The U.S. and allied air strikes on Libya have entered their fourth day as part of an international effort to enforce a no-fly zone. An U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jet has crashed after apparent mechanical failure in northeast Libya. Libyan rebels rescued the pilot after he ejected from the warplane, which came down near the eastern city of Benghazi. While the United States is denying it is attempting to assassinate Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, allied forces bombed his compound for the second night in a row.
There appears to be a growing split within the international community over the air strikes in Libya by the U.S. and allied forces. Brazil, India and China have called for the attacks to stop. Italy is calling for the military operation to continue, but under the control of NATO. Meanwhile, there appears to be growing confusion between the United States, Britain and France over the mission. During his trip to Chile, President Obama defended his decision to use force.
President Barack Obama: “But the core principle that has to be upheld here is that when the entire international community, almost unanimously, says that there’s a potential humanitarian crisis about to take place, that a leader who has lost his legitimacy decides to turn his military on his own people, that we can’t simply stand by with empty words, that we have to take some sort of action.”
Despite the allied forces’ air strikes to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi are continuing to carry out ground attacks on rebel fighters. Four children reportedly died when Gaddafi’s forces shelled the city of Misurata.
President Obama is coming under criticism from several Democratic and Republican lawmakers for failing to consult Congress before Obama sent U.S. warplanes to attack Libya. Obama did not officially notify Congress until Monday—two days after the attack began. Jim Webb, the Democratic Senator from Virginia and former U.S. Navy Secretary, told MSNBC that Obama’s actions were not the way that the system is supposed to work.
Senator Jim Webb: “We have been sort of on auto-pilot for almost 10 years from now in terms of presidential authority in conducting these type of military operations, absent the meaningful participation of the Congress. You know, we have not had a debate, and I know that there was some justification put into place because of concern for civilian casualties, but this isn’t the way that our system is supposed to work.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio said President Obama may have committed an impeachable offense for not consulting Congress before the air strikes. Kucinich said that Obama’s actions were unconstitutional, according to the President’s own constitutional interpretation. In 2007, then-Senator Obama said, “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists is reporting 13 journalists are either missing or reported to be in Libyan government custody. The list includes four journalists from Al Jazeera, two from Agence France-Presse, one from Getty Images and six Libyan journalists. On Monday, the Libyan government released four New York Times journalists, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Anthony Shadid. Since Libya’s revolt began in February, the Committee to Protect Journalists has documented more than 50 attacks on the press, including two fatalities.
Japanese officials say a fuel storage pool at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station is at, or near, boiling point. The storage pool is holding 2,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel rods. If the pool begins to boil, more radioactive steam could spew out. Authorities announced earlier today success in hooking up power lines to all six reactor units at the plant. The Economist magazine is estimating the Japanese earthquake and tsunami has caused $235 billion in damage, or around four percent of Japan’s GDP. This would make it the world’s most expensive disaster since records began.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has officially issued a new 20-year operating license to the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station, despite opposition from Vermont’s congressional delegation. The NRC voted on the license just before the Japanese nuclear crisis, but the commission delayed issuing the license until Monday. Last week, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont criticized the NRC’s decision.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “The idea that we would have a plant of the same design, which in 20 years will be 60 years old, I think is a frightening thought to many people in Vermont.”
The final decision on the future of the Vermont Yankee power plant rests with the state legislature.
The United States and Chile have a signed a nuclear power cooperation agreement in which the United States will help Chile build a number of new nuclear power stations, even though Chile is located in an earthquake-prone region. Last year, an 8.8-magnitude earthquake caused widespread destruction in Chile. In 1960, a 9.5-magnitude earthquake hit the country—the most powerful quake of the 20th century. The deal was announced on Friday ahead of President Obama’s visit to the country. On Sunday, more than 2,000 Chilean anti-nuclear activists marched through Santiago to protest the nuclear deal.
Paola Navarro, anti-nuclear protester: “I don’t like it [nuclear power plants in Chile]. There are other alternatives, and the government has to study them. It also has to do with our health, for all the people, not just Chileans, but South Americans and, well, the world.”
During his visit to Chile on Monday, President Obama praised the country for showing the world that it is possible to transition from dictatorship to democracy. He, however, refused to apologize for the United States’ longtime support of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. During his first trip to Chile, Obama also declined to say whether the United States would share classified documents with Chilean judges investigating the deaths of former presidents Salvador Allende and Eduardo Frei Montalva, as well as hundreds of other opponents of the dictatorship. Gaby River of the group Relatives of the Disappeared called on the United States to help expose the crimes of the Pinochet dictatorship.
Gaby River, leader of Relatives of the Disappeared: “We continue searching for truth and justice for each one of our relatives and principally to say also it would not be insignificant if the President of the United States were to take a stance as to what the dictatorship meant to our people.”
An attack by Israeli warplanes and tanks on the Gaza Strip have injured at least 20 people, including at least seven children. Almost all of the injuries occurred when Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza City. Earlier today, Israeli tanks opened fire on eastern areas of the Gaza Strip, wounding one young man as military vehicles moved into Gaza City. According to an Israeli military spokesman, a total of six targets were attacked in the air raids in response to rocket fire from Gaza into Israel that occurred over the weekend.
A top United Nations investigator has called on the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate Israel’s continued expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, described Israel’s actions as a form of ethnic cleansing.
Richard Falk: “As the report illustrates, the continued pattern of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem, combined with forceful eviction of long-residing Palestinians, are creating an intolerable situation that can only be described in its cumulative impact as a form of ethnic cleansing.”
An Israeli court has sentenced former Israeli President Moshe Katsav to seven years in prison for multiple charges of rape and sexual harassment. Katsav becomes the highest-ranking Israeli official ever sent to jail.
Fears of impending civil war in the Ivory Coast intensified Monday as thousands of young men and a few women gathered at the army’s headquarters offering to enlist in an effort to defend incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo. On Saturday, pro-Gbagbo leader, Charles Blé Goudé, called on some 10,000 Ivorians to “liberate” the country. Blé Goudé has been under international sanctions since 2006 for inciting violence, extrajudicial killings, rape and pillage in the Ivory Coast and promoting attacks against U.N. peacekeepers. The Ivory Coast has been in political turmoil since presidential elections in November determined that Alassane Ouattara had defeated Gbagbo. Last week, forces loyal to Gbagbo shelled a market in the economic capital city of Abidjan, killing at least 25 people.
A U.S. federal appeals court ruled Monday to allow the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge a 2008 amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, known as FISA. The amendment effectively legalized the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program by expanding the government’s power to conduct warrantless surveillance of telephone calls and emails.
The U.S. Department of Interior has approved Shell’s plan for deepwater oil and natural gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, the first such exploration plan since the BP oil spill. Shell is planning to drill three exploratory wells in nearly 3,000 feet of water about 130 miles off the Louisiana coastline. There are 13 other deepwater oil and natural gas exploration plans pending approval. Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the source of another large oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Times-Picayune reports that emulsified oil and tar balls have been washing up along a 30-mile stretch of beach in Louisiana.
A U.S. federal judge in California has ordered the FBI to preserve evidence in a 1990 car bombing that nearly killed two members of the environmental group Earth First! The FBI was planning to destroy all evidence in the case, even though agents had never determined who carried out the attempted assassination of environmental activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney. The FBI initially arrested the activists for building the bombs themselves, but the pair later sued the FBI and won more than $4 million in damages.