An oil seep near the ruptured BP wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico is casting new uncertainty over BP’s temporary success in plugging the leak. Oil stopped flowing from the well on Thursday after BP successfully installed a containment cap. But US officials say oil and gas has begun seeping from the sea floor, leading to fears of another hole in the well that could make the spill even worse. BP wants to keep the cap in place and has been granted additional time to conduct testing.
Earlier today, BP said the oil spill cleanup has cost nearly $4 billion so far, including $207 million to settle damage claims. Gulf Coast residents meanwhile are voicing outrage over news the government-administered claim fund will subtract any money they earn by working for the cleanup effort from any future claims. Fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg says the ruling will apply to anyone who participates in the Vessels of Opportunity program, which has employed hundreds of Gulf Coast residents left out of work because of the spill. A group of fishermen walked out of a public meeting on Friday after Feinberg announced the decision.
In Iraq, at least forty-five people were killed Sunday when a suicide bomber attacked members of a Sunni militia west of Baghdad. It was the deadliest attack this year against the Awakening Council, a group of anti-al-Qaeda fighters backed by the US and Iraqi governments.
The Independent of London is reporting Afghan President Hamid Karzai is preparing to announce a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan by 2014. The withdrawal is described in an internal document as “conditions-based and phased.” A formal announcement is expected to come on Tuesday during a major international donors conference in Kabul. The news comes as Vice President Joe Biden is backing down from his previous claims that the US will begin a sizable withdrawal next July. In an interview with ABC News, Biden said he now thinks the pullback could entail “as few as a couple of thousand troops.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has unveiled a new round of aid projects to Pakistan. The funding will come out of the $7.5 billion aid package for Pakistan approved by Congress last year. The US will sponsor a number of initiatives, including two new hydroelectric dams. At a meeting with Pakistan’s foreign minister in Islamabad, Clinton addressed widespread Pakistani opposition to the US-backed militarization of Pakistan’s conflict with Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked groups.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We know that there is some questioning, even suspicion, about what the United States is doing today, and I can only respond by saying that very clearly we have a commitment that is much broader and deeper than it has ever been, that we expect to start seeing results. It is bipartisan. It is both at the executive branch and the congressional branch in our country. And we are going to continue to work to achieve very tangible results.”
Clinton’s visit comes as the Pakistani army is facing allegations of committing extrajudicial killings in the restive Swat Valley. According to Human Rights Watch, the Pakistani army has killed 238 Taliban suspects since September. Some of the victims’ bodies have been found with signs of torture.
A newly revealed tape shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once openly discussed his intent to attack the Palestinian government, undermine the Oslo peace accords, and manipulate the United States to ensure its approval. The 2001 recording shows Netanyahu meeting with Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank. Netanyahu was then out of government after serving his first stint in office. Apparently unaware he was being recorded, Netanyahu talks openly of a “broad attack” on the Palestinian government, saying, “The main thing, first of all, is to hit them. Not just one blow, but blows that are so painful that the price will be too heavy to be borne.” Netanyahu also outlines how he would undermine the 1993 Oslo accords, he said, which established the basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, by declaring any West Bank land that Israel wants to retain as “military” and “security zones.” Addressing potential US opposition to Israeli expansionism, Netanyahu says, “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in the way.”
A major international conference on global AIDS policy is underway in Austria this week. On Sunday, hundreds of people marched through the conference halls demanding rich nations meet their pledges to ensure universal access to AIDS treatment. Julio Montaner of the International AIDS Society criticized wealthy countries for failing to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
Julio Montaner: “I cannot hide my profound disappointment and deep frustration with the recently concluded GI and G20 meetings in anywhere else but Canada, by failing to take full responsibility for the universal access pledge, and, more importantly, for failing to articulate the next steps to meet not just the six MDGs [Millennium Development Goals], but also all of them, because without universal access (to AIDS treatment), there shall be no MDGs by 2015.”
A new study says more than half of the world’s poor live in South Asia, while a quarter live in Africa. According to the UN’s new multidimensional poverty index, there are more poor people in eight states in India than in all of sub-Saharan Africa.
West Virginia governor Joe Manchin has appointed his former general counsel, Carte Goodwin, to fill the Senate seat left vacant by last month’s death of longtime Democratic Senator Robert Byrd. Goodwin will serve until a special election is held likely later this year. He’s expected to be sworn into the Senate on Tuesday.
Goodwin’s entry to the Senate could mark a significant boost for efforts to extend unemployment benefits to over two million jobless Americans. Republicans, as well as Democrats, have opposed approving the benefits, citing concerns over the deficit. In his weekly radio address, President Obama singled out Republican opposition.
President Obama: “They say we shouldn’t provide unemployment insurance because it costs money. So after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, including a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, they’ve finally decided to make their stand on the backs of the unemployed. They’ve got no problem spending money on tax breaks for folks at the top who don’t need them and didn’t even ask for them, but they object to helping folks laid off in this recession who really do need help.”
The insurance giant AIG has agreed to a $725 million payment to settle allegations of fraud in a class action lawsuit from three Ohio pension funds. Combined with previous claims, AIG will pay out over $1 billion to shareholders who’ve accused the company of anti-competitive practices, accounting violations and manipulation of stock prices.
A former State Department analyst and his wife have been sentenced after pleading guilty to acting as spies for the Cuban government. Walter Kendall Myers was sentenced to life in prison, and his wife Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers was sentenced to over six years. Both are in their early seventies. In a court statement, Walter Myers said he acted to help Cuba resist the US-led embargo, saying, “We did not intend to hurt any individual American. Our only objective was to help the Cuban people defend their revolution.”
New York Governor David Paterson has signed a measure that will end the storage of hundreds of thousands of names of people who were stopped and frisked by police without facing charges. Over 500,000 people were questioned under “stop and frisk” last year, the vast majority African Americans and Latinos. Paterson said maintaining a database of their names violates basic democratic principles.
Gov. David Paterson: “It disallows the use of personal data from innocent people who have not done anything wrong. They may be suspicious. They may be thought to be future threats. But that is not a policy for a democracy.”
In a statement, Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union praised the move, saying, “Innocent people stopped by the police for doing nothing more than going to school, work or the subway should not become permanent criminal suspects.”
In Texas, a San Antonio-based social justice group says a recent shooting at their headquarters may have been politically motivated. One week ago Sunday, a member of the Southwest Workers Union was critically injured when assailants fired at least fifteen rounds at the group’s living quarters. The victim, James Domingue, remains hospitalized. No arrests have been made in the case, and police say they believe gang members mistakenly fired at the home. But the Southwest Workers Union says they fear the attack may have been motivated by the group’s organizing against a state effort to pass an anti-immigrant measure similar to Arizona’s.
The presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has been given a public warning for misconduct in a closely watched case. Sharon Keller has faced scrutiny after refusing to hear a last-minute appeal from a death row prisoner scheduled to be executed that night. Keller reportedly denied an appeal from the lawyers for Michael Wayne Richard at 5:20 pm on September 25th, 2007, saying, quote, “We close at five.” Richard had been on death row for two decades. He was killed later that night by lethal injection. In its warning, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct said Keller had “cast public discredit on the judiciary.”
Former South African President Nelson Mandela’s ninety-second birthday was marked Sunday with celebrations across South Africa and around the world. The United Nations General Assembly declared July 18th Nelson Mandela International Day. South African president Jacob Zuma paid tribute to Mandela at a gathering of thousands of people in the Eastern Cape province.
South African President Jacob Zuma: “It is not surprising that today we honor him jointly with the world. Sixty-seven years of active contribution to a better South Africa has been recognized by the United Nations and is being celebrated as Nelson Mandela Day for the first time this year. We thank the world for never ceasing to recognize the successes of this nation.”
A US citizen has returned home to Virginia after being stranded abroad on the government’s no-fly list. Twenty-six-year-old Yahya Wehelie of Fairfax, Virginia, had been stuck in Egypt for over two months because he had recently studied in Yemen. Wehelie remains on the no-fly list but was allowed to return under a one-time waiver. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit last month on behalf of ten other Americans and legal residents on the government’s no-fly list.
And an Army appeals court has upheld the six-month jail sentence of a former military attorney convicted of leaking the names of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay. Former Navy Lieutenant Commander Matthew Diaz was convicted in 2007 of leaking secret national defense information for sending the list to the Center for Constitutional Rights. Diaz was awarded the Ridenhour Prize for Truth Telling the following year.