Nine Afghan boys have been killed in a U.S.-led NATO attack in Afghanistan. The boys were gathering firewood in the northeastern province of Kunar when a helicopter opened fire. On Wednesday, U.S. commander, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, issued a public apology.
Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez: "On behalf of the coalition and based on the initial findings of a combined assessment team, I want to offer my sincere apology for the killing of nine children in Dara-I-Pech district in Kunar province yesterday morning."
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has condemned the killings as "merciless." It’s the third reported killing of Afghan civilians by NATO troops in two weeks. A resident of Kabul said those responsible should be tried in an Afghan court.
Enatatullah Khan: "An apology is not enough. It is not the first time that they have killed our poor and innocent people. We don’t accept their apology. They must go on trial in Afghanistan. If it is not possible in Afghanistan, they must be tried in the international court for their action. They have apologized in the past but continue killing our people again and again."
Alleged military whistleblower, Army Private Bradley Manning, has been charged with 22 additional counts in connection with the leaking of U.S. military and government documents to the group WikiLeaks. On Wednesday, the military said Manning has been charged with new offenses including "aiding the enemy." The charges carry the potential sentence of the death penalty, but military officials say they will not seek an execution. Manning remains imprisoned at the Quantico military base in Virginia under conditions that supporters have denounced as torture.
The Ohio State Senate has advanced a measure that would end collective bargaining rights for state employees. On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled chamber approved the legislation on a 17-to-16 vote. Six Republicans joined with Democrats in opposition. The measure is even more far-reaching than a similar bill in Wisconsin because it would also affect police officers and firefighters. The vote came one day after some 20,000 people rallied at the State Capitol in Columbus to oppose the bill. The Ohio House is expected to approve the measure next week. If enacted, Ohio would become the biggest state so far to curb the rights of public sector unions.
The standoff over Wisconsin’s anti-union bill continues to intensify. On Wednesday, Republicans in the State Senate advanced a proposal to fine Democrats $100 for each day they remain absent to stall the vote. Fourteen Democrats fled to Illinois last month to deny Republicans quorum. The measure also calls on Wisconsin police to help find and return the Democrats to Madison. The vote came one day after Walker unveiled a budget that would drastically cut education spending and eliminate some 21,000 state jobs.
In Libya, Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s forces have launched new air strikes on towns captured by rebels in a popular uprising over the past two weeks. Bombs were dropped on the oil export town of Brega and the nearby town of Ajdabiyah. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera is reporting Gaddafi has accepted an offer from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to mediate the crisis. Gaddafi reportedly spoke to Chávez and agreed in principle to a mediation plan. More than 140,000 people have fled Libya to escape the violence. A United Nations refugee official said the exodus is growing.
Hovig Etyemezian, United Nations Refugee Agency: "The crisis is growing. On a daily basis we have more people coming in. We need more ships and airplanes coming in to evacuate the nationals here, the Egyptians, Bangladeshis, Vietnamese. People need to leave at a faster rate; otherwise, this crisis is going to go worse."
Libya was expelled from the U.N. Human Rights Council earlier this week in response to its attacks on the uprising. The Obama administration has come under criticism for a little-noticed provision inserted into the measure expelling Libya. The measure calls on the International Criminal Court to look into filing charges against the Gaddafi regime for crimes against humanity. Although the measure marked the first time the United States has supported the ICC at the United Nations, the Obama administration managed to insert a clause that would exempt foreign nationals from international prosecution for any actions committed in Libya under a Security Council mandate. That means that in the event U.S. forces take part in an international force invading Libya, any potential war crimes committed would be tried in a U.S. court, not at The Hague.
A veteran Israeli diplomat has resigned in protest of what he calls Israel’s "wrong" foreign policy. The diplomat, Ilan Baruch, spent more than 30 years in the Israeli government, most recently as ambassador to South Africa. Baruch says he stepped down in opposition to the occupation of Palestinian land. He also criticized Israeli government officials for longtime efforts to label opposition to Israeli polices as "anti-Semitism."
Two U.S. airmen are dead and another two seriously wounded after a gunman opened fire on a U.S. military bus at an airport in Frankfurt, Germany. German police have arrested a 21-year-old Kosovar who lives in Frankfurt. President Obama condemned the attack at the White House.
President Obama: "I am saddened and I am outraged by this attack that took the lives of two Americans and wounded two others. I think the American people are united in expressing our gratitude for the service of those who were lost."
Efforts to slash social spending in the name of budget deficits continue across the country. In Pennsylvania, more than 40,000 people have been dropped from a state-subsidized insurance program for the working poor. Newly elected Republican Gov. Tom Corbett cut the program adultBasic, citing a $4 billion budget deficit. The New York Times describes the move as "one of the largest disenrollments in recent memory." Before it closed, the program had been unable to keep up with massive demand. More than 505,000 people had been on its waiting list for enrollment. Meanwhile, in Washington state, Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire has dropped 17,500 adults from a state-funded program for the working poor. Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has proposed eliminating Medicaid coverage for some 250,000 people.
The Supreme Court has upheld the free speech rights of a church that protests military funerals to publicize its homophobic views. The Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church says it believes military deaths are God’s punishment for homosexuality in the United States. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 that the church has a legal right to hold the protests. The ruling came in the case of a father of a slain Iraq war veteran who sued the church after it protested his funeral.
Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California has fired a close aide for what he calls inappropriate cooperation with a New York Times journalist. Issa says deputy communications director Kurt Bardella passed on emails sent by other reporters to Issa’s office. The Times reporter, Mark Leibovich, had apparently sought the emails for a book on Washington’s political culture.
One of four New York prisoners jailed in what critics have labeled a government entrapment case is speaking out for the first time. Last year, a federal jury found four men guilty of plotting to bomb a synagogue and a Jewish community center in the Bronx. All four were from Newburgh, one of the poorest cities in New York. Defense attorneys argued the men were entrapped by government agents and not predisposed to commit a terrorist crime. According to The Village Voice, one of the prisoners, David Williams, now says he only went along with the government informant who organized the bomb plot, Shahed Hussain, because he saw an opportunity to cheat Hussain out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In a letter to a friend, Williams writes: "We all said lots of things only to either impress [Hussain] or make him think he found a band of real killers. We never meant one word of what we said."
Charges have been dropped against a career CIA officer-turned-peace activist who held a silent protest against U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month. Ray McGovern was accused of disorderly conduct after he stood up and turned his back to Clinton during a speech in Washington, D.C. McGovern was seized by government agents who assaulted him as they removed him from the room. McGovern spoke to Democracy Now! about the incident last month.
Ray McGovern: "I was standing up in silent witness to the fact that Hillary Clinton is responsible, partly responsible, for countless thousands of Iraqis, Americans, Afghans and, God help us, Iranians—I hope not—and that she should not get the idea that everybody is going to sit down and applaud politely when there are so many of us that are usually excluded from these sessions who are feeling very, very, very sad and very angry at the foreign policy of our government."
Several prominent musicians are being urged to return money they received for giving private performances for the family of Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Lavish Gaddafi parties on the Caribbean island of St. Bart’s have drawn a number of celebrities over the years. In 2008, pop artist Mariah Carey accepted $1 million to perform. The following year the R&B artists Usher and Beyoncé performed at the same event for undisclosed amounts. Beyoncé claims to have already donated her earnings to earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. In 2005, rapper 50 Cent performed for a Gaddafi family member at the Venice Film Festival. Singer Nelly Furtado has admitted to receiving $1 million from the Gaddafi family in 2007 and says she will donate the money to charity.