakistani Taliban.
Eric Holder: “The Pakistani Taliban has directed this plot. We know that they helped facilitate it. We know that they helped direct it. And I suspect that we are going to come up with evidence that shows they helped to finance it. They were intimately involved in this plot.”
In news from Afghanistan, the New York Times is reporting shootings of Afghan civilians by US and NATO convoys at military checkpoints have spiked sharply. At least twenty-eight Afghans have been killed and forty-three wounded in convoy and checkpoint shootings this year.
BP’s initial attempt to stop the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has failed. Over the weekend, the company placed a giant four-story containment box over the spill, but the box kept getting clogged with ice crystals. An estimated 3.5 million gallons of oil have spilled since April 20.
The Center for Biological Diversity reports the Obama administration is continuing to exempt new offshore drilling operations from environmental review despite the Gulf disaster. Since the April 20th explosion at the BP rig, the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service has approved twenty-seven new offshore drilling permits. All but one of the projects were granted the same environmental review exemption used to approve the BP drilling site. On Saturday the Sierra Club held a rally for volunteers in New Orleans to help organize the clean-up from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Allison Chin: “Today we’re all here, standing together, to ensure that there’s justice for Gulf communities and to ensure that this never, ever happens again. This is America’s wake-up call. It’s a shame that it takes a tragedy, a travesty like this, to wake up America, but this is America’s wake-up call.”
George Barisich, the president of the Louisiana Commercial Fishermen’s Association, also spoke at the Sierra Club rally.
George Barisich: “That’s up to God. If God keeps the currents and the waves to keep it away from us, so that they can corral it, disperse it, do whatever they can, then we’ve got a chance. But once again, that’s if they stop it, 'cause if they don't stop it, as the duration runs out, Mother Nature is going to stick it to you. You got three months, you’re in hurricane season. You get a depression, you don’t need a hurricane. You get a depression, give me four-foot storm tides, that stuff is going over, the oil is going further in. It’s going to kill trees and everything else. Oil kills everything.”
Attorney General Eric Holder voiced concern Sunday that Arizona’s new immigration law could lead to racial profiling. The law allows police officers to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant. During an appearance on ABC This Week, Holder was asked if he thought the law was racist.
Eric Holder: “I don’t think it’s racist in its motivation. But I think the concern I have is how it will be perceived and how it perhaps could be enacted, how it could be carried out. I think we potentially get on a slippery slope where people will be picked on because of how they look as opposed to what they have done, and that is, I think, something that we have to try to avoid at all costs.”
Meanwhile, the US ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual, said Friday that the US government is working to defeat Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration law.
Carlos Pascual: “What we’re going to continue doing is looking, analyzing every legal means to continue fighting the law. It’s a commitment from the highest levels of the United States, and we’re going to continue working in that direction.”
Last week a coalition of civil rights and labor groups announced a nationwide boycott of Arizona over the state’s anti-immigrant law. The boycott could impact several Arizona-based businesses, including Cold Stone Creamery, Circle K and U-Haul. Meanwhile, the manufacturers of Arizona Iced Tea has launched a campaign to inform customers that despite the name the company is not from Arizona. The company is headquartered in Long Island, New York.
In economic news, European policymakers have unleashed an emergency rescue package worth about $1 trillion to stabilize world financial markets and prevent the Greek debt crisis from destroying the euro currency. The rescue was hammered out by European Union finance ministers, central bankers and the International Monetary Fund. In Greece, activists held a silent sit-in protest outside the parliament in Athens on Sunday over the austerity plan which foresees cuts to public spending and tax increases. Some of the protesters covered their faces with white masks to symbolize what they describe as “invisible citizens without a voice.” The protesters also criticized the EU for being slow to react to Greece’s problems.
Thanos Kodarinis: “They are inefficient, but they are inefficient on purpose, because it’s a message sent, by some and especially Germany, to all the other countries having similar problems to Greece: don’t dare to go to a situation like Greece is because you will have the same kind of measures. This is a message to Spain, Portugal, Italy and later on to France.”
In economic news here at home, the number of Americans receiving food stamps has reached a new record of nearly 40 million, or about one in eight Americans. The number has increased by eight million since December 2008.
Bolivian President Evo Morales met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Friday to discuss climate change. The meeting came two weeks after the close of the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba.
At a news conference, Morales said the voices of civil society and indigenous peoples must be heard in the international climate talks.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: “For Bolivians and for indigenous peoples, the idea is to live well. And this term 'living well' is important, as opposed to 'living better' — living well. Capitalism, to live better, pillages resources in an unbridled manner, exploits the children of Mother Earth, which are the human beings, destroys nature, squandering. It causes so much damage to humanity. Hence the debate is on the structural causes of global warming.”
President Obama is being urged by the US Senate to sign an international treaty banning land mines. Sixty-eight senators have signed a letter asking Obama to support a comprehensive review of the nation’s policy on land mines. Senator Patrick Leahy said, “We want to show we have enough people to ratify a treaty. I think there’s an excellent opportunity that we’ll finally do it.” In November, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said that the Obama administration had decided against signing the treaty.
Ian Kelly: “We made our policy review, and we determined that we would not be able to meet our national defense needs nor our security commitments to our friends and allies, if we sign this.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency has tentatively announced plans to discuss Israel’s nuclear weapons program for the first time ever. Israel is the only nation in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, but the country has never officially acknowledged its program. Analysts say the IAEA meeting could put Israel into a difficult position. Israel has been pushing the international community to take stern action to prevent Iran from getting atomic weapons, but at the same time it has brushed off calls to come clean about its own nuclear capabilities.
In labor news, Mary Kay Henry has been named the new president of SEIU, the Service Employees International Union. She replaces Andy Stern, who led the organization since 1996.
Henry pledged to “restore relations with the American labor movement.” She is the first woman to head the union.
The pioneering singer and actor Lena Horne has died at the age of ninety-two. She was the fist black performer to be signed to a long-term contract by a major Hollywood studio. In the 1950s she was blacklisted in part because of her friendship with Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Du Bois.
And the human rights attorney and law professor Rhonda Copelon has died at the age of sixty-five. She broke new ground opening US federal courts and international tribunals to gender-based violence and international human rights violations.