The Senate has approved continued funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan amounting to $60 billion, reported Democracy Now!. This will include full funding for the 33,000 additional troops that will be deployed for President Obama’s escalation of the Afghan war. The Senate also rejected an amendment from Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, which would have made President Obama put forward a timetable for US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Obama administration also released its first National Security Strategy since taking office, reported Democracy Now!. Along with calls for boosting multilateral cooperation and strengthening international institutions and treaties, the document echoed language from the Bush administration. On the use of force, the document says, “the United States must reserve the right to act unilaterally.”
These steps came as a top United Nations official is preparing to issue a report urging the Obama administration to end CIA drone strikes on alleged militant subjects abroad, reported Democracy Now!. Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said his report next week will advise drone strikes to be placed in the hands of regular armed forces, not intelligence agencies that work under a complete absence of accountability. A recent report from the New America Foundation found that nearly one in three people killed by CIA drone attacks in Pakistan is a civilian.
The oil flow into the Gulf of Mexico from a leaking oil well has been stemmed, reported The New York Times, but could continue. Adm. Thad W. Allen, the Coast Guard leader of the government effort, stressed Friday morning that the next 12 to 18 hours, following the injection of solid objects and heavy drilling fluid into the leaking well, would be “very critical” in permanently staunching the flow. Allen said the biggest challenge is sustaining the “top kill” effort.
Meanwhile, the ties between Energy Secretary Steven Chu and BP are coming under increasing scrutiny. In 2007, reported Democracy Now!, BP gave the bulk of a $500 million grant to the University of California, Berkeley lab where Chu was then acting director. BP’s former chief scientist, Steven Koonin, now works with Chu as undersecretary of energy for science. Koonin has been removed from any involvement with the spill due to his BP ties, but Chu has been working closely with BP executives following the spill.
North Korea is exporting nuclear technology to Iran, Syria and Burma, claims a leaked UN report, in defiance of UN sanctions. According to a panel that monitors sanctions imposed after the regime conducted nuclear weapons tests in 2006 and 2009, reported The Guardian UK, North Korea is using front companies and overseas criminal networks to export the technology. This revelation comes only hours before the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, is due to arrive in South Korea for a three-day visit likely to be dominated by the growing tension between North and South over the sinking of a South Korean warship.
Rahm Emanuel used former President Bill Clinton as an intermediary to ask Rep. Joe Sestak to drop out of the Senate primary for a prominent, but unpaid, advisory position, reported The New York Times. Sestak was not offered a full-time paid position because Obama’s chief of staff did not want him to risk losing his seat in the House. Sestak declined the offer and went on to win last week’s Pennsylvania Democratic primary against Clinton-backed Sen. Arlen Specter.
An overnight passenger train in eastern India was derailed by suspected Maoist rebels Friday, triggering a crash with an oncoming cargo train and killing at least 65 people and injuring 200 more, reported AP. The rebels have tapped into the growing anger of the rural poor at being left out of India’s growing economic gain.