The Obama administration launched a drone strike in Yemen last week in an attempt to assassinate a U.S.-born Muslim cleric. Anwar al-Awlaki survived the attack, but two suspected members of al-Qaeda died. It was reported to be the first U.S. drone strike in Yemen in nine years. According to the Washington Post, Anwar al-Awlaki is one of at least four U.S. citizens that have been approved for assassination by the Obama administration, even though he has never been convicted of a crime. The attack came just days after U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and NATO strikes hit Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s compound.
Tension between Pakistan and the United States continues to rise following the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden. On Sunday, President Obama appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes and said bin Laden had some sort of a support network inside Pakistan.
President Barack Obama: “But we don’t know who or what that support network was. We don’t know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government. And that’s something that we have to investigate and, more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate.”
Over the weekend, the Obama administration demanded Pakistan allow U.S. investigators access to bin Laden’s three widows who were at the bin Laden compound last week.
The Pakistani intelligence community is being accused of leaking the name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad to the local press in act of retaliation against the United States. This marks the second attempted CIA outing in the past six months in Pakistan. On Saturday, the Pentagon released a number of videos of Osama bin Laden that they said were captured during last week’s raid along with a trove of documents. The videos were released without audio, but Pentagon officials said they showed bin Laden rehearsing speeches and watching himself on television.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has sent tanks deep into Syria’s third largest city of Homs, escalating a military campaign to crush a seven-week-old uprising. Syrian security forces are also continuing to conduct house-to-house raids across the country, detaining hundreds of people. Meanwhile, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent have also begun delivering aid to the Syrian city of Daraa after the army lifted its siege of the southern city.
Patrick Youssef, ICRC Deputy Head of Near and Middle East Region: “What they found is that they lack some baby milk and some medicine for chronic illnesses. And this was the basic thing that they saw, and they’re trying, as well, to respond as much as — I mean, as fast as possible, probably within the next days, where they will, as well, carry out another mission to Daraa.”
The Guardian newspaper reports dozens of African migrants were left to die in the Mediterranean Sea after a number of European and NATO military units apparently ignored their cries for help. The boat had left Libya bound for Italy with 72 passengers, including several women, young children and political refugees. All but 11 of those on board died from thirst and hunger after their vessel was left to drift in open waters for 16 days.
Human Rights Watch has accused Libyan government forces of launching repeated indiscriminate attacks on mountain towns in western Libya. Accounts from refugees who fled the conflict say the attacks are killing and injuring civilians and damaging homes, mosques and a school.
In Egypt, 12 people died and more than 180 were wounded when Salafist Muslims attacked a Coptic Christian church in Cairo. Egypt’s army has said that 190 people were detained after the fatal clashes and that they will face military trials. Michael Meunier is a Coptic politician and activist.
Michael Meunier, Coptic Politician and Activist: “We are staying here as long as it takes — a day or two, a week or two. We need a stronger message. We are actually joined by tons of Muslims. We’re organizing for a Friday possible march to the military council headquarter. This is not about Christians or Muslims. This is about Egypt. This is about the majority of Egyptians versus the fanatic elements of Egyptians. If Muslims start killing Christians, and Christians start killing Muslims, we’re going to have a Lebanon. We’re going to have a country that’s disfigured. And unfortunately, the revolution would be stolen, as it is being stolen right now in front of everybody that participated in it.”
The nation’s official unemployment rate increased to nine percent in April, although the private sector added 268,000 jobs in the month. Some 13.7 million people were counted as unemployed. Meanwhile, several states are taking steps to dismantle the unemployment insurance system. In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott is soon expected to sign a bill to cut unemployment benefits immediately by 11.5 percent. Unemployed workers would lose all benefits after no more than 23 weeks, instead of 26. The bill also cuts the business tax by 10 percent, which pays for unemployment benefits.
The Associated Press is reporting CEOs at the nation’s largest companies received giant pay increases in 2010. The typical pay package for a head of a company in the S&P 500 was $9 million last year—24 percent higher than a year before. Philippe Dauman, the CEO of Viacom, took in $84.5 million last year, two-and-a-half times what he made the year before.
In energy news, President Obama is calling on Congress to pass a bill to eliminate some of the tax breaks enjoyed by the major oil producers.
President Barack Obama: “I want everybody to listen here: oil companies over the last five years, through recession, through ups and downs, the top five oil companies, their profits have ranged between $75 billion and $125 billion. That’s with a 'B' — not million, billion. And yet, they still have a tax loophole that is costing taxpayers four billion dollars every year. Now, if you’re already paying them at the pump, we don’t need to pay them through the tax code. We do not need to do it.”
A new report by the Los Angeles Times and the Center for Responsive Politics shows campaign contributions from the mining industry helped to kill legislation aimed at increasing industry safety standards in the wake of last year’s deadly West Virginia coal mine explosion. Democratic Rep. George Miller of California introduced a bill last year to provide increased protection for industry whistleblowers and greater liability for corporate officers who knowingly put workers at risk. The National Mining Association alone spent $3.2 million on lobbying last year. The report reveals that Congress members who received donations were twice as likely to vote against Miller’s bill as those who were not. In total, the mining industry made $6.4 million in political donations in 2010, nearly double the amount spent in 2005. The West Virginia explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine killed 29 men, making it the worst such disaster in four decades.
Atlantic Southeast Airlines has launched an investigation after a pilot removed two Muslim imams from a flight because they were wearing traditional Muslim attire. The imams were trying to fly from from Tennessee to Charlotte, North Carolina, in order to attend a conference on Islamophobia.
In education news, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has announced plans to reduce the number of teachers in the city by more than 6,000. On Friday, Bloomberg said 4,100 teachers would be laid off. Another 2,000 teachers are resigning or retiring.
The City University of New York’s board of trustees is meeting today and is expected to reverse its decision to block an honorary degree to the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner over his support for Palestinian human rights. CUNY has come under widespread criticism since voting to shelve the honor after one board member cited Kushner’s critical views of Israeli government policies. CUNY trustee Jeff Wiesenfeld has led the campaign against Kushner. In an interview with the New York Times, Wiesenfeld criticized a reporter for suggesting there is a moral equivalence between Palestinians and Israelis. Wiesenfeld said, “People who worship death for their children are not human.”
And one of the country’s leading peace activists of the past half-century, Father Daniel Berrigan, is celebrating his 90th birthday today. In 1968, Father Berrigan made national headlines when he and eight others burned draft files in Catonsville, Maryland. In 1970 he spent four months living underground as a fugitive from the FBI. In the early 1980s, he helped launch the international anti-nuclear Plowshares movement when he and seven others poured blood and hammered on warheads at a GE nuclear missile plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Father Berrigan talked about that action during an interview on Democracy Now! five years ago.
Daniel Berrigan: “We went in with the workers at the changing of the shift and found there was really no security worth talking about. Very easy entrance. In about three minutes we were looking at Doomsday; the weapon was before us. It was an unarmed warhead about to be shipped to Amarillo, Texas, for its payload, so it was a harmless weapon as of that moment. And we cracked the weapon. It was very fragile. It was made to withstand the heat of re-entry into the atmosphere from outer space, so it was like eggshell, really. And we had taken as our motto the great statement of Isaiah 2, “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares.” So we did it, poured our blood around it, and stood in a circle, I think reciting the Lord’s Prayer until Armageddon arrived, as we expected.”