Col. Muammar Gaddafi has issued a defiant message from hiding, urging supporters to continue the fight with NATO-backed rebel forces. In an audio recording aired on a Syrian network, Gaddafi accused international forces of seeking to occupy Libya for its oil and called on loyalists fighting the rebels to "let Libya be engulfed in flames."
Muammar Gaddafi: "Everything you hear is lies. Don’t believe it. Fight it with guns. Fight it with bullets. Let bullets speak on behalf of the Libyan people. If they want to enter into a long war with us, let it be so. We will fight, from place to place, from city to city, from valley to valley, from mountain to mountain. Let there be a long war, and we will show them they cannot rule Libya and the Libyan people, they cannot rule our armed tribes and our armed people."
Gaddafi’s call on supporters to continue the fight came as representatives of the Libyan rebels met with world leaders in Paris. Attendees agreed to unfreeze Libyan assets for the rebels’ use and to continue NATO strikes until Gaddafi’s departure. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said international forces will continue to back the rebels.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: "The war is not over yet. There’s still some fighting. And this is the reason why I have stressed tonight that NATO stands ready to continue our operation as long as necessary. On the other hand, we will not stay one day longer than necessary. We want to terminate our operation when the situation allows. But there’s still some fighting, and we feel obliged to fully implement the U.N. mandate to protect civilians."
Anti-government protests are continuing in Syria today amidst ongoing attacks by the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Demonstrations are expected across Syria today after Friday prayers. At least seven people were reportedly killed Thursday in new government attacks. Speaking in Paris, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for new international sanctions on Assad’s regime.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "The violence must stop, and [Assad] needs to step aside. Syria must be allowed to move forward. Those who have joined us in this call must now translate our rhetoric into concrete actions to escalate the pressure on Assad and those around him, including strong new sanctions targeting Syria’s energy sector to deny the regime the revenues that fund its campaign of violence. The E.U. has already taken important steps, and I’m pleased to hear that more are on the way."
Turkey has downgraded diplomatic ties with Israel and frozen military cooperation ahead of a long-awaited United Nations report on Israel’s deadly attack on a Gaza-bound ship in 2010. According to leaked excerpts, the report accuses Israel of "excessive and unreasonable" force in its attack on the ship, Mavi Marmara, which killed nine people. The report says Israel should issue a statement of regret and compensate the families of the dead as well as wounded passengers. But the report also chides passengers aboard the Marmara and the other flotilla ships for what it calls a "reckless" attempt to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. And in a development with broader implications, the U.N. report also concludes that the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip is legal under international law. The U.N. investigation was overseen by Geoffrey Palmer, a former prime minister of New Zealand. Turkey says it will expel the Israeli ambassador and downgrade diplomatic ties to their lowest level until Israel drops its refusal to apologize for the raid and provides compensation.
The federal agency responsible for overseeing mortgage markets is reportedly set to file a lawsuit against more than a dozen big banks for misrepresenting mortgage securities they sold during the housing bubble that preceded the nation’s financial meltdown. According to the New York Times, the Federal Housing Finance Agency is preparing lawsuits against firms including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank. The lawsuits will accuse the banks of packaging and selling mortgage securities at inflated prices ultimately borne by U.S. taxpayers when the economy crashed in late 2008.
A Goldman Sachs subsidiary has struck an agreement with New York regulators to end many of its mortgage-related business practices. Goldman reached the settlement with New York State Department of Financial Services as a condition to its sale of its Litton Loan Servicing subsidiary to the firm Ocwen Financial. As part of the deal, Litton will hire an independent consultant to review foreclosures toward potential compensation to borrowers, as well as end the practice of "robo-signing" foreclosure documents without proper vetting.
The Obama administration has sharply reduced its projections for U.S. economic growth over the next year. In a midyear review, the White House says the official unemployment rate will remain above nine percent through 2012, and the GDP will grow at a smaller rate than forecast in February.
Federal regulators say last week’s East Coast earthquake caused the shift of massive casks storing nuclear fuel at Virginia’s North Anna nuclear power facility. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the 5.8-magnitude earthquake moved the casks an inch to four inches on their concrete pad. It is the first time a U.S. earthquake has ever caused such a shift of nuclear casks in the United States. The plant’s operator says the casks sustained no damage and are not a threat. The news comes as a government review has found the risk of an earthquake triggering a major accident at U.S. nuclear plants is far greater than previously thought. According to the Associated Press, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission analysis says the North Anna plant is 38 percent more likely to suffer core damage from an earthquake than it was 20 years ago.
Civil disobedience actions continue outside the White House in the campaign urging President Obama to veto a proposed pipeline carrying oil from Alberta’s tar sands to the Gulf Coast. Thursday’s protests against the Keystone XL were led by a group of former staffers and volunteers who worked on Obama’s 2008 election campaign. Also Thursday, former Vice President Al Gore voiced his support for the protests, calling the demonstrators outside the White House "brave" and saying the approval of the Keystone XL "would be an enormous mistake."
Ohio has finalized the first sale in its plan to privatize large parts of its prison system. State officials say they have reached a deal to sell the Lake Erie Correction Institutions to the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, for $72.7 million. Ohio will now pay CCA to run the prison. The move is part of a plan to sell off four prisons to private firms. Last week, the group ProgressOhio filed a lawsuit seeking to block the privatizations.
Guatemala has launched a new search for victims of U.S. medical experiments in the 1940s following the emergence of gruesome new details earlier this week. Under the experiments, U.S. medical officials intentionally infected Guatemalan sex workers, prisoners, soldiers and mental patients with syphilis in order to study the effects of penicillin. A White House commission has found nearly 5,500 Guatemalans were subjected to diagnostic testing — without their consent — and more than 1,300 were exposed to venereal diseases by contact or inoculations. At least 83 died over the course of the experiments. Guatemalan Vice President Rafael Espada said victims and their families are now undergoing tests toward claims for compensation.
Rafael Espada: "Up to now, we have found five people alive who underwent these experiments, and we are transporting them and their families here so they can undergo blood tests and a clinical evaluation. Naturally, they are survivors and are all upwards of 80 and 84 years old. But we want to see if they or their families have suffered any consequences."
Thousands of people marched in Bahrain on Thursday at the funeral of a teenage protester allegedly killed by police. Human rights groups say the teen, Ali Jawad Ahmad, died after being hit by a police tear canister. The crowd of more than 10,000 marked one of the largest displays of public protest against the Bahraini monarchy since neighboring Gulf states, with U.S. backing, helped crush demonstrations earlier this year.
In Mexico, two female journalists have been found dead in Mexico City. One of the victims, Ana Yarce, was the founder of the investigative magazine Contralinea. The other victim, Rocío González, formerly worked for the broadcaster, Televisa. Police say it appears both women were strangled to death.
A recently disclosed cable released by WikiLeaks has provided new details of a 2006 Iraq house raid in which an Iraqi family was allegedly bound and executed by U.S. forces. The cable excerpts a letter written by Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, to Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State at the time. Alston describes how 10 Iraqis living on a farm were killed. The dead included a 28-year-old man and his wife, the man’s 74-year-old mother, his sister, a visiting relative and five young children ranging in age from five months to five years old. According to the cable, U.S. forces were fired upon when they approached the property, resulting in a firefight. The American troops then entered the house, bound all of the residents, and executed them. Shortly thereafter, an air raid was called in to destroy the home.
WikiLeaks has now published its full archive of more than 251,000 secret diplomatic cables without redactions. In a statement, WikiLeaks’ four media partners — The Guardian, the New York Times, El País and Der Spiegel — condemned the move, saying it would endanger thousands of people named in the documents as sources.