President Obama delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night seeking to capitalize on growing public discontent over income inequality in the United States. In his remarks, Obama characterized the challenge for collective prosperity as a choice between a system favoring the wealthy and one providing all with a "fair shot."
President Obama: "The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What’s at stake aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, but American values."
Among his proposals, Obama called for the so-called Buffet rule of taxing millionaires a minimum of 30 percent per year. The tax proposal comes just after Obama’s potential Republican rival, Mitt Romney, revealed he payed as little as 13.9 percent on millions of dollars in investment income.
On foreign policy, Obama touted the killing of Osama bin Laden, the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and his administration’s close military ties with Israel. On Iran, Obama continued the longstanding U.S. threat that "no option is off the table" to thwart Iranian nuclear ambitions.
President Obama: "The regime is more isolated than ever before. Its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent. Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations."
Iraqis are voicing outrage over the plea deal sentencing of the last of the U.S. marines charged in the 2005 Haditha massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians. On Tuesday, Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich walked away with no jail time after pleading guilty to dereliction of duty and avoiding charges of involuntary manslaughter. Under his sentencing, Wuterich now faces a maximum penalty of a demotion to the rank of private. The Haditha killings marked one of the most notorious massacres by U.S. forces during the Iraq War. The victims, including women and children, were killed when the marines burst into their homes and shot them dead in their nightclothes. In Haditha, an Iraqi survivor of the attack condemned Wuterich’s lenient sentencing.
Awis Fahmi: '’I was expecting that the American courts would sentence this person to life in prison. He should appear and confess in front of the whole world that he committed this crime, so that America could show itself as democratic and fair.'’
Wuterich allegedly led the Haditha massacre and was the last defendant to face charges. Six other marines have had their charges dropped or dismissed, while another soldier was acquitted.
Thousands of Egyptians are gathering in Tahrir Square in Cairo to mark the first anniversary of the start of the revolution that ended Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule and call for an immediate transfer to civilian government. On the eve of the protests, Egypt’s military government announced a partial lifting of Egypt’s emergency laws, which have been in place since 1981.
Monitors from Gulf Arab states are leaving Syria amid ongoing killings of protesters by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. On Tuesday, the Gulf Cooperation Council said it would suspend its involvement in the Arab League monitoring mission to Syria with no signs of Assad’s crackdown slowing down. Up to 68 people were reportedly killed across Syria on Tuesday. The Arab League says it will continue the monitoring mission, and Syria has authorized its stay for a second month. Meanwhile, at the United Nations, Russia is under continued pressure to stop blocking a Security Council measure that would condemn the crackdown. On Tuesday, demonstrators criticized Russia at a rally outside the United Nations.
Protester: "They are the chief arms dealer to the Assad regime. They have stalled for time, but they have now run out of time, and the world has united against Russia and against Assad. And we think now it is time for the United Nations Security Council to take the action that it’s responsible for taking if it’s going to live up to its Responsibility to Protect mandate."
In Libya, loyalists of the ousted regime of Muammar Gaddafi have retaken control of the town of Bani Walid. The town was a bastion of support for Gaddafi before his capture and killing three months ago. Fighting has also been reported in Benghazi and Tripoli.
Israel is under international criticism for the arrests of four Palestinian lawmakers over the past week. All four are members of Hamas. They include the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Aziz Dweik, who has been ordered imprisoned without trial for six months.
U.S. forces have freed two Western aid workers after nearly three months of captivity in Somalia. The workers—one a U.S. citizen, the other from Denmark—were rescued in a raid by a team of Navy SEALs. An unknown number of the pair’s captors were killed in the operation.
China has launched what appears to be its deadliest targeting of Tibetan protesters since the crackdown that killed dozens in 2008. The group Free Tibet says two Tibetans were killed in China’s southwestern Sichuan province on Tuesday when state forces fired on a group of demonstrators. The killings followed the reported deaths of two Tibetan protesters and the wounding of 36 others in a different area on Monday.
The FBI has arrested four police officers in East Haven, Connecticut, on allegations of assaulting Hispanics and then covering up their actions. The officers are accused of deliberately targeting Hispanics and subjecting them to abuses including beatings while handcuffed and unlawful searches. The officers also allegedly harassed and intimidated witnesses and fellow officers to avoid getting caught. The indictment also lists an unnamed co-conspirator believed to be the town’s police chief, Leonard Gallo. The charges follow a recent Justice Department probe that found East Haven police engaged in "biased policing, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and the use of excessive force."
Democratic state lawmakers in Indiana have again boycotted the statehouse to prevent a vote on a measure that would prohibit union contracts at private sector workplaces from requiring workers to pay dues or other fees to join a union. It is the second time this month Democrats have stayed home to counter the so-called "right to work" bill. Democrats say the legislation is an attack on organized labor that will result in lower wages and diminished collective bargaining rights.
Privacy advocates are raising concern over new changes announced by the online giant Google. On Tuesday, Google said it will now track the web activities of its users across its email, search, and YouTube services to better tailor advertisements to users’ interests.