Clinton Visits Libya; NATO Reduces Sorties

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has wrapped up a surprise visit to the Libyan capital of Tripoli. On Tuesday, Clinton pledged millions of dollars in additional U.S. aid for Libya’s transitional government.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "We will support a process of democratizing that respects the rule of law, that respects the rights of minorities and women and young people, that creates independent institutions like a free press and an independent judiciary. Groups and individuals who really believe in democracy should be welcome into that process. But groups that want to undermine democracy or subvert it are going to have to be dealt with the Libyans themselves."

Clinton’s visit comes one day after the governing National Transitional Council took full control of the town of Bani Walid, where fighters loyal to the ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi had remained. NATO spokesperson Roland Lavoie said the international military campaign in Libya is coming to a close.

Roland Lavoie: "Remaining Gaddafi fighters are on the defensive, apparently attempting to avoid capture. They don’t control significant populated areas and no longer pose a credible threat outside small pockets of resistance. Because of the change in the situation on the ground, we are now using our assets essentially to monitor the situation and see what is going on there and intervene only if and when necessary, which means a significant reduction in our strike sorties."

Yemeni Forces Kill 7 Protesters

In Yemen, state-backed forces continue to attack protesters opposing the regime of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. At least seven people were reported killed, and dozens more wounded, after gunmen loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh opened fire on demonstrators marching in the capital Sana’a. It was the third attack on protesters in the last four days. At the United Nations, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the Yemeni government crackdown.

Rupert Colville: "We condemn in the strongest terms the reported killing of a number of largely peaceful protesters in Sana’a and Taiz in Yemen as a result of indiscriminate use of force by security forces over the weekend. We are extremely concerned that security forces continue to use excessive force in a climate of complete impunity for crimes that are resulting in heavy loss of life and injury, despite repeated pledges by the government to the contrary."

Nobel Laureate Tawakkul Karman Calls for International Sanctions on Saleh Regime

As the violent crackdown on the popular uprising continues in Yemen, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkul Karman has made a surprise visit to New York City to press her campaign for international pressure on the Saleh regime. Speaking outside the United Nations, Karman called for the freezing of all Yemeni government assets, as well as the prosecution of Yemeni officials at the International Criminal Court.

Tawakkul Karman: "We’re here calling on the United Nations to stand up for human rights and democracy, which are the principles they were founded upon. We came here to tell them that Ali Saleh and [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad are both criminals, and they have to be held accountable and prosecuted. We want from them two things: freeze the assets of the regime and forward the files of the criminals in Yemen into the International Criminal Court. The attacks on peaceful protesters are crimes against humanity. And just like the civilians and the peaceful protesters are being killed in Libya and in Egypt, are being killed now in Yemen and elsewhere."

Karman also rejected a proposed measure from the U.N. Gulf Cooperation Council that would grant immunity to Saleh and his administration.

Tawakkul Karman: "We reject and refuse any immunity for the criminals and anything not consistent with the international declarations of human rights. And any immunity is against what the U.N. was founded upon. And so, anything like that is against the U.N. treaties."

Slain U.S. Drone Victim Was 16

In other Yemen news, it’s been confirmed a U.S. citizen killed in a U.S. drone attack last week had just turned 16 years old at the time of his death. The teenager, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born cleric assassinated in a separate drone strike last month. Initial news accounts reported Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was 21 years old, but his family had maintained he was 16. On Tuesday, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki’s birth certificate was released, showing he turned 16 last month.

Turkish Troops Enter Iraq After Kurdish Attack

Turkish soldiers supported by helicopter gunships and bombers have launched an incursion into Iraq following multiple attacks by Kurdish forces there that left 26 soldiers dead and 22 others wounded. Early Wednesday, Kurdish rebels fighting for autonomy in southern Turkey assaulted military outposts and police stations near a pair of border towns, resulting in the deadliest attack since 1992.

U.S. Deportations Hit Record; Report Finds Immigration Program Disproportionately Targeting Latinos

New figures show U.S. deportations of undocumented immigrants are at a record high. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says it deported nearly 400,000 people in fiscal year 2011, the highest total in the agency’s eight years. In announcing the figures, ICE credited the growing number of deportations to programs like Secure Communities, which requires local police to forward fingerprints of every person they arrest to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. A new report being released today has provided the most detailed picture to date on how Secure Communities has disproportionately targeted Latino communities in the United States. Citing government figures, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley law school and the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in New York found that 93 percent of immigrants arrested under Secure Communities were Latinos, even though Latino immigrants account for only about two-thirds of undocumented immigrants in the United
States. The report also found that at least 680 United States citizens have been held under the program, in many cases for no apparent reason. Around a third of the 226,000 immigrants deported under Secure Communities have spouses or children who are U.S. citizens.

Cain Defends Tax Plan, Occupy Wall Street Comments at GOP Debate

Republican presidential candidates gathered in Nevada Tuesday night for a live debate. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry took aim at new front-runner Herman Cain, who’s shot to the top of the polls in recent weeks. Romney and Perry criticized Cain’s plan for a nine percent flat tax rate, which Cain then defended.

Gov. Rick Perry: "Herman, I love you, brother, but let me tell you something. You don’t have to have a big analysis to figure this thing out."

Mitt Romney: "I like your chutzpah on this, Herman, but I have to tell you, the analysis I did, person by person, return by return, is that middle-income people see higher taxes under your plan."

Herman Cain: "Once again, unfortunately, none of my distinguished colleagues who have attacked me up here tonight understand the plan."

Also at the Republican debate, the audience erupted into loud applause after Cain said he stood by his previous statement that Occupy Wall Street protesters should blame themselves for being out of work.

Anderson Cooper: "Herman Cain, I got to ask you, you said, quote, ’Don’t blame’ — a couple—two weeks ago, you said, ’Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job, or you’re not rich, blame yourself.’ That was two weeks ago. The movement has grown. Do you still say that?"

Herman Cain: "Yes, I do still say that. And here’s why.
I still stand by my statement, and here’s why. They might be frustrated with Wall Street and the bankers, but they’re directing their anger at the wrong place. Wall Street didn’t put in failed economic policies. Wall Street didn’t spend a trillion dollars that didn’t do any good. Wall Street isn’t going around the country trying to sell another $450 billion. They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their frustration. So I do stand by that."

U.N. Torture Chief: Ban Solitary Confinement for Teens, Mentally Disabled

The top United Nations official on torture is calling for an end to almost all forms of solitary confinement. Juan Méndez, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, said solitary confinement should only be allowed in exceptional cases, and emphasized an absolute ban in the case of juveniles and people with mental disabilities.

Juan Méndez: "I am of the view that juveniles, given their physical and mental immaturity, should never be subjected to solitary confinement. Equally, in order not to exacerbate a previously existing mental condition, individuals with mental disabilities should be provided with proper medical or psychiatric care, and under no circumstances should they ever be subjected to solitary confinement. My recommendations are, first, to see if we can have a complete ban on prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement. And I more or less arbitrarily define that as anything beyond 15 days of solitary confinement, meaning someone being confined to a cell for at least 22 hours a day."

In his remarks, Méndez also commented on U.S. soldier and alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning, who’s being held in a Kansas prison following his arrest for allegedly leaking government material to WikiLeaks. Méndez says although Manning is no longer being held in solitary confinement, he is still monitoring the case.

Juan Méndez: "I want to stress that, on the one hand, he is no longer in solitary confinement, although he spent something like eight months in solitary confinement, but when he was moved to Fort Leavenworth, his regime changed, and he’s not in solitary confinement now. I’m not saying anything about whether his present regime violates other possible standards, but at least he’s—on a daily basis, he does communicate and socialize with other inmates in his same category."

Occupy Wall Street Protesters Rally Against Arrests, Charges

In New York City, several hundred Occupy Wall Street supporters marched to the offices of Manhattan’s district attorney on Tuesday to call on prosecutors to drop all charges against protesters detained over the past month. Following the demonstration, protesters marched to a nearby restaurant where New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was being presented with an award. The protesters were joined by author Naomi Wolf, who had been attending the event inside. After refusing to comply with an order to vacate the sidewalk, Wolf and a companion were arrested. Meanwhile, the New York City Police Department commander who was caught on video pepper-spraying a group of young women while they were corralled in netting last month now faces an internal disciplinary charge that could cost him 10 days of vacation time. The department has found Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna broke department rules in his use of the spray during an Occupy Wall Street protest last month. Bologna can accept the charge and plead guilty or opt for a departmental trial. The victims of the pepper spraying have called for criminal charges.

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