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Obama to Tour Midwest, Meet Corporate CEOs

President Obama kicks off a three-day Midwestern bus tour today aimed at touting his record on the economy. Obama has faced widespread criticism in part for focusing on the deficit instead of tackling high unemployment. After his bus tour, Obama will meet with a number of corporate executives at the White House later this week. In his weekly radio address, Obama continued his call for public pressure on Congress to overcome partisan differences.

President Obama: "Over the coming weeks, I’ll put forward more proposals to help our businesses hire and create jobs, and I won’t stop until every American who wants a job can find one. But we can’t let partisan brinksmanship get in our way—the idea that making it through the next election is more important than making things right. That’s what’s holding us back, the fact that some in Congress would rather see their opponents lose than see America win."

Bachmann Edges Out Paul for Iowa Straw Poll Victory

Minnesota Congress member and Tea Party stalwart Michele Bachmann has won the first informal contest of the Republican presidential race with a victory in Iowa’s straw poll. On Saturday, Rep. Bachmann thanked supporters for the win.

Rep. Michele Bachmann: "What we saw happen today is this is the very first step toward taking the White House in 2012. And you have just sent a message that Barack Obama will be a one-term president. This was a wonderful down payment on taking the country back, and it started in Iowa."

Bachmann received more than 4,800 votes, followed closely by Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Speaking in Iowa, Paul emphasized his dominant campaign theme of the high costs of war.

Rep. Ron Paul: "Foreign policy has been a big issue in our campaign, because the country is tired of the war. And we’re also broke. The wars have been going on for 10 years. They’re undeclared. They’re fought under international banners, NATO and United Nations, and we don’t see an end to it. But it’s also costing us a lot of money. We’re into wars that are costing us trillions of dollars. Those trillions of dollars should have been left in the economy to build jobs and produce prosperity here at home."

Pawlenty Drops Out of GOP Race; Perry Announces Bid

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty placed a distant third in Iowa’s straw poll, and on Sunday he announced his departure from the presidential race. As Pawlenty exits the contest for the Republican nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has formally announced his candidacy. On Saturday, Perry kicked off his campaign in Charleston, South Carolina.

Gov. Rick Perry: "I came to South Carolina, because I will not sit back and accept the path that America is on, because a great country requires a better direction, because a renewed nation needs a new president. It is time to get America working again. And that’s why, with the support of my family and unwavering belief in the goodness of America, I declare to you today as a candidate for president of the United States."

U.N.: Progress, Funding Shortfalls in Famine Response

Relief efforts are said to be improving in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa, but international funding continues to fall short. The head of U.N. humanitarian assistance, Catherine Bragg, says the United Nations remains more than $560 million short on aid for Somalia and more than $1 billion short region-wide. On a visit to refugee camps in Kenya, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said aid is reaching more people in need.

Valerie Amos: "We are making some progress in terms of being able to scale up our operations. It is clear that we need to do much more in terms of being able to provide facilities, support, supplies within Somalia itself. That means, of course, encouraging colleagues who are working on the political side of things to try and make that progress even faster. But also, our negotiations to get additional support into al-Shabab-controlled territory must continue."

Some 12 million people face starvation in the Horn of Africa, with 250 children dying in Somalia each day. At a refugee camp in Ethiopia, a physician with Doctors Without Borders said many children are receiving medical treatment too late to save their lives.

Carolina Nanclares: "They’re a very, very vulnerable population, and the mortality rate amongst the malnourished children is very high, and especially in these conditions in which the children are coming with very, very severe complications and very, very late sometimes. So the care that we can provide sometimes is too late for us to be able to save everyone’s life."

Dozens Killed in Series of Iraq Bombings

In Iraq, at least 56 people have been killed in a series of nationwide attacks. Blasts were reported in the northern city of Kirkuk, the capital city of Baghdad and the southern Shiite cities of Najaf, Kut and Karbala. Attackers used a combination parked car bombs and roadside bombs, and in one case, a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into a police station. The attacks marked the first major act of violence since Iraqi officials announced they would begin negotiations over whether to keep U.S. forces in Iraq beyond the scheduled withdrawal date of December 31.

Syria Deploys Navy in Protest Crackdown; U.S. Calls for International Boycott, Pressure on Assad

The Syrian government has launched a combined assault on the port city of Latakia, killing at least 25 people. For the first time, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad used navy vessels alongside tanks and soldiers in the ongoing crackdown opposition protests. Witnesses say government forces cut off land-line telephones and internet connections, and fired at civilian buildings. Latakia has seen large anti-government protests since the Syrian uprising began in mid-March. The violence follows massive demonstrations on Friday in which tens of thousands of people turned out to protest the Assad regime. Syrian government forces killed at least 17 people. In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for increased international pressure on Assad’s government.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "We urge those countries still buying Syrian oil and gas, those countries still sending Assad weapons, those countries whose political and economic support give him comfort in his brutality, to get on the right side of history. President Assad has lost the legitimacy to lead, and it is clear that Syria would be better off without him."

Libyan Rebels Challenge Gaddafi Forces

Opposition fighters in Libya have launched an offensive near the Tunisia border in an effort to cut supplies to Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s military forces. The rebels have taken hold of the western town of Az-Zawiyah, but claimed to have suffered "many casualties" from pro-Gaddafi attacks. Meanwhile, in eastern Libya, opposition forces continued to assault the strategic oil city of Brega, where Gaddafi’s fighters control important oil facilities. Gaddafi regime spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim vowed a prolonged fight.

Moussa Ibrahim: "We are very powerful. The tens of thousands and tens of thousands of volunteers are armed right now. It doesn’t matter whether NATO advances or not, whether the rebels advance or not, because we will always be able to fight — in a year’s time, in two years, in three years."

Mubarak Returns to Egyptian Court

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is back in court today for the second session of his trial for corruption and the killing of protesters during the revolution that ended his rule. Clashes have erupted outside the courtroom between opponents and supporters of the Mubarak regime. The hearing could decide if the current head of the ruling Egyptian military council, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, will testify at Mubarak’s trial. Tantawi served as Mubarak’s defense minister for two decades.

Leading Egyptian Activist Charged with Incitement

Hosni Mubarak’s return to court comes as one of the most well-known activists in the revolution that ousted him has been charged. Asmaa Mahfouz appeared in a Cairo courtroom on Sunday to face allegations of inciting violence against Egypt’s armed forces. Mahfouz was arrested for comments she made on the social networking site Facebook. She is well known in Egypt as one of the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement and for a widely circulated web video urging fellow citizens to join the protests in Tahrir Square.

Britain Taps Former U.S. Police Chief for Riot Response

The British government has tapped a former U.S. police chief to consult on gang violence following the wave of unrest that swept Britain last week. William Bratton, a former police chief in New York City, Los Angeles and Boston, now chairs a Manhattan-based private security firm. Bratton is known for his so-called "broken window" strategy of policing, which stresses increased arrests for lower-level infractions in order to send the message that no crime will be tolerated. On Friday, Bratton announced he had accepted the consulting offer directly from British Prime Minister David Cameron.

William Bratton: "This morning I had a conversation with Prime Minister Cameron in which he thanked me for my agreeing to work with the British government as they deal with the issues of gang crime, gang violence and gang intervention, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with them on those issues. My assignment is to focus more on the issues of the American experience dealing with gangs and what we may be able to share with them that might help them to prevent similar activities in the future."

Suu Kyi Makes First Political Trip Since Release

Burma’s pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has made her first political trip outside the main city of Rangoon since her latest seven-year house arrest ended in November. Suu Kyi met with supporters in two towns on Sunday, defying warnings from the military junta the trip would spark riots. Suu Kyi has spent 15 of the last 22 years in detention.

Norwegian Shooter Brought to Massacre Site

The Norwegian man arrested for the attacks that left 77 people dead last month returned to the scene of the mass slaughter Saturday accompanied by police. Wearing a bulletproof vest and a leash, Anders Breivik guided investigators around Utoya Island for eight hours, simulating the killing of his 69 victims. Breivik has admitted to plotting and carrying out the attack, as well as the bombing of a building in Oslo that killed another eight people.

Unions to Boycott Democratic Convention in Charlotte

More than a dozen trade unions tied to the AFL-CIO have announced a boycott of next year’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. In a statement, the unions, representing some 2.5 million workers in building and construction, say they will skip the convention in protest of labor policies in the gathering’s host state of North Carolina and also of Democrats’ record on the economy. Labor leader Mark Ayers wrote: "We find it troubling that the party so closely associated with basic human rights would choose a state with the lowest unionization rate in the country."


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