Wednesday, June 23, 2010


  1. Judge with Energy Ties Strikes Down Deepwater Drilling Ban
  2. British Envoy to Afghanistan Resigns
  3. Evidentiary Hearing Begins in Troy Anthony Davis Case
  4. Both Sides Claim Victory in Supreme Court Ruling on Monsanto Crop
  5. UN Probes Alleged Abuses in Sri Lanka Fighting
  6. Israel Advances East Jerusalem Demolitions, Orders Expulsion of 4 Palestinian Politicians
  7. Road Shipments Begin Entering Gaza (but limited)

Judge with Energy Ties Strikes Down Deepwater Drilling Ban

A federal judge has struck down the Obama administration’s six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The White House imposed the ban last month as the BP oil spill spiraled into what many have called the worst environmental disaster in US history. But on Tuesday, US District Judge Martin Feldman called the suspension "heavy-handed" and "overbearing." A Reagan appointee, Feldman has extensive stock holdings in energy companies, including Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig where the explosion occurred, and Halliburton, which also performed work at the site. Feldman also owns stock in two of BP’s largest shareholders, BlackRock and JPMorgan Chase. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the Obama administration will appeal the ruling.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: "We will immediately appeal to the Fifth Circuit. The President strongly believes, as the Department of Interior and the Department of Justice argued yesterday, that continuing to drill at these depths, without knowing what happened, is—does not make any sense and puts the safety of those involved—potentially puts safety of those on the rigs and safety of the environment in the Gulf at a danger that the President does not believe we can afford right now."
In a statement, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he will issue a new order reimposing the drilling ban. Salazar says he will detail the reasons for the ban to address Judge Feldman’s concerns.

British Envoy to Afghanistan Resigns

The news comes as Britain’s special representative to Afghanistan, Sherard Cowper-Coles, has resigned. Formerly Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Cowper-Coles has frequently clashed with US counterparts on Afghan policy. He has been a proponent of reconciliation efforts, including negotiations with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, and has questioned the US push for a military solution in Afghanistan. In 2008, he was quoted saying the US strategy in Afghanistan is "destined to fail" and calling the occupation "part of the problem, not the solution."

Evidentiary Hearing Begins in Troy Anthony Davis Case

The Georgia death row prisoner Troy Anthony Davis is appearing in a Savannah courtroom today nearly two decades after his widely disputed conviction for the killing of an off-duty police officer. The Supreme Court ordered a new hearing in Davis’s case last year to allow the defense to present evidence that could establish his innocence. Seven of the nine non-police witnesses in the original trial have since recanted their testimony. There is no direct physical evidence tying Davis to the crime scene.

Both Sides Claim Victory in Supreme Court Ruling on Monsanto Crop

Both sides of a case challenging the agribusiness giant Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa seed are claiming victory following a Supreme Court ruling. In a seven-to-one decision, the high court overturned a ban on Monsanto’s alfalfa until the US government further analyzes the crop’s dangers. But the court also ruled the seed can remain illegal until the Agricultural Department deregulates it, a move that can be thwarted by public challenge. In a statement, the lead group challenging Monsanto, the Center for Food Safety, said, "The Court’s decision affirmed that the threat of genetic contamination of natural plants posed by biotech crops is an issue of significant environmental concern now and in the future."

UN Probes Alleged Abuses in Sri Lanka Fighting

The United Nations has launched a probe into allegations of human rights abuses in the final months of the Sri Lankan military’s crushing of the Tamil Tiger rebellion last year. A three-member panel will investigate alleged violations on both sides. The Sri Lankan government has vigorously opposed the probe. A recent report from the International Crisis Group says tens of thousands of Tamil civilians died in the last months of Sri Lanka’s civil war, most as a result of Sri Lankan military shelling.

Israel Advances East Jerusalem Demolitions, Orders Expulsion of 4 Palestinian Politicians

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Israeli government is proceeding with plans to demolish over twenty Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Israel wants to build an archeological park in their place. The move comes just two weeks before Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with President Obama at the White House. Israel meanwhile has also ordered the expulsion of four Palestinian politicians affiliated with Hamas. The politicians’ residency status has been revoked after they were deemed "disloyal" to the Israeli state. Palestinian Authority spokesperson Ghassan Khatib criticized the Israeli measures.
Ghassan Khatib: "The Palestinian government criticized and condemned the most recent Israeli violation of Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem, particularly the deportation of four Palestinian Legislative Council members who are alleged of not being loyal to the state of Israel."

Road Shipments Begin Entering Gaza

Meanwhile, in Gaza, road shipments of aid supplies have begun entering the coastal enclave following Israel’s decision to alter the blockade. A resident of Gaza criticized Israel for continuing to bar vital building materials.
Gaza resident: "It is only a media propaganda that they lifted the siege, but in reality we do not see any change. The people want to build their destroyed houses, and there is no construction material, also no electronics or mechanic materials. If they do not let these materials into Gaza, then there is no meaning for lifting the siege."

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