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A federal judge has struck down the Obama administration’s six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The White House imposed the ban last month as the BP oil spill spiraled into what many have called the worst environmental disaster in US history. But on Tuesday, US District Judge Martin Feldman called the suspension “heavy-handed” and “overbearing.” A Reagan appointee, Feldman has extensive stock holdings in energy companies, including Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig where the explosion occurred, and Halliburton, which also performed work at the site. Feldman also owns stock in two of BP’s largest shareholders, BlackRock and JPMorgan Chase. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the Obama administration will appeal the ruling.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: “We will immediately appeal to the Fifth Circuit. The President strongly believes, as the Department of Interior and the Department of Justice argued yesterday, that continuing to drill at these depths, without knowing what happened, is — does not make any sense and puts the safety of those involved — potentially puts safety of those on the rigs and safety of the environment in the Gulf at a danger that the President does not believe we can afford right now.”
In a statement, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he will issue a new order reimposing the drilling ban. Salazar says he will detail the reasons for the ban to address Judge Feldman’s concerns.
The top US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, is in danger of losing his job over a magazine profile in which he criticizes several top Obama administration officials. McChrystal was summoned to Washington after Rolling Stone printed an article in which he and his aides mock Vice President Joe Biden, US ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, National Security Adviser General James Jones and Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke. President Obama is meeting with McChrystal at the White House today. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs left open the possibility of McChrystal’s dismissal.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: “I think the President is anxious to talk to him before he has anything else to say on it.”
Reporter: “But wouldn’t the President know ahead of time whether or not that’s an option he’s considering?”
Robert Gibbs: “I would say all options are on the table.”
Reporter: “Including firing him?”
Robert Gibbs: “I think every option is on the table.”
Later in the day, President Obama briefly addressed the controversy, telling reporters he would first talk to McChrystal before making a decision.
President Obama: “General McChrystal is on his way here, and I am going to meet with him. Secretary Gates will be meeting with him, as well. I think it’s clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed a poor — showed poor judgment. But I also want to make sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final decision.”
General McChrystal has reportedly already prepared a letter of resignation. A senior European diplomat told the New York Times that the US failure to reach its goals after nearly nine years of occupying Afghanistan has led top Obama administration officials to commonly criticize the other in private.
The news comes as Britain’s special representative to Afghanistan, Sherard Cowper-Coles, has resigned. Formerly Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Cowper-Coles has frequently clashed with US counterparts on Afghan policy. He has been a proponent of reconciliation efforts, including negotiations with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, and has questioned the US push for a military solution in Afghanistan. In 2008, he was quoted saying the US strategy in Afghanistan is “destined to fail” and calling the occupation “part of the problem, not the solution.”
The Georgia death row prisoner Troy Anthony Davis is appearing in a Savannah courtroom today nearly two decades after his widely disputed conviction for the killing of an off-duty police officer. The Supreme Court ordered a new hearing in Davis’s case last year to allow the defense to present evidence that could establish his innocence. Seven of the nine non-police witnesses in the original trial have since recanted their testimony. There is no direct physical evidence tying Davis to the crime scene.
The Minnesota-based attorney Peter Erlinder has returned home after spending nearly three weeks in a Rwandan prison. A lawyer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and a past president of the National Lawyers Guild, Erlinder was jailed shortly after arriving in Rwanda last month to help with the legal defense of an opposition presidential candidate. He was accused of violating laws barring denial of the Rwanda genocide. Rwandan government critics say the laws have been used to silence political opposition. Erlinder was freed on health grounds last week after being hospitalized four times since his arrest and receiving an outpouring of global support.
Both sides of a case challenging the agribusiness giant Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa seed are claiming victory following a Supreme Court ruling. In a seven-to-one decision, the high court overturned a ban on Monsanto’s alfalfa until the US government further analyzes the crop’s dangers. But the court also ruled the seed can remain illegal until the Agricultural Department deregulates it, a move that can be thwarted by public challenge. In a statement, the lead group challenging Monsanto, the Center for Food Safety, said, “The Court’s decision affirmed that the threat of genetic contamination of natural plants posed by biotech crops is an issue of significant environmental concern now and in the future.”
Activists with the environmental group Greenpeace disrupted a speech by a top BP executive on Tuesday at a major oil conference in London. BP chief of staff Steve Westwell was addressing a crowd of oil executives and energy ministers at the World National Oil Companies Congress when the activists took the stage.
Protester: “You guys here should not be allowed to be talking about more oil. We need to end the oil age! We need to protect the global climate!”
BP’s embattled CEO Tony Hayward had been scheduled to deliver the speech but canceled his appearance.
The United Nations has launched a probe into allegations of human rights abuses in the final months of the Sri Lankan military’s crushing of the Tamil Tiger rebellion last year. A three-member panel will investigate alleged violations on both sides. The Sri Lankan government has vigorously opposed the probe. A recent report from the International Crisis Group says tens of thousands of Tamil civilians died in the last months of Sri Lanka’s civil war, most as a result of Sri Lankan military shelling.
Jamaican authorities have arrested the alleged drug lord Christopher Coke after a manhunt that left dozens of people dead last month. Coke surrendered on Tuesday, nearly one month after at least seventy-six people died when Jamaican forces launched an assault on a poor neighborhood loyal to Coke. The US is seeking Coke’s extradition on drugs and drug-running charges.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Israeli government is proceeding with plans to demolish over twenty Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Israel wants to build an archeological park in their place. The move comes just two weeks before Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with President Obama at the White House. Israel meanwhile has also ordered the expulsion of four Palestinian politicians affiliated with Hamas. The politicians’ residency status has been revoked after they were deemed “disloyal” to the Israeli state. Palestinian Authority spokesperson Ghassan Khatib criticized the Israeli measures.
Ghassan Khatib: “The Palestinian government criticized and condemned the most recent Israeli violation of Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem, particularly the deportation of four Palestinian Legislative Council members who are alleged of not being loyal to the state of Israel.”
Meanwhile, in Gaza, road shipments of aid supplies have begun entering the coastal enclave following Israel’s decision to alter the blockade. A resident of Gaza criticized Israel for continuing to bar vital building materials.
Gaza resident: “It is only a media propaganda that they lifted the siege, but in reality we do not see any change. The people want to build their destroyed houses, and there is no construction material, also no electronics or mechanic materials. If they do not let these materials into Gaza, then there is no meaning for lifting the siege.”
And the author José Saramago has died at the age of eighty-seven. The only Portuguese-language novelist to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Saramago frequently wrote stories of ordinary people living under powerful rule and social decay.