The United States and Libyan rebels have rejected a new offer from the regime of Col. Muammar Gaddafi as the conflict in Libya enters its fifth month. Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, had said his father would hold elections within three months and would step down if he lost. But the Obama administration rejected the proposal, calling it “too late.” NATO warplanes have resumed bombing Tripoli as rebels attempt to advance on the Libyan capital. The rebels say at least 16 of their fighters were killed Thursday in what appears to be an errant NATO air strike. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the international attack on Libya is weakening the Gaddafi regime.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “And we are making steady progress in Libya. Since we took responsibility for the operation two-and-a-half months ago, we have carried out more than 10,000 sorties, we have destroyed or damaged more than 2,000 important military targets, we have considerably degraded Gaddafi’s war machine, prevented a massacre on the Libyan people, saved numerous lives.”
The Obama administration continues to face congressional opposition to the ongoing Libya attack. On Thursday, Republican House Speaker John Boehner called on the White House to further clarify the legal basis for the war in Libya or face a cutoff of war funds.
House Speaker John Boehner: “The White House says there are 'no hostilities taking place,' yet we’ve got drone attacks underway, we’re spending $10 million a day, we’re part of an effort to drop bombs on Gaddafi’s compounds. It doesn’t pass the straight-face test, in my view, that we’re not in the midst of hostilities. Also it’s been four weeks since the President has talked to the American people about this mission. And I think it’s time for the President to outline to the American people why we are there, what the mission is, and what our goals are, and how do we exit this.”
Boehner’s comments come one day after a bipartisan group of lawmakers filed a lawsuit accusing President Obama of violating the War Powers Act of 1973.
New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner has stepped down in the wake of the online sex scandal that’s dominated airwaves over the past three weeks. Last week, Weiner admitted to having what he described as “inappropriate” and “explicit” conversations with six women over Twitter, Facebook, email, and occasionally on the phone. Weiner had come under increasing pressure to resign from top Democrats, including President Obama and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Weiner announced his resignation at a raucous news conference on Thursday.
Rep. Anthony Weiner: “I had hoped to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district elected me to do: to fight for the middle class and those struggling to make it. Unfortunately, the distraction that I have created has made that impossible. So today I am announcing my resignation from Congress, so my colleagues can get back to work, my neighbors can choose a new representative, and most importantly, that my wife and I can continue to heal from the damage I have caused.”
Weiner had been seen as a likely candidate for New York City mayor before the scandal erupted. A special election for his replacement will be held in the fall.
The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Senate has approved a new budget imposing wide cuts on public spending. Democrats say the measure will slash more than $1.8 billion in public spending and around $500 million in funding for the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor. Republican Gov. Scott Walker is expected to sign the measure into law. Protests, meanwhile, continue at the state Capitol in Madison in the standoff over Walker’s union-busting bill.
Protester: “Recalls are great. It’s one form of direct action. I have no problem with this stuff. But I really think we need to be taking more proactive measures as citizens as a whole. We need to start reconsidering the option of doing a general strike. We need to be doing more to stop the proceedings that are happening in that [state] House at the moment.”
Syrian troops have moved into two more northern towns in the widening crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad. Thousands of residents have already fled from northern areas where Syrian forces have launched operations against opposition hotbeds.
In a nod to the Syrian opposition, a cousin of President Bashar al-Assad’s who’s considered Syria’s most powerful economic figure has announced he is divesting from his wide business interests. State television says Rami Makhlouf will give up his holdings in fields including telecommunications, construction and oil, and donate his profits to charity.
Israel is vowing to again use armed force to stop an international aid flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip. Palestinian solidarity activists are expected to set sail from a number of ports later this month just over a year after Israeli forces killed nine activists on an aid boat at sea. A U.S.-based vessel is taking part in the mission. An Israeli navy commander, Rani Ben-Yehuda, warned flotilla organizers to hand over their aid if they want it to reach Gaza.
Rani Ben-Yehuda: “Supplies are getting into Gaza on a daily basis. The reason of the maritime security blockade is to prevent from terrorists and weapons to get into the hands of terrorist organizations in Gaza. And like we said before, I’m saying it again: We are inviting all the organizers of the flotilla to come to Ashdod and to transfer their cargo in the legal way into Gaza.”
Among the boats that are part of the flotilla is one filled with about 50 Americans. The ship is called the “Audacity of Hope.” It is planning to set sail from Athens, Greece, next week.
A team of experts says U.S. nuclear safety rules do not sufficiently take into account the risk that a single event could knock out power from the nation’s grid and emergency generators. A task force with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said safety equipment installed at a number of American nuclear power facilities is not maintained or inspected as diligently as the original components. According to the experts, the United States has analyzed the risk of losing power from the grid or from on-site emergency generators, but not both at the same time. The task force was formed in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster, in which both sources of power were simultaneously disabled.
Arizona’s superintendent of schools has ordered Tucson public schools to cancel a popular ethnic studies program or face the loss of $15 million in funding. Schools chief, John Huppenthal, says the Ethnic and Mexican American Studies violates a new state law barring programs “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people.” Republicans have criticized the program, which allows students to learn how ethnic groups have influenced history. Huppenthal has ordered the Tucson school district to prove it is complying with the law within 60 days.
A federal report has found security screeners at Newark Liberty International Airport deliberately singled out passengers from Mexico and the Dominican Republic for prolonged questioning and luggage searches. According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, profiling from 2008 to 2009 was so widespread Transportation Security Administration employees began referring to their colleagues as “Mexican hunters.” The targeting of Mexican and Dominican passengers was apparently enacted to drive up the number of referrals by the airport’s behavior detection unit so that it would appear productive.
The House oversight committee has held a hearing on a once-secret government plan to encourage U.S. gun shops to sell thousands of guns to middlemen for Mexican drug cartels. The operation, called “Fast and Furious,” focused on using middlemen to gain access to senior-level figures within Mexico’s criminal organizations. Run by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the operation has come under severe criticism since hundreds of the guns that were sold to the cartels were later found at crime scenes in both countries, including two at the murder scene of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. ATF Special Agent Peter Forcelli criticized agency supervisors for evading accountability for Terry’s death.
Peter Forcelli: “There were tragic errors made here, and nobody has shown the decency and leadership to step up and say, 'Hey, we made a mistake, and we should — have done something wrong.' That’s what I find as appalling as anything else in this case, short of, of course, the tragedy that happened to the Terry family.”
Brian Terry’s cousin, Robert Heyer, called for a criminal investigation into government officials involved in the “Fast and Furious” operation.
Robert Heyer: “If the dragnet that is set to find everyone involved in Brian’s murder will be set deep enough and wide enough to encompass anyone involved in Operation Fast and Furious, if the guns used in Brian’s murder were part of this operation, then we want to know: will everyone in that operation that had to deal with those specific weapons be brought up on charges of facilitating the murder of Brian Terry?”
Today marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of the so-called “war on drugs.” Activists are marking the date with renewed calls for an end to U.S.-backed policies of criminalization. In an opinion piece in the New York Times called “Call Off the Global Drug War,” former President Jimmy Carter writes that the Obama administration should heed the call of a high-level panel that declared the so-called “war on drugs” a failure, and urged governments to consider legalizing substances, including marijuana.