In Iraq, Shiite pilgrims have been targeted in a deadly bombing for the third time this week. Earlier today at least twenty-seven people were killed and another seventy-five wounded in a double car bombing in the Iraqi holy city of Karbala. Thousands of Shiite pilgrims have made their way to Karbala to observe the festival of Arbaeen.
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has confirmed US forces are authorized to kill US citizens abroad. Speaking before the House Intelligence Committee, Blair acknowledged President Obama is continuing a Bush-era policy authorizing the killing of US citizens if they’re considered a terrorist threat to the United States. In response, Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald wrote the assassination policy gives President Obama "the power to impose death sentences on his own citizens without any charges or trial."
In Haiti, ten US missionaries have been charged with child kidnapping following their arrest for trying to leave the country with a busload of children. Some of the children reportedly had parents who survived the January 12 earthquake. The missionaries say they were only trying to rescue abandoned and traumatized children. Their attorney has faulted the group leader, who is said to have deliberately avoided seeking Haitian government permission. There has been speculation the missionaries will face trial in the United States because of the earthquake’s toll on the Haiti’s court system. US Ambassador Kenneth Merten said he’s in talks with the Haitian government on the case.
Kenneth Merten: "We’re in the process of talking with the Haitian government to — you know, we need — what we’d like to do is to make sure that they get treated according to the law, according to the Haitian law, that they get treated fairly, and that they are afforded, as anybody arrested in any country would be afforded, consular access, which has been the case. So, really, seriously, that’s all I have to say."
The former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya held his first news conference Thursday since beginning exile in the Dominican Republic last week. Zelaya left Honduras the same day as his successor, President Porfirio Lobo, took office. Zelaya’s supporters had boycotted Lobo’s election in protest of the coup regime that overthrew Zelaya. The Honduran Congress has granted Zelaya political amnesty, but he still faces criminal charges if he returns home. On Thursday, Zelaya said it’s his accusers who should be put on trial.
Manuel Zelaya: "Those who want to put me on trial are my adversaries. They are not judges. Those who have not wanted to start a legal process, lift one finger against murderers, criminals, those who torture Hondurans and who continue torturing them and myself, who was attacked at a diplomatic venue, they can’t judge anybody."
In Pakistan, hundreds of people rallied in Karachi Thursday to protest the conviction of US-educated Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui. This week, a New York jury convicted Siddiqui of attempted murder for shooting at US forces while jailed in Afghanistan in 2008. None of the Americans were injured, but Siddiqui was shot and wounded while in US custody. There has been speculation Siddiqui was interrogated and tortured in Pakistani and US custody. Protest organizer Dr. Meraj ul Huda Siddiqui, condemned the conviction.
Dr. Meraj ul Huda Siddiqui: "Down with US imperialism! Down with all these efforts of United States of America to curb Muslims, to downsize the Muslim unity! And all of the Muslims, they have decided that they will unite to get Aafia free from the American hostage."
The Obama administration has reached an agreement with Romania to base missile interceptors on Romanian soil. The deal revives the Bush administration’s so-called missile defense system that was originally intended for Poland and the Czech Republic. The Obama White House had said last year it would replace the system in favor of a naval-based missile system.
The auto giant Toyota says it’s considering adding its hybrid Prius model to its massive vehicle recall over safety issues. Federal regulators have already launched a new probe into braking issues on the Prius. Toyota has already recalled over 4.3 million vehicles over flaws with its gas pedals. On Thursday, a Miami attorney became the first to file a class-action lawsuit against Toyota since the recall began. The attorney, John Ruiz, said Toyota hasn’t disclosed the full extent of its safety flaws.
John Ruiz: "Here’s what Toyota is not telling people. Number one, there are other cars that they haven’t identified that have this issue. We have people that have cars from other years and other models that have sudden acceleration, that have been involved in automobile accidents."
Bank of America and two of its former executives have been indicted over allegations of lying to investors about bonus payouts and the 2008 acquisition of investment bank Merrill Lynch. On Thursday, federal and state regulators filed civil fraud charges against Bank of America, as well as former chief executive officer Ken Lewis and chief financial officer Joseph Price. The bank is also accused of misleading government officials by threatening to abandon the Merrill Lynch deal without billions of additional bailout money. The move marked the broadest legal action to date against a leading bank involved in the nation’s financial crisis. Bank of America has already settled some of the charges with a $150 million fine.
The internet giant Google is teaming up with the National Security Agency in an unspecified partnership in the name of cybersecurity. Google says the NSA will help it analyze an attack on its computer networks it says originated in China last month. Privacy advocates have raised skepticism about the agreement, whose details haven’t been revealed. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for communications between Google and the NSA on cybersecurity and email encryption.
In education news, a new study suggests charter school growth is increasing classroom segregation. According to UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, seven out of ten black charter school students attend schools with extremely low numbers of white students. Black students account for 32 percent of charter school enrollment nationwide, twice the percentage enrolled in public schools.
Right-wing activists are meeting in Nashville, Tennessee today for the inaugural National Tea Party Convention. The gathering has faced controversy over allegations of profiteering by convention organizers. Attendees have paid over $500 a ticket in addition to transportation and lodging costs for the three-day event. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will receive $100,000 to deliver the convention’s keynote address.
And in Canada, activists in the city of Vancouver are gearing up for protests against this month’s Olympic Games. The Olympics Resistance Network has organized a people’s summit to coincide with the Games’ opening ceremonies next week. Harsha Walia of the Olympics Resistance Network said the games are undermining indigenous rights and social services.
Harsha Walia: "We see that the Games have been overrun with a budget of over $7 billion. Indigenous lands continue to be exploited and stolen with ski resort development all across British Columbia. Increasing poverty and criminalization of the poor in the Downtown Eastside. A massive cutback in public spending and an increasing budget for policing and militarization here in Vancouver. We have $1 billion that are being sunk into a military-police state in the lead-up to the Olympics."