By a vote of 308 to 114, the House has approved spending an additional $37 billion to continue the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. One hundred two Democrats voted against the war funding, highlighting the growing split in the party over President Obama’s war plans. Last year, just thirty-two Democrats voted against the war spending. The House vote came two days after the leak of over 91,000 secret military documents that documented US setbacks in Afghanistan.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio): “Wake up, America! WikiLeaks’ release of secret war documents gave us 92,000 reasons to end the wars. Pick one. Wake up, America! Main Street is falling apart, businesses have closed, bankruptcies abound. People are losing their jobs, their homes, losing their retirement security. The middle class is falling apart. Workers’ rights are not being protected. The government’s out of money. There’s not even money for childhood nutrition!”
A new government audit has revealed the Pentagon cannot account for over 95 percent of some $9 billion spent in reconstruction funds in Iraq between 2004 and 2007. In its report, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction accused the Pentagon of lax oversight and weak controls of money in the Development Fund for Iraq. The report stated, “The breakdown in controls left the funds vulnerable to inappropriate uses and undetected loss.”
The oil giant BP has revealed it plans to seek a nearly $10 billion tax break to cover losses stemming from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. In its second-quarter earnings report, BP said it would record $32 billion in losses to reflect the future costs of the spill. Under US tax law, companies can take credits on up to 35 percent of their losses. This essentially means US taxpayers will end up paying a third of BP’s expenses from the Gulf oil spill despite vows from the Obama administration that BP would bear the entire cost of cleaning up the spill. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs would not say whether the President would press BP on the tax break. Gibbs said, “There are tax laws in this country that have been written for quite some time.”
In Michigan, more than 800,000 gallons of oil have leaked into the Tallmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River after the rupture of an underground oil pipe. The spill has been described as one of the worst in the history of the Midwest. The pipeline is owned and operated by the firm Enbridge based in Calgary, Alberta. Meanwhile, another oil spill has been reported in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. Early on Tuesday, a barge slammed into an abandoned oil well, causing a shower of water, natural gas and oil to spew about 100 feet into the air.
In Arizona, major protests are planned for tomorrow to mark the day the state’s new anti-immigrant law goes into effect. The law will require police officers to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant. Many immigrants say they are trying to leave Arizona before Thursday. Italia Aranda is a twenty-year-old college student who moved to Phoenix eight years ago from Mexico City.
Italia Aranda: “Every time I go to school, I’m worried. You know, what if I get pulled over by the police and not make it back home? I’m just going go to school and study and do what I have to do, and still that’s a risk. So I think a lot of the people here in Arizona don’t understand that, you know, there’s more to people than just simply an immigration status or something like that. I mean, they have lives. They have kids. They have brothers, sisters. And to have to worry about that every single day of your life, every single minute, it’s definitely not fun.”
The city council of Fremont, Nebraska has voted to suspend a controversial voter-approved ban on hiring or renting property to undocumented immigrants. The ban was scheduled to take effect tomorrow, but it was suspended after it came under legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund.
The City of New York has agreed to pay more than $7 million to settle a federal lawsuit stemming from the death of Sean Bell, who was shot dead by the city police in 2006 on what would have been his wedding day. The money will be split between Bell’s family and two friends of Bell who were also shot by the police.
During his first official trip to Turkey, British Prime Minister David Cameron criticized Israel’s deadly attack on the Turkish Gaza-bound aid flotilla and accused Israel of turning Gaza into a prison camp.
David Cameron: “Let me be clear: the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told Prime Minister Netanyahu we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.”
The Israeli embassy in London criticized Cameron’s description of Gaza as a prison camp. In a statement, the embassy said, “The people of Gaza are the prisoners of the terrorist organization Hamas.”
With the urging of the Obama administration, the African Union has agreed to send 2,000 more troops to Somalia to fight Islamic militants. This will increase the number of African troops in Somalia to 8,000. US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson said the troops are needed to fight the Somali militant group Al-Shabab, which recently claimed responsibility for the twin bombings in Uganda.
Johnnie Carson: “There is no doubt there is a need for more troops on the ground. The IGAD president said this three weeks ago. The IGAD defense minister said it some time ago, as well. We believe that it’s necessary to have more troops on the ground, and we in Washington have committed ourselves to support additional troops on the ground in the same fashion that we have supported the existing Burundi and Ugandan troops.”
Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix testified before the British war inquiry on Tuesday and repeatedly criticized the Bush administration for using “absurd” arguments to justify the invasion. Blix also described Britain as “a prisoner on the American train.” Blix said weapons inspectors were convinced that Iraq had no nuclear infrastructure, but the United States refused to accept their findings.
Hans Blix: “So, on that area at the IAEA, both I in 1997 and Mohamed ElBaradei in 1998, said that we did not think that they could resurrect a nuclear program within a very long time. But we could not guarantee that there were not minor items like prototypes of centrifuges or computer programs, etc. So we wanted to write off the nuclear program. But, of course, it was not for us, it was for the Security Council. And I have seen from some testimony here that I think the UK also wanted to close the nuclear dossier, but the US refused, which we noticed at the time.”
The US State Department has reversed its decision to deny a visa to a prominent Colombian television journalist to attend a fellowship at Harvard University. The journalist, Hollman Morris, has been highly critical of outgoing Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, a key US ally.
Four Mexican journalists have been reported missing in the northern state of Durango. Three of the journalists are believed to have been kidnapped by drug cartels around noon on Monday. The fourth journalist was seized that night. At least seven journalists have been killed in Mexico so far in 2010.
Republican senators have blocked a bill to require an unprecedented level of public disclosure of who pays for political campaign advertising. The Disclose Act had been drafted by Democrats in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that overturned federal and state limits on independent expenditures by corporations to support or oppose candidates.
The Massachusetts legislature voted Tuesday to become the sixth state to approve a law to bypass the Electoral College and ensure that the winner of the presidential election is determined by the national popular vote. According to the National Popular Vote campaign, Illinois, New Jersey, Hawaii, Maryland and Washington have already approved similar legislation.
FBI Director Robert Mueller is testifying on Capitol Hill today and may face questioning about a controversial FBI domestic surveillance program that collects racial and ethnic data. The American Civil Liberties Union and the group Muslim Advocates have criticized the program, saying it invites unconstitutional racial profiling by law enforcement.
Farhana Khera, Executive Director of Muslim Advocates: “Based on what we’ve seen, there’s a section that deals with what’s called geomapping, or the gathering of racial and ethnic data about racial and ethnic communities across the country, that’s really just deeply disturbing and would really be an unprecedented abuse of FBI resources to basically gather all sorts of information about racial and ethnic communities that goes beyond just what you might think of as demographic information about where people live to include information about financial transactions, about charitable giving activities, about their vocations, the jobs they hold, things of that nature. And this is all not without any kind of basis that these particular individuals they’re collecting information on are engaging in any kind of criminal activity. It’s just a generalized 'get to know' all of these communities and collect information on them.”