President Obama has signed an executive order creating a formal system to indefinitely detain prisoners without trial at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In addition, the White House said it will resume new military commission trials at the base. The announcements mark the latest sign that President Obama has abandoned his campaign promise to close the military prison. Lawrence Korb is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Lawrence Korb: “Basically it means that Guantánamo Bay is going to be open for as far as we can see, because if in fact you can transfer the prisoners, you do try them, then you’ll have to put them some place if you convict them.”
The United Nations warns that up to one million people are trapped in Libya and are in need of emergency aid as fighting intensifies between supporters of Col. Muammar Gaddafi and anti-government rebels. Earlier today, Gaddafi’s forces launched at least four air strikes against rebel-held areas in the oil town of Ras Lanuf. Gaddafi’s forces have also launched a fresh artillery bombardment on the western town of Zawiyah.
There have been conflicting reports about an offer from Col. Muammar Gaddafi to step down. The opposition council says a representative of Gaddafi sought to negotiate his exit, but the Libyan government has denied the report.
NATO has deployed reconnaissance aircraft to establish 24-hour surveillance of Libya. CNN reports British, French and U.S. officials are working on a draft U.N. Security Council text that includes language on setting up a no-fly zone in Libya. On Monday, President Obama addressed the crisis in Libya.
President Obama: “I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Colonel Gaddafi. It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward, and they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place there. In the meantime, we’ve got NATO, as we speak, consulting in Brussels around a wide range of potential options, including potential military options, in response to the violence that continues to take place inside of Libya.”
The British journalist Robert Fisk is reporting the United States has developed a secret plan to arm Libya’s rebel fighters. According to Fisk, the United States has asked Saudi Arabia to begin airlifting weapons into the Libyan port city of Benghazi.
Iraqi security forces have ordered the closing of the offices of the Iraqi Nation Party and the Iraqi Communist Party. The offices were closed just days after the two parties organized protests in Baghdad.
In Jordan, about 200 journalists held a rare protest Monday calling for press freedom and an end to government censorship. The protest included many journalists who work for state-run newspapers, TV and radio stations.
In Egypt, orders have been issued for the arrest of 47 state security officers who are accused of burning documents in an attempt to destroy evidence of crimes committed by the Hosni Mubarak regime. In recent days, protesters have broken into 11 state security offices and seized thousands of documents about the secret police.
In Yemen, anti-government protests have spread into the country’s prison system. Some 2,000 prisoners in the capital city of Sana’a have revolted and taken a dozen guards hostage.
In Washington, D.C., 600 activists with National People’s Action shut down a branch of Bank of America Monday to protest the bank’s record of dodging taxes. National People’s Action recently issued a report about how Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have avoided paying billions of dollars in taxes. The study found that over the past two years, the six banks paid income tax at an approximate rate of 11 percent of their pre-tax earnings in the United States, far less than the 35 percent that they are legally mandated to pay. By avoiding the taxes, the banks saved $13 billion. National People’s Action reports this potential tax revenue could have been used to cover more than two years of salaries for some 132,000 teachers who lost their jobs since the economic crisis began in 2008.
The Denver Post reports actor Tom Cruise pays just $400 a year in property taxes for his 248-acre property in Telluride by taking advantage of a tax break written to help struggling farmers. As Cruise lives virtually tax-free, the state may approve a $375 million cut to education funding.
The website ThinkProgress.org has published video showing Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown thanking conservative billionaire David Koch for his campaign donations and asking for more money in 2012. David Koch and his brother Charles have helped bankroll the Tea Party movement and many other Republicans. The video was shot at a recent dedication of MIT’s David H. Koch Integrative Cancer Institute.
Scott Brown: “Your support during the election, it meant a ton. It made a difference, and I can certainly use it again. And obviously, the…”
David Koch: “When are you running for the next term?”
Scott Brown: “’12.”
David Koch: “Oh, OK.”
Scott Brown: “I’m in the cycle right now. We’re already banging away.”
In news from Capitol Hill, New York Republican Rep. Peter King is facing scrutiny over his plans to hold a congressional hearing this week on the radicalization of the American Muslim community. Critics have described the hearings as a modern-day form of McCarthyism that are designed to stoke fear against American Muslims. King has refused calls to broaden the hearing to examine right-wing militias or any non-Muslim groups. On Sunday, 500 people demonstrated in Times Square in New York City against the hearing. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota is scheduled to testify on Thursday, but he has been one of the hearings’ most vocal critics. In 2006, Ellison became the first Muslim elected to Congress.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN): “I challenge the basic premise of the hearings, that I do agree that we should deal with radicalization and violent radicalization, but that singling out one community is the wrong thing to do.”
Police in Iowa are investigating a possible hate crime after an Iraqi American filmmaker was beaten over the weekend at a house party in the town of Fairfield. Usama Alshaibi said four men attacked him after learning his first name was Usama. The attack left him bloodied and bruised. Alshaibi is currently working on a film about discrimination against Arabs in the United States.
A U.S. judge has sided with Chevron and temporarily halted enforcement of an $8.6 billion award against the oil giant for dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into Ecuador’s rain forest. An Ecuadorian court ruled against Chevron last month. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan extended temporary restraining order on the ruling until U.S. courts decide a racketeering case filed by Chevron against villagers in Ecuador. Kaplan said in his ruling that Chevron faced “imminent” and “irreparable” harm to its business relationships and reputation.
In news from Pakistan, at least 25 people died earlier today when a car bomb exploded at a gas station in the city of Faisalabad. More than 100 were wounded.
A new report from the Congressional Research Service reports the number of private security personnel working for the U.S. military in Afghanistan has reached a new high of nearly 19,000.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has told the Wall Street Journal that Israel may soon seek an additional $20 billion in military aid from the United States in light of the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. Barak told the paper, “It might be wise to invest another $20 billion to upgrade the security of Israel for the next generation or so. A strong, responsible Israel can become a stabilizer in such a turbulent region.” Israel already receives $3 billion in military aid a year from the United States.