At least 80 people have died in a double bomb attack on a military training center in northwest Pakistan. The dead include at least 66 military recruits, and the death toll is expected to rise. More than 100 people were injured. The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility. A spokesperson told CNN: “This is the retaliation for the killing of Osama bin Laden. Pakistani and U.S. forces should be ready for more attacks.” Today’s bombing was the deadliest in Pakistan so far this year.
Japanese authorities admitted Thursday one of the reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility suffered a partial meltdown of its core. The disclosure by the Tokyo Electric Power Company is the latest indication that the nuclear disaster was worse than previously disclosed. A TEPCO official said radioactive water had leaked from the reactor, exposing fuel rods and triggering their meltdown.
Junichi Matsumoto, TEPCO General Manager: “All the fuel is unprotected at this point, and the water levels are below that. However, temperatures in the reactor pressure vessel have cooled to 100- to 120-degrees Celsius, so we have come to the conclusion that the fuel mass, or the fuel, if you want, is actually not at the proper levels but somewhat below that, or even possibly at the bottom of the vessel.”
The CEOs of the five largest oil companies testified on Capitol Hill Thursday and defended the industry’s massive profits at a time when consumers are paying record amounts for gas. The five oil firms—Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips—made a combined $35 billion in earnings in the first three months of the year. The CEO of Chevron, John Watson, criticized the Senate for holding the hearing.
John Watson, Chevron CEO: “Singling out five companies because of their size is even more troubling. Such measures are anti-competitive and discriminatory. After all, our five companies are providing the technical, operating and managerial expertise that is allowing the global energy industry to operate at the forefront of energy development.”
Senate Democrats blasted a recent statement by ConocoPhillips that it would be “Un-American” to end billions of dollars in subsidies to the oil industry. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) questioned ConocoPhillips CEO James Mulva.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY): “We have to get the deficit to a certain level, and we have choices. So I want to ask you, sitting in our shoes, just about your priorities. So my first question is to Mr. Mulva, and I’m asking you for a reason. Do you think that your subsidy is more important than the financial aid we give to students to go to college? Could you answer that, yes or no?”
James Mulva, ConocoPhillips CEO: “Well, that’s a very difficult question for me, two different, totally different, questions.”
Schumer: “But we have to weigh those two things, Mr. Mulva. We have to weigh it because we have to get the deficit down to a certain level. So which would be — if you had a choice of one or another as an American citizen, which would you choose?”
Mulva: “Well, Senator, that’s a choice that legislatively you’re going to have to be making.”
Schumer: “We are.”
Mulva: “But for our company, what we are tasked with is to provide energy in an affordable way for the American public.”
Schumer: “So you would choose the oil subsidy over aid to students? That’s what you’re telling me.”
The Obama administration has approved a plan by Shell for new deepwater oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Shell’s plan includes five proposed exploratory wells, more than 7,000 feet underwater, as well as three previously approved wells about 72 miles from Louisiana.
International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has announced he will seek arrest warrants on Monday for three people considered most responsible for crimes against humanity in Libya. Ocampo has not released the names of the suspects, but Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi is expected to be among them.
The New York Times reports President Obama and his legal advisers are deliberating about how the U.S. military may lawfully continue participating in NATO’s bombing campaign in Libya. Under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, a president must terminate any military operation not authorized by Congress after 60 days. That deadline is next week. One option being considered is for the military to temporarily halt all of its efforts in Libya. Some lawyers make the case that, after a complete pause, the United States could rejoin the mission with a new 60-day limit.
In its annual report on the “State of the World’s Human Rights,” Amnesty International praises the growing protest movements in North Africa and the Middle East.
Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General: “I think there’s no question that what’s happened is unprecedented, and we haven’t seen anything like this after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And in places like Egypt and Tunisia, which you’d never have expected, some of the most brutal dictators and also several myths have been exploded. The idea that human rights is a Western concept, that it’s not compatible with Islam, that people in very brutal regimes will never raise their voice — all of that has been exploded. So I think there’s enormous hope.”
Amnesty’s Salil Shetty warned repressive governments are threatening the pro-democracy movements.
Salil Shetty: “While the people of Tunisia inspired the people of Egypt, it’s also true that some of the governments, like Libya, who crack down on their people, have inspired other governments, like Yemen and Syria, which is why the report says we are at a 'knife-edge.' A lot depends on how things pan out over the coming months and the role of the international community and Western powers, who we hope have also learned some lessons, that you can’t just be opportunistic and prop up dictators.”
Earlier today, a United Nations official said the two-month-long crackdown by Syrian security forces on protesters has left as many as 850 people dead.
The military chief of Bahrain has announced Saudi troops will stay in the country even after emergency rule is lifted next month. Saudi troops entered Bahrain in March to help crush anti-government protests.
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona took to the floor of the Senate Thursday to weigh in on the debate over whether the Bush administration’s use of torture had helped uncover evidence used to track Osama bin Laden. McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, directly criticized former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who has claimed torture led to bin Laden.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): “I’ve sought further information from the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and they confirmed for me that, in fact, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee—information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to Osama bin Laden—was obtained through standard, non-coercive means, not through any ‘enhanced interrogation technique.’ In short, it was not torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden. I hope former Attorney General Mukasey will correct his misstatement.”
A top British military intelligence official has said Britain’s discredited 2002 dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program was drawn up “to make the case for war.” According to the Guardian newspaper, Major General Michael Laurie has testified saying, “We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence.” Laurie’s testimony directly contradicts statements by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other officials.
Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas announced earlier today he will run for president. This is his third bid for the U.S. presidency.
In other energy news, French lawmakers have voted to ban a controversial technique used to extract shale gas and oil. If the vote by the lower house of parliament passes the Senate next month, France will be the first country to ban hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
In New York City, thousands of teachers, union members and activists marched on Wall Street Thursday under the banner: “Make big banks and millionaires pay.” The protest came just a week after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed laying off 4,000 public school teachers.
Protester: “My name is Lauren. I’m a New York City public schoolteacher. I teach at East Harlem. I’m out here today because not only are the jobs of myself and my co-workers at stake due to these budget cuts, but also the futures of my students: the less teachers, the less quality education. So I’m out here to say that Wall Street needs to pay their fair share. There are corporations and banks that are getting away with paying no taxes. There are billionaires, millionaires, who are getting away with paying less percentage of their income than the rest of us. And I say they have to pay their share, so that’s why I’m out here today.”
Twelve anti-nuclear activists have been convicted of federal trespass for protesting at the the Y12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The Y12 facility processes uranium for new hydrogen bombs being built to replace W76 warheads on Trident submarine ballistic missiles. The activists face up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Seven of the defendants, including Sister Ardeth Platte and Sister Carol Gilbert, have already been taken into federal custody.