The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Wal-Mart on Monday in the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in history. The justices ruled the class action status for 1.5 million current and former female employees seeking billions of dollars had been improperly granted. The ruling is seen as a major victory for corporate America and could block other workers and plaintiffs from filing class action lawsuits.
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit filed by six states against five major power companies accused of emitting greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The decision is being viewed as a victory for the nation’s power utilities, but the ruling does reaffirm the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s job to curb greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.
President Barack Obama is planning to unveil his plan for a gradual drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on Wednesday. McClatchy Newspapers reports Obama is expected to call for an initial reduction of 5,000 troops this year, followed by another 5,000 soldiers next spring, and then 23,000 more by the end of 2012. Under the plan, the United States would still have some 67,000 troops, plus thousands of contractors, in Afghanistan at the start of 2013—the same total as before last year’s surge.
Libyan authorities have accused NATO forces of killing 19 civilians, including eight children, in an attack on a home of one of Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s top officials. The accusation came one day after NATO admitted to killing as many as nine civilians in a separate aerial attack. Meanwhile, more details have emerged about the U.S. role in military air attack operations in Libya. While the Obama administration has attempted to downplay the level of hostilities, the New York Times reports U.S. warplanes have bombed Libya about 60 times since the U.S. handed control of the air war to NATO in early April. In addition, U.S. drones have fired missiles at Libyan targets about 30 times.
In news from Tunisia, ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his wife have been sentenced in absentia by a Tunisian court to 35 years in prison for embezzlement and misuse of public funds. The verdict came after a one-day trial. Ben Ali and his wife are in exile in Saudi Arabia, which refused Tunisian extradition requests.
In Syria, U.N. officials say the northern Syrian town of Jisr al Shughour is almost completely deserted following a crackdown by Syrian security forces. For the past two weeks, some 500 to 1,000 people have been crossing from Syria into Turkey daily.
Carol Batchelor, UNHCR Turkey Representative: “The discussions that we had with persons in both of these locations—there was an extreme level of fear. People were deeply traumatized. And so, it will take some time to restore confidence. We heard reports of some people who had returned, and it was a very grave concern about what might have happened to them. So until these issues can be very clearly addressed, it may be difficult, it may be challenging, for people to begin to return in any numbers and in a sustainable way.”
The number of people of forcibly displaced from their homes by conflict or persecution reached a 15-year high in 2010. The United Nations refugee agency reports the number of refugees climbed to nearly 44 million, with 83 percent being sheltered in the world’s poorest countries. Pakistan, Iran and Syria were home to the most refugees. Germany was listed as the industrialized country with the most refugees, sheltering nearly 600,000.
António Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees: “If one looks at what’s happening in today’s world, we are seeing a multiplication of new crises—since the beginning of the year, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Syria, Yemen. And at the same time, it seems that old crises never end. Look at what’s happening in Afghanistan, more than 20 years of fighting; in Somalia, again, 20 years of fighting; in the Democratic Republic of Congo. New crises multiply. Old crises never end.”
A group of the world’s leading oceanic scientists is warning pollution, global warming and other man-made problems are pushing the world’s oceans to the brink of a mass extinction of marine life unprecedented in tens of millions of years. The new study states, “We now face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation.” The study was sponsored by the International Program on the State of the Ocean.
The Obama White House has reneged on a promise to reinstall solar panels on the White House before the end of spring. U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu made the pledge last fall.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu: “Today, we’re taking another important step. As we move towards a clean energy economy, the White House will lead by example. I’m pleased to announce that by the end of this spring there will be solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity and a solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House. It’s been a long time since we’ve had them up there.”
President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House in the 1970s, but they were removed by President Ronald Reagan. On Monday, Bill McKibben of 350.org criticized the Obama White House for failing to live up to its promise.
Bill McKibben: “Thirty-two years ago today, President Jimmy Carter inaugurated a set of solar panels on the roof of the White House, and last fall Barack Obama promised that he would follow suit. He said by the end of the spring they’d be back up there. Unfortunately, they’re not, and all we have is a kind of vague promise from the White House that they’ll get there someday. That’s too bad, because we need to demonstrate real leadership on renewable energy. The solar panels that Jimmy Carter put up and that Ronald Reagan took down, one of them is now in a museum in China, where 250 million people are using solar hot water heaters right now. We need to get back in this game, and we need Barack Obama to keep his promises and lead us on that way.”
The Associated Press has another major expose on U.S. nuclear plants. The news agency has revealed radioactive tritium has leaked from 48 of the 65 U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard—sometimes at hundreds of times the limit.
In nuclear news, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has extended by six months a moratorium on any new uranium mining on a million acres near the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Utah. Many conservation groups and Native American tribes are now calling on the Obama administration to impose a 20-year ban on mining in the area.
The National Credit Union Administration has filed suit against JPMorgan Chase and the Royal Bank of Scotland in an effort to recover some $840 million lost on high-risk mortgages purchased by credit unions during the height of the nation’s financial meltdown. The securities divisions of the banking giants are accused of misrepresenting how risky the sales were.
A North Carolina man who had no health insurance has admitted to recently robbing a bank of one dollar in order to be sent to jail to get free medical coverage. James Verone, a laid-off employee of Coca Cola, recently noticed a protrusion in his chest and had developed arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Without health insurance or money for private care, Verone concluded his best option would be to go to prison. Verone told a local newspaper, “The pain was beyond the tolerance that I could accept. I kind of hit a brick wall with everything.” Since being held in jail he has seen several nurses and has an appointment with a doctor Friday.
The National Labor Relations Board is preparing to propose new rules that would speed up the time frame for union elections. If passed, the move could support struggling unions in the effort to organize new members and cut the amount of time businesses have to launch anti-union campaigns. Labor unions have long complained of employers using procedural delays and litigation to stall elections.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is coming under increased scrutiny after the New York Times revealed new details about his close ties to Dallas real estate magnate Harlan Crow, a prominent Republican millionaire. A company controlled by Crow is bankrolling Thomas’s pet project—a nonprofit museum in Thomas’s hometown of Pin Point, Georgia. In addition, Crow provided $500,000 to allow Thomas’s wife to start a Tea Party group, and he once gave Thomas a $19,000 Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass.
In Mexico, gunmen have killed a journalist, his wife and 21-year-old son in the eastern state of Veracruz. The target of the killing was newspaper columnist Miguel Ángel López, who had reported on the politics and violence surrounding Mexico’s drug war. According to the National Human Rights Commission, at least 40 journalists have been killed in Mexico since January 2007.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón is scheduled to meet with poet and activist Javier Sicilia Thursday. Sicilia has become the spokesperson for a growing anti-violence movement in Mexico, after his son was tortured and killed as a result of drug violence.
In New York City, members of the group New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts are continuing to camp out near City Hall to protest the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Today marks the start of the second week at the “Bloombergville” encampment. Emily Turonis is an activist with New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts.
Emily Turonis, New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts: “I personally had been at the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, in their tent city experience, and as soon as I got back to the States, I was involved in planning for Bloombergville, which was very serendipitous. It’s obviously been a very different experience than what’s going in Madrid. Namely, the police force has been very different here. We often have more police officers than protesters. However, I would say that it’s been amazing to have — to fight these austerity measures here, which are, in New York City, are affecting every single community imaginable. So, while it’s been a different struggle, it’s been absolutely inspiring to see the same type of tactics being used successfully in different global scenarios.”
There have been a few major developments in the CityTime payroll scandal in New York City that was first exposed by Democracy Now!’s co-host Juan Gonzalez in the pages of the New York Daily News. On Monday, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara unsealed indictments against the company TechnoDyne and its founders on charges of paying millions in kickbacks to get CityTime work, and for money laundering. Meanwhile, the founders of the company, Reddy Allen and his wife Padma, are now fugitives. They recently fled to India. U.S. Attorney Bharara described CityTime as “one of the largest and most brazen frauds ever committed against the city.”