The Senate has failed to pass a measure that would end billions of dollars in tax breaks for large oil companies. The measure failed on a 51-47 vote, short of the 60 needed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster. Earlier in the day, President Obama called on lawmakers to choose between oil companies and the American people.
President Obama: “Today, members of Congress have a simple choice to make. They can stand with the big oil companies, or they can stand with the American people. It’s not as if these companies can’t stand on their own. Last year, the three biggest U.S. oil companies took home more than $80 billion in profits. Exxon pocketed nearly $4.7 million every hour. And when the price of oil goes up, prices at the pump go up, and so do these companies’ profits.”
The Republican-controlled House has passed a $3.5 trillion budget plan centered on cutting taxes for the wealthy and slashing social spending. Democrats say the measure is dead on arrival in the Senate.
Workers in Spain staged a general strike Thursday, shutting down factories and parts of the transportation sector and holding massive marches. The strike was called by two major trade unions to protest labor rules that make it less costly for employers to hire and fire people in a country where unemployment is near 23 percent. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is expected to deliver a budget today that includes some $26 billion in spending cuts and tax hikes.
In India, thousands of people gathered for the funeral of a Tibetan activist who died after committing self-immolation to protest a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao. The activist, Jamphel Yeshi, succumbed to his wounds on Wednesday, two days after he had set himself on fire. In New Delhi, a group of Tibetan exiles protested outside the Chinese embassy.
Tibetan protester: “This is to protest against the meeting going on with Hu Jintao. And we want to say, his hands are bloodied because he killed lots of Tibetans, and he is the one who is the human violator. And I want to say that he has no right to come into democratic India.”
Israeli forces are cracking down on Palestinian demonstrators in the Occupied Territories marking the annual Land Day, which commemorates the 1976 deaths of six Palestinians protesting the confiscation of their property. Israeli troops have fired rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators as well as sealed off the entire West Bank. The Land Day protests turned deadly last year when Israel killed demonstrators on its border with Lebanon and Syria.
Palestinian prisoner Hana Shalabi has ended her 43-day hunger strike under a deal that will see her deported to the Gaza Strip. Shalabi began her hunger strike last month protesting Israel’s administrative detention practices. She was recently hospitalized amid warnings her life was in grave danger. A native of the West Bank, Shalabi will be forced to spend the next three years in Gaza.
A judge has backed the city of Chicago’s rejection of a permit for a major antiwar rally during the NATO summit in May. The permit had been sought for May 20th, when President Obama will host other NATO leaders for talks on the war in Afghanistan. Organizers say they plan to go ahead with their protest despite being denied.
A group of journalists, academics and activists gave testimony in federal court Thursday in their suit challenging the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes controversial provisions authorizing the military to jail anyone it considers a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world without charge or trial. Sections of the bill are written so broadly that critics say they could encompass journalists who report on terror-related issues for supporting enemy forces. Tangerine Bolen of the activist media group RevolutionTruth explained her decision to join the suit.
Tangerine Bolen: “We’re here to basically stand up and make sure the U.S. government knows this is an egregious assault on our civil liberties, and we won’t stand for it. We have to amend the unconstitutional provisions of the NDAA, and the government needs to better define its terms. The terms right now are dangerous and far too broad.”
Other plaintiffs include former New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, and Professor Noam Chomsky. Cornel West also appeared at the court to support the case.
Cornel West: “I am full of joy to be a plaintiff in this particular case. Why? Because we’re at a turning point in the history of this nation. We need to stand for freedom. There’s an escalating authoritarianism and even a creeping fascism. … Freedom is precious. If we don’t fight for it, you lose it.”
Writer Naomi Wolf is also a part of the lawsuit.
A group of Republican governors toured a Nebraska meat processing plant on Thursday to show support for so-called “pink slime,” the meat additive used as a filler in beef products. “Pink slime,” or finely textured lean beef, is composed of fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. It’s drawn recent national scrutiny over safety concerns about the chemicals used to kill bacteria. This week its main producer, Beef Products, suspended operations in Texas, Kansas and Iowa. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said pink slime has been unfairly criticized.
Sam Brownback: “We’ve lost 300 jobs in Kansas off of this, off of a good, wholesome, safe product that’s been consumed for 20 years without a problem. And that’s why we’re here pushing back. And I hope, I really hope, the people in America take a second look and thought about what this is really—what this really is and work with it. If there was a safety issue, I am absolutely for going after any safety issue on food. Whatever it is, we should go after it, and we are, and we have been as an industry. That’s not what this is. This isn’t merited. And my hope is, is that people can take another look at it and see that this is a quality beef product.”
Tech giant Apple and its manufacturer Foxconn have agreed to address workplace violations affecting workers who make Apple products in China. The move comes in response to an investigation by the Fair Labor Association that uncovered multiple labor violations at three of Foxconn’s factories, including unpaid overtime and extreme hours. Foxconn has agreed to boost safety, hire new workers, and stop illegal overtime, as well as improving workers’ housing.
The death of a homeless woman in St. Louis, Missouri, last year is now drawing national scrutiny over revelations of how she died in police custody. Twenty-nine-year-old Anna Brown had gone to the hospital seeking emergency medical treatment for leg pain. When she refused to leave the emergency ward, she was carried to jail by her arms and ankles and left on the floor of her cell. Within 15 minutes, she had stopped moving and was soon after pronounced dead. The officers who arrested her reportedly suspected she was at the hospital seeking drugs. But an autopsy later revealed she had had blood clots in her legs and lungs and had no drugs in her system. The St. Louis police never announced Brown’s death. Her story only came to light six months later after an anonymous caller tipped off the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. Brown, who was African American, was the mother of two children. Her family is reportedly considering bringing a wrongful death suit against the hospital and police.
And this update to a story from Thursday’s broadcast on the case of Kenneth Chamberlain, a 68-year-old African-American Marine veteran fatally shot by White Plains, New York, police in his home last year. On Thursday, Chamberlain’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., met with Westchester County prosecutors, who assured him that a grand jury will hear evidence in the case. Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. has called for the prosecution of the officers who killed his father. After the meeting, he criticized police for refusing to release the name of the officer who fired the fatal shots. The police had responded to a false alarm from Chamberlain’s medical alert pendant. The officers broke down Chamberlain’s door, tasered him, and then shot him dead. Speaking to Democracy Now!, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. described an audio recording from the medical alert system operator that captured the moment the police barged into his father’s home.
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr.: “You hear him asking them why are they doing this to him. He says, ’I’m a 68-year-old man with a heart condition. Why are you doing this to me? I know what you’re going to do: you’re going to come in here, and you’re going to kill me.’ You also hear him pleading with the officers again, over and over. And at one point, that’s when the expletive is used by one of the police officers.”
Amy Goodman: “What did they say?”
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr.: “Where they say, 'I don’t give a F.' And then they use the N-word. And then, as I said, ultimately, they bust down the door.”