British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are in the Libyan capital of Tripoli today to congratulate the National Transitional Council government their nations helped install. The French and British leaders were both instrumental in pushing for a U.N. resolution establishing a no-fly zone over the country and backing a NATO bombing campaign that has destroyed much of Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s military might. On Wednesday, U.S. envoy Jeffrey Feltman met with Libya’s new interim leader, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, making him the first Obama administration official to visit Tripoli since the Gaddafi regime fell last month.
Jeffrey Feltman: "This visit is intended to highlight the friendship between the people of the United States and the people of Libya. We look forward to reopening a fully functioning, fully staffed embassy as soon as possible. We remain encouraged by growing command and control over security police forces. We understand that this is a difficult task. Libya’s interim leadership is solidifying these steps and integrating the revolutionary brigades under one civilian authority."
Feltman’s visit came as NATO warplanes struck 24 targets near three main Gaddafi strongholds. Meanwhile, the International Red Cross claims at least 13 mass graves have been uncovered across Libya in the last three weeks.
Protesters in Syria are marching to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the nation’s ongoing popular uprising today, as the forces of President Bashar al-Assad continue a violent crackdown. The demonstrations come one day after government forces gunned down at least eight people, including a child, while executing widespread raids throughout northwestern areas. Backed by dozens of tanks and hundreds of soldiers firing machine guns at random, the Syrian military raided at least 10 towns near the border with Turkey, arresting scores of people. The United Nations estimates at least 2,600 Syrians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the ongoing unrest.
At least 19 people have been killed and 50 wounded in three attacks on Iraqi government forces. The deadliest incident occurred near a southern town where a car bomb killed 15 people and wounded more than 40 others.
The U.S.-led occupation force in Afghanistan is blaming the Pakistan-based Haqqani network for a deadly assault in Kabul earlier this week. At least 16 Afghans were killed when militants took over a building overlooking the compound housing the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters. The assault lasted over 20 hours. The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, played down the attack as "harassment."
Ryan Crocker: "They got into a building and did some harassment fire on us and on ISAF (NATO-led International Security Assistance Force). You know, this really is not a very big deal. You know, hard day for the embassy and my staff, who behaved with enormous courage and dedication, but, you know, look, a half a dozen RPG rounds from 800 meters away, that isn’t Tet, that’s harassment. If that’s the best they can do, you know, I think it is actually a statement of their weakness."
Harvard University law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren has officially entered the race for the Democratic nomination to challenge Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown. Warren most recently served in the Obama administration, where she helped launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In a video message posted online, Warren touted her background standing up to corporate interests.
Elizabeth Warren: "I grew up on the ragged edge of the middle class, and I know it’s hard out there. I fought all my life for working families, and I’ve stood up to some pretty powerful interests. Those interests are going to line up against this campaign, and that’s why I need you."
The Obama administration is facing scrutiny following the failure of a solar energy company that received millions of dollars in government aid. Newly disclosed emails show the Obama administration rushed to refinance a $535 million loan to the company Solyndra, despite warnings the firm was near collapse. Solyndra closed its doors two weeks ago, forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for the company’s half-billion-dollar loan. Republicans say politics may have played a role. Investment funds linked to Tulsa billionaire and top President Obama fundraiser George Kaiser were the lead investors in Solyndra’s operations.
A new government report has faulted the oil giant BP for a number of shortcuts that led to last year’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A joint probe by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard takes criticism of BP a step further than previous findings, accusing the company of seven violations of federal regulations. BP’s alleged infractions include breaking laws requiring the company to operate in a safe manner, to take steps to contain oil and gas for the protection of health and the environment, to conduct reliable tests of well pressures, and to notify federal regulators of changes in drilling plans.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is being urged to halt the execution of an African-American prisoner scheduled for Thursday night over evidence that a key prosecution witness expressed racial bias during the trial. Duane Buck is set to be put to death for a 1995 double murder. Although Buck’s guilt is not in question, defense attorneys say his death sentence was influenced by the testimony of a state psychologist who argued that African-American criminals are more likely to pose a future danger to the public. In 2000, then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn said Buck’s sentence and six other cases merited reexamination because of racially charged statements made by the witness, state psychologist Walter Quijano. Buck’s case was never reopened. (For More Information, See Article by Democracy Now! producer Renée Feltz: Will the Next Man Rick Perry Executes Die Because He’s Black? )
Prison officials in California are preparing to release thousands of female inmates who have children to finish their sentences from home. The state faces a court-imposed order to make room in its overcrowded prison system. The release would apply to mothers convicted of nonviolent, non-sexual crimes with two or less years left on their sentence. Officials say the decision would apply to more than 4,000 of the 9,500 female inmates behind bars.
The Obama administration is urging Sri Lanka to address evidence of the mass killings of civilians by the Sri Lankan military in 2009. The United Nations said this week it would refer evidence of war crimes to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. Thousands of civilians are believed to have died when the Sri Lankan government launched a massive assault on Tamil separatists in the final stages of their longtime conflict. In a visit to Sri Lanka, Robert Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, backed the U.N. probe.
Robert Blake: "The announcement that the U.N. Secretary-General will transmit the panel of experts report to the U.N. Human Rights Council and to the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights underlines the need for a comprehensive national reconciliation process that includes a full, credible and independent accounting and accountability for those who violated international humanitarian law. We hope that the lessons learned and reconciliation commission report will address the allegations that have been raised in the Secretary-General’s panel of experts report."
In Colombia, the former head of the secret police has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for collaborating with right-wing militias and helping plan the murder of a leading human rights worker. Jorge Noguera headed the Department of Administrative Security under former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe. He’s faced accusations of supplying paramilitaries with a hit list of several names, most of whom were later killed. Noguera resigned in 2005 amidst allegations of militia ties, but Uribe later named him to a diplomatic position and kept maintaining his innocence. Noguera was found to have helped coordinate the killing of Alfredo Correa de Andreis, a well-known sociologist who had investigated Colombian paramilitaries.
In Haiti, clashes erupted Wednesday at a protest calling for the expulsion of the U.N. peacekeeping force in the wake of of a video showing Uruguayan forces apparently sexually assaulting an 18-year-old Haitian man. Haitian police fired tear gas after crowds marched through the capital of Port-au-Prince.
Protester: "We are protesting until MINUSTAH leaves the country. We, the progressive organizations, we are gathering together to force the MINUSTAH out of the country. The MINUSTAH is abusing our children, and they are committing all sorts of crimes. Since the rape case that happened in Port-Salut in Cayes, we’re launching a non-stop protest until the MINUSTAH leaves."
New details have emerged on how the FBI is teaching anti-Muslim content to agents during counterterrorism training. Wired Magazine reports that uncovered FBI training materials assert that "mainstream" U.S. Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers, Islamic charity amounts to a "funding mechanism for combat," and that the Prophet Mohammed was a "cult leader." A graph presented to FBI agents contends that the more "devout" a Muslim, the higher the likelihood for him or her to be "violent." The training materials were disclosed by agency whistleblowers.
Two U.S. groups are asking the International Criminal Court to investigate Pope Benedict XVI and three top Vatican officials for crimes against humanity over the alleged cover-up of rampant sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy. In a new complaint, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests say the Vatican has "enjoyed absolute impunity" for failing to prevent and punish rape and sexual assault. The ICC filing is being described as the most comprehensive international effort to date to hold the Vatican accountable for sexual abuse.