The Obama administration has again delayed a decision on approval or rejection of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The State Department says it will await the results of legal challenges to the pipeline’s proposed route through Nebraska. That means a final move would not likely come until after the midterm elections. It is now the third consecutive year the White House has put off a final ruling on the Keystone XL’s fate. The pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. Environmentalists say that would unleash a devastating amount of carbon into the atmosphere. An anti-Keystone XL protest is slated for Washington, D.C., later this week when a coalition of ranchers, farmers and native groups stage “Reject and Protect,” a week-long encampment on the National Mall.
Dozens of people have been killed in two consecutive days of U.S. drone attacks inside Yemen. Around 15 people died on Saturday when a U.S. missile hit a road in the central province of al-Bayda. Between three to six civilians were killed, while the rest were described as suspected al-Qaeda militants. On Sunday, around 25 people were killed in two U.S. attacks on southern areas. The victims were also described as suspected al-Qaeda militants. Another drone attack was reportedly carried out earlier today, but details are unclear.
Violence broke out in eastern Ukraine on Sunday days after the truce between Kiev and Moscow. At least three people were killed when a shootout erupted at a checkpoint in a town controlled by pro-Russian separatists. The truce calls for the disarming and withdrawal of armed groups under international supervision. But a top separatist leader has said his forces are not bound by the deal, and little movement has been seen so far. At the White House, National Security Adviser Susan Rice appeared to suggest the United States could target Russia’s oil and gas sector if it is deemed to violate the truce.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice: “There are other potential ways, in the framework of our executive orders, that we could impose costs, should that be necessary, in the event of a dramatic escalation or a significant escalation, including, as we’ve said repeatedly, the potential for Russia to move its own forces on the border inside of Ukraine, that those costs and sanctions could even include targeting very significant sectors of the Russian economy. But beyond that, I’m not going to be specific.”
At least 33 people were killed Sunday in violence across Iraq. Bombings claimed at least 18 lives, while clashes in Fallujah left at least 15 dead. Iraq is due to hold parliamentary elections early next month amidst its bloodiest period in six years.
The latest figures show enrollment in private health plans under the Affordable Care Act has topped eight million. The nation’s rate of uninsured is now at its lowest point since 2008, and a Gallup poll shows up to 12 million may have obtained coverage since the fall. At the White House, President Obama touted figures showing over one-third of enrollees are under the age of 35, and that premiums will cost 15 percent lower than predicted.
President Obama: “I find it strange that the Republican position on this law is still stuck in the same place that it has always been. They still can’t bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working. They said nobody would sign up. They were wrong about that. They said it would be unaffordable for the country. They were wrong about that.”
Federal immigration policy is coming under increasing resistance at the state and local level. On Friday, Maryland announced it will no longer automatically hold prisoners at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The federal government has used the program Secure Communities to get local police forces to hand over immigrant detainees for potential deportation. The Baltimore City Detention Center says it will now grant those requests only if the detainee has been charged with or convicted of a serious crime. Baltimore’s shift comes after similar moves in Philadelphia and in Oregon. Sheriffs in nine Oregon counties now say they would not comply with federal immigration detainers at all. The decision came after a state judge ruled an immigrant detainee’s rights were violated. She was held for 19 hours after she should have been released so federal agents could take her into custody.
The military trial of five alleged 9/11 conspirators could be in limbo amidst allegations of FBI spying on the defense team. FBI agents questioned a contractor working as a security guard for one of the suspect’s lawyers earlier this month. The contractor was forced to sign a confidentiality form, a move attorneys say turns him into a de facto informant. The military judge overseeing pretrial hearings has opened the way for an inquiry. Prosecutors had hoped for jury selection to begin early next year, but the defense says the trials could now be delayed until 2017. Attorney James Connell said only one person appears to have come under FBI questioning so far.
James Connell: “Our preliminary investigation leads us to hope that it may be confined — you know, that we may have nipped this in the bud just after it started. Is that going to turn out to be true? I don’t know. But so far, we don’t have information that the investigation has spread beyond Mr. [Ramzi] bin al-Shibh’s defense security officer.”
The spying allegation follows previous claims by the attorneys that Guantánamo Bay prison officials have monitored their communications.
Residents of a South Carolina town are rallying behind a fired police chief who supporters say was targeted because she is a lesbian. Crystal Moore had never received a single reprimand in 20 years on the job. But Mayor Earl Bullard dismissed her earlier this month after suddenly handing down seven reprimands in a single day. Bullard has been caught on tape making anti-LGBTQ remarks, saying he would rather have a drunk person care for a child than someone who is gay. Dozens of residents flooded a city council meeting last week demanding answers for Moore’s firing. Moore said there was no explanation for her dismissal.
Crystal Moore: “I can’t believe that we still have no equal rights. That’s the biggest issue. I’ve been harassed, intimidated, and this is the first time it’s ever been this public. I have tried to live a decent, quiet life and do what I’m supposed to.”
A group of Alabama inmates reportedly staged a work stoppage this weekend in protest of conditions at their prison. The Free Alabama Movement says it called the strike at the St. Clair County Correctional Facility in Springville to call attention to overcrowding, health violations, and a work system that forces them to conduct free labor. It is the prisoners’ second strike this year after a work stoppage in January.
A federal judge has cleared the way for a landmark case against several major corporations accused of aiding South Africa’s apartheid regime. Companies including Ford and IBM are accused of complicity in human rights abuses during the years they did business in apartheid South Africa. The lawsuit was filed by black victims of white minority rule. They are suing under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows foreigners to file cases against companies for crimes committed abroad. In a ruling last week, District Judge Shira Scheindlin rejected the companies’ claim that previous rulings shield them from suits.
The celebrated boxer and prisoner rights activist Rubin “Hurricane” Carter has died at the age of 76. Carter became an international symbol of racial injustice after his wrongful murder conviction forced him to spend 19 years in prison before he was exonerated. Since his release, Carter championed the cause of wrongfully convicted prisoners. We’ll have more on Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s life later in the broadcast.